Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Premiership Champions League Race, how are the runners stacking up?

With only a couple of days left until the first fixtures of the season, it has been a relatively quiet Summer transfer market with few clubs other than Chelsea willing to make a major splash of cash. So where does that leave the clubs chasing the Champions League spots this season?

Manchester City
City will actually benefit from a Summer of less upheaval and activity. Hamstrung by the massive wages they are paying to unwanted players they have been able to shift on, City have only so far recruited Jack Rodwell. He is an undoubted talent but the likes of ManYoo had clearly cooled their interest in him given his patchy injury record and even Mancini has said he is 'not ready'.

City appear to be investing in some more 'Englishness' with Rodwell but the squad essentially remains the same with the reintegration of Carlos Tevez. A central defender still looks a requirement. They will however be tough to beat this season now they a title under their belts.

United's midfield shortcomings have not been fully addressed by the signing of Shinji Kagawa but he will provide fresh impetus to a hopelessly ageing and immobile midfield. Should Darren Fletcher complete his recovery from illness then his added dynamism will be much welcome also.

The squad doesn't look United vintage but Ferguson as ever remains the trump card. The acquisition of Van Persie would take much of the pressure off Wayne Rooney's shoulders to provide the goals also.

'Arsenal in shock player purchase' read the early Summer headlines and it appears in Podolski and Cazorla they may have signed some genuine quality with the jury currently out on Giroud.

As always however, their Summer has been dominated by talk of players going the other way and yet another saga with Van Persie risks derailing Arsenal's early season plans. Had Arsenal sorted out Fabregas and Nasri earlier last year they may well have not had the awful start to the season from which they could not fully recover.

Will Spurs provide redemption for AVB? Spurs again look a team in limbo with the ongoing Luca Modric situation. They have been unable so far to add to their attacking options and it is unlikely that Van Der Vaart will get fitter as he gets older.

The signing of Vertonghen looks a sound one which will add much needed quality at the back now that Ledley King has finally succumbed to his chronic and unfortunate knee problems. Hard to see Spurs improving on fourth place and more signings are required.

Newcastle United
Despite last year's stellar showing it is hard to see the Toon as genuine contenders for fourth spot but thus they must such was last year's achievements. A relatively stable Summer seeing them hang on to their prize assets means the Geordies will start the season with renewed hope and the spectre of the returning Andy Carroll is also an intriguing sub plot.

Last year's big underachievers saved their season with their heroics in Munich which both permitted and signalled a spending spree not seen at the Bridge since Abramovich first arrived. Hazard and Oscar in particular will add pace, quality and youth but their settling in period might be bumpy.

Chelsea may also have a new face in one Fernando Torres now fully emerged from the shadow of Didier Drogba. Whether he can regain his former glories may be key to whether Chelsea can mount a serious challenge this season.

Mikel and Lampard look ponderous in midfield and more replacements including a right back are required for what is not a big squad in terms of quality. It is unlikely however that Abramovich paid around 60M to be patient and Di Matteo knows that results are imperative with Munich now a memory.

Again, hard to call them genuine contenders but this blog shall give Brendan Rodgers the benefit of the doubt for now. He has so far said and done the right things and appears to have a definite plan. The acquisitions of Borini and Allen will be key for Rodgers as to whether they can make the step up to playing at Anfield.

It may take Rodgers several seasons to shape Liverpool into what he wants and having picked such a promising manager, one hopes that FSG will indeed give him the time he requires.

This blog's prediction for the coming season

1. Manchester City
2. Manchester United
3. Chelsea
4. Arsenal
5. Liverpool
6. Spurs
7. Newcastle

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