After a summer of sport where England earned credit at the Euros before another penalty shoot-out defeat, this time to Italy, and the UK was gripped by the Olympics, which featured a Team GB football side, the Premier League returns this weekend.
Champions Manchester City took the title from arch rivals Manchester United in the most dramatic of fashions with an injury time winner from Sergio Aguero on the final day of the season. While City celebrated a first Premier League crown, there was heartbreak for supporters of Blackburn, Bolton and Wolves as they suffered relegation to the Championship.
Ahead of the new season Sky Sports expert Jamie Redknapp assesses the top-flight's twenty teams and gives his verdict on how their season will pan out. Read on for the first part of his Premier League preview, which includes sides from Arsenal to Norwich.
Arsenal (Last Season: 3rd)
I love watching Arsenal play and Arsene Wenger has done an incredible job, so I hope they have a good season, but I think he's got too much on his plate this time. The pressure is on them and this is the first time in a long time I've felt they might not finish in a Champions League place. There's nothing worse than uncertainty at a football club, but that's what's hanging over Arsenal at the moment. Robin van Persie almost single-handedly fired Arsenal into the top three last season and now their captain, their key player, has signed for Manchester United. It's made pre-season very difficult for Wenger, but this is happening every year at Arsenal now. They've seen Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri go and now Van Persie. You can't keep losing your best players every year but if you keep on letting players run down their contract until they've only got one year left this is what's going to happen. You need to get your key players on long-term contracts and if, with two or three years to go, they don't want to sign another one you have to give them an ultimatum.
Key player: New signing Santi Cazorla is a top player, a typical Arsenal player. He drifts in from wide areas and is a lovely player to watch. He was at Malaga and I'm really pleased he's come to the Premier League.
Jamie's Judgement: I think they'll be in a real scrap for fourth this season with Spurs, Newcastle and Liverpool. It's going to be hard for them this year and this could be the year they miss out.
Aston Villa (Last Season: 16th)
Aston Villa had a really tough season last year. It was always difficult for Alex McLeish after coming from Birmingham because the fans were against him before a ball had been kicked. It's always hard for players when the manager isn't liked and poor results made matters worse. However, there will be a better atmosphere in the stadium now with Paul Lambert in charge. He's a really bright young manager. I still think it will be a difficult season for him, though. Five or six years ago Aston Villa had James Milner, Gareth Barry, Ashley Young and Martin Laursen and were always up towards the top end of the league but now they're a mid-table team and the fans will have to accept that. They really need to get some players in. They've lost a lot of players in recent years and not replaced them with quality. You can keep changing your manager but in the end you need to look at the players on the pitch. Even with a new manager, they're not a better side than they were last year.
Key player: Darren Bent is going to be important for Villa. They need to get him fit and firing because he's their main source of goals. I'm also hoping Stylian Petrov can return to good health. They missed him last year.
Jamie's Judgement: I expect Lambert to have an instant impact at Villa Park and for them to get off to a good start but as the season goes on I think they'll drift down the league and finish roughly where they were last year, just below mid-table.
Chelsea (Last Season: 6th)
I like the look of Chelsea this year and think they'll be back in contention for the title. However, it's going to be difficult for Roberto Di Matteo because there's obviously a lot of pressure on his position. He wasn't confirmed as manager for a while after the end of the season and that makes me wonder if they really think he's the right man for the job. Only time will tell. The big difference for them this year is there is no Didier Drogba. For the last six or seven seasons they've always had a Plan B in the big Ivorian. In cup finals and big games he'd always get on the score sheet. Now they will need to play more patiently and less direct. I think the owner wants Chelsea to play fluent, lovely football like Barcelona but it's not easy to change your formation and style quickly. In an ideal world, yes everybody wants to play like Barcelona but just buying little, technical footballers doesn't mean you'll start playing like them. It seems they're trying to sign every number 10 in the world. They've brought in Marko Marin, Eden Hazard and Oscar and they can't all play, especially when you look at the players that are already there. Chelsea have been built on a solid defence with the ability to score goals from midfield through players like Frank Lampard.
Key man: I like the look of Eden Hazard. He may find it hard at first but he could be their star performer. However, they'll also need Fernando Torres to fire. He needs to step up and fill the role left by Drogba - but hey, that's how it is when you cost £50m.
Jamie's Judgement: It's vital Chelsea start well or else the pressure will really be on Di Matteo, but they have players like Ramires and Frank Lampard who can produce big performances and I think they'll be up there.
Everton (Last Season: 7th)
David Moyes is amazing and I was surprised that Tottenham didn't go for him after they sacked my dad. They lost Tim Cahill this summer and it seems they're after Clint Dempsey, who would be an ideal replacement capable of scoring the goals Cahill scored for so many years at the club. They've also sold Jack Rodwell to Manchester City which will free up some funds for them to bring in a couple of players. I like Rodwell but he's yet to fulfil his potential and I imagine Everton thought £15m was good value for him. He could go on and be a regular for England but at the moment he hasn't broken through and they've decided to take the money while they can. Meanwhile, players like Marouane Fellaini and Leon Osman have continued to improve and I'd also like to see some of their youngsters come through, such as Ross Barkley.
Key man: Nikica Jelavic. He was a shrewd purchase in January and they'll need him to keep on finding the net like he did in the second half of last season. There were a lot of clubs in for him but not sure whether he'd make it. But Everton took the plunge and it paid dividends. He, along with Papiss Cisse at Newcastle, dispelled the myth that players struggle to adapt when they come into the Premier League in January.
Jamie's Judgement: They had a great season last year and I think they'd like to achieve that again. I can see them finishing in upper mid-table and if they can make the top eight it would be a good season.
Fulham (Last Season: 9th)
It's interesting times at Craven Cottage. I thought they were going to snap up the Russian striker Pavel Pogrebnyak who scored six in 12 for them when he was on loan last season. However, they decided not to take him on and instead he went to Reading. Maybe they weren't sure whether he'd score regularly throughout the season and perhaps Martin Jol feels he has enough in his ranks to compete without him. However, if Clint Dempsey goes - and I feel he will - that will be a big loss for them. He's been a real star player for them over the last couple of seasons, scoring important goals from midfield or playing just behind the striker. His 10 goals from midfield were worth their weight in gold and he'll be hard to replace.
Key man: Bryan Ruiz showed glimpses of what he could do last season. He's got a nice left foot and with a full pre-season at the club under his belt, hopefully he can produce the goods week-in, week-out. Fulham will be looking to him to perform, especially if they do lose Dempsey.
Jamie's Judgement: Mid-table would be a success for Fulham again this season. I expect them to finish there and I don't think anyone should expect anything else from them. They'll be at a similar level to where they were last year. Martin Jol is a decent manager and I think he will keep them away from trouble.
Liverpool (Last Season: 8th)
It's a question of time for Brendan Rodgers. I think he is the right man - he talks the talk, he's making the right noises and has got everything going for him. However, to implement the style of football that he wants he will need time. Liverpool have had great teams in the past, but under Rafa Benitez, Roy Hodgson and Gerard Houllier, they haven't been great to watch, even though it was winning football at times. They were unlucky under Kenny Dalglish at times last year, but they need more goals from midfield and more from the forwards. They've brought in Joe Allen and I like him a lot. He's a modern midfield player who doesn't necessarily tackle hard but intercepts and breaks up play. He also reads the game well, can turn defence into attack very quickly and is a good passer of the ball, rarely giving it away. He knows Rodgers from his time at Swansea so knows what he expects from him. With Allen, Lucas Leiva and Steven Gerrard, Liverpool look to have a strong midfield with a bit of everything in it this year.
Key man: Luis Suarez didn't score enough goals last season and I'm not sure he's a natural finisher. He got himself in great positions last season, but Robbie Fowler or Michael Owen would have scored 20 or 30 goals from those opportunities, whereas he got 11. He causes havoc when he gets in the box and wriggles past people - now he needs to find the net more regularly.
Jamie's Judgement: Liverpool have to close the gap on the top four this season. Seventeen points off fourth was far too much last year. The board and fans will want to see progression and a style of football everyone appreciates. Rodgers will deliver that.
Manchester City (Last Season: 1st)
When Liverpool were winning everything in the 1980s and Man United were dominant in the 1990s the key was to never stand still. Roberto Mancini must follow that blueprint and I expect some more signings before the transfer window closes. However, Mancini has been frustrated that the club haven't got the people he wanted in. That grates a little with me, considering the players he's got in his squad. He's not got too much to complain about. But it is good to keep players on their toes. They had an amazing season last year, despite almost blowing it at the end, and looked sharp in the Community Shield last weekend.
Key man: Yaya Toure is a very important player for them and it will be crucial they keep the likes of him and Sergio Aguero fit. Then there's the brilliant Vincent Kompany and Joe Hart is the best goalkeeper in the league.
Jamie's Judgement: I liked the look of them in the Community Shield and I'm convinced they'll be right up there again this season. Anyone who finishes above them will win the title.
Manchester United (Last Season: 2nd)
United should have won the title last season, there's no doubt about that. To lose at Wigan and throw away a lead at home to Everton was really poor. They will still be kicking themselves because they threw it away. They went out in the first phase of the Champions League, didn't win any of the cups and got pipped in the league and that's not good enough for a club of Man United's stature. However, those setbacks will make them even more determined this year. Importantly they've got Nemanja Vidic back for the start of the season - they really missed their captain in the final weeks - and Tom Cleverley is fit again too. They've also bought Robin van Persie, which is a fantastic signing for them. Van Persie and Wayne Rooney will forge an incredible partnership. However, they still haven't properly addressed one key area and that's the midfield. They've got Shinji Kagawa who will be a brilliant signing for them - if you haven't seen him then take a look at some clips on YouTube because he has amazing ability and will do a great job for them - but they need someone in the centre. They haven't strengthened for a while and came unstuck there last year and in the end had to bring Paul Scholes out of retirement.
Key man: Wayne Rooney had a disappointing Euro 2012 with England but he's still United's star man. He'll be decisive for them.
Jamie's Judgement: I like the way United are shaping up, despite some concerns about their midfield, and I expect them to push Man City all the way again this season. It will be very interesting to see how Van Persie connects with Rooney.
Newcastle United (Last Season: 5th)
I was really pleased to see Newcastle have such a good campaign last year. I love going up there to watch them because there's such a good atmosphere and it's nice to see them being successful once again. At the start of the year I wrote them off completely. I didn't think they'd be anywhere near the top four last year but when you look at their team more closely you think 'you know what, they've got a team there'. People like Yohan Cabaye, Papiss Cisse, Demba Ba, Hatem Ben Arfa...they're a strong team. I understand they're now trying to sign Mathieu Debuchy, who was good for France at the Euros, and they could do with a right back. Perhaps they lack a little strength in depth but I was really impressed with them last season and I think they'll be competing again this year.
Key man: Papiss Cisse. A lot will fall on him. If he can do what he did last year then they can have another good season. The big question for Newcastle is can he do it again or was there an element of luck in his sensational goal scoring form last season?
Jamie's Judgement: I expect them to do well again and definitely be pushing into the top six and maybe challenge for a Champions League spot. Their goal-scoring was like a relay race with Demba Ba dominating the first half of the season and Cisse in the second half. If they can produce those performances again then who knows what might happen?
Norwich (Last Season: 12th)
I worked with Chris Hughton at Tottenham and he's a good coach and a really nice guy. He did a really good job at Newcastle but this is a tough test for him. They did brilliantly last year under Paul Lambert, but it's always more difficult second time round. I don't know why the second season syndrome happens - players perhaps rest on their laurels, maybe thinking they've made it after all the hard work they put in in their first year in the Premier League. They also don't have that same adrenaline rush going into games, which they had before. But it's up to the players to maintain last season's high standards. They've signed a good centre half in Michael Turner, which will help. He's had a few injuries but he's a good competitor and that's what they needed. They had a lot of young centre halves playing last season and he'll bring some much-needed top-flight experience.
Key player: Grant Holt is so important for them. He had a great season last year and needs to score the goals to keep them up. It's all going to rest on his shoulders and he needs to cope with the pressure.
Jamie's Judgement: I think this is going to be a tough, tough season for Norwich. It'll be touch and go right until the end of the season and it could be a final day of the season must-win survival job for them.
Check back later in the week when Jamie will take a look at the other 10 contenders in this season's Premier League...
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Robert Hull (Arsenal fan) says...
Arsenal to not finish in the top four, where have I heard that before?! Oh yeah, the past 7 or 8 seasons!
Posted 19:25 15th August 2012
Zaheer M (Arsenal fan) says...
I agree that key players are leaving Arsenal every season and this year it's RVP however we are in a better position than last year when Cesc and Nasri left and the last day shopping spree. During the start of the last season nobody predicted that RVP would come so good for the season or even that he would complete the season injury free bit he did and with flamboyance. I'm confident that the team this season is more than capable to challenge for major honours so I would defy Jamie's prediction on Arsenal this season. Bring it on!
Posted 19:24 15th August 2012
Joe Avfc (Aston Villa fan) says...
Good read Jamie but I think that Villa actually have bought some quality into the team. I think Brett Holman got Australian footballer of the year last season and Karim El Ahmadi, Matthew Lowton and Ron Vlaar all look decent players for a cheap sum which if you look is far better value than Martin O'Neill spending millions on championship quality, for example Habib Beye. Newcastle had the same policy last year and look where they ended up. Would like to see more players arrive at Villa to ensure a strong season. UTV!
Posted 19:19 15th August 2012
Harry Taylor (Arsenal fan) says...
Every year for since Henry left everyone has been saying that Arsenal aren't going to finish in the top year but every year Arsenal have proved people wrong. Same is going to happen this year. FACT!
Posted 19:05 15th August 2012
Dan Davis (Arsenal fan) says...
I dont get it. Arsenal finished 3rd last season and have strengthened better than most around them, yet people keep saying they are going to struggle more this season?? Even if van persie goes, it doesnt compare to losing Cesc and Nasri, as VP too injury prone. Say we keep him and he gets injured, we wouldnt do any better just because we kept him. Its ludicrous that people always have to jump on the bandwagon slating arsenal, other teams dream of being like us. When Arsenal prove you all wrong, ill be sat with a smile on my face because whether VP stays or goes we will do well this season. One man doesnt make a team.
Posted 19:00 15th August 2012
Omgbolo Dowell (Chelsea fan) says...
English premier league could be an interesting league to watch this season because many clubs are eager to join top four if not to win the title.
Posted 17:59 15th August 2012
David Barrett (Arsenal fan) says...
I don't see how you can say Arsenal will struggle for fourth, the squad (with or without RVP) is much stronger than last season and you have to account for Spurs losing their best player too!
Posted 17:57 15th August 2012
Mad dog Mulcahy (Tottenham Hotspur fan) says...
A useful analysis and I've always been a fan of the author but I can't see Spurs challenging for 4th without Adebayor leading the line. I'm holding off my top six bet until 31st. That said I'm glad Huddlestone is slowly making his way back - watched some old footage with him playing behind Berbatov and Keane and was reminded of how good he could be if 100%. COYS
Posted 17:39 15th August 2012
Amerjeet Assi (Arsenal fan) says...
I disagree with your comments on Arsenal Jamie. I think with our without Robin Van Persie Arsenal will be right up there challenging for the title. Unlike last season we've done our business early and that will help us going into the season.
Posted 17:27 15th August 2012
Harry Makawa (Arsenal fan) says...
Jamie stop looking through your pundit eyes and wake up mate, arsenal will win the EPL this year, just because they haven't spent 40 million on one player does not mean they don't have a team to compete, look around the squad and you will realise arsenal now have competition in every position, there are no kids in the team:, this team is ready now not tomorrow, with or without Rvp:. Diaby, podolski, Carzola,giroud,arteta,gervinho, Ox, Walcott , Rosicky, Wilshere, Ramsey, need I go on anymore: not even chelsea and united have a squad like that, spurs are in transition again, Liverpool have a new manager and new castles have not added significantly and that only lives out Man City:, and yes they are favourites and that's not a lie but they have to defend the title and trust me that will not be easy:, this is the EPL so let's live the arsenal bashing out and start talking real football not fantasy make belief from your red and spurs eyes:. Work up Jamie and do your home work before you write nonsense:,
Posted 17:26 15th August 2012
Nick Smith (Arsenal fan) says...
I think this season is going to be even more crazy than the last. Chelsea with no Drogba and new players to intergrate, Spurs - good squad but nobody's really sure how the'll do.. could go either way. Utd never to be underestimated but think their the most vunerable the've ever been this year. Don't agree with the Ars prediction, i see them doing well with or without RVP. Confidence is massive in this game and i think if they get on a good run the'l be dangerous - much more so than people think.
Posted 17:15 15th August 2012
Jack M (Manchester City fan) says...
Hope for Norwich's sake that they do not need anything from their last match. It is against their biggest bogey team who might need something too - Man City.
Posted 17:03 15th August 2012
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