The 2013/14 Premier League season is set to explode back into our consciousness in just three weeks time and what a campaign it promises to be. Fans all over the globe are eagerly rubbing their hands at the prospect of a catalogue of intriguing storylines, controversial incidents, stunning goals and surprise packages over the next nine months whilst teams, managers and players will all be looking to create a new slice of history in what is arguably the most gripping league in the world.
Here’s a look at where the biggest talking points could arise along with a few predictions.
Title Race/Top-4 Contenders
The title race represents a tantalising prospect this upcoming season as it is widely expected to be a compelling contest with as many as six teams in the mix for English football’s top prize. Numerous managerial changes signal a dawn of a new era making for a hugely competitive, yet unpredictable, campaign. Three of last year’s top four teams have made switches in the dugout this summer, with all eyes on David Moyes and Manuel Pellegrini inManchester, whilstChelseafans will be hoping that the return of the “Special One” can end the wait for the team’s first title since 2010.
Defending champions Man Utd, along with Man City and Chelsea, will be the main contenders for the top honour, however, a rejuvenated Arsenal will be looking to mount a serious challenge, while the likes of Tottenham and Liverpool – providing they can keep hold off their star players Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez – will be determined to secure a top-4 finish at the very least, which only adds to the unpredictability at the top.
Everton cannot be ruled out of a place in the top-four either. New boss Roberto Martinez has boldly proclaimed his ambition to propel the Toffees into a prized Champions League spot, but will need to make a couple of astute signings as well as holding onto his star names, in order to achieve this challenging goal.
Top 10 Finish
The other top-flight teams will find it difficult to break into the top-seven, which leaves three remaining places for a creditable top-10 finish. The likes of West Brom andSwanseawill be looking for top-half standings once again, while there is a real sense of optimism on the south coast atSouthampton, with their highly rated boss Mauricio Pochettino setting his sights on a European place.
Meanwhile north east rivals Sunderland andNewcastlewill be eager to make a vast improvement on last season’s relegation battles. Nothing is ever dull with Paolo Di Canio at the helm, while Joe Kinnear’s return to Tyneside is sure to make for an interesting season ahead for Magpies fans.
Elsewhere, Fulham and West Ham together with Aston Villa will be hoping to challenge but they too must show marked signs of improvement on the 2012/2013 campaign.
The frantic fight for survival in one of the most competitive leagues in the world is always a thrilling, yet nerve-shredding, affair.Norwichand Stoke endured difficult run-ins last season and could be in danger of losing their top-flight status in 2014, however, as is usually the case, the three promoted clubs have been installed as the favourites to drop straight back down to the Championship.
CrystalPalacehave a woeful record in the Premier League having suffered relegation in all four of their seasons at the top. Under charismatic boss Ian Holloway they will be looking to rip up the history books and cement their place in the top-flight for a second season, which will be easier said than done.
Hull are also expected to struggle, while money-bags Cardiff have the potential to conjure up a surprise or two, providing they splash the cash, although as QPR found out that method can prove chaotic and ultimately costly.
However, if you delve into the recent records you’ll find that between 2001 and 2011, at least one of the three promoted teams has survived the first season in the top flight, while in 2011/12 QPR, Norwich and Swansea all miraculously survived, whereas both Southampton and West Ham avoided an instant return last season. The question therefore is, which ofCardiff,HullandCrystalPalaceare capable of continuing that trend this term?
Top Goalscorer Contenders
As always, the race to win the Premier League Golden Boot will be hotly contested amongst the top flight’s best strikers and last year’s winner Robin Van Persie will be looking to become the first player since Thierry Henry to win the prestigious award for the third time in a row.ManCity’s Sergio Aguero, Tottenham’s Gareth Bale and Wayne Rooney are also in contention along with last year’s surprise package, Aston Villa’s Christian Bentake, Daniel Sturridge andManCitynewcomer Álvaro Negredo.
LMA Manager of the Year
Having won it twice in the past three years, Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement opens up the door for another manager to win the prestigious LMA Manger of the year award. Due to the amount of managerial changes, this looks set to be a very competitive and Fergie’s replacement David Moyes and his cross-city rival, Manuel Pelligrini, have to be fancied along with Jose Mourinho, who amazingly never won the gong in his previous three year stint atStamfordBridge.
Surprise winners in recent years include Alan Pardew (2012) and Roy Hodgson (2010), which provides hope for those gaffers outside of the top six and it would be no shock if Mauricio Pochettino, Roberto Martinez, Paolo Di Canio or Steve Clarke emerged victorious next May if they can guide their respective teams to a successful campaign or cup run.
There have been a number of exciting new additions to the Premier League so far and there are sure to be some more signings before the transfer window slams shut at the start of September.ManCityfans are looking forward to seeing the hugely talented Jesus Navas and Fernandinho plying their trade in the Premier League, while Tottenham have snapped up Paulinho. There will no doubt be a couple of me marquee signings in the pipeline, with the futures of Luis Suarez, Wayne Rooney, Gareth Bale and Christian Benteke still yet to be decided.
At long last goal-line technology, in the form of the hawk-eye system, will be employed for the first time next season. In recent years a spate of controversial incidents and referee/linesman howlers have forced the league’s big wigs to finally act. Hopefully we can look forward to a fair and unproblematic process, although there is bound to be an odd contentious moment as is always the case with technology.
Premier League 2013/14 Predictions
Chelseato win the Premier League
Robin Van Persie to win the Golden Boot
Stoke to get relegated
Southamptonto finish in the top 10
November to be the month of first managerial departure