Ed Chamberlin says Man City look 'dangerous' in title race
Ed Chamberlin ponders the title race and says Man City's width and dynamism make them a good bet.
Last Updated: 08/08/13 1:44pm
It's been a fantastic summer of sport but there now seems to be huge anticipation ahead of the new campaign and it feels like the start of a new era.
It will certainly be strange not having Sir Alex Ferguson on the touchline every week and intriguing to have three new managers in charge of the three teams at the head of Sky Bet's market.
Much is said about the quality of the different leagues in Europe but there can be no argument about which is the most competitive. Most of the other leagues have an odds-on favourite: Bayern Munich (1/6 with Sky Bet), Benfica (5/6), Juventus (8/11), Barcelona (8/11) and PSG (2/5). The Premier League is 9/4 the field and poses a major puzzle for punters.
Before the first of Sky Sports' 116 live Premier League games this season, which will be Swansea v Manchester United on the new Saturday Night Football show with David Jones and Jamie Redknapp, I will be in the Monday Night Football studio with Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville to preview the new season.
The feel-good factor seems to be back at Stamford Bridge and punters have shown their faith in Jose Mourinho backing Chelsea down to favouritism. Many expect Chelsea to make a lightning fast start just as they did in Jose's first season.
The first Super Sunday of the season will come from Stamford Bridge next Sunday - what an exciting place to start and I'm sure the place will be buzzing. Chelsea have looked solid in pre-season and the arrival of a top-class striker could be the final piece for the Mourinho jigsaw.
Blue moon rising?
Manchester City need to bounce back from a campaign that saw them go out of the Champions League before Christmas and the title race by March. I'm sure they will have their spark and hunger back and think they are big runners at 23/10.
People are questioning Manuel Pellegrini's credentials for the job. He won titles in South America but none in Europe and most of the doubt is based on his time at Real Madrid, which seems harsh.
Nobody can doubt the miracles he produced at Villarreal and Malaga. City have bought well. Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic are both exciting recruits up front, while Fernandinho adds real dynamism alongside Yaya Toure in midfield.
Fernandinho's signing sums up a problem for English football. Jack Rodwell was finally injury-free at the back-end of last season, in the team and playing well. How many opportunities will he get now with the Brazilian on board?
The key signing could be Jesus Navas. He offers something different and two aspects City lacked last season: width and pace.
Navas will be a real threat on the counter attack and the width he provides should create space for David Silva, Sergio Aguerro and co. in central areas. Roberto Mancini loved to play through the middle, where it often got congested against sides who sat back and defended. Navas can free up space for those danger men.
It would be great to see Silva back to his best and I expect big things from Sergio Aguero. He never quite seemed himself last season after injuring himself in the first Super Sunday game against Southampton. With an injury-free run and Silva, Jovetic and Navas to provide the ammunition, Aguero could have a field day and would be my bet for the Golden Boot at 7/1.
City look hungry again, and with their solid defence, dynamism in midfield and multiple choices up front, they look a dangerous beast.
Take it as Red
It seems fashionable to write off Manchester United at the moment. It's amazing that after winning the title so easily last term, United are third favourites to retain it and punters have not been steaming in at 13/5. That's down to the 'Ferguson factor' and their brutal set of fixtures at the start of the season.
However, David Moyes is surrounded by quality and experience and if one of two blue chip signings arrive this month then 13/5 could look huge.
This is where punters need to tread carefully as the Premier League picture could look so different on September 2. Arsenal fans will certainly hope that's the case.
With those new managers at the helm of the three title favourites, what an opportunity this season presents for Arsenal and Arsene Wenger. With his experience, the club's finances in rude health and a team that finished last season with a flourish, the platform was there for Arsenal to have a real go in the transfer market this summer.
I was convinced they would go early and buy big. But this is Arsenal. The off-season has so far only provided yet more frustration for Arsenal fans. It's intensified this time around by the statement Ivan Gazidis made in June about Arsenal's "escalation in financial firepower" and how Arsenal's current finances meant they were able now to sign top players.
So far, instead of the likes of Gonzalo Higuain or Luis Suarez, only the young Frenchman Yaya Sanogo has arrived at The Emirates. To be fair to Arsene Wenger he has tried. Carlo Ancelotti moved Real Madrid's goal posts with Gonzalo Higuain, while Suarez's contract doesn't seem to have the clause they were led to believe.
As Wenger has said this summer the transfer market can be crazy and there seems to be a lot more money in Europe than available, top footballing talent.
If we get to September and the big names haven't arrived the chances are that it will be more of the same this season. Arsenal will sweep aside the lesser teams but come unstuck repeatedly against the Premier League and Europe's elite.
The Gunners have not finished in the top two since 2005. Unless Wenger brings in top quality signings before the end of August it's hard to see Arsenal do any better than treading water. How will the fans react to that?
In contrast, it's all been happening on the white side of North London. Whilst Gareth Bale has been making all of the headlines, big signings have come in with Paulinho and Roberto Soldado looking excellent recruits. Sandro's return will also be a huge boost. With or without Bale, there's plenty of quality at White Hart Lane. Spurs are 15/8 to finish in the top four.
Liverpool are a 9/4 chance and have a 12-point gap to close to qualify for Champions League football. Like Spurs, we will have to wait to see if they can hold on to their prized asset but they also have quality in the side and Philippe Coutinho has looked brilliant in pre-season.
Can Liverpool finish in the top four? I look forward to asking Jamie Carragher that question on this week's preview show.