Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Title looks set to stay in Manchester…but not at United

3:20 AM Posted by Miyamoto Musashi , No comments
Alvaro Negredo - one of City's big summer signings

There are only a few days to go before the start of the Premier League season and out of the main title contenders Manchester City look the strongest to me.
You have to look at who has gone out and spent some money to strengthen their squad and City fit the bill.
And it is not just with players either. In Manuel Pellegrini they have brought in a manager who I'm a big fan of. Okay, he hasn't won many major European trophies but he has turned teams around and built them into strong sides which have constantly caused upsets and punched above their weight.
City had the strongest squad last season too but what they were lacking was a good man-manager. Pellegrini is much better in that department than Roberto Mancini and that could be the biggest improvement at the club from last season.
They have lost Carlos Tevez who was an important player over the last three seasons, but they have bought good players at the right age – youngish, but not inexperienced.
Defensively there are still some concerns but attacking wise they now have plenty of options after the signings they've made

Manchester United joy v Manchester City
It has been all change in the manager's dugout for Manchester United but not on the pitch and they really need to try and bring in a 'wow' signing before the end of the transfer window. Even the players need that new face to keep them on their toes. It is what you need to do after winning a league.
They cruised to the title last season but there were some worrying signs creeping in at the end of the campaign and that could carry forward and result in a slow start.
The one thing United really lack for me is pace in the team. Yes they've got Wilfried Zaha, but he is young and likely to be somewhat inconsistent - even Cristiano Ronaldo was like that when he first signed for the club.
Have they really moved forward? They still have Nani who was very poor last season and Antonio Valencia who is another who has dropped off. There is still a lot of work for United to do before they can convince anybody they are really ready to defend their title.
It won't be easy for them on the opening day against Swansea either. Michael Laudrup's side have brought in a few players and will be primed after beating Malmo in the Europa League.
You love to play as an underdog at home against a big team on the opening day of the season. United have never found it easy at Swansea but it will be an extra tough fixture as a season opener because it is always such a great occasion for the home club and everyone will be buzzing.
Chelsea have a great chance to emerge as City's main rivals. They haven't brought in the big name players you might have expected, instead signing Andre Schurrle and Marco van Ginkel, but the style Jose Mourinho implements is what most interests me.
When they won those two titles in three years during his first spell at the club everything was very back to front and not the most entertaining to watch. He would bring on an extra defensive midfielder if needs be and was happy to win matches 1-0. Will he try and replicate that with this squad? If he does I think it will be a mistake.
Some Chelsea fans might not admit it, but I'm sure they enjoyed watching how the team played in the closing stages of last season when Rafael Benitez was in charge. They arguably were the best team in the league during the closing weeks of the season.
Their biggest new addition could be a player they've already owned for a couple of seasons – Romelu Lukaku. He looks like he could have a bigger impact that Didier Drogba did when he first arrived because he is younger, stronger and quicker than Drogba was and maybe not as rash either, so that loan spell at West Brom could do him good.
One concern I would have about Chelsea is how much Mourinho persists with John Terry. If he gets plenty of playing time then that could be a problem. Terry lacks pace now and when he starts, the opposition will know how Chelsea will want to play because Terry needs to be deep or his slowness will be exposed. If Mourinho is willing to make the big decision and leave him on the bench that will help.
I think we might see a different Mourinho in the Premier League this time too after his time in Spain. Someone who is more willing to show more respect to others, because if you want respect, you have to give it back.
Fourth place for me is still between Arsenal and Tottenham. I don't see Liverpool being a threat there. Liverpool have concentrated their spending on young players. Brendan Rodgers seems happy enough to deal with youngsters rather than experienced stars and I can understand why as he is not handling the Suarez situation particularly well. So he is looking for players who he can control.
If I'm to pick a wild card team for the season then I would go for Sunderland – they will be fascinating to watch as they really could go either way.

Paolo di Canio, Sunderland 2013
Paolo Di Canio seems to have bought a brand new team. Are they going to go out there and surprise everybody by playing the type of passionate football Di Canio was known for as a player or are they going to go the way that Mark Hughes' Queens Park Rangers did where there was no continuity?
I'm waiting to see if that blue touch paper gets lit and then how long it is going to take to burn down because everyone knows that Di Canio is a ticking time bomb!

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