SBI’s English Premier League Preview

City (Getty Images)

After the manner in which the 2011-12 English Premier League season ended, it's hard to think that this season will be able to top Manchester City and Manchester United's race for the title that literally came down to the final minute.

With a number of high-profile names changing addresses, a European club champion looking to reinvent itself and a number of important lingering questions, though, there are still plenty of unknowns heading into what should be a riveting campaign, one that will kick off Saturday.

Can any non-Manchester club crack the top of the table? That is the one burning question above all others as another season in England gets underway.

Here is a closer look ahead to the 2012-13 Premier League season:


THE FAVORITES

Manchester City, Manchester United

It's no surprise that the two Manchester rivals are the class of the league heading into the new season. They both ran away from the competition last season, outlasting third-place Arsenal by 19 points and absolutely abusing the goal differential column. City finished with a +64, beating out United's +56 to capture the championship via the tiebreaker after Sergio Aguero's last-minute heroics against Queens Park Rangers.

United's quest to outscore City led the club to signing Robin Van Persie from Arsenal this week, pairing together the top two scorers from last season — RVP and Wayne Rooney — as part of a revamped United attack that also includes former Borussia Dortmund sparkplug Shinji Kagawa. 

In the end, though, the difference might just come down to defense. Led by Belgian centerback Vincent Kompany, City's stingy defense was the best in England. United, meanwhile, has to worry about the fitness and health of injury prone centerback tandem Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, which can be among the best partnerships in the world.

THE CONTENDERS

Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal, Newcastle, Liverpool

The tier behind Manchesters City and United is comprised of teams that are all facing major hurdles. For UEFA Champions League winner Chelsea, which finished sixth in the Premier League last season, this season is about integrating a new generation of young talent after Roman Abramovich spent big on the likes of attackers Eden Hazard, Oscar and Marko Marin. 

Tottenham face the ongoing Luka Modric saga and is still lacking a consistent punch up top to make the club a serious challenger for the league's throne all while integrating the new style of first-year coach Andre Villas-Boas, who is looking for a second lease on life in England after failing at Chelsea.

Arsenal have to deal with the loss of Van Persie and potential loss of Alex Song, and a lot of pressure will be placed on new signings Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud to make Arsene Wenger's club a winner.

Newcastle were the surprise of last season, finishing just out of the Champions League mix following the midseason acquisition of dynamic forward Papiss Cisse. The Magpies won't be taking anyone by surprise this season, though.

Liverpool, meanwhile, are reportedly on the verge of making a couple of more signings ahead of the season — Turkish playmaker Nuri Sahin is rumored to be headed to either Anfield of the Emirates — and will have to adjust to the new style of manager Brendan Rodgers, who brings with him new exuberance to the traditional power. 

TOP TRANSFERS

Robin Van Persie from Arsenal to Manchester United

Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund to Manchester United

Eden Hazard from Lille to Chelsea

Oscar from Internacional to Chelsea

Santi Cazorla from Malaga to Arsenal

Lukas Podolski from Cologne to Arsenal

Jan Vertonghen from Ajax to Tottenham

Steven Pienaar from Tottenham to Everton

Hugo Rodallega from Wigan Athletic to Fulham

Fabio Borini from Roma to Liverpool

Romelu Lukaku on loan from Chelsea to West Brom

BIGGEST QUESTIONS

Where will Clint Dempsey wind up? 

Fulham manager Martin Jol's comments that have made the rounds Friday make it a certainty that Dempsey, who scored a career-high 23 goals in all competitions last season, won't be featuring for Fulham this season. Liverpool has seemed like the most likely destination for Dempsey during this offseason, with Rodgers publicly saying that the club inquired about his services. With the summer transfer window two weeks from closing, a move for Dempsey needs to materialize soon, or else the U.S. star will be in club purgatory ahead of an imporant year of World Cup qualifying.

Will Luka Modric finally depart Tottenham?

The saga involving Modric has carried out all preseason, and it has hampered Tottenham from finally moving on while preventing the club from filling his potential void because of the financial implications at stake. If Modric makes his big-money move to Real Madrid, then Tottenham will have the funds to spread around to make improvements. If not, then the club will be hamstrung with a wantaway playmaker.

Will the Van Persie-Rooney partnership work?

With Manchester United splashing the big cash to lure Van Persie from Arsenal, all eyes will be on his pairing with Rooney. If the duo struggles to get going in the early portion of the season, the scrutiny will only get more intense. Fortunately for Sir Alex Ferguson, he has the luxury of having Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez to turn to in the event that his potentially iconic front line needs a spark.

Which promoted teams will stay up?

After Queens Park Rangers, Norwich City and Swansea City all managed to avoid the drop last season, the bar has been raised for Reading, Southampton and West Ham to remain in the Premier League as opposed to returning to the League Championship after a one-year stay.

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Which team do you think will win the Premier League? Do you see any team breaking the two Manchester clubs' run at the top? Which promoted team do you think has the best shot of making a home in the top flight? What are you looking forward to the most this Premier League season?

Share your thoughts below.

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23 Responses to SBI’s English Premier League Preview

  1. Arsene only wants committed players. If you want to leave, piss off. I’m feeling real bullish about this year. COYG!!!!

  2. Charles says:

    I can’t believe they decide their championship on a GD tie breaker ?
    Very bizarre.

  3. Madaoua05 says:

    My prediction for the Top 4 (in order): Man U, Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal.

    The bottom 3: Reading, Wigan, Swansea City.

  4. pj says:

    It’s not bizarre, really. The championship is based on every game played and every goal scored during the season. That’s what points and goal differential give you. And since they play a balanced schedule, it’s a fair measure of the quality of a team. Many would argue that the American playoff system is more bizarre, as a team that dominated the season can have one bad game that denies them the championship.

  5. K Bone says:

    I think if United finally stays healthy for a change, they definitely have a chance to win the title. I wouldn’t mind City having a few injuries themselves either. No team can be that lucky with injuries for two seasons, right?

  6. K Bone says:

    I certainly appreciate you having United in first, but there is no way City are finishing lower than 2nd, barring season ending injuries to Yaya and Kompany…

  7. I know nothing about soccer says:

    Well honestly, I would never really want a player to get injured you know?

    Having said that, I hope City finishes third behind Chelsea and Man U. I’m Chelsea all the way, but I think Man U will win the league this season, but this will be their last one. SAF is soon out, and they have some inconsistent, injury-prone, and old players.

    Chelsea has the opportunity to go on a massive title streak if they can keep it together and get wins every weekend. Tottenham just doesn’t have the talent to win the league, but I wouldn’t mind them finishing top 5 every year.

  8. SilverRey says:

    How many times has the SS actually won the MLS Cup? I think it’s pretty rare.

    I just approach the MLS Cup as a CCL qualifying tournament.

  9. SilverRey says:

    Just found my answer on supportersshield.com – go figure.

    6 MLS Cup winners out of 15. LA & DC twice, KC & Crew the other two times. Other than that only one other SS has made it out of the Conference bracket – Miami losing in the semifinals.

    You have marathoners and you have sprinters…

  10. K Bone says:

    Well obviously I don’t personally want any player to be injured and in pain, but from a soccer standpoint, coping with injuries is all part of the game, and United were the most injured team in the whole league last season, and City were the least. It clearly had an impact on who won the title, but of course that’s the way it goes. I’d just like this season to be more injury free for United is all…

  11. SteveE says:

    I am feeling decently confident about this year. If we can get Jack back and healthy sometime, we can do some damage.

  12. Yankeedom says:

    I think the two Manchester clubs will battle it out for the top 2 spots. And I also see Arsenal edging out Chelsea for 3rd place.
    Let’s not forget the awful start Arsenal got off to last season, and they were still able to right the ship.

    Van Persie won’t be able to stay injury-free as he did last year. When he is on the pitch, I can see chemistry problems between him and Rooney arising, which will lead to less than expected results.

    I also think Chelsea will miss Drogba a lot more than they realize.

  13. Jeremy says:

    Maybe United losing to City 6-1 and 1-0 had something to do with losing the title? Give me a break. Every team has injury problems. United blew the title when they lost both games against the only challenger.

    On another note, how much has United spent in the last two seasons on players? I am so sick of hearing about how City and Chelsea buy everyone, yet United spends PLENTY every single year and has been doing it for a very long time. Off the top of my head, United has signed De Gea, Young, Jones, Kagawa, and Van Persie in the last two summer transfer windows. Well over a 100 million right there.

  14. jlm says:

    not like city was full strength even if they didn’t have a lot of injuries. toure was gone for a long stretch for the african tournament, tevez has his ordeal, nasri was out of form, etc.

  15. Mark Tebow says:

    Like Champions League, USA has the best teams playing each other to decide the championship….no tiebreakers based on lousy opposition.

    If you win the season, you probably won’t have a bad game in the final that you should win.

  16. Brick says:

    How does Arsenal beat Chelsea? They have just too much payroll.

  17. Illmatic74 says:

    1. Manchester United
    2. Manchester City
    3. Arsenal
    4. Chelsea
    5. Liverpool
    6. Tottenham
    7. Newcastle
    8. Everton
    9. Aston Villa
    10. Fulham
    11. Sunderland
    12. QPR
    13. Reading
    14. Swansea
    15. Stoke City
    16. Wigan
    17. West Ham
    18. West Brom
    19. Norwich
    20. Southampton

  18. biff says:

    “Maybe United losing to City 6-1 and 1-0 had something to do with losing the title?”

    ha-ha. This indisputable truth has been met by a complete wall of silence from the Man U fans. ha-ha.

  19. McGregor says:

    Drogba would have been perfect for the US

  20. timmytwoshoezzz says:

    payroll doesn’t score goals or stop goals

  21. THomas says:

    Isn’t there room at Arsenal for Dempsey now? I’m pissed he’s leaving Fulham…but if it’s actually to a CL team, not Liverpool, then I’m okay with it. We’ll get on just fine without him.

  22. Chupacabra says:

    Liverpool is a contender . . . for relegation.

  23. Chupacabra says:

    Your number 18 is beating the pants off your number five. 3-0. Fail.