Evidence appears to suggest that we are in for one of the tightest seasons for a long, long time. There has been a lot of change at the top and a lot of ambition is being shown by the teams below too. But what really excites me is the prospect of beautiful football being played by so many teams in the Premier League.
I’ll start at the top where champions Manchester United have seen a change of management from ever-present Sir Alex Ferguson to David Moyes. The Scottish manager was increasingly winning over fans last season with some of the football being played by his Everton team and he will now attempt to bring that style to United. Rivals Manchester City and Chelsea have hired Manuel Pellegrini and Jose Mourinho respectively and both have travelled from Spain with the promise of total football for their new clubs. Mourinho is famous for his over powering tactics but a stint at Real Madrid seems to have softened his approach to beautiful football and Pellegrini knows he can ease the immense pressure he is under by entertaining the fans during a title charge.
Below these teams are Arsenal and Tottenham, two teams that almost need no introduction when it comes to pass-and-move football. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger famously said that winning ugly is not an option, a tactic that has been the hub of their successes and failures during his tenure. Spurs boss Andre Villas Boas is a man that prides himself on high-line, high pressure, super-fast football and is slowly building a team to bring his visions to life. Expect fireworks in north London this season.
Everton and Liverpool have their tactics tended to by Roberto Martinez and Brendan Rodgers respectively, two managers that seem happiest when watching their teams tearing opponents apart in a manner that would make the best Brazil side’s sit back and smile. Martinez won the FA Cup with Wigan last season and despite the team being relegated he has already plucked the players he thinks worthy of a top four battle from his former club. Rodgers is buying exciting, young players this summer and although there is always a chance of backfire with this tactic there is a much stronger chance of flair at Anfield next season.
We move down to the mid-table teams and expect the style to become more gritty and uninspiring but we see counter-attacking specialists West Brom, managed by Steve Clarke and Brian Laudrup’s Swansea City. Both impressed me massively last season by playing lovely football while never even flirting with relegation. I expect more of the same in the upcoming campaign.
Move towards the bottom of the table and we have teams like Southampton, probably my favourite team to watch last season, who played scintillating football in their return to England’s top flight. Paolo Di Canio is now getting hold of the Sunderland dressing room, by the scruff of the neck almost literally, and has made some good signings already this summer. Expect a better campaign from them this time around. Paul Lambert will also demand his young guns play with some style now they have an extra year’s experience and even Stoke City’s famously negative style looks to be dying out as new manager Mark Hughes has promised to “bring football back to The Britannia.”
The past few seasons have taught us not to underestimate the newly promoted teams and this season looks to offer the same massage, as well as seeing a second Welsh side move up to the English Premier League. Expect them to spend plenty of money in an attempt to retain their newly found status.
I’ll end with Crystal Palace, armed with the smooth talking Ian Holloway as manager. If you want to know how they will play next season just look at Blackpool’s single term in the top flight in 2010. They started with a bang, beating Wigan 4-0 to top the table, even if only for an hour or so.
So buckle up, we’re in for a wild ride.