The battle for the title next season looks like it will once again come down to London versus Manchester, but where does the future of the Premier League power lie and which city will be home of the champions 2011/12?
The top four who are most likely to be challenging for the title next season either come from the capital or Manchester, Arsenal and Chelsea down south and Manchester United and Manchester City up north. Whilst there are still outside bets including fellow Londoners Tottenham or Merseysiders Liverpool, the most likely scenario would be one of the top four being victorious come the end of next season.
The power in the Premier League has been shifting back and forth from Manchester to London over the last ten years. Since 2001 the title has changed hands seven times between Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal. Last season’s winners Manchester United claimed back their prized possession from the grips of Chelsea and London but will the trophy stay in Manchester next season? My gut feeling is that it will but United are not the only Manchester based team now firmly in the hunt.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s side have been joined by Manchester City at the top and I believe one of these two fierce rivals will be champions come next May. The history, experience and investment at United means the reigning champions will again start as favourites. Ferguson has focused on young signings this summer in a bid to freshen up the squad and whilst still possibly needing one or two more players, Fergie has the team capable of challenging for honours over the next few years.
Rivals City have taken player investment to a whole new level in a bid to be competitive year-on-year. So far Roberto Mancini has brought in Stefan Savic and Gael Clichy to sure up the defence and transfer speculation is rife that the City boss wants to add even more attacking flair to the team, most probably in the shape of Atletico Madrid’s Sergio Aguero and Arsenal’s Samir Nasri. The possible loss of captain Carlos Tevez would be a blow but the City players that stay at the club have a taste of silverware after last season’s FA Cup triumph. They managed an impressive third in the league last season and I think City are well placed to do even better next year.
Despite my belief that the power in the Premier League is now based up north, you can’t right off the capital’s main contenders. New boss Andre Villas-Boas should give Chelsea a new lease of life and whilst they have been quiet in this summer’s transfer market so far, I would expect a few quality players to arrive. Their title push may also depend on whether Villas-Boas can have the Mourinho effect at Chelsea in his first season. Expectation will be high for the Blues and if Villas-Boas can add to the squad and get the likes of Fernando Torres, Frank Lampard and Florent Malouda back in top form then Chelsea will always have a good chance.
Arsenal’s title hopes are a more complex point to consider. Much will depend on who leaves over the next month, with their two best players Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri rumoured to be close to an exit. Losing both would effectively halt Arsenal’s chances of getting close to the title but if Wenger can keep at least one (and reinvest in new players) then they could be an outside bet. But both London clubs seem to be going through periods of transition, whether it be under new management or with potential changes to the squad.
Based on their title winning experience and significant investment, I think it is both Manchester clubs that are best placed to win the title next season and go on to possibly dominate the Premier League over the next few years. Though for the neutral fan a title challenge involving all four clubs from both London and Manchester will keep the league a lot more interesting next season.
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