EPL will be predictable

GARETH WHEELER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:18 PM ET

Winning the Community Shield hardly stands out among the numerous pieces of silverware Manchester United has collected in recent years. But a 3-1 win over the team that took its title last season is indeed a statement.

Manchester United is hungry to get back to the top of the English Premier League.

The new EPL season kicks off later this week, and United, along with Chelsea are the two clear-cut favourites heading into the new campaign.

Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti did a magnificent job with his collection of millionaires in his first year at Stanford Bridge. Year 2 will bring new challenges with basically the same roster.

For all the big spending and significant transfer movement associated with the EPL, this summer has been particularly quiet, even at Chelsea. Roman Abramovich’s team is notorious for bringing in whatever reinforcements are necessary, no matter the cost. But this summer, more players left than arrived. Yossi Benayoun is the most notable player coming in, with Brazilian midfielder Ramires soon to be putting pen to paper.

But still, the moves are relatively underwhelming for a team grown accustomed to making the big transfer market splash.

So, the fact Chelsea and its main EPL competition have been reluctant to spend in the transfer market shows a necessary move toward at least some fiscal responsibility.

Manchester City is really the only EPL side not to get the memo. But when you have Middle Eastern money propping up the club, it caters to spending on whichever player is the flavour of the week. But it’s premature to conclude that spending significant monies means success will follow.

There is something to be said about consistency. Chelsea and Manchester United both have that and thus are the crème de la crème of the EPL.

Perennial contenders Arsenal and Liverpool have done little to close the gap. Both spent more time this summer trying to keep their own players instead of buying others to improve. Neither team, however, is likely to stand pat before the transfer window closes at the end of the month.

For all the talent at Emirates Stadium, Arsene Wenger has failed to upgrade the Gunners’ biggest weakness: At goalkeeper. Incumbent Manuel Almunia is a nightmare and not the answer. All of Wenger’s summer efforts were concentrated on keeping Cesc Fabregas from joining Barcelona, and rightfully so. But not finding a suitable ’keeper is a massive failure.

If Fabregas was a headache in London, convincing Spanish teammate Fernando Torres to stay at Liverpool was also a chore. No doubt, it’s a coup for new Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson to keep his talisman. But an uncertain economic future and an all-too-slow defensive line doesn’t bode well for a team relegated to playing in the Europa League this season. And the attempt to bring Bayer Leverkusen defender Sami Hyypia back to the club is laughable.

Liverpool needed massive changes after last season’s disappointment and Hodgson’s arrival, along with the addition of Joe Cole, is hardly enough.

If any team is fit to dethrone the champs, it’s Manchester United.

Last season has to be considered a down year by United’s lofty standards. The void left by the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo was never going to be an easy pill to swallow, especially with the club failing to splash out the dollars to bring a high-profile replacement to Old Trafford.

Defending his owners against the anti-Glazer movement has been a dangerous game to play for the beloved Sir Alex Ferguson. But Ferguson’s ability to cultivate talent from within has lessened the blow of not bringing additional high-priced talent to the club.

You almost have to believe Sir Alex when he says he doesn’t see the sense of buying players whom he deems are over-valued and over-priced. Ferguson continues to buy young and affordable under the Glazer regime and it has paid off in solid squad depth and familiarity.

Ferguson was active in his recruitment of players in the spring rather than the summer, choosing not to get involved in the inflated prices as a result of World Cup performances. Sir Alex saved his employer millions while snuffing out other possible suitors by bringing Mexican striker, 22-year old Javier Hernandez to the club in April.

It seems Ferguson has another superior mix of veteran savvy and youthful exuberance on his current side to regain the title of EPL Champions.

gareth.wheeler@suntv.canoe.ca


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