We’re just literally hours away from the start of the 2013/14 Premier League season and the anticipation has reached its pinnacle. But before everything kicks off, before our weekends become significantly busier, let’s pause for a moment and revel in what we’re about to experience.
The 2013 summer hasn’t been without its share of entertaining football. The Confederations Cup and World Cup qualifying matches were decent substitutes even for those who don’t care for the international game. Seeing certain players take the field, even outside the context of their club, was a treat especially in a time when they couldn’t be seen on a weekly basis. Club football wasn’t completely absent either. Pre-season friendlies were littered across the summer months and proved to be a good fix. There was even some pre-season silverware on the line. The Audi Cup let us see Manchester City take on AC Milan and Bayern Munich while the inaugural year of the International Champions Cup threw Everton and Chelsea against some of the top teams in the world. Having a final between Real Madrid and Chelsea before the season even starts was a wonderful preview for the caliber of matches we’ll see in the UEFA Champions League.
But the Premier League is almost back, and we no longer have to rely on inconsistent pre-season matches and transfer rumors to keep us occupied. It’s getting to be about that time of year when the more practical moves have already happened and the only rumors left are outlandish and attention-seeking. Excitement over transfers will get one last boost on deadline day, but until then it’ll be a steady decline into frustration and apathy. We can be certain there’s not much more to see when some of the biggest transfer news is whether or not a player will apologize to his teammates.
That’s all changing though. The time has come. Instead of breaking down each club and previewing all 20 contenders, let’s take a more general look at what we can anticipate in the coming months. If you’re craving individual club previews, check out the latest EPL Talk podcasts that cover just that.
Let’s begin by focusing on shakeups. The top four teams last season were Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal, respectively. Three of those clubs — United, City, and Chelsea — have all gotten new managers. For Chelsea this is nothing new, but Roberto Mancini has been at Manchester City since 2009 and Sir Alex Ferguson had been at Manchester United for almost 27 years. A reorganization of managers at the top, especially at the same time, hasn’t happened in quite some time. There will be growing pangs, doubts, influences being overhyped, and fingers being pointed, all depending on how well their clubs perform. David Moyes and Manuel Pellegrini will constantly be compared to their club’s former managers, while Jose Mourinho will spend some time living in his own shadow from his last stint at Chelsea.
Arsenal are the only top four side to hold onto their manager, but that may not be a good thing depending on who you ask. Over the past few seasons the Gunners have garnered a reputation of being frugal in the transfer market. This season hasn’t been any different. They were able to end their last campaign on a ten-match unbeaten run which saw them into an UEFA Champions League spot, but their direct competition has been strengthening this summer without them. It will be interesting to see how they compete, especially if they fail to sign the likes of Luis Suarez. Such a renowned signing would help to break the stereotype that the club never brings in big players. They’ll have to drop some serious cash in order to snare the Uruguayan, however, and that seems to contradict Wenger’s mantra. In a recent article, The Swiss Ramble reported that Arsenal have spent just 1% of their available cash flow in the transfer market since 2007.
Newcomers Cardiff City, Crystal Palace and Hull City will try to emulate the success that has kept Swansea and Norwich in the Premier League after coming up two seasons ago. Cardiff have spent more than the other two clubs combined. However, unlike what QPR did after promotion, Cardiff aren’t reinventing their squad with a multitude of new signings; they’re bolstering what they already have, in key positions. There were clubs that just missed relegation last season and they may well be joining these new clubs in focusing on staying in the league. Sunderland, who missed relegation by one spot last season, have purchased heavily to avoid a relegation battle while Newcastle United haven’t done much at all, perhaps looking to rely on the transfers brought in last January.
The inclusion of these new clubs also introduces new local derby matches. There are now six teams in London vying for local supremacy in the table. But what’s really exciting is the fact that Cardiff will become the second Welsh club behind Swansea to play in the Premier League since its formation. That means for the first time there will be a South Wales derby in the top flight.
Let’s also not forget that this is the final season leading up to the World Cup and will be the last chance for many players to prove they have what it takes to represent their country. Those on the cusp of being called up to their national team will be pushing themselves harder to get noticed by their respective international managers. It will be interesting to see what players break out, like Christian Benteke did last season for Aston Villa, while striving for an international cap. While not young, Roberto Soldado will be out to show that he can handle the role of Spain’s main striker. He and Fernando Torres, now in the same league, will be going head to head this season with the future of representing Spain this summer possibly resting on who has the better league form.
Finally, if you’re living in the United States you have even more reason to be excited for this season. NBC has been doing some brilliant marketing for their upcoming Premier League coverage. It’s clear that the network is excited about bringing the beautiful game to American homes. If they put forth as much effort in their programming as they have in advertising for the season, it’s going to be a magical year. That’s not to mention the fact that NBC will allow fans to watch more matches than ever before. If your provider has access to NBC Sports Live Extra you never have to worry about missing a single Premier League match. Ever. As in not even one.
So the only question that remains is: Are you ready? Get your cable channels sorted out, make sure you choose next-day air when you order your club’s new 13/14 kit, and don’t forget to tell your loved ones you won’t have as much free time on the weekends. Ladies and gentlemen, the Premier League is back.