Friday, August 17, 2012
Key question facing each EPL side
Under the radar as Britain immersed itself in that "happy and glorious" London Olympics, the English Premier League is suddenly back with us.
ESPN channels are carrying three games in the first five days of the new term, with Arsenal versus Sunderland on Saturday, Robin Van Persie's Manchester United debut at Everton on Monday and then a new-look Chelsea meeting promoted Reading on Wednesday.
Here's the key questions for each club:
ARSENAL: How do they replace Van Persie's 30 goals? Need new boys Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski to fire.
ASTON VILLA: Can new boss Paul Lambert energize and improve them the way he did at Norwich? Think he might.
CHELSEA: Can the expensive new arrivals Eden Hazard, Oscar and Marko Marin settle quickly enough to put them back in the title race?
EVERTON: With Nikica Jelavic up front as an instinctive scorer, can they continue the big improvement seen at the back end of last season? Could go very well.
FULHAM: Will they stay afloat if they lose key men Clint Dempsey and Moussa Dembele?
LIVERPOOL: Can Brendan Rodgers cut it at a big club with higher expectations? Anfield fans can expect sweet football and an improved showing.
MAN CITY: Do they have the hunger to retain their title? Even after a quiet summer they have the quality in depth to go very close again.
MAN UTD: Will the Van Persie signing tilt the title race their way? Always very dangerous in the season after losing their crown. Between them and City again.
NEWCASTLE: Was last season's 5th place finish a one-season wonder? Don't think so though Europa League travels make this campaign harder.
NORWICH: Can Chris Hughton get the same tune out of ex-journeyman pros as Paul Lambert? If not, it could be a struggle.
QPR: After last season's close shave, can competent Mark Hughes use investment to haul them up the league? Mid table possibly this time.
READING: Fantastic run to win promotion, but despite busy dealings in the market do they have the quality to stay up?
SOUTHAMPTON: Can Championship top scorer Rickie Lambert and talented Adam Lallana cut it in the big league? Will be a close run thing but the Saints might just stay up.
STOKE: A little disappointing last season but good enough to stay up again. Can they make the top half for the first time?
SUNDERLAND: Went off the boil last season after Martin O Neill's honeymoon period and lack goal power. Will it be a relegation scrap?
SWANSEA: Delighted audiences last season and Michael Laudrup will not change the approach. Have rivals got their number now?
TOTTENHAM: Can surprise choice AVB win over possibly unconvinced fickle Spurs fans? Can they keep Modric? Might be trouble ahead.
WEST BROM: A suspicion that Roy Hodgson got them punching above their weight. Can Steve Clark do the same in his first shot at being No 1? Not sure.
WEST HAM: Sam Allardyce is not everyone's favorite boss but he knows this league inside out. Might do surprisingly well.
WIGAN: Danger of losing coming talent Victor Moses. That would be big blow. Can Roberto Martinez defy gravity yet again? Probably.