15 Storylines to Watch in the EPL This Year

Nick Akerman@NakermanFeatured ColumnistJuly 24, 2013

15 Storylines to Watch in the EPL This Year

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    Can Premier League season 2013-14 hurry up?

    Weeks without football is enough to send the population crazy. As the summer transfer window rolls on and clubs continue to spend money, now is the perfect time to consider 15 storylines to watch during the upcoming season.

    Will newly installed managers prove their worth? Can the promoted teams avoid relegation?

    Let's take a look at the most enticing stories coming our way.

Battle of the New Managers

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    The new season ushers in plenty of change.

    Last year's top three clubs have introduced new managers for a variety of reasons. While Sir Alex Ferguson enjoyed a glorious retirement with Premier League crown No. 13, Manchester City boss Robert Mancini was let go after failing to achieve any of Sheikh Mansour's goals.

    Managerial change at Stamford Bridge wasn't quite so surprising. Chelsea fans knew Rafa Benitez had until the end of last season to make an impact, and he duly delivered.

    Now, we have David Moyes, Manuel Pellegrini and Jose Mourinho battling for the title. Each will be tasked with landing the Premier League. At most, one will succeed. Who will fall short?

Fernando Torres to Get Firing?

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    As reported by Whoscored.com, Fernando Torres scored just eight goals and provided six assists on Chelsea's way to third place last season.

    The Spaniard has suffered notorious problems in South West London and needs to quickly assert himself during the new campaign. While he showed decent form on Chelsea's route to Europa League glory, this is not the same player who almost thrust Liverpool to the Premier League crown in 2008-09.

    Torres' starting place is immediately under threat from Demba Ba and Romelu Lukaku. As confirmed by BBC Sport, Mourinho may even lure Wayne Rooney to Stamford Bridge for the first season of his second tenure.

    None of this would matter if Torres could rack up goals on a regular basis.

Will Tottenham Finally Topple Arsenal?

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    Listen carefully. In the dead of night, Arsenal fans can still be heard chuckling about Spurs' major collapse towards the end of last season.

    Since beating their rivals, 2-1, at White Hart Lane on March 3, Spurs accumulated a disappointing 18 points from 30 to see their hopes of a top-four finish crumble. Arsenal racked up 26 points and an unbeaten run across the final 10 games, ensuring Arsene Wenger's men, once again, finished the year on a major high.

    Can Spurs finally topple their North London enemies?

    With signings such as Paulinho and Nacer Chadli, Andre Villas-Boas will be confident of doing so. Tottenham must keep Gareth Bale and land a world-class striker if they are to get anywhere near a side that continues to improve under Wenger.

Evolution of the Struggling Clubs

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    Preseason has seen a number of struggling teams improve their squads. While Aston Villa fans will be joyed by Paul Lambert's signings, it is Stoke City and Norwich City followers who can expect an exciting change in direction.

    Mark Hughes' teams have never played the most attractive game, but even he can't drag Stoke lower than Tony Pulis' particular brand of anti-football. His recent signings include PSV Eindhoven full-back Erik Pieters and Barcelona centre-back Marc Muniesa—two names who never would have joined the Potters last year.

    Is Hughes trying something new? Will the Britannia Stadium see an intricate passing game implemented next year? One thing's for sure: Hughes wants to put his stamp on a squad that needs direction.

    Similarly, Chris Hughton has worked heroics over the summer to transform a Norwich side that didn't live up to its potential last year. The likes of Ricky van Wolfswinkel, Nathan Redmond and Leroy Fer are huge signings for a club that went nine games without a Premier League win between December and February.

    Will either team redefine themselves with a new style? Can the Canaries get over the "loss" of Grant Holt? The first few weeks should reveal all.

La Premier Liga

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    As covered on Squawka, you can build a formidable Premier League XI made up entirely of Spanish players.

    More and more Premier League teams are turning to La Liga in order to secure value for money. Swansea City's Michu emerged as one of last season's best buys, forcing Michael Laudrup to pick up Alejandro Pozuelo and Jose Canas from Real Betis, plus Jordi Amat from Espanyol.

    Alfred Negredo and Jesus Navas have also joined Manchester City from Sevilla, while Manchester United continue to be linked with Cristiano Ronaldo and Cesc Fabregas, according to widespread reports, including a report by The Telegraph. With stars such as Juan Mata, Santi Cazorla and David De Gea already excelling in the Premier League, the Spanish influence could start to impact how each team plays.

    Arsenal and Swansea already possess a Barcelona style passing game. If the Spanish Armada continue to invade, it won't be long before we see La Premier Liga sides utilising a false nine.

How Will David Moyes Fare as Manchester United Boss?

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    The man who takes over from Sir Alex Ferguson needs to be three things: firm, fiery and Scottish.

    David Moyes flaunts all of those attributes, but the 13-14 campaign sees him take on one of football's most difficult tasks. Manchester United fans will be hoping for a fast start, but opening games against Swansea, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City will have many fearing the worst.

    It's a sad reality that Moyes' United tenure could be defined by these results. If he loses each of the aforementioned games, the English press will immediately ramp up the pressure. If he wins, United will be in dreamland.

    Such is the life of a Premier League manager.

Will Wayne Prove to Be a Pain?

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    Wayne Rooney will most likely irritate someone during the 13-14 season; it's just what he does.

    Whether it's Manchester United fans, Chelsea fans, or everyone in between the ongoing transfer saga, the sulky Red Devil is likely to cause some kind of uproar during the year. If Jose Mourinho does land the English forward, perhaps he'll prove to be a thorn in Moyes' side with vital goals?

Will Goal-Line Technology Make a Difference?

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    No, that is not Big Brother's camera.

    While it may appear the Premier League's Hawkeye system is set to record and send your every move to the police, goal-line technology promises to ensure football's most important decision doesn't go wrong.

    Although it sounds good on paper, and early tests show the system works, it will take a close call before we get an answer as to how precise the technology is. Will goal-line tech make a significant difference in its first year of use?

    The results will be interesting.



Who Will Win the Sack Race?

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    The Premier League sack race is one of the most entertaining competitions of the year.

    Who will be the first manager to receive their marching orders? Will Mark Hughes maintain a job for longer than a year? Can Alan Pardew last the length of his eight-year contract now that Joe Kinnear has been installed as director of football?

    Look at his eyes. Would you employ that man?

Can Cardiff City Follow in the Footsteps of Swansea City?

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    It's amazing to think Swansea City have competed in just two Premier League seasons.

    The Swans are now one of the division's most exciting sides and have built rapidly since being promoted to the English top flight. Last season's Capital One Cup winners promote attractive football, have an array of stars and continue to develop for the future.

    The Guardian confirmed Swansea's record signing of Wilfried Bony— transfer who underlines the progress of a club that once employed Lee Trundle. Swansea's progress has raised the profile of Welsh football, and for the first time, they will face rivals Cardiff City in the top flight.

    Malky Mackay's men have a long way to go if they are to replicate Swansea's success. Even so, Cardiff's promotion is another major step for a country whose national league is barely covered outside of Wales.

Will Belgian Brilliance Continue?

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    Much like the Spanish, Belgian players have taken over the Premier League.

    Last season saw Christian Benteke, Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Marouane Fellaini perform excellently. In fact, these names were amongst the best players in the league across the entire year.

    The Belgian national team should be considered dark horses for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Another year of top displays from the aforementioned players should see them get into Marc Wilmots' exciting squad.

    As reported by BBC Sport, Benteke recently signed a new contract to extend his stay at Villa Park. Lukaku faces a difficult battle to assert himself at Chelsea, while Fellaini may run out in one of two red shirts next season. Each individual must ensure they continue to make a huge impact if they are to head to the World Cup as an outside bet.

    Who knows, maybe Chelsea's Kevin De Bruyne will join them.


Will the Three Promoted Sides Go Straight Back Down?

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    Getting to the Premier League is the easy part. Staying there is where it begins to get tricky.

    Although Reading were the only promoted Premier League side to suffer relegation last season, their journey highlights the difficulty of maintaining a place at the top. Brian McDermott failed to attract many star names to the club, struggled to adapt his style of football, and, ultimately, couldn't live with the ruthlessness of the league.

    Can Cardiff, Hull and Crystal Palace do any better?

Last Year for Legends of the Era?

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    Last season saw the retirement of Premier League heroes such as Paul Scholes, Jamie Carragher, David Beckham, Michael Owen, Phil Neville and Sir Alex Ferguson. This year threatens to see more era-defining players hang up their boots.

    Ryan Giggs' transition into player/coach suggests he is ready to move on after the campaign. Frank Lampard's one-year contract indicates he is slowing down. Come May 2014, these great names may call time on their illustrious careers.

Who Will Be Taken over Next?

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    Meet Shahid Khan.

    Don't let his silly moustache fool you; he is the billionaire owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars and recently decided to take over Fulham.

    He is the latest tycoon to invest money into a Premier League club. It seems Roman Abramovich, the Glazers and everyone else were on to something. English teams can produce big wads of cash, but first, they need to have big wads of cash invested in them.

    Who will be next? Everton are the most perfect candidates.

How Will the January Transfer Window Shake Things Up?

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    The January transfer window is the perfect time for teams to put their summer mistakes right.

    Or if you're Queens Park Rangers, it's the month to sign Christopher Samba. While the lumbering centre-back represents some of January's worst examples of panic buying, the midseason window has seen players such as Luis Suarez, Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic arrive on English shores.

    It has also seen Fernando Torres and Andy Carroll complete ridiculous moves.

    That is the beauty of the January transfer window. While managers may unearth a bargain, they could also pay massively for a dud.


    Which storylines are you looking forward to seeing next year? Let me know in the comments section and be sure to hit me up on Twitter: