Monday, 29 July 2013

Premier League 2013/14 season guide: Part 1

With only 38 days until the start of the new Premier League season, we take a look at all 20 teams in he league and preview their chances over the next 12 months. In the five part guide, all teams will be looked at in detail, from the key players to watch, to their opening fixtures to their season, it will be covered. In part one, we take a look at Arsenal, Aston Villa, Cardiff City and Chelsea.

Ending the final ten games of last season unbeaten, made sure that the Gunners claimed the final Champions League spot pipping their North London rivals Spurs to it on the final day. However the one thing concerning Arsenal fans currently, will be the lack of transfer activity which has only seen young French forward Yaya Sanogo arrive on a free transfer. They have been linked with numerous players so far this window but are yet to sign any big names. Having missed out on Gonzalo Higuain to Napoli, the main target it seems for Wenger this summer is Liverpool striker Luis Suarez. But having seen two bids already rejected, it is looking unlikely the Uruguayan will be making the move south to the Emirates. 

One positive for Arsenal is Jack Wilshere, who having missed much of last season with an injury, is back to match fitness and has featured regularly in pre-season so far and for some Gunners fans may feel like a new signing when he takes to the field come August 17th. Although Arsenal desperately need another striker, the form of Frenchman Olivier Giroud in pre-season is also another positive as the striker has six goals to his name so far. If they are to miss out on signing a big name striker this summer, then Giroud will be expected to be regularly hitting the net alongside fellow forward Theo Walcott. 

With seven weeks to go until the end of the transfer market, Arsenal really need another defensive midfielder and a striker if they are to make any serious challenge for the title. If they don't then it will be another hard battle fighting for a Champions League position. 

Key Player: Jack Wilshere

Predicted finish: 4th

Aston Villa:
Villa fans will certainly not want a repeat of last season as they narrowly avoided the drop, however there were still positives to take from their campaign. The number of younger players included in the first team is something that fans should take great heart from. Matthew Lowton, Ashley Westwood and Andreas Weimann all played a big part for Villa last season. In particular Weimann, who alongside Christian Benteke formed an excellent partnership up front with fans favourite Gabby Agbonlahor. Benteke who recently signed a new deal at Villa Park, helped himself to 19 league goals last season and proved to be one of the bargains of the season. However there wasn't so much success at the back as they conceded 69 goals in 38 matches. The departure of Richard Dunne has seen a number of new signings brought in by Lambert including Danish international defender Jores Okore who will challenge for a place at the back.

Villa have a tough start to the season having to face Arsenal away and then Liverpool at home in their opening two fixtures. They will expect to finish much higher up in the table this season, with Lambert clearing out the dead wood, and bringing in fresh young talent to his squad. The blend of experience and youth within the team should see Villa finish around mid table. The goals of Benteke will again be critical to Villa, with the Belgian striker's excellent finishing, hold up play and strength all key to him becoming one of the division's top marksmen.

Key Player: Christian Benteke

Predicted finish: 12th

Cardiff City:
Joining Swansea City in the Premier League, Cardiff's promotion last season made sure that this year would see two Welsh sides compete in the top tier of English football. Having been known to suffer play-off heartbreak, Cardiff avoided the three games as they were crowned winners of the Championship last year under Malky Mackay. One thing Cardiff fans would have expected Mackay to do this summer was strengthen his squad ahead of what will be a tough campaign for the Bluebirds. However with only two signings made so far, Mackay will be required to further strengthen his team before the season kicks off. One of the new acquisitions is Danish striker Andreas Cornelius who broke the club transfer fee as £8.5 million was spent on the front man. Alongside him is Craig Bellamy, who now in his second spell with Cardiff has plenty of Premier League experience under his belt.

Cardiff have been linked with a number of players so far in the window with the most notable Tom Ince who recently declined a move to the Welsh capital. If they are to start considering themselves as a regular Premier League side, then Mackay will need to start spending. The Bluebirds kick off their campaign with a trip to Upton Park to face West Ham. The Hammers home form last season was excellent and it will be a tough ask for Cardiff to leave with any points.

If money is spent within the next couple of weeks, and experience is added to the Cardiff side, then there is no reason why they can't become a regular face in the Premier League. Big things will be expected of record signing Cornelius and if he provides the Bluebirds with goals then there is a strong possibility of staying up.

Key Player: Craig Bellamy

Predicted finish: 17th

It has been quite an eventful 12 months for Chelsea. Despite having three managers in that time, the club still finished third and claimed the Europa League. Taking over from interim manager Rafa Benitez, Jose Mourinho was uncovered as the next boss of Chelsea this summer which sees him in his second spell at Stamford Bridge. With managers changing at both the Manchester clubs, Chelsea fans may start to believe that this season may give them one of the best chances of winning the league. Chelsea have had a good pre season which has seen new arrivals in the shape of Marco van Ginkel and Andre Schurle. Romelu Lukaku has also returned to London having had an excellent loan spell at West Brom last season. Having made a number of appearances scoring four goals in pre season, Lukaku may be given his chance to shine in a Chelsea shirt under Mourinho this season.

Alongside Demba Ba and Fernando Torres, there are a number of options available to Mourinho in attack. However with the uncertainty of Wayne Rooney's future at Manchester United, 'The Special One' has made it clear he is interested in adding the England front man to the Chelsea attack. Juan Mata will be key to Chelsea's success this season with the Spaniard having been essential in Chelsea's success last season. Despite talk of him being unsettled, Mourinho would be daft to let a player of his calibre leave.

Chelsea will certainly be one of the teams to watch this season especially with the arrival of Mourinho back at Stamford Bridge. With new managers at both United and City, Mourinho has new rivals to play mind games with, in what is set to become one of the most exciting and close seasons in the Premier League.

Key Player: Juan Mata

Predicted finish: 1st

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