A sneak-peek into this season's major stories waiting to unfold.
As the 2013-14 season of the English Premier League kicks-off on Saturday, here’s a look at some of the major issues which could shape the campaign significantly.
David Moyes at Manchester United
Having endured an unsatisfactory beginning to his United tenure, the Scot is yet to resolve any of the problems he faced when he joined on July 1. Wayne Rooney’s squad status remains unsettled while no creative midfielder has been signed. Moreover, in a summer of change at Old Trafford, there’s general feeling of unease around the club. Fans await the new season with apprehension, somewhat eased by United’s 2-0 win over Wigan in the Community Shield.
Manuel Pellegrini at Manchester City
The blue part of Manchester, contrastingly, is cautiously optimistic. A new manager has been acquired to establish a “holistic” approach at the club, which would see each team from the junior to senior levels play a similar brand of football. Positively, potentially disruptive elements like Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli (left in January) are no longer at the club. They have been replaced by Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic, in addition to the tactically crucial signings of Jesus Navas and Fernandinho. City is expected to employ a 4-3-3 formation and I expect it to win the league.
Jose Mourinho at Chelsea
“The return of Mou”, as many would tell you, should bring an end to Chelsea’s three-year league title drought. The midfield, thanks to the acquisitions of Andre Schurrle and Marco van Ginkel, looks more impressive than before and the goalkeeping resources have been strengthened by the arrival of Mark Schwarzer. The defensive and forward positions, though, are seemingly inadequate. The problem has been recognized by Mourinho and his staff—the public disclosures on the pursuit of Rooney and rejection of a Barcelona bid for David Luiz bearing testimony of Chelsea’s urge to strengthen and retain their roster. Still, the Blues will be expected to mount a strong title challenge and should finish in the top two.
The battle for the fourth spot
Like last year, the squabble for the final Champions League place should involve Tottenham, Liverpool and Arsenal. Spurs are favourites for fourth as their spending spree continues to rake in major names at the club like Spanish striker Roberto Soldado. However, much would hinge on the club’s ability to retain wantaway playmaker Gareth Bale, subject of a world-record bid by Real Madrid. Even if they lose him, the money has to be reinvested wisely into a squad brimming with promise.
Arsenal and Liverpool, however, are yet to acquire a marquee signing and remain involved in a transfer tussle over Luis Suarez. Though the Uruguayan has reportedly decided to stay at Anfield, Gunners manager Arsene Wenger is yet to give up the fight for him. The feeling that both clubs need Suarez, despite his history of misdemeanours, for a successful season is inescapable. If Arsenal is unable to sign him, they must look to buy another striker.
Liverpool has tried to implement the Brendan Rodgers project earnestly but the club’s pulling power seems to be on the wane. Many major targets have been missed, notably Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and another season of limited success beckons until a transfer coup is achieved.
The Swanseas, Evertons and Others
While Swansea managed to retain the services of manager Michael Laudrup, Everton lost its talismanic boss to Manchester United and replaced him with Roberto Martinez. The Spaniard has seemingly succeeded in keeping his best players at Goodison Park, like Laudrup at Swansea.
The arrival of Arouna Kone should resolve some of Everton’s goal scoring troubles but one should remember that the squad which received much acclaim last season remains almost the same. Swansea, though, has brought in eight new players and looks better placed to negotiate this season’s challenges.
Among the promoted teams, Cardiff City, thanks to its financial strength, looks to be the most promising. Sunderland deserves a mention as well for recruiting 10 players through the summer as manager Paolo Di Canio attempts a serious revamp at the club.