7 Bold Predictions for the English Premier League in 2012-13
The Premier League has a lot to live up to.
Last year, drama continued to flow until the final minutes, in a season that will be forever remembered for Sergio Aguero's title-winning goal. It's something none of us predicted.
Looking forward to the 2012-13 season, it's time to start anticipating what we'll be treated to. This year, nothing should be taken for granted. City rivalries will flip as the powerful lose their muscle, high-profile meltdowns will continue to happen, and managers will fear every phone call from their club's chairman.
It's a bold statement, but this is the year that everything changes.
Reality Check for Di Matteo and Chelsea
Roman Abramovich's Chelsea era has been laced with trophies, but none of his victories come close to the joy of last season's Champions League victory.
The Russian is a bold executioner, chopping and changing managers with regularity. Nobody knows this better than Andre Villas-Boas, who received the guillotine before he had time to impose a plan at Stamford Bridge. AVB's sacking thrust Roberto Di Matteo into a fairytale of success and culminated with Drogba's spot kick against Bayern Munich.
Football is a game of fine margins. The Blues were inches away from conceding vital goals in the final two rounds of the F.A Cup, and minutes away from losing the Champions League final.
Chelsea face the likes of Tottenham, Manchester United, Liverpool and Man City, four weeks from the end of October. If Di Matteo's side isn't challenging for the title after this run, he'll spend Christmas searching for a new job.
Everton Will Upset the Top Six
David Moyes' side remains one of the Premier League's biggest enigmas.
Notorious slow starters, the Merseyside outfit typically struggles before coming on strong after Christmas.
This year, Everton don't have time to waste.
An opening day fixture against Manchester United will eliminate early season complacency. On the first set of fixtures last year, a 1-0 loss at home to QPR kick-started an underwhelming run of form.
After Christmas, the signing of Nikica Jelavic turned the club's fortunes around. Moyes' men scalped Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City and shocked Manchester United 4-4 at Old Trafford.
Jelavic is the quickest Everton player to reach 10 goals in a century, and with him in the team from the start, the Blue side of Liverpool have a real chance of upsetting their city neighbours more frequently.
An Englishman to Win the Golden Boot
Kevin Phillips was the last Englishman to win the Golden Boot and netted 30 times in the 1999-00 season with Sunderland.
Alan Shearer missed out by one goal in the year following Phillips' success, and in 2002-03, Southampton's James Beattie was two goals short.
Since then, Steven Gerrard, Darren Bent and Wayne Rooney have come closest, each three strikes away from taking the prize.
It's the latter who holds the most promise for the upcoming season.
With the signing of Shinji Kagawa, the Red Devils will be more inclined to get Rooney at every opportunity. The Japanese playmaker secured 10 assists in 38 Bundesliga starts for Borussia Dortmund last year, and with Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young and Nani alongside him, Rooney will receive plenty of chances to hit the back of the net.
As Robin Van Persie's move away from Arsenal continues to drag on, Sergio Aguero is currently the main threat to this prediction. Unfortunately for the Argentinian, he is likely to suffer from Manchester City's rotation system.
Wenger to Leave Arsenal Before Christmas
September 2012 is vital for Arsene Wenger's Arsenal career.
The Gunners face Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea during the month, and a handful of bad results could see the Frenchman forced towards an early exit.
According to reports on talkSPORT, Arsene Wenger is to blame for Robin Van Persie's threats to quit. If RVP leaves and his signings don't deliver, Wenger will be staring down a barrel as long as seven years without a trophy.
Tottenham to Finally Topple Arsenal
It was all set up for Spurs last season.
Despite leading Arsenal for most of the year, Harry Redknapp's side plummeted below their North London rivals at the end of April. This set of results proceeded a 5-2 loss to The Gunners, in a game where Spurs led 2-0.
With 'Arry moving on, Andre Villas-Boas has entered the club at an exciting time. He's already captured Emmanuel Adebayor and the much-fancied Gylfi Sigurdsson, but there are two key transfers that will see Spurs overcome Arsenal.
Equally as important to the North London hierarchy is the sale of Robin Van Persie. Despite the signing of Olivier Giroud, Van Persie's influence on the pitch will be sorely missed. The Dutchman has proven he is a game-changer at the Premier League level, and without that, Arsene Wenger's team no longer have the strength to keep Spurs at arm's length.
Second Season Syndrome for Swansea
The first Welsh team in the Premier League, Swansea, performed admirably last year.
But an 11th placed finish didn't tell the whole story.
Brendan Rodgers' side played some of the most attractive football in the league and was compared to the great Barcelona and Spain sides of the last few years.
Now that Rodgers has moved on, change is coming at The Liberty Stadium. New manager Michael Laudrup has already lost Gylfi Sigurdsson, and vital players such as Scott Sinclair and Joe Allen continue to be linked with moves away from the club.
Laudrup faces a difficult task. If he can't keep Swansea playing attractive football, they'll be sucked into the gritty dogfight of the division's relegation fodder.
Manchester City to Set Points Record
Despite capturing their first Premier League title, Manchester City have vast room for improvement—most notably away from the Etihad.
A home record of 18 wins in 19 games provided Roberto Mancini's side with the platform that it needed to dislodge Fergie's boys from across town.
On the road, the newly crowned champions only won 10 of 19 matches. Away losses to Sunderland, Everton and Swansea dented City's chances, and up until the final kick of the season, they had seemingly lost the title.
With these slip-ups in mind, the Blues still managed to rack up 89 points. Considering this is only six behind Chelsea's 2004-05 record of 95, Man City have a real chance of smashing the current best next season.