The Barclays Premier League season of 2011-12 was arguably the best season ever with Sergio Aguero’s injury time goal against QPR on the final day of the season clinched the title for Manchester City and breaking a million Manchester United hearts. The world has remained a different place since then – until today.
True that this was a shorter off-season considering that there was the Euro Cup (in which a misfiring striker who couldn’t spell G-O-A-L in the Premier League won the Golden Boot) and the Olympics (which was completely overshadowed by the Lucas Moura transfer saga), but these were no match to the drama and action provided by the Premier League.
The off-season which began with Robin Van Persie refusing to sign a contract extension at Arsenal ended with the Flying Dutchman switching clubs to move to Arsenal’s greatest rivals Manchester United. There have been other big name signings too. Lukas Podolski, Hulk, Eden Hazard and Shinji Kagawa are among the big name arrivals from outside England while the imminent departures of Luka Modric and Alex Song to Spain have been making the headlines.
Roberto Mancini has been surprisingly silent in the transfer window with Jack Rodwell’s move from Everton being the only signing of the season. Manchester City have been largely unchanged from their title winning campaign last season and the forward line consisting of Tevez, Balotelli, Aguero, Dzeko, Silva and Nasri are the strongest amongst all teams and this was clearly showcased in the 3-2 triumph over Chelsea in the FA Community Shield.
Manchester United still haven’t found a solution to their midfield problems but the signings of Kagawa and Van Persie have brought a smile on the face of their fans after failing to win any major silverware last year. It will be interesting to see how Ferguson fits in two of the league’s top scorers of last season. With Welbeck being in outstanding form, Rooney might just move deeper to play in the playmaker’s position like he did last season in the absence of Scholes.
Unlike the previous years, Arsenal have been the most active team on the transfer market with three big name signings in the form of Girould, Podolski and SantiCarzola. But the exit of their talismanic skipper Van Persie have considerably weakened the team and with Alex Song almost having signed a deal for Barcelona, Arsene Wenger looks unlikely to break the trophy drought that has haunted the Emirates since 2005.
Chelsea look the most revamped side during the off-season with big name signings of Oscar, Hazard and Marco Marin. Chelsea was reborn during the end of last season where they won the FA Cup and the Champions League under Roberto Di Matteo. With Fernando Torres also finding his scoring boots, Chelsea surely are one of the favorites to reclaim their place at the top of the table despite the departure of Didier Drogba.
Tottenham’s biggest addition of the summer has been the signing of Andres Vilas Boas as a replacement for Harry Redknapp. Spurs, despite finishing fourth in the table, were denied a Champions League spot due to Chelsea winning the Champions League. Luka Modric, easily Tottenham’s most influential player might be headed to Madrid but the presence of Bale, Van der Vaart, Lennon and Defoe still makes Tottenham a strong contender to contest for a Champions League spot. Demba Ba and PappisCisse were signings of the highest class which enabled Newcastle to secure a top six spot in the table last season. The astute managerial capabilities won Alan Pardew the manager of the season award last year and with Newcastle playing with almost the same side as last season, it remains to be seen if they can carry on the good work from last season or if it was a flash in the pan.
Brendan Rogers takes over the reins at Anfield after a disappointing eighth place finish last season. Despite winning the Carling Cup and reaching the finals of the FA Cup, 2011-12 was a season to forget for the Liverpool fans as they finished below their Merseyside rivals Everton. The Toffees secured yet another impressive top ten finish last season and getting into Europe would be a realistic target for David Moyes.
Fulham were impressive to secure a ninth place finish and will again overtly depend on the duo of Dempsey and Dembele to deliver the goods for them this season. Swansea would be hoping to avoid the second season syndromeafter losing two quality midfielders and manager Brendan Rogers. Wigan pulled off an astounding run of results at the end of the season to survive one more season while Stoke City and Sunderland will have to do more buying in the transfer market to trouble some of the mid-table clubs.
QPR pulled off a remarkable escape on the last day of the season to ensure their survival. With money flowing in, QPR have strengthened their resources with the signing of Park Ji Sung, Junior Hoilett and Andy Johnson which should boost their ambitions of finishing in the top half. West Bromwich Albion surprised one and all with a tenth place finish last season and with not much activity on the transfer market, their main objective will be survival.
All the three promoted teams stayed up last season and Reading, like QPR, have the money to stay up while West Ham are too big a club to be playing second division football. Southampton’s return to the top flight makes things interesting at the bottom of the table while Aston Villa have failed to impress over the last few seasons and it will be no surprise if they go the Bolton way.
As week One approaches, the excitement builds up and the anticipation grows with each passing day. Some teams would be happy with their business over the break while the others try to wrap things up before the transfer window shuts down on August 31st.
All in all, an exciting ten months filled with spectacular goals, exhilarating saves, action, drama and heartbreak to look forward too. Let’s Kick off!