There will probably never be a finale to the Premier League season like the one that transpired last term when that added time strike by Kun Aguero saw Manchester City topple neighbours and arch-rivals United to win the title.
Roberto Mancini’s side were so close to not justifying all the money thrown at the squad though, and who knows what would have transpired this summer had they not done the Houdini act. City have not made one signing ahead of the new season, despite overtures to various big-name players such as Robin van Persie, and so will try and repeat the feat with exactly the same squad.
Granted, their home form was impressive, with 23 out of 24 matches won, but they did lose five away games, and that is where they may come unstuck during the 2012/13 season as teams decide to attack the champions with a vengeance.
Manchester United ended up with the same points, and had a much better away record than City, having won no less than 13 times on the road. The Red Devils have only made one signing so far, that of Shinji Kagawa from Bundesliga winners Borussia Dortmund, but the influential midfielder is set to be a key player as he links up with Wayne Rooney, and that could be enough to ensure that United stay in the hunt for the title.
However, the team that could be a spoke in the wheels is Chelsea, who will kick-off the new season looking to improve on what for them was a poor finishing position of 6th in last season’s table. The fans had ample compensation of course in the shape of a Champions League-FA Cup double, but a third title success is the aim.
With that in mind, owner Roman Abramovitch has spent big, luring Eden Hazard from Lille, and the equally exciting Brazilian Oscar into the ranks. That sorts the midfield out, the defence is fine, with David Luiz finally getting his act together, and all that remains is the inclusion of a top striker with Didier Drogba gone, and Salomon Kalou shipped off to France.
The Blues already have one of course in Fernando Torres, and this is really a make-or-break season for the Spaniard. For Chelsea to have a real chance of bustling up the two Manchester side, it is he that needs to produce the goods in the way of at least 20 goals. If he does, it is game on, if not it is game over, as simple as that.
Chelsea should at the very least be good enough to qualify for the Champions League, but even that is not good enough for a side that knows what it is like to capture the title, having done so twice in recent times.
Of the rest, Arsenal have made three important signings, Lucas Podolski from Cologne, Olivier Giroud, whose goals helped Montpellier to the French League title, and Malaga winger Santi Cazorla, who could be a revelation this season. The Gunners make much more appeal than Spurs who, post Harry Rednapp, have some rebuilding to do, while Brendan Rogers at Liverpool has a pretty similar task as AVB at White Hart Lane.
Newcastle look set for another good season, and are certainly not the dark horses they were 12 months ago, but will have to do without star players such as Ba, Cisse and Tiote for at least some of the campaign due to African Nations Cup commitments. That should not stop their tilt at a Champions League place though, and they look set to battle it out with Arsenal for fourth spot at least.