Another year, and more managers, or sometimes the same names, on the hot seat. Not winning a title for any of the big clubs in any leagues never goes down so well, but in 2012-2013, the pressure is mostly on the men running Arsenal, Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain.
Arsenal, English Premier League
When was Arsenal’s last league title? 2004?! No way a manager at such a big club can hold on to his job without winning a title for 8 years, right? Right?! Well, Wenger has been with the gunners since 1996, and has simply rolled with the punches over the last few years, with the beginning of last season being extremely difficult, looking like his worst moment at the club, not just because of that 2-8 defeat.
Wenger wasn’t ready to lose anyone meaningful this summer, and so far, he hasn’t. He’s even added good players to the cause, and not just 18 year old wonder-kids who’ll be looking to play for Manchester City in three years. He purchased Olivier Giroud from Montpellier, Lukas Podolski from FC Koln and Santi Cazorla from Malaga, all in a combined price of £40.2 million, which actually makes Arsenal one of the biggest spenders this summer without actually making a big sale.
Can it be? No longer a feeder club? The RVP issue has yet to be settled, but the contenders are dropping like flies, and with his Dutchman and a whole new load of players to add to the attack, Wenger will find it even harder to make up excuses in April when Arsenal are out of the running in all competitions.
Chelsea, English Premier League
Unlike the Arsenal owner(s), Roman Abramovich isn’t exactly known to be a patient man. Even after winning the Champions League and the FA Cup, Roberto Di Matteo wasn’t exactly sure he’ll get the manager job for another season. Nothing short of at least one major title and hopefully both of them will save RDM from the possible wrath of Abramovich, who wants to win it all this season once again, but do it in style this time around.
How much have Chelsea spent? Quite a lot – £57 million by my calculations, and they’re still trying to add players, especially after a disappointing performance in the Charity shield against Manchester City. It’s a semi friendly, but it means something, and Chelsea looked pretty bad, with 11 men or with 10, despite the opening goal. The fact that Eden Hazard and Oscar are young and need some time to adapt won’t matter to anyone if Chelsea are around the same table position (4-5-6 most of the year) they were in last season with AVB.
Paris Saint-Germain, French Ligue 1
The obvious one. PSG should have been with a title, but somehow Montpellier gave us a wonderful surprise at the end of a fantastic Ligue 1 season. So after spending €108 million in 2011-2012, more than any other team in the world, which was only good enough for second place, they turned it up a notch, €150 million this summer on Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marco Verratti, Thiago Silva, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Lucas Moura. No excuses for Carlo Ancelotti, under enormous pressure to win the league with ease and do more than just OK in the team’s first Champions League appearance since the 2004-2005 season.
Bayern Munich, German Bundesliga
Last time Bayern Munich didn’t win a league title two years in a row was in the mid 1990’s, when Dortmund won two league titles in a row. Sounds familiar? After finishing second in the league, German Cup finalists and Champions League finalists, you’d expect quite a lot of changes at an ambitious club like Bayern, beginning with the head coach, right?
Jupp Heynckes, despite all internal problems he had with certain players kept his job, but so did the player(s), like Arjen Robben. The only meaningful departures were Ivica Olic and Daniel Pranjic, both not starting players and already in their 30’s. No big loss there.
Additions? Surgical upgrades. Mario Mandzukic from Wolfsburg to help Mario Gomez upfront, Dante from Monchengladbach to help out defensively, Xherdan Shaqiri from Basel to hopefully become the next big star for the club and a return for Claudio Pizarro to add depth on the bench.
Robben is still here, Ribery is still here, and so are the rest of the FC Hollywood members, with the expectations being just the same. Compete for everything and win at least one of the two – The Champions League or the Bundesliga, but it seems to me that losing for the third straight year in the race to Dortmund won’t go over so lightly this time. The Super Cup was a pretty positive indication, but way to early to determine anything.
Juventus, Italian Serie A
Juventus just won a league title for the first time since 2003 (legitimately at least), but the troubles won’t leave the old lady alone. Antonio Conte got banned for 10 months for knowing about match fixing and not reporting; Bonucci might be punished severely for actually being involved in match-fixing. No regular head coach (who hasn’t lost his job) and no Alessandro Del Piero for the first time in 20 years. Sound good?
Juventus didn’t just lay on their backs and feel satisfied about their title. This club wants to be back among Europe’s elite, and winning multiple titles while making an impressive run in the Champions League are the goals for this season. They spent €50 million on new arrivals and sealing full ownership on some players, with Lucio, Giovinco, Isla and Asamoah being the more prominent of arrivals. While Milan and Inter just got weaker or didn’t really make any improvements, there’s no reason for Juve not to solidify their dominance in the Serie A.
Barcelona, Spanish La Liga
For both Real Madrid and Barcelona, not winning a title is close to a disaster, but after three uber-successful years with Guardiola, finishing second and reaching the Champions League semifinal wasn’t as bad, especially as Lionel Messi made everyone feel good about the season with his record breaking goal numbers.
Tito Vilanova has the reigns now, without too much changing. Barca added Jordi alba as their new left back, and that’s about it. Nothing changed, except internal changes Vilanova will make to the hierarchy and probably tweak a little bit in terms of style and tactics. Still, the expectations are the same, and after missing out on the major titles last season despite being regarded as the best team, his first year as head coach, trying to live up to Guardiola’s legacy will be a very demanding, almost impossible to live up to task.