Manchester United’s win over Blackpool that earned them the 19th league title - one above bitter rivals Liverpool – seemed to have happened a long time ago.What followed were the world tours, the friendlies and the transfers.
Thankfully though, the wait is over and the Premier League finally kicks off today.
Over the summer, the champions have done anything but rest on their newfound record as England’s most successful domestic team as they look to find a way past European champions Barcelona. With an experienced lineup, abetted by some recognisable signings, it seems United are on a mission to recapture their crown.
The Andre Villas-Boas experiment finally sets off at Chelsea. The Portugese tactician has made a relatively quiet start to his reign at Stamford Bridge, suggesting a renewed club philosophy of inward growth. The 33-year-old has inherited an experienced team with a winning mentality: the perfect blend by which potential champions are made of.
Moneybags Manchester City were silenced by their neighbours in the Community Shield, despite leading 2-0 at the break. However, the acquisition of Sergio Aguero, plus continued speculation surrounding the arrival of Arsenal’s Samir Nasri, suggests a revision of tactics by Roberto Mancini, who looks to finally transform the ‘noisy neighbours’ into genuine contenders.
Arsenal seem set to start the new season worse than where they last left off the last one: captain and iconic playmaker Cesc Fabregas is expected to complete his move to boyhood club Barcelona over the weekend, while midfield maestro Samir Nasri looks set to depart for the Eastlands. The team’s glaring defensive frailties do not seem to have been addressed either, as Wenger seems to have ignored the fans’ chants pleading for him to spend cash on seasoned professionals.
In remarkable contrast to that though, Kenny Dalglish has fully embraced the transfer market by bringing in a plethora of midfield talent to Liverpool. The Anfield faithful will be hoping that their late-season surge in the last campaign spurred on by Raul Meireles, Maxi Rodrigues and newcomer Luis Suarez carries on into the new one, as they look to reclaim a top-four finish.
Meanwhile, further down, Gunners’ north London rivals have been left frustrated in the transfer market, as experienced stars continue to be linked with moves away. Everton find themselves in the same boat, albeit also having to deal with Mikel Arteta’s injury concerns, and Fulham will be hoping to get another chance in the Europa League.
The new faces of the league (Norwich, QPR and Swansea) have all been busy in bolstering their squads in an attempt to ensure survival, and each of them will have a decent chance of avoiding the drop given that last season’s final-day escapists seem to have barely done any strengthening of their own.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 13th, 2011.