I think I speak for most people when I say that this Premier League season has really crept up on us. With the Euros and the Olympics jamming up television, radio, and all other forms of communication like a group of tourists on a busy street, I haven’t spent nearly as much time sitting in front of Sky Sports News watching Phil Thompson being interviewed over and over as I usually would. It can’t be as amazing as last season; I mean really, it’s almost impossible.
The big question for most people is, after their unbelievable victory last year, can Manchester City make it stick? Winning is a habit, but winning one title does not make them a great side. They haven’t strengthened their side as we have seen in previous years, bringing in just one player so far this window: Jack Rodwell for £12m. It’s not exactly Robinho, but it is nonetheless an important buy. Without Yaya Touré during the African Cup of Nations last year, City looked frail. His dynamism in midfield was sorely missed, and although Rodwell is a slightly different player, he provides cover that an ever-slower Gareth Barry cannot. United on the other hand have had a pretty busy summer; Fergie often does this on the back of major international championships, and this year his hand went into the cookie jar and pulled out the Robin Van Persie. He had a phenomenal season at Arsenal last year, probably his best, as he was fitter than he has ever been. Along with the exciting-looking Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund, there will be some very serious competition for places up front at Manchester United this year. What I can’t understand though, is how Sir Alex has bought no defenders or midfielders. When Vidic got injured, United looked brittle and vulnerable at the back, and without Darren Fletcher, the midfield lacked control. Yes, they brought back Scholes, and Carrick began to regain the form which brought him to United, but surely they need some cover in there? A Lucas Leiva or a Yaya Touré type of player to keep the ball rolling and provide some much-much needed protection for the back 4.
Arsenal and Chelsea have both made big improvements, with Podolski, Giroud, and Cazorla making Arsenal look world-class on paper (going forward), and Chelsea bringing in Eden Hazard, and replacing Fernando Torres with a doppelganger who can actually finish. Even so, the Gunners are still weak in areas at the back, and the team will take time to gel. 2012/13 is a year too early for them I think. As for the Blues, they may well challenge, especially if Luiz and Ramires continue the form they showed at the end of last season.
They seem to be the big four. Tottenham need to buy a striker. Big time. Defoe and (ha) Dos Santos are their only genuine (ha) strikers at the moment, and if Modric goes as well, then Gylfi Sigurdsson may not be enough to fill the gaps. Newcastle also appear to lack depth in their squad, and if Cabaye, Tioté, or Coloccini were to suffer a long-term injury, you have to wonder whether they could manage to keep up the sensational football they played last year. Cissé and Ba do not make a team on their own. Liverpool…well, they’ve signed Fabio Borini and Joe Allen (can you say Jordan Henderson Syndrome?), and Lucas Leiva returns from injury, but even so, it’s very difficult to see what was one of the worst mid-table sides last year (how they finished as high as 8th is beyond me…) doing a whole lot better this term.
The battle at the other end of the table will also be interesting. Robbie Savage picked Aston Villa to go down this week, and I agree with him. Their home form last year was shocking, and there has been no real improvement over the summer, except for Alex McLeish being replaced by Paul Lambert. The former Norwich man will need to find a way to get the best out of Darren Bent and Gabi Agbonlahor if he is to keep them up. Reading, Southampton, and West Ham, the three promoted sides, will all have their work cut out to avoid the drop as well, as the mid-table is very difficult to break into. However, if Swansea or Norwich suffer Second Season Syndrome, and both have lost their inspirational managers, then all three are capable of producing excellent performances at home. They all play attractive football, which worked for Swansea, but I hope it doesn’t work against them in the important (and very winnable) away games against the likes of QPR, Stoke, and Wigan, all of whom have shown many capabilities to win games they shouldn’t against teams play silky football.
So, Matthew Gibson did it, now here’s my effort. The Premier League table for 2012/13, James Gray-style
1. Manchester City
3. Manchester United
15. West Brom
17. West Ham
18. Aston Villa
Top Scorer: Fernando Torres
Player of the Season: Carlos Tevez
Let’s see if that curses enough people. Wigan into Europe and Fulham battling with relegation knowing my form…