Ladies and gentlemen it’s that time of year again. Enjoy those early Saturday mornings where you make that awkward but appropriate decision to crack open a beer before your kids are up. The English Premier League is back and continues to hold its place as the most competitive league in the world. Top to bottom there is no better collection of teams capable of knocking each other off on any given day. It may no longer boast the best teams in the world, but every game is an adrenaline charged showcase of pace and power. I am not going to give the entire rundown, but I am going to pick the Top 6 and those teams that will be cashing in their balloon payments next year.
Top Four – European Glory
This seems an odd choice given their recent run of disappointment, but I think they finally have the team to do it and more importantly, they have to be due for some good luck. The addition of Petr Cech is huge and I think they have one of the best defensive midfielders in the game in Francis Coquelin (my favorite non-Red Devil). They may have issues up front, as do most teams in the EPL this year and it’s their solid backbone that leads me to believe they will just nip #2…
Chelsea were dominant last year without looking dominant. They have done little to strengthen a side that struggled down the stretch last year. There is no more organized side in the EPL, but they rely too heavily on the finishing of jazz hands Diego Costa and I don’t think he will be able to replicate his run of decent health this year. I also wonder if there will be a greater focus on the Champions League this year as Abramovich is desperate for more European glory.
3. Manchester United
Crazy to think with all the money they have thrown around that they won’t rise any higher than third, but I just think this team is a bit short. The transfer saga around world class keeper David De Gea also disturbs me greatly. He is the only thing that kept LVG from an awkward off season still in search of European football. I love the addition of Morgan Schneiderlin to eventually take the reins from Michael Carrick who is still the most important piece of the puzzle for United. I think Memphis Dupay will provide the creative spark they have lacked and take some pressure off Sir Rooney. Either way, they will be fun to watch and I think there is a very real possibility they are the last team left in Europe making it all the way to the semi-finals. I think they are a year away as a true threat, but I hope I am wrong.
4. Manchester City
Interestingly, they have a better finisher in Sergio Aguero than the three clubs I have tabbed to beat them out, but they also have the weakest spine with an aging Kompany and Toure. It’s also hard to shake the feeling that Manuel Pellegrinni is not a ‘dead man walking.’ All in all, I just don’t get that feeling from the citizens this year.
I feel like they are a feisty bunch and they may be putting together one of the best defenses in the EPL. Pochettino has had time to embed his philosophy of possession and attacking. They have the talent, but not enough to push for the top 4.
Yikes, I just don’t know. I feel like they shock and challenge for Top 2 or it all goes to shit and Rodgers is out before Christmas. Either way he has no clue on the defensive end, but there is enough dynamism offensively to keep them out of too much trouble. Will it be enough for a hungry fan base? The title run in 2013 may have been the worst thing to happen to crazy Mr. Rodgers.
18. Aston Villa
20. Norwich City
It is going to be a long year for Villa who lost most of the crucial pieces to a squad that was already suspect. Everton and West Ham could struggle to stay out of the drop this year, but will ultimately survive. It will be a long year for the newly promoted sides and I think ultimately, only the exciting Bournemouth survives. Until next year, enjoy the ride.