Another season underway and another of the Tavern’s regular columns where we ask a fan to declare his bias and then give us their thoughts on how the top of the table might look come the final whistle on the final day.
- Champions – Manchester United
The signings of Shinji Kagawa and Robin van Persie have added additional fire power to United’s front-line as Sir Alex Ferguson looks to ensure that United don’t suffer a repeat of last season’s final day heartbreak, losing out on the title to bitter rivals Manchester City on goal difference.
Injuries will be key to ensuring United’s success this campaign. The absence of Nemanja Vidic, Tom Cleverley, Anderson and Darren Fletcher interrupted United’s electric start to last season and Ferguson will be looking to minimise the effect of losing Ferdinand, Evans, Smalling and Jones early on this season. A lack of cover in the defensive and midfield areas in his transfer dealings this summer could come back to haunt Ferguson, should his injury worries not clear up.
An opening day defeat to Everton and a less than convincing victory over Fulham last week will be a slight cause for concern for the Old Trafford faithful. However United always tend to come strong around Christmas and should never be written off.
Losing the title to City hurt Ferguson and this year and the vengeful Scot will be difficult to beat.
- 2nd- Manchester City
Defending Champions, City now have the difficult task of following up on last year’s success.
Entering the season as the bookies favourites they will need to manage the pressure that comes with being Champions. Only Chelsea and neighbours Manchester United have managed to win back-to-back titles in the history of the Premier League, and their two rivals will be looking to push City to the wire this campaign.
The departure of Nigel de Jong could also come back to haunt City. The midfield enforcer was used effectively to see out close games last season, and his experience in the dressing room will be missed.
City managed to escape last season relatively injury free. However they did show signs of weakness during Vincent Kompany’s suspension and Yaya Touré’s absence due to African Cup of Nations commitments.
With Sergio Aguero ruled for a month, Mancini’s ability to produce results this season without his star men will be heavily scrutinised, and ultimately could be the difference between winning and losing the title.
- 3rd – Chelsea
The Champions of Europe are the only side in the league to have made a perfect start in their opening three Premier League games. And with a rejuvenated Fernando Torres in the ranks served by an array of talent, led by new boy Eden Hazard, goals should be the least of his worries.
However with the honour of winning Europe’s biggest prize comes the additional pressure of a heavily congested fixture list.
With the FIFA World Cup Championship to come in December for Roberto Di Matteo’s men, the prospect of Chelsea running out of steam before the end of the season is a distinct possibility.
Chelsea have built a big squad this season to try to cope with the challenges that lie ahead, but they cannot anticipate to what extent injuries and suspensions will play a role in his side’s success this season.
- 4th – Arsenal
Despite finishing a long way behind the top two, Arsenal proved last season despite their terrible start that they shouldn’t be written off as a solid top four side.
Whilst Robin van Persie, and his goals may have left the Emirates, Arsenal have shown more ambition in the transfer market this season than they have recent years.
New signings Lukas Podolksi, Olivier Giraud and Santi Cazorla look like players of real quality and could make the difference at the Emirates this season, in the wake of the departed van Persie and Song.
On paper Arsenal don’t have the strength in depth to challenge the top three, but should qualify for the Champions League at the expense of their North London neighbours.
- 5th – Tottenham
AVB hasn’t had the honeymoon start that he and Spurs fans would have liked, but the squad still oozes quality that should produce at least a top five finish this season.
Villas-Boas, who has been criticised for employing negative tactics, still has a lot of work to do to recapture the free flowing football that Tottenham produced under the stewardship of Harry Redknapp. AVB failed in his ‘project’ to revolutionise the Chelsea squad, and while wholesale changes have not been implemented on that level the players will need time to adapt to the new on-pitch dynamics.
New boys Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey are two players with proven Premiership quality, whilst the signing of goalkeeper Hugo Lloris signals Spurs’ Champions League ambitions.
However Tottenham’s progress could be undone by the pressure which their own fans place on Andre Villas-Boas. Should their form not pick up after 10 games then Daniel Levy’s finger might start to get a little twitchy on the trigger.