With the 2012-13 season of Barclays Premier League set to kick off on Saturday, it's time to go over where I think certain teams could finish in the upcoming campaign. Take a look.
Order of Finish - Top 5:
5. Liverpool - Losing Dirk Kuyt and Maxi Rodriguez hurts, but adding the youth of Joe Allen from Swansea and Fabio Borini from Roma should help to fill the void of those older departing players. The reality with the Reds is that a lot of their best players are either not performing to potential or missing games. Steven Gerrard, one of the best English midfielders ever, only played in 18 league games last year but was great when he played. Andy Carroll, who was excellent for Newcastle, scored four in 35 appearances last season. And Luis Suarez, their best goal scoring option, missed eight games last year for a suspension. This is certainly a bold prediction, and it could go horribly wrong. But I like Liverpool this season.
4. Arsenal - The Gunners spent another offseason selling their best players, this time shipping Robin van Persie to United for £23 million. The loss of his 30 goals will really hurt a side that got off to a disastrous start in 2011-12 and needed their captain to help make them relevant at the end of the season, which he did admirably. However, Arsene Wenger's team has young stars in Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, as well as high-powered signings Olivier Giroud, Santi Cazorla, and Lukas Podolski, which will help lessen the blow of losing RVP. All-world goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny is another year improved and arguably the top stopper in the Premier League. Losing their captain hurts, but the Emirates could surprise people.
3. Tottenham Hotspur - Though he has been strongly linked with a transfer move to Real Madrid, as of this writing Luka Modric is still at White Hart Lane, and as such provides Spurs with an elite core in the midfield along with Garreth Bale and Rafael van der Vaart. That should keep Tottenham in the top three, if Modric remains. Though they stupidly sacked Harry Redknapp and replaced him with Andre Villas-Boas (after his disaster at Chelsea), they added Gylfi Sigurðsson and Jan Vertonghen to boost their midfield and defense, respectively. If Modric leaves, they will miss out on the Champions League once again, but if he stays, Spurs could make a run.
2. Manchester City - After winning their first ever Premier League title last season in perhaps the craziest 120 seconds of soccer ever, City is largely unimproved. They didn't lose much, if any, but the signing of Jack Rodwell does not significantly improve a club that won the Title on goal differential. Don't get me wrong - City are still a dynamic, elite side that have the guns to win the League once more if Carlos Tevez plays a full season. But with their luck involving injuries last year, they are bound to lose some of their key pieces for an extended period. It's a two horse race for this title, and City could win. But I would not bet on it.
1. Manchester United - The Red Devils lost their best defender and captain in Nemanja Vidic on December 7th of last season after only six League appearances and still tied for the crown, only losing to City on goal difference. Now, with Vidic healthy and the additions of dynamic attacker Shinji Kagawa, young midfielder Nick Powell, and 30 goal scorer Robin van Persie, United seem to be the favorites to hoist the trophy in May once more. Young Spanish goalkeeper David De Gea, who finished with the best save percentage in the League last year at 77.9%, is getting better and taking advantage of his supreme physical gifts. They have an embarrassment of riches up top, and will also welcome back Tom Cleverley after an injury-plagued season in 2011-12. Barring catastrophic injury, United should win their record 20th English crown.
Missing the Cut
Chelsea - Having lost Salomon Kalou, Jose Boswinga, and Didier Drogba in this offseason, the Blues spent £37 in the transfer market to bring in highly-touted Oscar from Brazil and dynamic Edin Hazard from France. These signings certainly will help fill the voids left by their departing players, but the problem with the European Champions heading into this campaign is age. Frank Lampard is now 34, John Terry and Ashley Cole are 31. In addition, their lone proven striker, Fernando Torres, has seven goals in 42 career appearances. The Blues could easily surpass this ranking and finish as high as 3rd, especially if they sign Brazilian striker Hulk, but any significant injury will likely see them fall flat.
Newcastle United - Despite the spectacular play of Demba Ba and Pappiss Cissé, I don't think that the Magpies can duplicate a spectacular 2011-12 that saw them finish 5th in the Premier League. Only marginal players were sold this summer, but Toon overachieved last season in my book. They simply have too many questions in the midfield and some on defense. They were a great story last year and could surprise again, but they could also finish as low as 9th.