Arsenal's pre season has been dominated by the everlasting story of captain Robin Van Persie's eagerness to move away from the North London club. As of yet, he is still a Gunner but has recently been linked with a move away to Manchester United. Rivals City have already ruled out a move for the forward, so Old Trafford looks the likely destination for the Dutchman. The Gunner's finished third last season ahead of rivals Spurs so will once again play Champions League football in what will be their 21st season in the Premier League. Manager Arsene Wenger has been busy in the transfer market bringing in two strikers to the team. German striker Lukas Podolski and Frenchman Olivier Giroud have been joined by Spanish playmaker Santi Cazorla totalling nearly £40 million between the three.
Villa had a frustrating season last year, narrowly avoiding relegation finishing 16th only two points away from Bolton who were relegated on the final day last season. Manager Alex McLeish was sacked soon after the season finished with former Norwich man Paul Lambert the replacement. Lambert kept the Canaries in the division last year and impressed fans with the excellent performances taking points away from Liverpool and Tottenham away from home. So far he has brought in a number of players including Dutch defender Ron Vlaar and Moroccan Karim El Ahmadi. The key for Villa is to keep main man Darren Bent who picked up an injury last year. But if he is given the service then goals shouldn't be an issue with Bent upfront.
Roberto Di Matteo ended last season winning both the Champions League and the FA Cup as the caretaker boss. He was rewarded with the permanent position at the end of the season after his success, and will want to build on that in the coming season. Talisman Didier Drogba left Chelsea on a high scoring in the FA Cup final and the winning penalty in the Champions League. His role has been left for Fernando Torres, who started to show small signs of promise at the end of the season. Roman Abramovich has invested big money already in players with Edin Hazard and Oscar brought in, both for mammoth fees. Under Di Matteo, Chelsea fans will expect big things this year, and with another couple of signings, they will be definitely challenging for a place in the top four at the end of the season.
Everton finished above rivals Liverpool for only the second time in the last ten years. Despite losing both derby games to them, David Moyes guided his side to a very respectable seventh. The astute signing of Croatian Nikica Jelavic meant that goalscoring wasn't an issue and with his contribution of 11 goals in the second half of the season, meant his side finished strongly. The loan signing too of Steven Pienaar also was another key move by Moyes and after signing permanently for the forthcoming season, the South African will be a central role to their attacking moves. Australian Tim Cahill has moved on after 8 years of excellent service moving to the American league where he will play for New York Red Bulls.
Fulham are unbeaten in their pre season winning four and drawing two of their six games. Martin Jol took the club to a ninth place finish last season after he was given the manager's job at the beginning of the season taking over from Mark Hughes. The goals from Clint Dempsey were a massive factor in their final place after he scored an excellent 16 goals from midfield. The American has been linked with Liverpool throughout the summer but as of yet he will remain a Fulham player. Jol has brought in three players so far with Hugo Rodallega moving on a free from Wigan the most notable move. After a successful loan spell in the second half of last season, forward Pavel Pogrebnyak moved onto fellow Premier League side Reading. Captain Danny Murphy also moved on as he went to Championship side Blackburn Rovers on a free transfer.
Despite winning the League Cup, Liverpool suffered another poor season finishing in a dismal eight place. But with a new manager Brendan Rogers in place, Liverpool fans will have high hopes for the coming season. Rogers Swansea side impressed everyone last year with their style of football, and if Liverpool can begin to play a similar way, then they will be ones to watch. So far Rogers has brought in two former Swans with striker Fabio Borini arriving from Roma, and midfield man Joe Allen joining from Swansea. Frontman Andy Carroll has made many a headline this year and has been rumoured to be on his way out from Anfield. The former Newcastle man showed signs of his former self at the end of last year, but may struggle to make the first eleven this season meaning his future may be elsewhere.
The reigning champions are the only Premier League side yet to bring anyone in during the current transfer window. Roberto Mancini's side have been relatively quiet as they prepare for their opening game against newly promoted Southampton. City won the league in the final minute of the season last year thanks to a late Sergio Aguero goal. They battled with their rivals Man United throughout the season, and despite doing the double over their rivals, United were continuously on their tails. City will go into the season as favourites led by captain Vincent Kompany who recently signed a new long term deal with the club. Bad boy Mario Balotelli shined at Euro 2012 and if he can avoid getting into any trouble this year, the Italian will be dangerous to teams who come up against him. With the return of Carlos Tevez last season, City's strike force were a real threat to defences and the club were the top goal scorers in the league mastering a huge 93 goals.
Manchester United will go into their 38th consecutive season in the top flight. After narrowly missing out on the title last year, they will be looking to make it 20 Premier League titles edging further away from Liverpool's 18. Sir Alex Ferguson has brought in only the two players so far in the transfer window with playmaker Shinji Kagawa making the move from Borussia Dortmund and youngster Nick Powell making the step up from Crewe Alexandra. Ferguson has also stated his desire to bring in Arsenal frontman Robin Van Persie, and after rivals City ruled out a move for him, Old Trafford looks like his preferred destination. If he makes the move, he will link up with Wayne Rooney who scored an impressive 27 league goals last year, just three behind the Arsenal man.
Alan Pardew was rightly awarded manager of the year last season after guiding Newcastle to an excellent fifth place in the league. The signings of Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse proved to be a master stroke by Pardew with the pair scoring 29 league goals between them. United registered league wins against both Manchester United and Liverpool at home making the Sports Direct Arena a fortress to play in. Following last season will be a big task for Newcastle. Pardew has Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa alongside his strike force and they will be key to creating the chances up front. Gael Bigirimana has made the move to the club after impressing for Championship side Coventry City last season. He has been joined by defender Curtis Good and midfielder Roman Amalfitano so far, and more signings are expected to arrive at the Magpies before the window closes.
Norwich City made the giant leap straight from the Championship two seasons ago having gained automatic promotion. Finishing in 12th position last year, the Canaries impressed throughout the season under boss Paul Lambert. Due to this success Lambert was snapped up by Aston Villa leaving Norwich with former Birmingham City man Chris Hughton at the helm. With a new boss, striker Grant Holt made the decision to remain at the club having before made a transfer request at the end of the season. Holt's 15 league goals made him the second highest English goalscorer behind Wayne Rooney last season. Hughton has made some excellent signings so far bringing in defender Michael Turner from Sunderland as well as the impressive Robert Snodgrass, who made the move from Leeds United.
Part 2 to follow...