Whilst Summer 2013 has already delivered many great sporting moments in the form of a Lions tour victory, Andy Murray’s jubilant success at SW19 and an Ashes series that has been won with the least amount of fuss, all will be consigned to the history books as quickly as the out-going World Athletics Championships come tomorrow lunch-time. Groundsmen the length and breadth of the country are putting together the finishing touches to the stage that awaits the rapid rattle of turnstiles and with it a whirlwind of emotions that are aroused by the dawning of a new campaign. Whether it be a sense of renewed optimism, expectation or trepidation, the spectators of these fine coliseums that punctuate our landscape are about to retake their seats for the next act in this engrossing drama we call the Barclays Premier League.
The summer has set the scene quite perfectly; all eyes will be on David Moyes as he begins his reign as Sir Alex Ferguson’s long-awaited successor. Last weekend’s 2-0 victory over Wigan in the Community Shield revealed very little about how he shall be judged over the coming months, but it would appear even with the season in its embryonic state, his first taste of silverware came more as a welcome relief than a signal of intent to the chasing pack they left so convincingly in their wake last term. The on-going concerns over the future of Wayne Rooney in addition to the frustrations experienced in the transfer market have been major contributing factors in many people’s forecast of a third-placed finish for last season’s runaway winners.
Jose Mourinho’s return to Stamford Bridge has been the headline act of a summer that has seen no fewer than four managerial changes in last season’s top six, and his pursuit of Rooney may still result in the headline coup. Much has been speculated over the destiny of several sides’ prized assets, and much of the anticipation that greets tomorrow’s renewal is born out of a collective uncertainty as to where such players shall be plying their trade come midnight on September 2. Rooney’s worth to United, however, cannot be viewed in the same light as the value Gareth Bale brings to Tottenham Hotspur, and indeed Luis Suarez’s overall contribution to a Liverpool side that will be without their talisman for an indefinite amount of time.
The season surely can’t be coming a moment too soon for both fans of Arsenal and Spurs, but for very differing reasons. Failure to capture a marquee signing to date has left those who have long petitioned for Wenger’s resignation growingly disillusioned as well as disgruntled at the four-figure sum asked to watch a side who has failed to lift a trophy since 2005. Whilst Gunners fans have reached for the morning newspapers having dreamt of a sea of activity that will change their club’s fortunes for the better, supporters of their North-London rivals have been enduring sleepless nights, fearful of any developments in Real Madrid’s pursuit of Gareth Bale that has shrouded their quest to break back onto European football’s top table. All conjecture will be put on hold for 90 minutes, and with the Welshman’s three-week absence through a foot injury confirmed by Andre Villas-Boas, it will provide us with a strong indication of how the White Hart Lane outfit will cope without him in the long haul.
With the media’s spotlight heavily focused on the eagerly awaited outcome of the summer signing sagas, many of the division’s predicted European contenders have been busy trying to assemble squads that can break into the top echelons. It has been a productive three months for Norwich, West Ham and Swansea – all of whom can boast stronger squads this time around. Everton have had to regroup after the departure of Moyes, and in Roberto Martinez have a manager who promises an attractive, free-flowing style of play. Whilst ensuring most if not all of his transfer dealings were completed long before overlooking his first pre-season training session, his side’s chances of replicating last year’s sixth-placed finish will depend heavily on his ability to keep hold of Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini beyond the transfer window.
The facts surrounding Luis Suarez’s desire to force a move away from Anfield, and the alleged conversation that took place last summer regarding promises made, remain unclear. What is for certain, however, is that the period of transition that may await Evertonians is set to be extended for the tenants across Stanley Park. Manager Brendan Rodgers would have been expected to deliver results this season with a happy Suarez, but the Uruguayan’s petulant stance towards the club who has stood by him throughout all his misdemeanours has heavily clouded the Reds’ preparations to hit the ground running this term.
At the other end, the fight for survival promises to be as concertinaed as in recent years. While many believed West Ham were well-equipped to stay up last campaign, newcomers Cardiff, Hull City and Crystal Palace will hope that their tag as being relatively unknown quantities will count in their favour against the general consensus that at least two of the three sides relegated last season, in QPR and Wigan, had better squads than these sides currently posses. Aston Villa, Sunderland and Newcastle will hope for a significant improvement from largely the same crop of players that produced such dismal performances all too frequently last term. Just as it promises to be the most open Premier League title race yet, the relegation battle shows no signs of being any less a foregone conclusion, with many teams overriding priority being to ensure top flight status for another year.
- Manchester City
- Manchester United
- Tottenham Hotspur
- Newcastle United
- West Ham United
- Norwich City
- Stoke City
- West Bromwich Albion
- Cardiff City
- Aston Villa
- Hull City
- Crystal Palace