Previewing the 2009/10 season, the Big 4 (Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United) should continue to occupy the top four places in the league table.
Manchester United won the Premiership last season by dominating the smaller clubs. United registered an 84% wins statistic against teams outside the Big 4. More significantly, Cristiano Ronaldo scored 17 of his 18 league goals against these clubs. United will have to look to Rooney, Berbatov or Owen to shoulder this loss of output and maintain this phenomenal dominance. For United to retain the title, they cannot afford to slip up against the clubs outside the top 4.
Losing Alonso, their best player last season, may have killed off Liverpool's chances of title no. 19. Signing the oft-injured but talented Alberto Aquilani is a gamble at best. So, like the last two seasons, Liverpool will rely heavily on the Gerrard-Torres partnership. Even in an injury-hit season as last season, the G-T tandem garnered 19 goals and five assists in 14 matches together, winning 100% of those games that they started together. That shows the effectiveness and potency of the best strike partnership in the Premiership. The fitness and physical conditioning of both players will be vital if Liverpool want to wrest back the Premiership from the champions.
Sadly though, my own opinion is that neither will capture the crown come May 2010 but instead Chelsea looks to be well-suited to be the pacesetters and eventually clinch the title. Much will depend on the Chelsea players settling into the diamond formation favoured by Carlo Ancelotti. Frank Lampard should have a great season playing in the "Kaka" role for Chelsea.
Being the season before the 2010 World Cup, there are plenty to play for...national team selection are up for grabs and the players know this is the ideal time to state a strong case for inclusion.
These are my five Must See's for the 2009/2010 Barclays English Premier League.
1. Manchester United's Michael Owen scoring goals eventually winning a place in the England World Cup team.
2. Liverpool's Alberto Aquilani playing on the pitch and staying injury-free.
3. West Ham United breaking into the top six and making it into the Europa League.
4. Manchester City's Mark Hughes sacked.
5. Arsenal's team of very talented kids winning the FA Cup.
Do you have a list of Must See's? What are you looking forward to this season? Let me know in the Comments section.
Though I will doubtlessly cover the travails of the Big 4 clubs, my special focus this season is on the trials and exploits of West Ham United and Gianfranco Zola's second season in club management. If you would like to read about West Ham for the coming season, then you may subscribe to The Flat Back Four RSS feed.
Find out more about the analysis behind the Gerrard-Torres partnership here.
Read the statistics on Manchester United and their dominance over the teams outside the Big 4.
A recap of the previous 2008/09 season can be found here.