|photo by Max Braun||via PhotoRee|
It's the middle of August, and although the European Championships and the London Olympic games took some of the edge off, real English football can't begin soon enough in our opinion. We waited until the last possible minute to file our predictions for the upcoming season, so as not to be 'surprised' by any late moves. Although the transfer window will remain open another two weeks, we believe the biggest move of the summer has already been made with the announcement that Manchester United finally landed their man in the person of Robin Van Persie.
First through fourth, we'll pick them all, and we'll also take a stab at relegation and some other intriguing predictions:
2012/2013 Premier League Winners: Manchester United (did you really expect us to pick anyone else)? Last season's runners up were nicked at the line, although you would never know this by reading the popular press, in which United finished embarassingly far off the world-beating pace set by their nosy neighbors. The signing of the Premier League Player of the Year, as well as the Bundesliga Player of the Year, and the return of Nemanja Vidic to the starting lineup can only mean that this United squad has been significantly strengthened from the one that lost the title solely on goal difference. And while City is strong they've largely stood pat this off-season, making no significant moves at all. Advantage United, and we think that's more than enough to bring Fergie's men back to the top of the heap.
2012/2013 Runner's Up: Manchester City. Despite making virtually no off-season moves, the Citizens boast the League's hardest working midfield, as well as a certain Argentine want-away who should be around for all of the club's games this season. Combining Tevez with Aguero, Balotelli, Toure and Silva will produce more than a few fireworks both on and off the pitch, and City's All-Star lineup will be enough to see off all but the sternest of challengers. We admire their firepower, but don't think it will measure up to a revamped United this time around.
2012/2103 Best of the Rest: Following their European triumph, Chelsea has flexed their financial muscle with the addition of Eden Hazard, Marko Marin, and Oscar. While the midfield has been significantly strengthened -- and may now, in fact, be on par with City's -- it remains puzzling to us that the Blues have done so little to bolster their strike corps. While Fernando Torres may indeed come good this year, what happens if he's suspended or injured? Chelsea may need to emaulate the 'striker-less' Spain squad that won the Euros, but it's a risky strategy on which to pin your championship hopes.
If Chelsea's third, then surely Arsenal must be fourth, correct? Why, yes in fact, we do think Arsenal will finish fourth this season. Sure, The World's Best Feeder ClubTM may see some growing pains -- not to the tune of 8-1, mind you -- but we've always admired Lukas Podolski, and think that Santi Cazorla might just turn out to be the second best signing of the summer. Wenger hasn't missed a Champions League spot in years, and we don't see him doing it this time, either -- even if he does lose Alex Song to Barcelona.
Spurs will likely puzzle their way into fifth spot, touring Europe's lesser-known garden spots in the Europa League once again. The loss of Luka Modric will hurt, although Gylfi Sigurdsson will pick up some of the slack and the team seems to have strenghtened their wobbly defense with the addition of Ajax's Jan Vertonghen. While AVB may indeed come good, we think Spurs will struggle at the outset to implement the new manager's system.
Relegation Fodder: Norwich City, West Ham United and Reading. Surprisingly, we also think Swansea could struggle this season after the the loss of one of their best players from last year (Sigurdsson), as well as their Manager.
Best Summer Signings: RVP, followed closely by the rather shrewd acquisiton of Santi Cazorla by Arsenal. We're positively drooling while waiting to see the former Malaga man work his pint-sized magic in England.
We also really like the silky smoothness of Japan's Shinji Kagawa -- and no, we're no talking about his legs, Correspondent Ed. We believe that United's newest midfielder will lead the League in assists this season -- and that's saying something in a league that also includes David Silva, Antonio Valencia, and Juan Mata.
Biggest off-Season Losses: Luka Modric to Real Madrid's bench, and Dimitar Berbatov to oblivion. We wish them both the best.
This is farlieonfootie for August 18. Here's hoping for another great season...!