EPL Preview

The return of the English Premier League was marked by the Community Shield game last Sunday.  Arsenal took on Chelsea in the match at Wembley and won 1-0 thanks to an Oxlade-Chamberlin goal.  Can they challenge for the title this year now?  We will see and more on this later.

Title Contenders

For me the title is 100% Chelsea’s title to lose.  They have the strongest team and have added some good quality to their bench.  Chelsea has given Radamel Falcao a chance to redeem himself and Asmir Begovic was brought in to replace Petr Cech.  This team should be a very solid defensive team and hopefully we will get to see some more attacking football from Chelsea.  They are most likely done with their summer transfers, but they are close to adding John Stones to help their defense.  The only thing that could give them some trouble is the striker position.  Diego Costa is a very talented player but does have a tendency to get injured.  This would leave the responsibility with Loic Remy and Radamel Falcao.  I still think they will be successful, and they should win the league before the last day of the season.

The other teams that are in the race for the title, should Chelsea slip up, are Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United.  In my opinion, Arsenal is the closest and could push Chelsea all the way this season.  They have finally added the number 1 goalkeeper that they need in Petr Cech.  While he is currently their only addition, he fills in a huge space in a very good defense.  If they are to truly challenge for the title, Arsene Wenger will need to add a world class striker such as Karim Benzema.  Manchester United will be closer to the title this season and may look more like the United of old, but they are still a couple of players away from really contending for the title.  They have definitely strengthened their midfield, but do they have enough quality at the back is my big question.  Memphis Depay will add a new dimension on the win and Schweinsteiger and Schneiderlin will be great in the midfield.  But will they have a leader in the center of their back four?  Will De Gea leave? If he does, then there are a lot more questions about this United squad.  Lastly, Manchester City could mount a title run this season if everything goes right.  They have a very similar team to the team that came in third last season with one key addition.  Raheem Sterling has joined the team and this should give City a new added dimension.  One issue for City could be the mounting pressure as there will be a lot of pressure to win back the title and progress in the Champions League.  This is a very talented team and can really push for the title if everything goes right.

Promoted Sides

Bournemouth was the Champions of the Championship and they arrive in the Premier League for the first time.  They scored more goals and took more shots than any team in the Championship last season.  They also attempted and completed more passes.  They really enjoy possessing the ball and should be an entertaining watch.  Eddie Howe looks to be a great manager to watch on the sidelines.  They should also add some interest in the south coast derby against Southampton. I really hope they can stay up this season.

Norwich City makes their return to the Premier League after just one season away.  They won promotion through the playoff and will look to make it more than just one year in the Premier League.  They have brought in some quality EPL veterans and have a very similar side to their team that was relegated a couple years ago.  It will be in the hands of their young manager, Alex Neil, to guide this team to safety and see if they can survive for a second year.

Watford is the other promoted side to be in the Premier League.  They were very close to winning the title themselves until the last day of the season.  In fact, they won more games than Bournemouth over the course of the season.  However, it has been a summer of change at the club as they let the manger who got them promoted, Slavisa Jokanovic, go and replaced him with Quique Sanchez Flores.  They have also brought in 10 new signings so far.  Etienne Capoue is the main name that people will recognize.  The key to them staying up will be Heurelho Gomes and if he can keep the team up in goal.  It should be an interesting season, but I see this could be a tough road to come.

5 Major Storylines to watch this season

  1. Can Arsene beat Jose during the season – Arsene finally got a win over Jose in the Community Shield match this weekend, and he will look to take this to momentum to the regular season. Arsene is looking to win his first title since 2004. The 11 year drought is starting make people question if Arsene is still the right man for the job and his biggest hurdle will be Jose.  The two men do not like each other, exhibited by their fight last season and lack of handshakes this past weekend.  If Arsene is to end the title drought, he will need to get some points when his squad faces Chelsea.
  2. Who will Van Gaal play – Manchester United has been one of the busiest teams during the summer and this will create some issues for him this season. Who will play at the center of his defense? Daley Blind? Chris Smalling? Phil Jones? Are any of them world class defenders?  How will he rotate the squad for Champions League?  Van Gaal also has a large number of central midfielders at his disposal that he has just bought, Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger.  They join Michael Carrick, Juan Mata, Ander Herrera, and Marouane Fellaini.  It will be interesting to see what he does and how the team reacts to these choices.  He will have to find the right combinations to really challenge Chelsea.
  3. Will any of the promoted sides stay for more than 1 season – Leicester was the only team of the three that was promoted last season to remain in the Premier League. The season before that, Southampton and West Ham United were able to remain up in the Premier League.  Which, if any of these three, will stay up will be the big question?  For me I think two of them can, but they will need to have a good Christmas Period in order to stay in the top flight.
  4. Brendan Rodgers and his job security – Liverpool face a daunting first seven games away from home that could be make or break for Brendan Rodgers. The opening game is a rematch of their last game from this past season against Stoke that ended in a 6-1 defeat in Steven Gerrard’s last game. After that, they travel to Arsenal, Manchester United, Everton, Tottenham, Chelsea, and then Manchester City.  These 7 games will go a long way in deciding how long Brendan will have his job.
  5. Can any of the second tier clubs challenge the new “big four” – Can Liverpool, Tottenham, Southampton, or a surprise team break into what has become the new top four of Chelsea, Arsenal, and the two Manchester Clubs? While Liverpool temporarily broke through two seasons ago, they were right back out last season. Can they catch up to the big four? Is it possible for any of these teams to break in with our current financial situations?

5 Key Additions

  1. Petr Cech (Arsenal) – The goalie that Arsene has needed. Will he be the difference?
  2. Morgan Schneiderlin (Manchester United) — World Class midfielder, will truly shine for United.
  3. Raheem Sterling (Manchester City) – Will give City a new dimension and can be their new face. Excited to see him link with Aguero.
  4. Memphis Depay Manchester United) – The new Ronaldo? We will see. He has skills to be top player.
  5. Christian Beneteke (Liverpool) – Is he the replacement for Suarez they need? Can he help Brendan and Liverpool return to their goal scoring ways of two seasons ago?

While there is still a ways to go in the transfer market, here are five players to watch who could be on the move and could really make an impact either leaving or coming to an EPL team.

  1. David De Gea (Manchester United to Real Madrid) – he seems to be the man that Perez wants to replace Iker and it will be an interesting saga to watch unfold. My opinion is he will be playing for Real Madrid by September 1st.
  2. Pedro (Barcelona to Manchester United) – Van Gaal has been singing his praises and he is a world class player. He would be a great purchase for United and will give them a great attacking threat that works very hard.
  3. Karim Benzema (Real Madrid to Arsenal) – This could be the last piece that Arsene needs. Look for him to spend the money and try to make this move happen. If the price is right then this will happen.
  4. Hugo Lloris (Tottenham to United or Real Madrid) – this move is 100% dependent on David De Gea. If De Gea stays at United, he could go to Real. If De Gea moves to Real, look for United to use their new money to bring him in.  While he very well could be on the move, I think a Real move is more likely as Van Gaal is very high on Jasper Cillessen of Ajax.
  5. Gareth Bale (Real Madrid to Manchester United) – This move seems to be a crazy dream, but we have seen stranger things happen. He would be a great buy for United and could be an escape route for Bale. I don’t see this happening.

This season, I will be having a good friend of mine, James, making some predictions this season and will be giving his insight on some of the big games.

Top 4 Predictions

Mine – Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City

James – Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal

Relegation Predictions

Mine – Watford, Sunderland, Aston Villa

James – Watford, Leicester, Bournemouth

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