What a summer it’s been for British sport! The London Olympic Games exceeded just about every expectation that the UK had set itself, while even the English football side didn’t completely embarrass themselves in Euro 2012.
Now though, back to the bread and butter business of the Barclays Premier League. Last season witnessed the most epic climax to a league campaign ever seen in English football. Can 2012/13 go one better?
Lee Rosborough and Aaron McBride look ahead to what’s in store for each side.
The Gunners seem to lose their most sought after players each summer. Past examples include Thierry Henry, Patrick Viera, Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, Kolo Toure and now the potential departure of skipper and goal machine Robin Van Persie looks more and more like a reality.
That said, Arsene Wenger has brought in some worthy replacements in the form of Santi Cazorla, Olivier Giroud and Lucas Podolski, so if these players perform Arsenal should find themselves in the top four. The overdue return of Jack Wilshere will be a massive addition, too.
One-to-watch - Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain needs to take his first full Premier League campaign by the scruff of the neck. The nation has already seen him perform without fear at Euro 2012 so Arsenal fans will hope he can do the same and make a big impact on the team this season.
Key Player - Alex Song
After Fabregas and Nasri jumped ship to Barcelona and Man City respectively, the Gunners were left with a midfield nightmare. Up stepped Alex Song, who while being known as a defensive midfielder was also part of Wenger’s attacking flair. If he can build on his performances from last season he will be key to Arsenal’s year.
Aaron’s league prediction – 4th
Lee’s league prediction – 4th
Villa were neither here nor there for much of last season. Firstly, they were nowhere near European football – which would have been a realistic aim at the start of the campaign – but even more worryingly the threat of relegation was all too real.
New-boss Paul Lambert will look to bring ‘bounce-back ability’ with him after Villa only won seven games all of last season – the second least in the league behind rock-bottom Wolves – and were just two points from a place in the English second tier.
One-to-watch - Samir Carruthers
After a few brief appearances last campaign, Samir Carruthers should come of age this season if Paul Lambert puts faith in the young-players at Villa.
Key Player – Darren Bent
Having returned from injury that kept him out of the business end of last season, Darren Bent will be keen to get back to scoring ways and do everything he can to top Villa’s lacklustre tally of 37 goals last season.
Aaron’s league prediction – 13th
Lee’s league prediction – 9th
This time last season, if somebody told you Chelsea would be FA Cup and Champions League winners you may have thought they were crazy. But after the departure of Andre Villas-Boas and the success of Roberto Di Matteo, the Chelsea camp will be brimming with confidence going into the 2012/13 campaign.
Chelsea lost club-legend Didier Drogba, but this should help Fernando Torres shine upfront and with some solid signings Chelsea’s transition will not result in the end of the world.
One-to-watch - Ryan Bertrand
Ryan Bertrand played the game of his life after being thrown in at the deep end in the Champions League final. A long-term replacement for Ashley Cole will be very welcoming at Chelsea and Bertrand could be that man. He will only get better with experience.
Key player – Gary Cahill
After a long-summer’s rest (injury preventing him from playing at Euro 2012), Gary Cahill will be integral to Chelsea’s success this season. Chelsea’s defensive solidarity is what won them the Champions League last term. If Cahill can continue his strong defensive bond with club-captain John Terry, Chelsea could surprise many – again.
Aaron’s league prediction – 3rd
Lee’s league prediction – 3rd
After another solid season, The Toffees will look for much of the same this season. The realistic aim after a 7th place finish is to push for Europe, but David Moyes’ side will make it no secret that finishing above bitter-rivals Liverpool again will also be on their minds.
One-to-watch - Ross Barkley
Ross Barkley will need to fill a Tim Cahill-shaped hole in the centre of midfield. After the 18-year-old made nine appearances last season, Moyes cleverly decided to withdraw him from the limelight and pressure of the Premier League but this could be his season.
Key Player – Steven Pienaar
After his return from an unsuccessful stint at White Hart Lane, the South African winger will be keen to get the fans back on his side and therefore, if he finds form, will be a valuable addition to Everton’s squad.
Aaron’s league prediction – 12th
Lee’s league prediction – 8th
If Fulham could start a season in the same manner they finish one, European football would not be a far cry. One the plus side, Fulham have not had to play a lot of European qualifying matches in the lead up to this campaign but they have also sold arguably their most consistent player in Danny Murphy.
Now fending off interest from Spanish-giants Real Madrid is a must if they are to hold on to Moussa Dembele and move forward from their (impressive) 9th-place finish last season.
One-to-watch - Kerim Frei
Kerim Frei had been called up to the Turkish international squad and at 18-years-old has bags full of potential. After a solid 16 appearances last season, fans are ready to be impressed even more by the youngster.
Key Player – Clint Dempsey
The American goal-getter will be key to Fulham’s season because Fulham struggle to find the net when he is not scoring. With 17 goals last season Dempsey was The Cottages top goalscorer in front of Pogrebynak (6), Zamora (5) and Johnson (3) – all of which have left the club.
Aaron’s league prediction – 11th
Lee’s league prediction – 11th
A big clearout has taken place at Anfield including a change of manager, so now is the time for Liverpool to stand up and be counted. Finishing 8th is by no means good enough for a club of their stature and Brendan Rodgers will know this all too well.
One-to-watch - Fabio Borini
Fabio Borini has linked up with Brendan Rodgers for the third time in his career – and he is only 21. The Italian international scored six goals in nine appearances when on loan at Swansea in the 2010/11 season, so is tipped to do good things at Anfield.
Key Player – Luis Suarez
Whether people consider him a hero or a villain, on his day he can change any game. He will look to build on his tally of 11 goals from last season.
Aaron’s league prediction – 7th
Lee’s league prediction – 6th
Manchester City gave Manchester United the worst taste of their own medicine last season when they had done what United had done for years – only more dramatically. City snatched the Premier League from their neighbours with the last kick of the campaign.
That will be extremely hard to follow but City look very hard to beat. City showed their resilience in the Community Shield coming from behind to beat Chelsea 3-2 and securing some early-season Silverware.
One-to-watch - Jack Rodwell
Jack Rodwell will flourish at Manchester City as he looks to come of age with the help of world-class players around him.
Key Player – Vincent Kompany
A successful captain at Manchester City and a role model at the club. He is solid at the centre of defence but can also do a job in midfield (not that he will need to). The Belgium international is also a goal threat – you only have to look at that header he scored against Manchester United that earned his team what proved to be a vital win.
Aaron’s league prediction – 1st
Lee’s league prediction – 1st
After having the league title snatched from beneath their noses, by their noisy neighbours, United will be hungrier than ever to regain the status as the best team in the country (and Manchester).
If people believe The Red Devils have an ageing squad they should think again. Young players will come good and the experience of certain players around them will continue to aid their development.
One-to-watch - Danny Welbeck
Danny Welbeck will continue to impress as he looks to cement a first-team place. Getting in ahead of the likes of Javier Hernandez, Dimitar Berbatov and possibly Robin Van Persie will be no easy task, though.
Key Player – Wayne Rooney
When thinking of a key player for United it is hard to look past Rooney. When he is playing well and scoring, Fergie’s side are very hard to beat.
Aaron’s league prediction – 2nd
Lee’s league prediction – 2nd
After a successful season that surprised a few last term, Newcastle will have added pressure to improve, or at least equal, their impressive 5th-place finish in the 2011/12 campaign.
A leap into the top four seems realistic but only time will tell if Newcastle are punching above their weight. A good run in the Europa League will see Newcastle prove any doubters wrong.
One-to-watch - Tim Krul
Tim Krul will need to keep up his consistent performances from last season if The Magpies are to have increased success in the campaign. The Dutch keeper kept 15 clean sheets.
Key Player – Papiss Cisse
After joining Newcastle in January last year, the striker will need to keep finding the net to make it a successful first-full season at St. James Park. The Senegalese striker scored 13 goals in 14 games for Alan Pardew’s side last season.
Aaron’s league prediction – 6th
Lee’s league prediction – 7th
After a successful first season back in the top flight, Norwich will be looking for much of the same. The loss of manager Paul Lambert to Aston Villa will mean that the Canaries will be looking to secure survival above all else. Chris Hughton will be keen to show he is the man for the job.
One-to-watch - Robert Snodgrass
Robert Snodgrass will be a good addition to Hughton’s squad and one that can definitely boost The Canaries’ midfield. At 24, the ex-Leeds player will be very keen to ensure he can impress at the highest level.
Key Player – Grant Holt
When Grant Holt signed a new three-year deal everybody involved with the club would had had a smile from ear-to-ear. The attacker scored 15 goals for Norwich last season and is a fan favourite.
Aaron’s league prediction – 15th
Lee’s league prediction – 15th
Look out for Part #2 of the 2012/13 Season Preview, coming later this week!