This week the English Premier League will start play for the 2010-11 season. Will Chelsea repeat as champs? Will Manchester United return to the top? How far will the fall for Liverpool be? Can Newcastle finish in the top half? So many questions will be answered.
First, you know what’s coming…
Music to Listen to: Champagne Supernova by Oasis
This will be an interesting year for the EPL as well because several other leagues may catch up to what has been considered my most the top domestic league in the world.
First, with Spain’s capture of the 2010 World Cup using a majority of players (OK, mainly Barcelona and Real Madrid) who play for club teams in Spain, La Liga can make a major push to the EPL, especially when you consider that at least two major players who I’ll touch on in the preview will probably be on Spanish teams next season and will be devastating losses for their EPL teams.
Next, Serie A, Italy’s top domestic league, and the Bundesliga aren’t at Spain’s level yet but have the chance to put a dent in the EPL. Italian domestic teams, outside of Juventus, are slowly emerging from the gambling scandal that rocked the core of Serie A the past few years. Inter’s run to the Champions League final shows this. As for the Bundesliga, taking a cue from the German national team, the teams in the league have found a way to play an open style that is attractive to foreigners as well as learned fiscal responsibility that the EPL owners haven’t. Germany arguably has the best squad of players 25 years and under and nearly all of them play in their home country. Of course the top Spanish and English teams are going to but these players but for now, the Bundesliga is looking up.
Finally, the financial debts of the top teams can’t be understated. When United is in the red with its revenue stream, you know there are major problems. Chelsea is actually having to sell players. Arsenal will operate on an even smaller budget than normal. Liverpool is in an ownership and debt quagmire that will take another three posts to fully analyze, just know that they will not be taking on major players in the near future. Outside of Manchester City who has benefited from a rich new owner, everyone else will struggle with their books.
OK, on to the predictions and quick thoughts on each team:
1) Chelsea: They may be even better this year than last. The dropping of dead weight in Michael Ballack and Joe Cole will be welcomed. You do have to worry about John Terry’s regression in form. The only issue is that two out of their three most valuable players, Drogba and Michael Essien are returning from injuries that may cause them to have a slow start. However, if those two players return to form along with the arrival of Ramires, an FA Cup and league title aren’t outside of reach.
2) Manchester United: The loss of Ronaldo to Real Madrid may have made for a steadier locker room but his contributions were missed on the pitch. Rooney may have had one of his most productive years but the lack of a catalyst for him hurt. When Carlos Teves was shipped across town to Manchester City, Dimitar Berbatov was supposed to pick up the slack but that didn’t happen. The team still has an old feel with Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, who while may act ageless at times, have to slow down at some point. The defense will be an issue with the inconsistent van der Sar at goal and a hobbled and less affective Rio Ferdinand. I like the addition of Javier Hernandez but is that too much pressure on the Mexican? United can still win the title but I don’t see them surpassing Chelsea.
3) Manchester City: Was torn between City and Arsenal. The addition of Yaya Toure and Jerome Boateng should help a back line that struggled last season. With Tevez, Adebayor and maybe even Robinho back from Brazil, scoring shouldn’t be an issue.
4) Arsenal: This may be the changing of the guard for the Gunners this season. Arsene Wenger is in the final year of his deal and Cesc Fabregas maybe finally making his way out to Spain as well. The lack of competent goalkeeping and back line work will ultimate doom the team against the top three squads. Also, the lack of scoring constantly in big games will hurt as well. Its nice to win 5-1 against Everton but losing 3-2 at Chelsea does even more damage.
5) Tottenham: The lack of activity during the offseason has to be a concern. I trust in Harry Redknapp but with the additional fixtures on the schedule, injuries should be a major concern.
6) Liverpool: Hard times for this team. It’s manager, Rafa Benitez, is out, and the two most valuable players, Steven Gerrard and especially Fernando Torres are probably gone after this season as well. Both guys say they want to stick around but may be sold anyway to keep up finances.
Here’s the rest of my predictions:
9) Aston Villa
12) Birmingham City
13) Stoke City
16) West Ham
19) West Brom
What are your thoughts on the upcoming EPL season?