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August 12, 2011 / ultrafox1963

Premier League Preview 2011-12

Over the coming weekend a new Premier League season will commence.

I find it difficult to maintain the enthusiasm for top-flight football that I once did, and not just because Leicester City are excluded (although we may not be for much longer) or because of the other events that have cast a shadow this week.

The interventions of a motley collection of international fatcats and local sugar daddies have ensured incredible wealth for the top players.  On occasions, though sadly all too rarely (at least in a domestic context), these players can produce football of the highest quality.

But the oligarchs have also created a rigid structure of sub-divisions in which a challenge for the title is now the exclusive preserve of the mega-rich, and where newly-promoted sides invariably face a difficult (and often unsuccessful) to remain in the league.

For the last seven years England has been the stage for a curious Cold War postscript, where the top prize has been won either by Chelsea, owned and financed by the Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich or Manchester United, currently overseen by the largely absentee and much-unloved American Glazer family.

A challenge to this duopoly has been launched from the United Arab Emirates in the form of Sheikh Mansour, owner of Manchester City. Although his lavish funding of the Light Blues has helped them end their 35-year wait for a major honour, and restored a genuine rivalry with their cross-city neighbours, the evidence of last week’s Community Shield defeat by United suggests their squad is still a work in progress.

The same could be said of Liverpool, despite their lavish and extravagant summer transfer programme.  Kenny Dalglish’s squad now has impressive depth, especially in midfield, but still lacks the quality of its counterparts in Manchester or Stamford Bridge.

Meanwhile the malaise that has afflicted Arsenal in recent seasons seems likely to continue, accelerated by the imminent departures of key players Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri.  Without this duo, it appears that the Gunners will miss out on a Champions League place for the first time in 15 years.  Unless success can be secured in a cup competition, this would probably ensure the end of the Arsene Wenger era.

At the other end of the table,  Norwich, boosted by a flurry of shrewd close-season signings by manager Paul Lambert, look the best-equipped of the promoted clubs.  Queens Park Rangers, last season’s Championship winners, have been beset by off-field issues and Swansea, like many playoff winners before them, will fail to bridge the gap between the lower-leagues and the top flight.

The destiny of the title can never be regarded as entirely a foregone conclusion, because of the potential impact of a protracted Champions League campaign, especially in the closing weeks.  However as things stand it would be brave to bet against the crown remaining under the iron grip of the scarlet satans.

PREDICTED PLACINGS

Manchester United

Manchester City

Chelsea

Liverpool

Arsenal

Tottenham

Everton

Aston Villa

Sunderland

Stoke City

West Bromwich Albion

Fulham

Newcastle

Wolverhampton

Norwich

Blackburn

Bolton

 

Queens Park Rangers

Wigan

Swansea

 

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