The Premier League Returns

Thursday, August 6, 2015 Sports

A preview of the upcoming Premier League season, as the English top-flight football prepares itself for yet another thrilling season !!

Last season, Chelsea had the best team, the best manager in José Mourinho and the best players. So naturally they were favourites to win the title come May, and that's exactly what they did. They started the season off with a bang. They played with both flair and discipline, with new-boys Cesc Fàbregas and Diego Costa running the show upfront in attack, supported by Willian and the eventual PFA Player of the Year Eden Hazard. The back line was marshalled by Captain John Terry with Nemanja Matić playing in front of the back four as the shield, reminiscent of the role played by Claude Makélélé in yesteryears; the team was a manager's dream.

Even though they won the league title quite handsomely with a few games to spare, they displayed several chinks in their armour even halfway through the season. The 5-2 drubbing by London rivals Tottenham Hotspur was evidence of that. Since that defeat to Spurs, Chelsea abandoned their flamboyant style of play which excited football purists at the start of the campaign, and went back to their conventional style - 'Parking the bus'. José Mourinho set his team up to make sure that they didn't lose. If they were playing one of their big rivals, they set up to defend and only defend, and counter if the opportunity presented itself. 'Parking the bus' or 'negative tactics' as some would like to call it, had the tendency to frustrate the neutral fans and quite obviously the opposition fans as well. This is  because it's always an eyesore to watch a very expensive and heavily assembled team just sit back and defend for 90 minutes. They were found out on a few occasions towards the end of the season where they were clearly second best. But luckily for Chelsea their rivals were never consistent enough in the course of the season to seriously mount a challenge against Chelsea’s march to the title. Their closest rivals in the table, Manchester City could count themselves lucky to have finished above Arsenal and Manchester United, as they had the worst head to head record in the top 4. Arsenal on the other hand showed glimpses of brilliance but lacked the ruthless efficiency that had so marked Chelsea. On the other hand Manchester United despite having the best head to head record in the top 6, threw away matches against lesser oppositions.

The start of yet another thrilling Premier League season is just days away. Newly promoted sides Bournemouth, Norwich and Watford would want to stamp their authority right from the onset and show everyone that they belong here with the elite. Norwich and Watford have been here before, and they know that the price of relegation to the lower leagues in England is a heavy one. If staying up in the Premier League is tough, going down to the Championship and coming back up to the Premier League is a nightmare! For Bournemouth, it's their first taste of the grand stage, and the odds are stacked massively against them. They gained promotion last year by winning the Championship with some eye catching football. But the Premier League is a totally different beast from the Championship. It has always been difficult for the smaller clubs to stay up by playing 'sexy football', so Bournemouth really needs to add a lot more grit and steel into their side. They could take inspiration from Swansea City, who came up from the lower leagues and established themselves as a solid yet stylish Premier League side. But it's easier said than done. Watford has made a host of new signings to make sure that they stay up, and if their gamble doesn’t pay off at the end of the season they could be in deep trouble. Norwich on the other hand has lots of players with Premier League experience in their ranks, and they know how to get the job done

In the top half of the table, Chelsea are favourites to retain their title. But this time around they can expect a much sterner challenge from their rivals. Arsenal boss Arsène Wenger is close to building a title winning team again after back to back FA Cups and Manchester United has also been building a solid team in the summer under Louis van Gaal. United would want to win the title again after they lifted the trophy two years ago under Sir Alex Ferguson in his last season in charge, and regain their dominance in the Premier league which they enjoyed for 20 years. Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has yet again splurged this summer, but the signings seem more sensible and astute this time around. Manchester City has made their mandatory big money signing in Raheem Sterling for a whopping £50 million! But the team as whole looks a bit ragged. Unless they spend wisely and bring in new faces they might miss out on a top 4 finish, and City boss Manuel Pellegrini knows that anything short of a top 2 finish will have him looking for a new job. Tottenham Hotspur are yet to make any major additions on the attacking front, with rising star Harry Kane as the only viable option. They would want to push for a top 4 finish, though it's seems very unlikely. But Maurcio Pochettino's young guns may yet spring a surprise. 

Southampton, Swansea City, Stoke City and Everton are the other candidates who might finish in the top half of the table. These teams also have the potential to upset the established order in the top 6. Whereas Aston Villa, Newcastle United, West Ham United, West Bromwich Albion and Crystal Palace might also have a say in the top half of the table come May. 

Leicester City, Sunderland and the Premier League's newly promoted sides are almost surely in for the relegation battle. But history has taught us that one can never be sure about anything in the Premier League. It's arguably the toughest and the most closely contested league in the world. The one thing that everyone can be certain of is that it's going to be yet another exciting season in the English top flight.

written by
Ryan Gomez