English Premier League: 10 Bold Predictions for the 2013-14 Season
The 2012-13 English Premier League season is over following a frantic final day. Manchester United are champions, while Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal round out the top four.
Tottenham Hotspur narrowly missed out on Champions League qualification, and that could cast doubt on Gareth Bale's future with the club.
But that's just one of the intriguing storylines to follow. What will happen between now and next May? Keep reading for our bold predictions.
Substantial Spending, Creative Accounting
On his way out of Chelsea Football Club this spring, interim manager Rafa Benitez hinted that his successor—
Jose Mourinho whomever he may be—will have 100 million of some form of currency to spend this summer. The Daily Mirror claimed it will be 100 million sterling, while the The Guardian opted for the more cosmopolitan 100 million euros.
Whichever it is, Chelsea and mega-rich oil-baron-owner Roman Abramovich will probably spend barrel loads of money on new players this summer. And they probably won't be alone.
Fresh off a disappointing season that saw manager Roberto Mancini fired, Manchester City have been linked with their usual allotment of high-priced talent. According to the Mirror, City will spend £54 million on Colombian striker Radamel Falcao, and if recent history is any guide, he won't be the only new arrival at the Etihad this summer.
Fans of UEFA's Financial Fair Play shouldn't worry, though. For all the spending of the last 10 years, Abramovich's Chelsea somehow managed to post a profit last year. Never mind what those haters at The Guardian wrote.
Chelsea's much vaunted first profit of the Roman Abramovich era from their Champions League-winning year was only achieved as a result of one-off exceptional items, including a £18.4m paper profit on cancelled shares in a digital media joint venture with BSkyB.
Pesky technicalities. City, for their part, posted a loss of "only" £97.9 million, cutting in half their world-record pace from the previous year (via CNN). Again, though, there were creative caveats, as the Telegraph details here.
With both finishing well behind Manchester United this season in the Premier League, expect both to continue the spending this summer. While you're at it, expect the creative accounting methods to continue as well.
The Special One, Part the Second
It must be the worst-kept secret in recent football memory. Several sources (The Guardian, Daily Mail, BBC Sport and Daily Mail, just to name a few) have hinted that Jose Mourinho is returning to Chelsea. And if we're being honest with ourselves, we all know it's going to happen sooner than later.
Enough with the innuendo—just let us know when the press conference is scheduled.
GLT to the Rescue
Goal-line technology is set for service in the Premier League next season after April's vote by the 20 Premiership clubs to adopt the Hawk-Eye system in time for the FA Community Shield in August.
The Hawk-Eye system uses cameras mounted on each goal to determine whether or not the ball has crossed the line and is, according to its proponents, accurate down to the millimeter. In theory, the league no longer will have to deal with goal-line controversies.
There really is no way to predict such things, but we've got a feeling Hawk-Eye will be pressed into action quickly—say within the first few weeks of the season—for a controversial decision.
The final day of the 2012-13 season, appropriately enough, had one final bit of goal-line controversy (h/t 101 Great Goals).
Survival of the Fittest
Following the relegation of Wigan, Reading and Queens Park Rangers, three new teams will enter the Premier League next season after achieving promotion from the nPower Championship. At least one of them will survive for another season in the top flight.
We already know the identities of two of the promoted clubs. Cardiff City won the league and automatic promotion, while Hull finished second. The third promotion spot will go to the winner of the playoff final, which will be contested between third-placed Watford and fifth-placed Crystal Palace on May 27.
If history is any guide, one of those teams will remain in the Premier League beyond the 2013-14 season. As SoccerLens pointed out in a 2011 article, at least one of the three promoted teams survived the first season in the top flight every campaign between 2001 and 2011.
The trend has continued since then. In 2011-12, the newly promoted QPR, Norwich and Swansea all survived the first season. In 2012-13, Southampton and West Ham survived while only Reading went down.
As ever in football, the difference between survival and lower-league purgatory usually involves spending large amounts of money. That isn't always the case, though, as QPR proved this season.
Which team/s will survive the step up to the top tier next season? We'll watch the summer transfer window with interest.
Pretty soon, the gossip papers will need to trademark the term Rooney U-turn. It's happened before, and it's happening again this summer.
Back in 2010, Wayne Rooney became disillusioned with life at Manchester United, made noises about leaving, and famously handed in a transfer request. Then he promptly signed a new five-year contract.
If any of that sounds familiar, it should.
Rooney to Chelsea. Rooney to Arsenal. Rooney to PSG. Rooney to Bayern Munich. Rooney to, erm, Newcastle (OK, never mind). In reality, he'll probably just make one of his (soon-to-be) patented U-turns and remain at Old Trafford for another few years.
The real question is, will he ever again wield the same influence he once did for United?
Same for Suarez
Liverpool striker Luis Suarez has a history of indiscretions, and after this latest incident, it was probably only natural that the papers had a field day.
The 26-year-old Uruguayan striker with world-class talent received a 10-match ban after he bit Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic during a game in April. Almost immediately, the transfer rumors gushed forth, with Bayern Munich the most illustrious name being linked (via The Telegraph).
Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre has said the club will not sell Suarez this summer (per Sky Sports), and we believe him. For all his many, many faults, he oozes class on the pitch. This season, he scored 23 goals in 33 appearances and probably had a chance to win some end-of-season awards before the biting.
Next season, he'll produce similar results...after serving out the rest of his ban.
But Not Bale
Gareth Bale might have already played his final EPL match for Tottenham Hotspur.
Bale posted a breakthrough 2012-13 campaign, scoring 21 league goals, keeping Spurs alive in the top-four race until the final day, and taking home both major Player of the Year awards.
Before the dust settled, manager Andre Villas-Boas was already saying brave things about holding onto the 23-year-old Welsh midfielder next season (via The Telegraph). But the papers have long told woeful tales for Tottenham in the event of a finish outside the top four. Now that it's happened, they're back.
Without the lure of Champions League football next season, Spurs will certainly find it a hard sell to keep Bale in North London. And if a big European club comes calling with a gigantic offer, Tottenham might be best served to cash in, reinvest the profits, and redouble their efforts to overtake Arsenal.
Aston Villa and Southampton shared a few similarities this season, especially—as B/R's Sam Tighe has pointed out—in their tactical approaches. Both also struggled at times this season before eventually beating relegation with time to spare.
Next season, we think the similarities will continue. Both clubs featured promising young talent this season—for instance, Gaston Ramirez and Morgan Schneiderlin for Southampton, and Christian Benteke and Matthew Lowton for Villa—and both have the potential to improve significantly with the right signings.
Much will depend on whether both teams can keep their best talent around, but with a year together to gel, both should improve. A top-half finish is an ambitious goal for each, but it might just be possible.
Three-Way Title Race
Manchester United strolled to the title this season, winning the league by 11 points (it felt more like twice that). Next season, even with Sir Alex Ferguson retired, the Red Devils will almost surely be favorites to repeat.
So who will challenge them? Will anyone challenge them?
That depends on this summer. Manchester City and Chelsea will almost certainly spend heavily, and as they were the two closest challengers (and we use that term loosely) to United this term, it stands to reason that they can do so again.
Arsenal likely will remain off the pace without multiple top-class signings (note the plural there), while Spurs, Liverpool and Everton could challenge for the top four but little more.
The Color Is Blue
Now for the boldest prediction of all.
Chelsea will win the Premier League title next season. A talented core will combine with a series of top-class signings and the return of an old friend to depose Manchester United in a tight title race.
Look at the talent already assembled: Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar form a classy attacking trio that is as dangerous as any other in the league. Key title-winning pieces are all over the squad, from keeper Petr Cech to defenders Branislav Ivanovic and Ashley Cole to Playstation gamer and Sideshow Bob doppelganger David Luiz.
Fernando Torres played well at times this season, especially in the Europa League, but scored just once in 2013 (and that was on the final day of the season). Demba Ba struggled following his move from Newcastle, making the arrival of another top-class striker imperative.
Meanwhile, with Frank Lampard and John Terry aging, reinforcements could be necessary in midfield and defense. Overall, though, Chelsea have a real shot at knocking United off their post-Ferguson perch next season.
Especially if the Special One returns.