Last season was a great time for English football.
Its clubs asserted themselves in international competitions and fielded many of the world’s top players.
Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United all made the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League. Liverpool made it to the Finals and lost a tight match to AC Milan.
Man United finished first in a competitive Premier League while Chelsea claimed the FA Cup and Carling Cup.
Last season saw more brilliance from established stars like John Terry, Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney. There was also the emergence of youngsters like Carlos Tevez, Cristiano Ronaldo and Arjen Robben.
The new Premier League season is set to start the weekend of 11 August. To me, there’s every indication that it will be just as entertaining as the last one.
The off-season has already seen plenty of action. Chelsea obtained Steve Sidwell, Florent Malouda and Claudio Pizarro. Man United acquired Owen Hargreaves, Tevez and Brazilian midfielder Anderson.
Liverpool signed Fernando Torres and Ryan Babel while Arsenal acquired striker Da Silva and kept many significant pieces despite losing Henry to Barcelona.
In my mind, the top teams have done enough to remain in control. Chelsea addressed injury concerns, Man United strengthened the middle of the field, Liverpool added more firepower and Arsenal kept a well-rounded club.
Therefore, I don’t see much change in the standings from last season.
Man United have shown they have the defense to keep the powerhouses at bay and the offense to put lesser teams away. Thus I see them regaining the league title.
Thereafter, I expect Chelsea to be second. They have the kind of squad to finish within 10 points of the frontrunners year after year. Last season they ended up only six behind the Red Devils.
Then I look for Liverpool to fall into third. I give them credit for trying hard to be in the top two. But I don’t see them surpassing Chelsea in spite of doing so in the Champions League semi-finals.
After that, I see Arsenal barely finishing fourth. For me, the departure of Thierry Henry will severely hurt their offensive game. They have added a replacement striker but there’s no one on the squad who can break through a defense like Henry can.
For me, Arsenal is not a lock to be the number four team. I see great potential in teams like Tottenham, Bolton and Everton to surprise people.
Tottenham especially has a good shot in my opinion with England national team goalkeeper Paul Robinson, defender Ledley King and striker Dimitar Berbatov leading the way.
On the other hand, a couple of teams are prime victims for relegation. Fulham, Wigan and Derby have a lot to prove to keep their place in the Premiership.
At the end of the day, England’s UEFA dominance reminded the world how good its football league is. The coming season will build on that feeling and keep the Premiership an elite league to watch.
Matthew’s predicted final standings
1 – Manchester United
2 – Chelsea
3 – Liverpool
4 – Arsenal