Not long ago I predicted the Premier League table for 2011-12 and I just put it out there for people to respond and it was encouraging to see what people felt. It makes sense to look into the main talking points.
Man Utd To Retain
Hardly breaking with common knowledge in making this prediction. The managers have been talking about six clubs competing for the title. Who have we got, apparently, City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur (thanks for the reminder that there’s no ‘s’ at the end, bit like remembering that that they haven’t won a league title since 1961 or is it 1963? Nah lets go for ’61 after all what a wonderful way to celebrate 50 years of abject failure to win the only trophy that matters in domestic football). I think I understand the deal of giving the impression that there are far more clubs involved than usual. After all, it makes it sound less predictable than other leagues and their two-horse affair. Let’s be real, though, as I believe Liverpool owner John Henry has been. Spurs, Liverpool and Arsenal will not win the league. Liverpool and Spurs are too far away from having a squad as well as a consistent first eleven to compete for the top prize. Arsenal? Well, there is a small school of thought that could lead you to believe that the grief they’ve got over this awful summer might be the catalyst to Wenger proving everyone wrong and letting his side win the top prize. It’s not impossible, but it is highly improbable. More on them later.
Thus we are left with the real contenders for the title. Each of the three has strong credentials in their favour. The track record of Villas Boas and what is still a core of Premier League winners is enough to still keep them in contention. If they don’t suffer the strange dip of last season they could still snatch the thing. What prevents me from choosing them is their lack of strengthening the squad. Even if they do get Modric, they don’t appear to have advanced as much as their two rivals. Add to the equation question marks over how Torres and Drogba can co-exist over a season and there’s enough to stop them being clear cut favourites.
Man City are making progress. Do not be fooled by the Community Shield result, this is now a squad and a team with a solid defence, a tight midfield, options with width and an even more scary attack with the signing of Aguerro. Mancini is right in believing the jigsaw is not quite complete to compete on all fronts. Signing Nasri might help with that. For all that, they remain one of the strongest sides in the league with a manager who has now sussed out the league for himself and is more aware of what it takes to win. They can definitely push for the title more than any other club.
Yet the standard last season was a relentless Manchester United. They proved that you don’t have to play pretty and you don’t have to have superstars all over the pitch. When you have have a manager like Ferguson, that is most of the battle won. The sign of champions is never resting on your laurels. United have strengthened from without and within. Wellbeck and Cleverley come back from loan spells better equipped to contribute to further glory for United. There might be fuss about who they have lost, but the only one of serious note would be the versatility of John O’Shea. Even there Evans and Smalling can play different defensive roles and new signing Phil Jones offers options in midfield as well as defence.
Signing Ashley Young is a masterstroke for Ferguson, as he captures the player hitting the peak of form who can play on the wing and cut in or offer support centrally behind a striker. The forward line looks all the more daunting. With Hernandez and Rooney developing a frightening partnership as welll as Valencia and Nani scaring full backs and Wellbeck, Berbatov, Macheda and Owen waiting, this side is bursting with attacking options.
New goalie? He’ll be fine. No wow factor midfielder? As if that mattered last season. Expect the Red Devils to retain.