A fresh Premiership season brings a fresh weekly column to allsports.com as Premiership View begins a weekly look at the all of the news and events surrounding what is arguably the strongest football league in the world.
The 2004/05 Premier League season will be very much a case of the old guard trying to fend off the new boy in the race for the Championship. The old guard of Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger at Manchester United and Arsenal will be attempting to withstand the challenge of Chelsea, who will this season be managed by Jose Mourinho.
Mourinho has taken over the reigns at Chelsea from Claudio Ranieri, who despite finishing second last season was not thought to be the man to bring success to the side and Mourinho, fresh from guiding Porto to the European Cup has been brought into spend even more of owner Roman Abramovich’s millions and deliver the Premiership title to Stamford Bridge. He has already stamped his mark on the squad, allowing several of Ranieri’s purchases to leave (including high profile imports Hernan Crespo and Juan Sebastian Veron) whilst bringing in forwards Mateja Kezman, Didier Drogba and defenders Paolo Ferriera and Riccardo Carvalho.
It will be a tough challenge for Mourinho to depose either Manchester United or Arsenal but he comes armed with a confidence which suggests he is more than capable of taking on the dominant managerial pairing of the last decade.
Arsenal, who took last years title without losing a game, will be aiming to continue their record breaking unbeaten run but have been plagued all summer by rumours of an impending departure of captain Patrick Viera to Real Madrid. The Spanish side have declared their interest, which Arsenal have rebuffed, but perhaps tellingly Viera himself has remained silent on the matter. If they lose a player of Viera’s stature then Arsenal will no doubt struggle to match last seasons’ exploits, which could allow Manchester United to recapture their crown. They struggled for consistency last season with the fall out of the David Beckham sale and suspension of Rio Ferdinand hitting them hard. However, they have added Alan Smith to the line-up and last seasons’ signings will have a further year of experience that should eliminate the errors which cost them dearly last season.
It is hard to look beyond the top three sides as genuine title contenders, but both Liverpool and Newcastle will be looking to close the considerable gap to the top three from last season. New manager Rafael Benitez will be hoping to replicate the success he enjoyed at Valencia to Anfield, whilst Bobby Robson has added Dutch striker Patrick Kluivert and midfielder Nicky Butt as he strives to bring success to Newcastle in what will be his last season as manager with the side.
Both Middlesbrough and Birmingham will be looking to build on the high finishes of last season and have invested well over the summer to add quality to their squads, and they look the strongest of the rest of the sides to make a strong push for European qualification.
At the bottom of the league, all three of the promoted sides – Norwich, Crystal Palace and West Brom will find it tough to survive the season, but of the three, West Brom may look the best bet due to their Premiership experience of two seasons ago. Both Norwich and Crystal Palace will find it difficult to compete due to the inexperience of their squads.
There will be much demanded by the fans of Charlton, Fulham and Aston Villa who in recent seasons have finished around mid table but last season exceeded all expectations by finishing on the edge of European qualification. They have all looked to add some more depth to their squads as they seek to sustain last season’s performances.
Despite the presence of wonder-boy Wayne Rooney, Everton, who are struggling financially may find it hard to avoid becoming this seasons crisis club. They are plagued by rumours of eighteen-year-old Rooney’s departure and an ownership battle could prove to be an unwelcome distraction to a side that finished only one place above the relegation positions last season.
Three teams who will be looking to rebound from disappointing seasons are Manchester City, Blackburn and Tottenham. All three harboured hopes of a high finish last season but struggled for consistency and were at times threatened with relegation. Of the three, perhaps most will be expected of Tottenham who have former French national manager Jacques Santini at the helm this season and have invested heavily in bright young talent including England goalkeeper Paul Robinson who was part of the fire sale at Leeds. Both Blackburn and Manchester City have only added cautiously to their squads and will be hoping that their passionate managers Graeme Souness and Kevin Keegan will be able to rally them to a stronger finish.
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With the big Premiership kick-off next week on August 14th, the second part of the Premiership View pre-season analysis will feature my predictions on how the sides will finish through positions 1-20.