Soccer fans have been spoiled this summer — with the Women’s World Cup, the Gold Cup and the MLS regular season — but the best is still yet to come. That’s right, the wealthiest and most exciting soccer league in the world, the Barclays Premier League (BPL), kicks off this weekend. Yet, it’s a different league than the one that saw Chelsea F.C. lift the trophy last May. Three newly promoted clubs have replaced last year’s relegated clubs; and the league’s elite (and mid-table) clubs have spent fortunes overhauling their squads. So wake up early this Saturday (August 8), grab a cup of coffee and turn on some footy (all BPL games will be shown on NBC, NBC Sports or streamed on NBC Sports Live Extra). But first, here’s how the landscape of the EPL has changed this summer.
Chelsea F.C. are the reigning EPL champions, but it’s still surprising that they haven’t spent much of last season’s prize money (a confirmed $154 million in TV rights alone). Yes, they’ve brought in Falcao, but the once prolific and recently maligned striker will undoubtedly start on Chelsea’s bench. Many will argue that the champions didn’t need to buy anybody since they won the league by eight points; but every team around them has gotten stronger. Much of Chelsea’s success will depend on the form (and health) of Eden Hazard, Diego Costa and Nemanja Matic.
There’s been a complete overhaul at Manchester United, but since they’re arguably the most famed club in English football, they’ve had the cash to do so. In the past two seasons, they’ve spent over $350 million. This summer they’ve bought Memphis Depay, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin and Matteo Darmian. There’s no doubt that United’s midfield will look starkly different from previous seasons. And with the departures of Robin Van Persie (and probably Angel Di María), Wayne Rooney will be the club’s number one striker. Their success will depend on how quickly the new team gels together.
Manchester City bought Raheem Sterling from Liverpool for a staggering $76 million, making him the most expensive English transfer ever. And it’s a huge risk. At just 20 years old, Sterling is undoubtedly a great talent with high potential; but over the past few seasons Manchester City has become notorious with spending big on English players with high potentials (Scott Sinclair, Jack Rodwell) — none of whom worked out. City finished disappointingly in second place last season, having won the league in 2014, and will have sky-high aims again this season. But they’ve sold two high-profile (albeit backup) strikers in Stevan Jovetic and Edin Dzeko, and will need Sergio Aguero to stay healthy.
Arsenal finally bought a bonafide goalkeeper. Petr Cech, the stalwart between Chelsea’s nets for the last 11 seasons, has switched London clubs and will now be the number one keeper at Arsenal. Arsenal fans are thrilled to have Cech, but most would’ve liked to see a world-class striker come instead. Many believe, pundits included, that if Arsenal had better striker options than Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck, they’d have several more trophies over the last few seasons.
Liverpool are a complete wildcard. The club finished sixth last season, after previously finishing in second, and need to finish in the top four. Manager Brendan Rodgers is entering his fourth season in charge, and if his team doesn’t start off hot, he’ll likely get the boot. His squad will look completely different from last season. Liverpool’s face for the last 17 years, captain Steven Gerrard, has moved to the MLS; and Raheem Sterling was sold for a huge chunk of change. To replace them, and Luis Suarez from the year before, they’ve bought two big money attackers in Christian Benteke and Roberto Firmino, and also brought in James Milner, Divock Origi, Nathaniel Clyne and Danny Ings. The bottom line: they need to gel quickly and get star striker Daniel Sturridge back healthy. This season, Liverpool could be surprisingly good — or merely average.
Tottenham need Harry Kane to play even better. Last season the striker was one of the league’s sensations, scoring 21 goals and nabbing the PFA Young Player of the Year award. But it was only enough to help Tottenham finish fifth. This season, Tottenham will start with much of the same squad they had last season — which is worrying. Yes, they bought defender Toby Alderweireld in the offseason to help last season’s woeful back line; but with most of their so-called “rivals” spending big this summer, Tottenham’s odds of qualifying for the Champions League are largely dependent on how well Kane plays. And luck.
What impact will the newly promoted teams have? Last season, Leicester City, Burnley and Queens Park Rangers (QPR) were all new to the league. And after 38 matches, Burley and QPR were relegated. Leicester City, on the other hand, were much more successful and finished above two perennial Premier League clubs: Newcastle United and Aston Villa. This 2015/16 season, the new teams are Bournemouth, Watford, and Norwich City. How well they will do is very much unknown; but if one had to guess, all three will clawing for points come next spring.
A Guide to European Soccer
Even though Major League Soccer is making waves in the soccer world, it still has a long way to go before it can catch the top European leagues. Here is a complete guide that will get you well on your way to being a European soccer fan. Click here to read this story.