Manchester United made history winning their 19th English Championship as they lifted the Barclay's Premier League Trophy for the12th time since its formation in 1992. It also saw them surpass Liverpool as the most successful domestic team in history. They had been tied with the Reds since their last league title victory in 2008-09.
Last season saw many different achievements and many surprises. Manchester City finally achieved a goal by winning the FA Cup over Stoke City, as they lifted their first piece of silverware since the regime change. Clint Dempsey became the all-time highest scoring American in the EPL surpassing his once Fulham teammate.
Many more memorable events occurred. By now with less than a month before the start of the 2011-12 season, we start to try and figure out where we believe the top 20 teams in England will stack up.
The transfer market is firing on all cylinders from some teams and fizzling for others as they race to strengthen to avoid the drop, push up the table, make a good cup run, qualify for Europe or attempt to win the league.
Whomever you are, you have to ask, and you have to wonder, just where will everyone possibly end up? With that in mind, here are some bold predictions served up for you to attack, praise or utterly hate. Whichever is your belief, let's get it out in the open and make this one heck of a discussion. So here goes nothing.
And the first relegated team in the league will be...
Swansea City made their first signing of the summer when they snatched up former Watford striker and Championship leading scorer Danny Graham from a cool £3.5 million. Graham scored 23 goals and provided 10 assists in 45 league games last season, and he will be a hugely important piece of the Swans puzzle next season.
The loss of Darren Pratley to Bolton will hurt the team in the midfield as they are yet to replace him, but the news that defender Neil Taylor has signed a new four-year deal will settle many nervous fans.
However, I do not see any way that they will stay up next season. Of the teams to come up, they were the last to get through and also have shown that they have the most limited transfer kitty to try and bolster for a shot at staying up.
Manager Brenden Rogers has done a fine job since taking over last summer, and his ability to get them promoted in his first season may have set the expectations for him too high. Despite the best efforts, I see Swansea ending the season on the bottom of the chopping block as they return to the Championship to lick their wounds.
Wigan Athletic is in much the same position as Blackburn Rovers I fear as there has been little to no attempt to strengthen as of yet. The signing of keeper Ali Al Habsi does show signs of life, but the possibility of loosing Hugo Rodallega and Charles N'Zogbia could potentially crush any hopes of the club finding a way to remain in the top flight.
Their manager, Roberto Martinez, was a Wigan great during his playing days, and the 38-year-old has been praised as highly as one can be. His current club's chairman, Dave Whelan, has backed his current boss to one day go on to bigger and better clubs.
He said this in an article for the Goal.com that also appeared in the Daily Mail:
"Roberto is one of the youngest, brightest managers around, and I really do think that he will only get better and that he has everything you need to take over at one of the biggest clubs on the continent,' When told Goal.
'I think that in two, three or four years, he will be at Barcelona or Real Madrid, and there is absolutely no doubt about that because Roberto is a brilliant manager.
'There are lots of factors that make him so special, but the main things that spring to mind are his overall knowledge of the game, and he is always interested in developing young players.
'He is tactically very astute, mentally very tough and his man-management skills are excellent, but it's got to be remembered that he is still learning his trade in the Premier League which is the toughest, most unforgiving league in the world."
There is no doubt he might be highly rated and talented, but his club is not in the best of shape in comparison to the tougher clubs around them, and I cannot see Wigan surviving another season this year as they crash to a 19th place finish.
Queens Park Rangers had a great run to the Championship title last season under manager Neil Warnock. His charges look set for a run at the English Premier League for the first time in 15 years. However, I believe it could be a less than rosey return for Rangers.
So far, there has been very little strengthening done to the side with only free transfers, Jay Bothroyd from Cardiff City and Kieron Courtney Dyer from West Ham United. Bothroyd was electric for City last season scoring 18 goals and collecting eight assists, and he would be a great match for Rangers Captain Adel Taarabt who scored 19 and provided 16. However, the later looks most certain to make a move to Paris Saint Germain, and the last thing the team needs is their captain to jet out with less than a month before opening day.
Dyer has been merely a fringe player, and it is unknown what the 32-year-old midfielder will bring to the table. Heidar Helguson will have a large gap to jump with Bothroyd is the two of them are to do all the work upfront without Taarabt.
Warnock's side remain pretty much intact other than that, but I just do not see them being able to keep pace if they loose Taarabt. I look to see them make a good start out of the gates as they have a good chance of getting wins or draws in at least three of their opening five games when they play Bolton, Everton, Wigan, Newcastle United and Wolves.
I see them being in the relegation battle from October and beyond and most likely succumbing to the drop late in the season.
Blackburn Rovers are a club in transition. As the legacy of Jack Walker continues to be forgotten, new ownership under Venky's London Limited, an English subsidiary of the Indian Venky's Limited.
The new owners made their mark in the middle of the season as they sacked manager Sam Allardyce and instilled Steve Keane. After a major drop in form that had seen the club struggle all season, they rebounded just enough to secure a get-out-of-jail-free card and remain in the EPL for the upcoming season.
There has been no movement for Rovers to build on their finish from last season. So far, youngster Phil Jones has left for Manchester United, and promising youngster Aaron Doran departed for Inverness Caledonian Thistle of the Scottish Premier League on a permanent basis after scoring three goals and providing four assists in 11 games for ICT.
Christopher Samba continues to look for a way out, but Keane is doing all he can to retain his best defender. Rumors have circulated earlier in the summer about acquiring Roque Santa Cruz back permanently from Manchester City after he came back to Rovers on loan for the last of the campaign in 2010-11. However, it has died down and been replaced with reports today of River Plate striker Mariano Pavone coming to the club.
Keane will have to work some magic to ensure that Rovers stay up, but I feel he may get just lucky enough near the end of the season to hold onto relegation by finishing 17th.
There will not be an East Anglian Derby with Ipswich Town this season, but Norwich City FC are back in the Premier League for the first time since 2004-05. The Canaries were founding members of the Premier League and enjoyed great success in the league and also in European competition for several season before faltering and dropping back down to the Championship.
So this summer, they have looked intent on one thing alone, avoiding the drop and their ambitious summer signings could help them do just that. Having kept their squad intact since the promotion, they have also added multiple new faces.
The most high profile of them is former Millwall striker Steve Morison who scored 15 goals and collected five assists in 2010-11. Another acquisition is former Everton forward James Vaughan who scored nine goals and provided two assists on loan for 28 games to Crystal Palace from the Toffees.
Elliot Bennett was a League One midfield maestro last season with six goals and 17 assists for Brighton & Hove Albion, and the 22-year-old will look to develop as a squad player for City. Further midfield additions include former Leeds United player Bradley Johnson and Anthony Pilkington, most recently acquired from Huddersfield Town.
With all the confidence in the world, the Canaries are set to take on the big teams this coming season. Norwich boss Paul Lambert has had nothing but praise for his players stating the following on ESPNsoccernet.com:
''I am delighted with the group which I have assembled. They are not just good players, they are good characters, which is important,'' he said. ''There will be times when disappointment sets in, but as long as they stick together, we will be fine.
''It is new for everybody, but I do not think there is any fear or trepidation whatsoever. They have earned the right to play against the best teams. The new lads have settled in really well and the lads who were already here have been as good as they have been in the last two years.
''For us to try to get a foothold in the league, we will need everybody to gel together to try to perform the best they can.''
I see the Canaries being more than most expect and finishing at 16th, two spots from the drop as they successfully survive their freshman year return.
If Mick McCarthy has proven one thing the last two seasons in the Premier League, it is to never count out his Wolves side, as they have fought teeth and paw to stay up two years in a row. This past season was especially tough, and they secured their place in the top flight on the final day of the season.
Rumors are abound that Matt Jarvis and Kevin Doyle would be leaving, but it remains clear that McCarthy is going to hold on to two of his key players. He has also secured the permanent signing of Jamie O'Hara from Spurs. The midfielder came to Molineux on loan in the second half of the season and impressed players and fans alike, and it was his goal on the last day of the season that kept Wolves in the hunt.
McCarthy has also added 28-year defender Roger Johnson from Birmingham City as the Blues have been pillaged since they dropped back to the Championship. The signing of Dorus De Vries from Swansea has filled any gap between the posts.
Wolves, I expect to be better than last season, and I can see McCarthy keeping them up once more as he slowly gets to build a stronger squad each season. I see them getting up to 15th after last season's 17th place finish.
Bolton took off last season, and after looking like a top eight finish was on the cards for the Trotters, they sputtered out at the end despite the excellent addition of on-loan Chelsea striker Daniel Sturridge and his eight goals in 12 league games.
The loss of the club's leading scorer, Johan Elmander, had made a new acquisition or loan a must as Kevin Davies cannot carry the team on his own up front. Shaun Wright Phillips could still join the side, and he would be a great addition alongside the height and power of Davies with his speed and ball skills.
Currently, it looks like Manchester United could be willing to let Danny Welbeck go on loan to the Reebok. With the way it has been, the loan star place to be the last two seasons after we have seen both Arsenal's Jack Wilshere, and Sturridge come of age there, Welbeck and Sir Alex Ferguson might ought to jump at the chance.
Gary Cahill still is yet to move on, and it is looking more doubtful that he will leave. Despite months of speculation, he seems to not be as high on the want list for teams as once believed, but there is still time left.
I hope to be wrong, and if SWP and Welbeck join, I just might be, but otherwise, I see the Wanderers having an offseason and finishing around 14th. However, SWP broke the news this morning that he does not want to leave Manchester City for Bolton or Tottenham, and that, once again, leaves Owen Coyle on the lookout.
Roy Hodgson rescued West Brom from flirtation with relegation and helped to push them back up the table to finish 11th and well above the drop zone. He proved once again that his true talent is to keep a team at the middle of the table.
Striker Peter Odemwingie had a career year for the club scoring 15 goals, and Captain Chris Brunt also played very well over the course of the campaign. However, so far, the team has only seen players leave except for free transfer, and Hodgson will most certainly need to strengthen in order to maintain the momentum his appointment generated last year, and according to ESPNsoccernet.com, he is ready to do so.
Zoltan Gera looks set to return to the Baggies after he had been purchased away from the Hawthorns during Hodgson's time with Fulham at Craven Cottage. The Hungarian would make a good signing for the club as they could use his experience on the wings and through the middle of the pitch.
The most controversial move currently could be the possible signing of Manchester United's former walking-injured midfielder Owen Hargreaves. Once highly praised and believed to be a talent for the ages, three seasons and only five appearances later, he is finally hopeful to be fit and healthy. Unfortunately for him, no one may look to take that chance.
This season could prove tough for West Brom as the three promoted teams will pose a threat to the bottom half, and I can see the Baggies struggling at times but having enough to finish above the middle of the lower half at around 13th unless there are some brilliant signings by their new boss.
The Potters were devastated at the end of last season as they fell to Manchester City in the FA Cup final 1-0 thanks to Yaya Toure. With no real additions so far this summer, other than Jonathan Woodgate coming in to fill the boots of West Ham-bound Abdoulaye Faye, Tony Pulis looks to possible make a run at it again with the, "if it ain't broke don't fix it," methodology.
There have been a number of links with strikers for the club, but none have come to fruition as the one truly weak area for Stoke is in their ability to score more goals. Without a doubt, Pulis is one of the best in the league at getting the best out of his team, but at this point, he may need more from them than ever before as he hopes to build on last season's success.
However, if there is no additional attacking strength added, I cannot see Stoke finishing but maybe a place higher than last year in 12th.
Former Birmingham City turned Aston Villa wretch, to the Blues fans, Alex McLeish looks to have his work cut out for him. Since the opening of the transfer window, the Villains have lost three key players from their squad that McLeish would liked to have had at his disposal.
Brad Freidel left to join Tottenham Hotspur, Ashley Young got his move to Manchester United and Stewart Downing just recently completed his wanted switch to Liverpool. Now with all that money from United and Liverpool, it is high time the manager did something with it to help solidify his wide areas next season.
The return of Stephen Ireland from loan will prove useful, but there is desperate need for another wide man as Marc Albrighton is a great talent, but he cannot cover two wings at once. Recent links to Wigan's Charles N'Zogbia could be the best bet at this point as to Villa getting another player to hunt for space on the wings.
Today's signing of Shay Given does give them more of a chance for a higher finish than I initially was predicting, so I now have them listed higher. McLeish, I expect to face a tough season in charge, and I think he should be able to keep Villa at least in the same area as last season but a place or two lower around 11th.
Newcastle United made a strong showing in the first half of their return to the top flight as they got off to a great start thanks to Captain Kevin Nolan and homegrown striker Andy Carroll. However, much has changed for the team.
Alan Pardew is not calling the shots, Andy Carroll was sold to Liverpool in January, and Kevin Nolan was sold to West Ham last month. However, the Magpies look to have come out of their situation a little better than people may yet realize.
Pardew has made some great signings so far to go along with the permanent switch of Hatem Ben Arfa from Marseille that was completed in January. Demba Ba rose to prominence for West Ham in the second half last season despite their relegation and joined the Magpies on a free transfer the day after Nolan was sold to the Hammers.
The week before the signing of Lille midfielder Yohan Cabaye showed signs that the midfield would be in good hands if Nolan left, as Cabaye scored two goals and racked up nine assists in Lille's French Ligue 1 title winning campaign last season.
Sylvain Marveaux joined from Rennes in July, and his last season was cut to only nine games, the year before he scored 10 goals and provided five assists for the French club and will be another good addition to the squad.
Pardew's main focus now has to be on retaining Jose Enrique as the Newcastle defense needs to be as strong as possible to allow his new look attack to deal out some damage.
I believe the Toon army can improve this season and finish on the fringes of the top in 10th place.
The Blue side of Merseyside continue to linger in mid-table mediocrity after two straight seasons out of European action. Despite their rich heritage of rivaling their close neighbors Liverpool, in the 1980s, the Blues have not been higher than fifth but only once in the last 10 seasons.
David Moyes has proven to be able to get great results with his side, but the last two seasons have seen more talent leave the club than join it, and so far, he has been lucky not to lose starlets Leighton Baines or jack Rodwell to bigger clubs.
If Tim Cahill and Mikael Arteta can remain healthy for a full season, they stand a great chance of being able to get higher up the table than in the last few years, but their front line attack still has not produced as much as they are capable of in recent seasons. The current link with Wigan's Hugo Rodallega could be a shrewd signing if made.
Captain Phil Neville believes that Moyes' youth approach is genius, as the Everton academy has been producing some fine talent, but it still may be to early in some of the youngsters careers for them to have the impact desired, and I see Everton falling one or two spots in the table this coming season.
Mark Hughes shocked many when he resigned as the manager of Fulham after he had led them back out of the basement and into an eighth place finish. Never the less, the Cottagers appointed Martin Jol, whom was the man in charge of Tottenham from 2004-07, Hamburg HSV 2008-09 and Ajax 2009-10.
His pedigree proves he has the ability to win, and judging from the plus-86 goal differential his Ajax team had when they barely missed the Eredivisie title during his time in charge, by one point, he knows how to get goals out of a squad. Granted, Fulham do not have a Luis Suarez.
Fulham have started their season earlier than any of the English Premier League clubs after having already played three games in UEFA Europa League qualifying, and Jol currently undefeated at the helm after two goal victories and one nil-nil draw.
Clint Dempsey looks set to return for another season at Craven Cottage after being the team's top scorer last season, and after becoming the highest scoring American in English Premier League history. Deuce will be a key component to Jol's strategy this season, and I believe the London club can return to eighth in the league under their new manager.
The first major signing of the summer has seen former Liverpool and AS Roma left back John Arne Riise join the team, and he brings proven EPL and European winning experience to the team, as it will be a welcomed addition. He could be another of the best signings in the league this season at a bargain value of only £2.4 million.
Steve Bruce may have quietly built Sunderland into a potential surprise team of the season. The sales of Darren Bent and Jordan Henderson alone earned him £40 million for a transfer kitty that rivals that of Newcastle United's pillaging of Liverpool for Andy Carroll.
He since has been on a spending spree, locking up young prospects and proven veterans with the hopes of busting into the top half deeper than last years tenth place finish. The additions of John O'Shea and Wes Brown from Manchester United give him two solid defenders that know how to perform at the top level, and more importantly, they like to win.
Craig Gardner from Birmingham offers a good replacement for value after the loss of Henderson. The arrival of Connor Wickham gives their attack some unproven talent that might just be better than people think because he will most likely be young and just cocky enough to not get how big some situations he may face this season could truly be.
The addition of David Vaughn adds hard-nosed grinding experience to the midfield to fit in with Steed Malbranque and Lee Cattermole.
While Sebastian Larsson could be the signing of the season for the Black Cats, all in all the new class of Sunderland players could make a huge impact on the upward and onward movement that Bruce so desperately wants for his club.
Tottenham Hotspur will hope that they can hold on to Luka Modric, featured in the picture above, as the Croatian is one of the keys to their possibility of success in the League, and both domestic and European cups.
The constant debate over his future has not helped the Lilywhites' cause this summer, and Harry Redknapp will be hopeful to hold onto the first half of his main midfield maestro duo apart from Rafael van der Vaart.
For what seems like the first time in ages, Redknapp has not purchased a striker this summer. That is either a supreme sign of confidence or shows that the club is not willing to give up the funds to do so unless he can sell some dead wood.
The striker situation should not be such a problem when you look at the names on the roster; Peter Crouch, Robbie Keane, Jermaine Defoe and Roman Pavlychenko, but there just was no real production last year.
Keane still has miles left at 30, but the Spurs legend cannot buy a vote of confidence from his manager. Jermaine Defoe and Peter Crouch seem in the same boat as Redknapp has bought both of them twice before, but appeared to throw Defoe under the bus, though warranted, at the end of the season.
Tottenham seem to be slipping, and without any additional signings at the front or at the back, they could be in for a less than positive season as they could drop out of European contention all together.
Arsene Wenger, I believe, has possibly seen the last of his chances at glory with Arsenal. It could well be time for a change at the Emirates. Despite all their talent, the Gunners just have not been Wenger's "Invincibles" since 2006.
Stars want out because the team is not delivering trophies, but if they would play and honor contracts rather than wanting to move to Barcelona every summer, Cesc Fabregas, there might be a better chance of not falling off the map.
The London-based club seems to have had the same kind of disappointing summer as far as players wanting out as Manchester City has with Carlos Tevez. However, it is not only Fabregas but also young Samir Nasri that is plotting his get-out-of-London escape plan. Gervinho's signing is a good sign for the Gunners, but I just dont believe he is the answer to their current issues.
Jack Wilshere has been the one to step up and call his Captain out. Wilshere is a Gunner through and through, and he will no doubt be one of their greatest ever, but is it not sad that the only one calling out the leader of the team is a 19-year-old?
Robin Van Persie has also voiced his impending devastation should the captain leave but not like young Jack. But honestly, where are the other veterans when the man with the armband needs a reality check?
Wilshere had this to say to his Captain while Arsenal are on their Asian tour as reported by the Sun:
"Loyalty is a big part of football and it shows if you are a real man or not. If you are loyal, it means you are a real man.
"We have loyalty at Arsenal and players have shown that in the past.
"Cesc showed that last year and hopefully a few more players will show it this year.
"Then we will see if we can get a trophy or not."
"We have a good team. We know that and we need to keep our big players.
"If you look at Tottenham, they are fighting to keep Modric.
"It's the same for any team - you have to keep your best players. We have to keep ours if we want to win things.
"Robin van Persie has said we would be devastated if we lose Cesc. It's the same for me. He has been a role model for me and he is the player I want to aspire to."
I hate to say it, but I fear Arsenal could be a sinking ship this season if they cannot find some continuity in the locker room and on the pitch.
Manchester City's third place finish last term and their FA Cup victory to put the first trophy in over 30 years into their cabinet, largely have been overshadowed by the possible departure of Carlos Tevez. Their captain and leading scorer continues to make it known that he wants out, doing nothing but dampening the moral of teammates and fans alike.
The club has experienced enormous growth and have signed two of the biggest sponsorship deals in history in the last few weeks, having the City of Manchester Stadium renamed to Etihad Stadium.
Tevez's drama has done nothing but cause a summer that should be full of excitement for Citizens fans, to be rather disappointing. With City set to make their return to the top flight of European competition in the UEFA Champions League for the first time, there should be a buzz of excitement, but honestly, I just want to see him leave if he wants to and that be the end of it.
Gael Clichy signed with the club from Arsenal citing the desire to win trophies as a key point of his move, and the Citizens could have a bright future ahead of them. Their lower amount of movement in the transfer market also shows that they are close to having their core figured out and want to build the squad through maintenance over time rather than major multimillion dollar moves every single window.
Most likely, there could be a huge signing, but I see them actually moving towards keeping their team intact, as Mancini has finally figured out his system, and it looks to be working.
I expect a top four finish for them this year once again.
Despite their best efforts, I just can not see Chelsea grabbing the title from United. They have hardly made a move in the market yet to strengthen, though there is still time, so don't hold that against me for this prediction. However, their best moves so far have been to secure the long-term future of two of their best up-and-coming stars in Josh McEachran and Ryan Bertrand.
Fernando Torres is due to come out of his slump. He had a solid, injury-free second half, though only scoring one goal since joining the blues, his new manager has a knack for getting loads of goals from talented strikers, and Torres is one of the best in the world when he is on his game.
David Luiz should continue to keep the back line lively in attack with the assistance of Ashley Cole. The loss of Micheal Essien for most likely the season is going to make the midfield a different monster once again, as aside from Frank Lampard, they just aren't as good in that department as many believe. The addition of Luka Modric or Bargain-buy Scott Parker truly could be just what the doctor orders.
Regardless, I just do not see it being Chelsea's year, yet, but they are getting closer.
The King is back and so are the high hopes of many Liverpool fans. A sixth place finish was a blow to many fans last season, but believe me, it could have been much worse. Since Kenny Dalglish re-inherited the throne, he has had the team and the fans on the rise.
Fernando Torres' departure was seen as a terrible move by many at first, but it proved genius, as the additions of Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll, overpriced England National Team member No.1, have shown to be brilliant. Dirk Kuyt's revitalization under Dalglish also shows what a key part of the team the hard working Dutchman still is.
His push up the table last season was done with loads of injuries, including that of Captain Steven Gerrard who was missing from the lineup for the last months of the season, hampering the team and the Academy proving its revitalization through the performances of youngsters like John Flanagan, Martin Kelly and Jay Spearing.
This season, the Reds have been one of the busiest teams in the transfer market as they look to rebuild their squad to the powerhouse that saw glory after glory from the 1960s-1980s and still dominated many battles apart from the league between 1990 and 2006.
Additions of Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson, Alexander Doni and possibly a few more have been met with mixed reviews by many for the price that has been dealt out, especially on Henderson and Downing. Dalglish also enjoys the return of Alberto Aquilani, which is like a new signing, and his preseason performances are proving lively.
What many people fail to realize is that while Dalglish is not signing major superstars, he is signing the players he believes will work with the squad. Liverpool was built on the foundation of no one being bigger than the club, and to buy players that cannot fit into the ideology would be a waste of time, money and the fans whole hearted support.
The squad is bigger than ever with many players that will more than likely still be sold on, but the lack of European action gives Dalglish an advantage over his fellow top six foes, and I can see him guiding Liverpool back to the Champions League. I predict a strong finish due to extra rest from no European action this season and even a possible cup victory as they push United to the line.
As much as I hate to say it, Manchester United stand the best chance of winning the league for the record 20th time. They still have the spine of their team, other than a new keeper in David de Gea, and they have promising signs of life all around.
The retirement of Paul Scholes will deal a blow to the midfield on the grounds of experience, but the signature of Ashley Young will insure more width, and the rising star Tom Cleverly will be thrust into the spotlight. Ryan Giggs will still make a point through the midfield and hold it to a standard of class and experience despite his recent media issues.
Wayne Rooney is due to come back strong after a down season, but his performance in the UEFA Champions League defeat to Barcelona proves he is still capable of so much more than he showed last season. Rooney's newest partner, Javier, "Chicharito," Hernandez should have an even bigger impact at the front for United as I believe he will come into his own.
Sir Alex Ferguson will have his hands full as always with teams clipping at his heals, but I see him steering them in the right direction back to the top.