With the English Premier League kicking off today, we take a look at the changes, troubles and hopes of some of the top teams.
David Moyes will have his hands full as he tries to fill the boots of Alex Ferguson. Picture: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP
The post-Ferguson era: For the first time in 26 years, United will kick off the season without Alex Ferguson at the helm. David Moyes, Ferguson’s hand-picked successor, faces the unenviable and thankless task of trying to fill his fellow Scot’s massive boots. Ferguson’s endorsement may quell doubts about the former Everton manager’s ability to lead the Red Devils to a 21st league title, but Moyes knows the pressure to deliver will still be immense.
No deal: United failed to land Barcelona duo Thiago Alcantara and Cesc Fabregas. Thiago signed for German champion Bayern Munich while Barcelona were adamant that Fabregas was not for sale. United have also been linked with Everton defender Leighton Baines but that deal seems to be dead in the water as well. Uruguayan right back Guillermo Varela is United’s only signing so far.
Rooney saga: As if Moyes didn’t already have enough on his plate, Wayne Rooney has added to the manager’s problems. The saga started last season when Rooney was less than pleased with being sidelined by Ferguson. Chelsea have tried to swoop in on the striker but have had two bids rejected.
Manchester United have rejected two Chelsea offers for England striker Wayne Rooney. Picture: Eddie Keogh/Reuters
New manager: Manuel Pellegrini takes the reins in the blue side of Manchester after City sacked Roberto Mancini at the end of last season. The former Malaga manager knows he’ll have to deliver silverware in his first season to keep the club’s Abu Dhabi owners happy or face the same fate as his predecessor.
New faces: With Carlos Tevez off to Juventus, Kolo Toure moving to Liverpool and Maicon joining Roma, City splashed the cash to replace them.
City’s major signings include midfielder Fernandinho from Shakhtar Donetsk, Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo from Sevilla and Fiorentina striker Stevan Jovetic.
What to expect: “Fans of Manchester City will see a different way of playing compared to other years,” Pellegrini said. “I’m sure we are going to play an attractive game.”
Manchester City’s Alvaro Negredo (right) is an exciting new prospect for the club. Picture: Roni Rekomaa/Lehtikuva/Reuters
Return of the “Happy One”: Jose Mourinho returns to Stamford Bridge six years after his acrimonious departure. The “Special One” now wants to be known as the ‘Happy One’. However, much has changed for the Blues in the period that Mourinho has been away. Players like John Terry and Frank Lampard, who formed the core of the team that was so successful under the Portuguese, are now in the twilight of their careers.
Done deals: Andre Schuerrle joins from Bayer Leverkusen and Marco van Ginkel from Vitesse Arnhem. Both will offer Mourinho great options up front and with the likes of Juan Mata and Eden Hazard, Chelsea will be a formidable force. Goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer will provide cover for first-choice Petr Cech. Meanwhile, Mourinho has made Rooney his priority signing, saying: “There is no time limit. We have our squad of strikers. We have identified the player as one we would look to have with us.”
What to expect: Mourinho has said Chelsea would be gunning for victory in all four competitions this season.
Major signing drought: It’s been eight years since the Gunners last won a trophy. And with no major new signings yet, Arsene Wenger’s men look set to face an uphill battle once more. The North London club missed out on Real Madrid striker Higuain, who joined Napoli, and were briefly linked with a move for Rooney. Despite all the talk, Wenger’s only signing is 20-year-old Yaya Sanogo from French club Auxerre.
Suarez affair: Liverpool forward Luis Suarez appears to have had a change of heart after initially pushing for a move away from Merseyside. “For now, owing to all the affection of the people, I will be staying,” Uruguayan newspaper El Observador quoted him as saying. This comes after he blasted Liverpool for not allowing him to leave.
Trimming the squad: Gervinho, Marouane Chamakh, Sebastian Squillaci and Andrei Arshavin have all left the club. None of them will be missed by the club, but Arsenal may have a lack of depth unless Wenger brings in new blood.
What to expect: Wenger promised he will sign players before the transfer window closes. “I cannot certify what the number of players coming in will be, but we will be active until the end, that is for sure.”
Gareth Bale could become the most expensive player in football history if Real Madrid get their way. Picture: David Davies/AP
Battle for fourth: Once again, Spurs will attempt to finish fourth and qualify for the Uefa Champions League. After being pipped to fourth place by bitter rivals Arsenal on the last day of the past two seasons, the club will highly motivated to avoid a repeat. Andre Villas Boas broke the bank to sign Spanish striker Roberto Soldado from Valencia for £26m (R400 million) after buying Brazilian midfielder Paulinho from Corinthians. Spurs attack is sure to cause problems for most defences.
Bale a Real concern: Star winger Gareth Bale has been the subject of intense speculation as Real Madrid are reportedly willing to make him the most expensive player in football history, surpassing the £80 million (almost R1.3 billion) fee they paid for Cristiano Ronaldo. Spurs are reluctant to let their star player leave but a deal still seems likely.
What to expect: Even if Spurs lose Bale, they have more than enough quality players to lead them into the top four.
Kolo Toure (right) joined Liverpool on a free transfer from Manchester City. Picture: Peter Morrison/AP
In and out: Kolo Toure’s move from Manchester City will strengthen Liverpool’s defence, while forward Luis Alberto (from Sevilla) and striker Iago Aspas from Celta Vigo will add some much needed sparkle to their attack. Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet has joined from Sunderland, a solid replacement for Pepe Reina who is at Napoli on loan.
The Reds have also opened their exit doors for Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing (both to West Ham United), Jonjo Shelvey (Swansea City) and Jay Spearing (Bolton).
What to expect: If Liverpool can keep Luis Suarez, they have a chance of fighting for a top four finish. They’re more likely to earn a Europa League spot however, barring a spectacular season from their players.
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