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EPL 2015/2016 Season: What to expect?

It’s barely days to the resumption of the buzz and razzmatazz that have become the Barclays English Premier League. And as it is typical with the dawn of any new campaign, the bookmakers and analysts are out with their permutations. It is a cliché in the English game that every season is typically tougher than the preceding one, and on the evidence of the dress rehearsals, the looming season will be no exception.
Without an iota of doubt, Manchester United have bought lavishly this summer, and go into the season as desperate favourites. In fact, they have bought so lavishly that even Wenger has accused the Old Trafford outfit of discarding ancient principles for instant success. Louis Van Gaal extravagance did not begin this season. The acquisition of Angel Di Maria last season was a British record and when one places that beside the purchase of Falcao, Blind and Rojo, then this summer’s acquisitions will seem less outrageous. The jury is still out on why Di Maria, the most expensive player in English football, didn’t quite work, but United has moved on and are ready to try other options. Amongst other reasons why Di Maria failed to make a mark last term is the imperious form of both Juan Mata and Ashley Young in the twilight of that season. However, since the days of Paul Scholes and Roy Keane, United have never quite got their midfield right. Darren fletcher, Owen Hargreaves, Anderson and Tom Cleverly are among the long list of experiments that failed, and that is putting it mildly. It is for this reason that the acquisitions of the duo of Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger have made the Red devils fans bullish about their chances. The latter might be a household name in his last legs but he is still very lethal. Schneiderlin might be a less familiar name, but he is a massive talent with a sure promise. Should this duo alongside the experienced Michael Carrick click, then United will take some stopping next season. The signing of Memphis Depay from PSV also holds a great potential. However, one factor that might be telling to United’s season is the man between the posts. The big question for United will be: can they keep their best player from last season, David De Gea? And if he stays, will his heart really be in the job to replicate last season’s form?
By their extravagant standards, Chelsea have been relatively quiet in the transfer window. However, the champions still go into the new season as massive favourites. While they might have run away with the title at a canter last season, Jose Mourinho’s men might be in for a stiff challenge this term. Chelsea clearly possesses the best starting eleven in the country, but the deficiencies come in when the bench and replacements are assessed. As we saw last season, the team lost traction when fatigue set in towards the latter part of the season, and they have not bought big to stop a repeat. Rather, the blues have lost depth by the sale of Felipe Luiz and the legendary Petr Cech. The acquisition of Radamel Falcao remains a big risk that tilts more to pessimism than optimism. It will be another of Jose’s Man-management ingenuity to get the Colombian in some form again. However, the testing point for Chelsea will come if they are not so lucky with injuries next term, to the spine of their team. There will be a genuine lacuna if any of Costa, Fabregas, Matic or Terry is out for an extended period. In truth, the Blues have remained stagnant while their rivals have strengthened. They still remain genuine contenders but if last season’s championship was a stroll in the pack, next season’s campaign to retain that championship will surely be one hell of a herculean task.
As is always the case with Arsenal, optimism and renewed hope have greeted their anticipation of the new season. The capture of Petr Cech, especially from a direct rival, could well be the best piece of transfer business this summer. Cech is a serial winner and his coming into Arsenal will solve a major can of worms for the Gunners that have lingered for so long. However, while solving the goalkeeping puzzle is a mighty leap to Arsenal’s chances of winning the championship for the first time in a decade, it does not translate to uhuru for Wenger and his men. Since the departure of the prolific Thierry Henry, Arsenal are yet to aptly get another world class striker. While Giroud is a worthy goal banger, he is still not the finished article in that department. A number of names have been mentioned in the media in connection to Arsenal, but only time will tell if these talks remains in the realms of the rumour mill. However, one fact that cannot be denied is that should Arsenal acquire a striker in the mold of Karim Benzama and a midfield stalwart in the form of Claude Makelele, the team will be the overwhelming favorite for the trophy. Yet, with what it currently possess, Arsenal should mount a more worthy challenge this season better than its hitherto perennial tussle for fourth place.
Manchester City provides an interesting prospect. The blue heart of Manchester has not been aloof while their rivals ramp up. The team has added the vastly talented Raheem Sterling and former Villa star, Fabian Delph to their squad. The criticism against Manuel Pellegrini’s team is that it is an aging squad. Compared to their immediate rivals, there might be a case there but re-emphasizing that point will be stretching the fact. City’s best business this summer might be their ability to keep the spine of their team. However, one area they look not to have improved in, is at the defence area, which they fell short in last term. Vincent Kompany might find form again, but age and recurring injuries means he will never become the player he once was. Eliaquim Mangala remains some sort of experiment, while Martín Gastón Demichelis is an experience in his last legs. Sterling and Aguero provides great pace and artistry going forward, but City’s supporters will hope that Yaya Toure re-emerge from the average player he was last term and replicate the amazing ingenuity we all know he possesses. Manuel Pellegrini’s men will surely be in and around the top by May next year but they go into this season for the first time in recent times as perhaps, third or fourth favorites for the championship.
Then, there is Liverpool. For all the inflated belief of their fans going into the new season, it promises to be a tough campaign for the Reds. Losing their best two players in Steven Gerrard and Raheem Sterling simultaneously is a big blow. As was the case last season, Brenden Rodgers has bought quantity, but it remains to be seen if this translates to good quality. The Brazilian Roberto Firmino, the Belgian Christian Benteke, and the British trio of James Milner, Nathaniel Clyne and Danny Ings are surely bright prospects but the faster they all jive into a team, the better for the Kop’s fortunes. A flashpoint to the Reds campaign will be the fitness of Daniel Sturridge. A big homegrown talent, he has been hugely unlucky with a plethora of injuries. New captain, Jordan Henderson clearly knows that he has a tough act to follow in filling Steven Gerrard’s boots. He might have endeared himself into the hearts of the fans but replicating ‘the never walk alone’ moments that were the stock in trade of Steven Gerrard will be an amazing ask for the 24 years old midfielder next season.
Then, there is the rest. Tottenham Hotspur have done well to keep last season’s revelation, Harry Kane, but the summer business in White Hart Lane suggests that they might remain on the fringes again next term. Everton needs to for once in a long while, start a campaign strong to give themselves a fighting chance of breaking into the ever competitive top four. The battle against the drop also promises to be intriguing. For AFC Bournemouth, it will be a dream campaign for them playing in the top flight for the first time in their history. However, the honeymoon will be short as this league is unforgiving to mere efforts without corresponding productivity, as Burnley found out last season. To achieve safety for the new boys, a lot will rest on the shoulders of Artur Boruc, purchased from Southampton, and Chrsitain Atsu, who came in on loan from Chelsea. Same goes for Norwich and Watford, whose priority will be to retain their premier league status by May next year. Watford boss, Enrique Sanchez Flores might be new to the EPL, but the Spaniard has a wealth of coaching experience to rely on. Indeed, next season already has the makings and trappings of a precarious and theatrical season. It is for a reason it is considered as the most exciting league in the world and the looming season might well put paid to that. Bring it on!


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