It seems like only yesterday that my beloved Chelsea lifted the Premier League trophy at Stamford Bridge, the club’s 5th first division title. Season 2015/16 kicks off on the Saturday 8th August, following one of the shortest off-seasons in recent memory and is shaping up to be one of the most intriguing and competitive iterations. All of us who follow the competition will no doubt be most concerned with the fortunes of our own teams, but here are a few interesting subplots to follow throughout the campaign.
Will Arsenal finally make the leap into title contention?
The Gunners have flirted with a championship for a number of years but have failed to lift the league title since the famed “Invincibles” of 2004/05. The recent acquisition of Petr Cech, one of the world’s elite goalkeepers, from London rivals Chelsea, has had many an Arsenal supporter thinking it may finally be their year. For my mind they still require a top class central midfielder and striker to make the leap, but as we have seen in the past, Petr Cech can be the difference between collecting a runners-up medal and a winner’s medal.
What impact can Reheem Stirling have at Manchester City?
The dynamic winger has made himself public enemy number one on Merseyside following his £49 million move to City in early July. But doubts remain as to whether or not Stirling will even be first choice at the Etihad considering the wealth of attacking talent on display. Pellegrini employs a 4-4-2 formation that lacks Stirling’s favoured position as a right winger, with Jesus Navas currently occupying a deeper role on that side of midfield. So, can Stirling crack City’s first XI? And if so, will he replace Navas on the right or Dzeko/Jovetic up front? Taking into account Stirling’s inability to finish chances and Navas’ one dimensional style of play, I’m backing that he becomes the Manager’s preferred right midfielder.
How will the arrival of Dimitri Payet influence West Ham’s style of play?
Following a 0-0 draw between the Hammers and Chelsea two years ago, Jose Mourinho criticised Sam Allerdyce’s side for playing “19th Century football”. Quite ironically it must be said, considering Mourinho is the manager of the club that popularized the phrase “parking the bus”. The criticism was not without merit though and many West Ham supporters are growing tired of Big Sam’s cagey and defensive style. It may have ensured their survival in the top flight over recent seasons; however it’s hardly a recipe for climbing up the table. Little rays of sunshine once again penetrate the cloud cover over East London with the arrival of French playmaker Dimitri Payet from Olympique Marseille. The midfielder recorded 17 assists in 36 Ligue 1 appearances last term and completed more through balls than any top flight player not named Lionel Messi. It’s possible that Payet’s creative abilities will be stymied by Allerdyce’s footballing philosophy, nevertheless those who blow bubbles will be hoping Payet can unlock West Ham’s attacking potential.