For many people summer is the best time of year with sunshine, ice creams and beer gardens but, for football fans, it’s a complete nightmare. Pre-season friendlies, kit releases and the fixture announcement just can’t compensate for the tedious wait for the new season.
Luckily for football fans that wait is nearly over. With the Barclays Premier League set to start up again at the weekend, it’s now time to make those all-important predictions for the season ahead.
The big question on everyone’s lips, who will be crowned Premier League champions come next May? So let’s take a look at the title contenders starting with the holders.
The Blues eased to last season’s Premier League title finishing 8 points ahead of second placed Manchester City, but this year’s warm-up campaign hasn’t exactly gone to plan after a 4-2 defeat to New York Red Bulls and draws against PSG and Barcelona ensured they left America without a win in 90 minutes.
Chelsea returned to England to face London rivals Arsenal in the Community Shield, but were left empty handed after a 1-0 defeat. Pre-season is never a true indication of what’s to come and the fact stands that Chelsea were the outstanding team of last year, which sees them head into the campaign as favourites.
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is a wealthy man and always happy to back his manager, but the West London club haven’t felt the need to flex their financial muscle in this transfer window only bringing in Brazilian prospect Nathan for £4.5 million and Asmir Begovic to replace the outgoing Petr Cech.
Chelsea’s most interesting signing comes in the form of Manchester United reject Radamel Falcao, the Blues have loaned him from parent club Monaco in the hope he can and show Premier League fans his true potential.
When Jose Mourinho is your manager, trophies are never too far away and it will ultimately take a great team to topple the defending champions. Chelsea will need Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa firing on all cylinders yet again, but the onus will very much be on their rivals playing catch up.
Runners-up Manchester City ended last season trophy-less, something which usually results in a change of manager for the club, although this time round they have kept the faith with Manuel Pellegrini. In fairness, the Chilean probably deserves another opportunity after winning the Premier League title and Capital One Cup in his debut season, but he will know better than anyone that the pressure is on for him to deliver.
This summer Manchester City made no secret of their desire to sign Liverpool’s want-away Raheem Sterling. Being one of the richest clubs in the world though, City can no longer haggle over price and had to agree to Liverpool’s £50 million asking price.
Two more English players followed Sterling to the Etihad, with Fabian Delph making the move north despite his public declaration to stay at Aston Villa, and England U-19 player Patrick Roberts has joined from Fulham.
City were criticised in the past for not giving English players Jack Rodwell and Scott Sinclair a chance to flourish in the first team, both of whom have moved on now. Hopefully City’s new recruits are there on merit and not just to fill a quota.
Pellegrini’s men were Chelsea’s closest rivals last year and hoped to close the gap with marquee signings Kevin De Brune and Paul Pogba, as of yet that hasn’t happened. So for City to challenge they’ll be depending on loyal servants Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany, both of which struggled to stay fit last season.
With Edin Dzeko also leaving the club for AS Roma, a lot more will be expected of striker Wilfried Bony who found it difficult to make an instant impact after his move from Swansea. The Sky Blues have class and experience running throughout the club, and will be in the title picture regardless of the obstacles.
It’s always easy to jump on the Arsenal hype train at this time of the year, especially after an impressive pre-season which has seen them win the Asia Cup, Emirates Cup and Charity Shield. However the Gunners recent title bids have been derailed by February or March time, so the question is what have Arsenal done to change this?
Well, the answer depends highly upon how well you rate former Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech, as he’s Arsene Wenger’s only summer signing so far. Arsenal have been scrutinised over their goalkeeping choices ever since David Seaman retired, but their acquisition of Cech means they undoubtedly have a world-class goalie between the sticks.
The strikers department has also been highlighted as a weak spot for the Gooners with Karim Benzema frequently being linked to the North-London club, but a move is unlikely and instead Arsenal will turn to Theo Walcott who impressed at the back end of last season and is finally set be unleashed as a striker.
The FA Cup winners defensive woes have also been eased since the introduction of academy graduate Francis Coquelin, who offers a shield in front of the back four, but he will need produce the goods regularly if he’s to hold his first team spot.
Momentum is a powerful thing in Football and the back to back FA cup wins have certainly given the Gunners a much-needed change of mindset and belief that they can challenge for major honours.
When injury free, the star power of Ozil, Sanchez, Ramsey, Wilshere and Chamberlain means Arsenal are capable of beating anyone.
Last season the objective for Manchester United was simple, to reach the top four. £150 million later and under the careful guidance of Louis Van Gaal they secured Champions League football. However, this year the Dutchman will be eyeing the ultimate prize, especially if his speech in Manchester United post-season awards ceremony was anything to go by.
United’s off-season has been about uncertainty and change, David De Gea’s potential move to Real Madrid has been the dilemma of the summer, but he remains a United player for now and a key one at that. There was a surprise exit for striker Robin Van Persie, who appeared to fall out of favour with manager Van Gaal and has moved to Fenerbahce along with winger Nani.
On top of that it appears record signing Angel Di Maria will be moving to Paris Saint Germain before the window closes.
In response, United have recruited Eindhoven’s Memphis Depay, Southampton’s Morgan Schneiderlin, Torino’s Matteo Darmian and Bayern Munich legend Bastian Schweinsteiger, who struggled to keep his starting place under manager Pep Guardiola.
The red side of Manchester have reason to be optimistic, but should David De Gea decide to return to his homeland and join Real Madrid, it could be a fatal blow in their title bid.
Louis Van Gaal has all the credentials and charisma to get the job done, but desperately needs to find a system and style that his players can thrive in.
A huge responsibility will also be on Wayne Rooney’s shoulders as he’s expected to lead the line this season and he’ll need to score 20+ goals if United are to mount a serious challenge.
So, there you have it, the four genuine title contenders for the 2015/16 Premier League title. There will of course be disappointed Liverpool and Tottenham fans reading this, but the hard truth is those teams are simply not in a position to challenge for the top honour and should be aiming to replace one of these teams in the top four.