With Chelsea taking the Premier League and the FA Cup double earlier last season, a lot of moving and shaking is bound to take place as the other “big 4” clubs fight fervently to get back in the hunt. Being a World Cup year, there will be the usual revelations that are found in the tournament, and sold onto Europe’s top clubs for often inflated prices. What is clear is that at the end of the World Cup, the transfer market silly season will begin in earnest, with the Premier League clubs trying to catch up not only with the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United, but with Europe’s top sides, Inter and Barcelona amongst others.
Title Race – Traditional challengers
Men in the truest sense, are putting their money on the title race once more, as the top six are sure to strengthen significantly. Manchester United, Arsenal, and Chelsea will still probably be the main contenders for the title. Those three should make up the top spots, but in fourth there will be real competition. Liverpool had a disastrous season, but with talk of the sale of Fernando Torres and/or Steven Gerrard, an as yet unconfirmed manager, and very little money to spend, it seems very difficult to see if the Reds can regain their place in the top four from Champions League new boys Tottenham, who seem ready to spend to consolidate their high position.
The Reds are up for sale, so this means they will not have a lot of expensive talent coming in, and could well see some leaving. The American owners want out, but only for the right price, leaving the club in a state of limbo as they hope for a sufficient bid, whilst also trying to keep competitive on the pitch. Their success or otherwise next season could depend not on who they buy, but who they don’t sell. If they can simply retain Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard, get a manager of the calibre of Roy Hodgson, and replace a couple of players who are set for the exit, then they should at least compete next season. To make the Champions League positions however, will require more, and at present it does not look like the club ownership are willing to put that in.
Arsenal are a team that need to find a new generation, and fast. After initially competing last year, the club slipped down to third, and were nearly overtaken by north-London rivals Spurs. If they are to compete with Chelsea and Manchester Utd, they need summer purchases. Cesc Fabregas could still leave, even if manager Arsene Wenger is still desperate to keep the Spaniard – his sale is expected to generate a huge sum of money that will be used to create a team capable of winning the title. This money has Wenger already arranging his shopping wish-list, albeit in private, which includes a solid central defender, a midfielder to replace Fabregas, and a striker to take the pressure away from Robin van Persie. Also, the opportunity should now arise to purchase a goalkeeper, after blunders by Manuel Almunia and Lukas Fabianski proved costly last term.
With £50m possible from their skipper, players like Manchester City’s goalkeeper Joe Hart, and Everton’s Mikel Arteta are possible targets for Arsenal, along with the done deal for Moroccan powerhouse striker Marouane Chamakh, that could help produce that extra quality that was missing last time around.
The Red Devils will be quite confident in their squad as it stands. They are set to make few changes where necessary, but this will not be a busy summer in the transfer market.
Even though they relinquished their title to Chelsea, Manchester United’s manager Sir Alex Ferguson is convinced that the addition of Mexican forward Javier Hernandez and Fulham?’s Chris Smalling will add strength to their squad, and there may be one or two signings in the first team, depending on sales. Dimitar Berbatov looks set to stay at Old Trafford despite rumours linking him away, while Nemanja Vidic could be on his way out, having been linked with Milan. United have been linked with Italy and Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini as a possible replacement. Sir Alex Ferguson is also expected to bring in a big-name forward, and early reports indicated that Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema could be that man, although there has been nothing official on the subject. Ferguson hopes a little more potency up front, plus a stronger squad will help his side surpass Chelsea.
Last but not least in next season’s title fight are the reigning champions Chelsea. Manager Carlo Ancelotti enjoyed a very successful first season at the club, and is generally happy with the players he has for the next season. He also has a slew of promising young talent all eager to play, and his veteran players are helping the transition along.
The likes of Deco and Juliano Belletti have left, and Joe Cole and Michael Ballack are set to join them. This should lead to a big signing, most likely in Cole’s midfield position, with David Silva, Mesut Ozil and even Kaka being linked with a move to the Blues. Elsewhere on the pitch, the club have also been linked with a move for Liverpool striker Fernando Torres. One of those big name signings, along with a solid and deep squad of last year, should see Chelsea compete once again.