Being a member of the top means that you’re everyone expects you to challenge for the Premier League title and make the Champions League before the season begins. From 2004-2009 Chlesea, Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal were in that club. Things changed in 2010, and suddenly Manchester City and Tottenham were thrown in the mix. No more top 4. Just title challengers and others happy to finish with a 3-4 spot.
This season, it’s going to be Manchester, United or City, once again. Chelsea made the expensive signings, but not good enough to immediately make this team good enough to be consistent for the whole season. Talent needs time to adapt and develop, and Hazard & Oscar will need some time. One season may not be enough for Di Matteo, if he keeps the job for more than one season.
City and United is where it’s at. United missed the title because of goal difference last season, despite all of the problems and injuries throughtout the season. Ferguson didn’t fully address his midfield defencies, but Shinji Kagawa looks likely to make it much more creative and dangerous in the coming season. Robin van Persie? Player of the year, and all that’s left is for him to mesh well with Wayne Rooney. But will they?
City have the same team as last season, just a bit more experienced, with Jack Rodwell to add a bit more depth to the squad. They’ve still got a huge arsenal of strikers, while Roberto Mancini has a better idea of how to use them and a set-up hierarchy, which should make things a bit simpler and the rotation a bit clearer. Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, Mario Balotelli and the rest.
Arsenal lost their best player, once again. Getting two new good ones (Podolski, Cazrola) and one that’s probably going to fail (Olivier Giroud) isn’t going to make up for it or change the balance of power. Arsenal are somewhat of a feeder club now to the bigger ones, and feeder clubs don’t win titles.
Next in the pecking order? Tottenham made two good acquisitions, but they still don’t put them at the same level as the Manchester clubs. Maybe an upgrade to third is coming this season, but not more. Vertonghen and Sigurdsson are nice and well, but not franchise changers. Spurs needed more than just an upgrade. Replacing Luka Modric won’t be easy, if indeed his leaving to Real Madrid comes through.
Liverpool will be better than last season, no doubt. Brendan Rodgers seem like the kind of man who knows what he wants out of this squad and won’t flip flop with decisions and players. Fabio Borini will score in double digits and so will Luis Suarez, maybe in the 20’s, if he doesn’t let out anymore racist words and doesn’t let the away fans bother him too much. A lot rests on Steven Gerrard’s ability to still contribute offensively as he fights age and the usual groin injuries that will no doubt trouble him at a certain point this season.
Newcastle have a good side, but playing with long balls only takes you so far. They didn’t upgrade their midfield, which was the area that needed a bit of fresh and most importantly better blood. Yohan Cabaye is good, but not enough. Another season that’ll probably be near the top, but just below, and not enough.