Premier League preview: Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle, Norwich
Published: 15.08.12 / Written by: David Gold
Brendan Rodgers has an interesting challenge ahead of him at Liverpool.
He takes over from Kenny Dalglish, who won a cup but finished eighth in the league last season. Another eighth place finish would be disastrous.
Rodgers' Swansea team played some of the best football in the league last season and Liverpool hope he can bring that to Anfield this time around. With Fabio Borini coming in and Andy Carroll seemingly out, Rodgers appears intent on 'Swansifying' Liverpool, particularly if Joe Allen arrives.
It will be difficult for Liverpool, who are attempting an overhaul of their style of play, to break into the top four this season, but Rodgers must be aiming to move the club far closer than they were last year. That is a realistic aim and a challenge for the Champions League will be progress for the Merseysiders.
Manchester City meanwhile, come into this season on the back of a remarkable championship success, but without having made a key signing as yet. Constrained seemingly by financial fair play, City are attempting to sell some of their unwanted stars such as Roque Santa Cruz, Emmanuel Adebayor and possibly Edin Dzeko. But they are failing with their attempt to prise Robin van Persie from Arsenal and look unlikely to be able to sign the Dutchman.
For Mancini, this will be a tough campaign. It is difficult to see his team being able to replicate the same form as at the start of last season, when they were largely indebted to David Silva for much of their good play. Meanwhile with rivals improving, City will do well to come close to winning the title again, and may have to settle for second or third.
Manchester United should come into this season full of confidence. They have Nemanja Vidic back, and with him they should see an improvement to a defence which was leaky at times last season. Rio Ferdinand is not the same player he was, but Jonny Evans was superb for the second half of last season and if he can repeat that form Untied will have a solid base to build from.
With Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs still hanging around and defying their age with their ability to prompt from midfield, Alex Ferguson should be happy with how things are shaping up. The signing of Shinji Kagawa is a smart one. A hard working, quick and creative player who can score plenty of goals as well from midfield is precisely the kind of player they have missed at times. With Tom Cleverley fully fit and showing good form in the Olympics, United look in better shape to be able to control games than in recent seasons, and if Wayne Rooney is at his best, they should be favourites for the title once again.
Alan Pardew would be delighted if he can match last year's incredible league finish of fifth. The most improved side in the division, Pardew showed supreme tactical nous throughout the campaign, rebuilding a team after selling Joey Barton, Kevin Nolan and Andy Carroll and turning them from a team who relied on long balls and aggression into one who retained a physical edge but had a tactical and technical know how which was difficult for opponents to deal with.
Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba are a lethal front line, and with Hatem ben Arfa and Yohan Cabaye in behind have creative talents who can supply superb service. Cheick Tiote is one of the divison's best defensive midfielders, while Newcastle boast a formidable defence when fully fit. There is no reason why they cannot once again challenge for a European place this season.
Norwich should find the going far harder this year than last. Having lost Paul Lambert, they now face a battle simply to replicate his remarkable achievements. Chris Hughton is a decent manager who should continue to get the best out of his squad, but whether he can live up to what Lambert did is a huge challenge. The most significant signing is Michael Turner, and Norwich can expect to have a better defence than last year, but whether they can attack with the same style is key and it could be a campaign in which they battle against the drop. They are good enough though to stay up once again, but in what will likely be a tight battle against the drop, could be the ones who are pushed back into the Championship if they are not at their best.