Saturday, 14 August 2010

Premier League Preview - Tough at the top

Top of the table is the glamorous place to be, especially in the cash soaked English Premier League. Glory and riches await the teams at the top, but not everyone can get everything they want.

Last season, for the first time in five years, the top four was broken by a new side. This along with a massive cash injection for a Manchester based team has shaken up the usually predictable Title and Champions League races. Champions Chelsea come into the 2010/11 Premier League season as favourites to regain the trophy. Carlo Ancelotti has had a small clear out of unwanted players, and has brought in Yossi Benayoun from Liverpool and Brazil international Ramires from Benfica. A big boost for Chelsea is the return of Michael Essien, who was sorely missed in the Champions League last season. Chelsea arguably still have the strongest team in the division and will be difficult to knock off their perch.

It could be interesting this season to watch the two teams from Manchester battle it out for league superiority. Manchester City have spent huge amounts of money once again this summer, but must overcome their lingering inferiority complex when it comes to competing against Manchester United. On paper it would appear that City have put together a squad which is as talented as it is deep. They have cover in every position, and a good mix of flair, strength and firepower throughout. The additions of Yaya Toure, David Silva and Mario Balotelli show the rest of the league just how serious a threat Manchester City will be this season. United on the other hand have not made any major improvements to their squad for some time. The arrival of Javier Hernandez is somewhat exciting, however United may find that City’s challenge is ultimately too fierce.

Arsenal still have a good chance of making an assault of the title, but in recent years they seem to have been muscled out at crucial times by the top two. Man Utd and Chelsea both beat Arsenal home and away last season and looked relatively comfortable doing so. This will be a worry for Arsene Wenger, and he will hope that his side can show more strength when under pressure this season. The signing of Marouane Chamakh could be a very good one for Arsenal, he is skillful and good in the air and offers the team a different kind of option up front. Wenger will also be hoping that Cesc Fabregas and Robin Van Persie can stay fit throughout 2010/11, unlike last season when their absence was crucial.

Down the road, Arsenal’s local rivals Tottenham are aiming to build on last year’s fantastic season. With a Champions League playoff coming up against Young Boys of Bern, Spurs should make it through to the group stages. It is therefore conceivable that Spurs may take their eye off the league and concentrate on progressing to the knockout rounds in Europe. With such fierce competition this year for the top four places, this may not be a bad choice. The Spurs fans are not demanding another top four finish, although it would obviously be desirable. A glamorous run in the Champions League, and a solid top five finish in the Premier League would be an excellent season for the team from White Hart Lane. However, there is a possibility that Tottenham may spend some money in the transfer market after they have secured their Champions League place, so Spurs can still hope for a repeat of last season.

The last two sides aiming to force their way up the table from last season are the two Merseyside clubs. Liverpool and Everton could find themselves fighting it out for league superiority, with Liverpool perhaps no longer in the stronger position. Roy Hodgson has bought wisely over the summer and proved once again last season that his managerial ability is not in question. The arrival Joe Cole, Christian Poulsen and Milan Jovanovic could see Liverpool return to the top four this season, but with things so new and unpredictable at Anfield, it is unlikely that they will be able to maintain their form throughout the long and competitive season. David Moyes’ Everton on the other hand are far from new or unpredictable, and their run towards the end of last season shows that they are most likely to improve on last year.

An interesting and hopefully exciting season awaits at both the top and bottom of the Premier League this year. Teams like Tottenham and Everton are closer to Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal than they have ever been, and Manchester City’s millions are set to throw everything up in the air. Where will the pieces fall?

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