Banish those post-Olympic blues; the Premier League is back. Sergio Aguero’s last gasp heroics at the City of Manchester Stadium will forever be etched in top flight folklore but at the weekend it all counts for nothing as the 2012/13 season gets underway in earnest.
The European Championship and a number of high-profile transfers has whetted the appetite over the summer, with Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal (albeit before losing Robin van Persie) all having made significant captures as they look to close the gap on Roberto Mancini’s champions. For Tottenham and Liverpool it’s a case of stepping into the unknown as Andre Villas-Boas and Brendan Rodgers usher in new eras at White Hart Lane and Anfield respectively.
Aston Villa, Norwich, West Brom and Swansea also welcome new bosses into the dugout, while Newcastle have been able to keep hold of all of their top players as they look to build on a thrilling past campaign.
Elsewhere, new boys Reading, Southampton and West Ham will bid to continue a welcome trend of recent seasons that has seen promoted clubs hold their own with the big boys.
Everton and Fulham will look to kick-on in that understated and dignified way they have made their own over the past few campaigns, with Sunderland and Stoke City looking to make improvements on less than spectacular past terms despite only modest investment.
Our comprehensive club-by-club guides look back at what has transpired over the pre-season and, more importantly, forwards ahead of what should be another thrilling nine months of top class football.
Arsenal: The future of captain Robin van Persie has dominated the headlines as the Dutchman closes on his move to Manchester United, but Arsene Wenger will not deviate from his chosen path regardless of which players he has at his disposal when the transfer window closes. Click here for full preview
Aston Villa: Paul Lambert faces a huge challenge to revive fortunes at Villa Park but there is a sense he could be the perfect man for the job. Fans will have been using the summer to recuperate after a traumatic 2011/12. Villa narrowly avoided relegation last season and it was a campaign to forget. It can only get better, can’t it? Click here for full preview
Chelsea: Upon having his dream of winning a European Cup realised last season, Roman Abramovich was always going to go one of two ways. Thankfully for Chelsea fans his appetite has been whetted rather than sated, which would explain a lavish pre-season of spending in terms of the relative austerity of the past few summers. It’s going to be a big season for Roberto Di Matteo, Fernando Torres et al… Click here for full preview
Everton: Again many Evertonians are worried as this stage of pre-season, few arrivals and more departures at Goodison Park. Tim Cahill and Jack Rodwell have departed, but Steven Pienaar has finalised a permanent move and along with Steven Naismith’s arrival gives grounds for optimism. Hope is still high that the club can mount a top-six bid. Click here for full preview
Fulham: Fulham should reflect with pride on their first season under Martin Jol, having secured a top-half finish and developed greater consistency as the campaign unfolded after a tough early start in the Europa League qualifying rounds. It would still be quite an accomplishment to improve on ninth place over the next 12 months but the Cottagers will be striving to push on and cause a few surprises. Click here for full preview
Liverpool: It is the start of a new era at Anfield with Brendan Rodgers brought in to replace Kenny Dalglish. Liverpool excelled in cup competitions last season, but failed to hit the heights in the Premier League. Rodgers faces a huge challenge to transform the club’s fortunes and get across his style of playing to the players. Click here for full preview
Man City: At Manchester City, Roberto Mancini has endured a frustrating summer as he looks to rejig his title-winning squad. While the coach is keen to bring in more big names, it could prove a blessing that there will be no massive overhaul of the squad. With captain Vincent Kompany at the fore, City finally appear to have forged a team spirit that can help them to further honours. Clickhere for full preview
Man United: Manchester United will have spent the summer licking their wounds after losing out on the title on goal difference in the last minute to Manchester City. For an apparently ‘average’ United side to go so close will surely give them heart in the quest to regain their crown and there has been an upbeat vibe in pre-season. A 20th title will be expected and a vastly improved Champions League showing will be demanded. Click here for full preview
Newcastle: That Newcastle were on the final day of the last campaign disappointed not to have qualified for the UEFA Champions League says it all. They have taken all the plaudits, criticism of club owner Mike Ashley has subsided and pre-season planning is for a top-four place. It should be an exciting season on Tyneside. Click here for full preview
Norwich: Paul Lambert’s departure from Carrow Road in June came as a bitter blow to Norwich City fans, however new boss Chris Hughton has seamlessly gone about stamping his own mark on the club, whose sole goal will once again be to beat the drop. The Canaries have struggled for goals in pre-season and Hughton has shaped the team up to be less cavalier than they were under Lambert. Clickhere for full preview
QPR: QPR clung onto their Premier League status by the skin of their teeth last season and will be in no hurry to become embroiled in another relegation scrap. An unforgettable final day of the campaign saw the Hoops defeated by champions Manchester City but the players’ confidence will have been lifted in pre-season by their unbeaten record after a successful tour of Asia, while the club have stated their intent for the new term with a raft of new arrivals. Click here for full preview
Reading: Last season could not have gone much better, with a remarkable run over the second half of the campaign taking Reading to the Championship title. Additions were always going to be required. Proven Premier League performers have been drafted in and Brian McDermott has moved quickly to bolster his ranks. Consolidation will be the aim in 2012/13, but the exploits of Norwich and Swansea last term have offered hope to all promoted clubs. Click here for full preview
Stoke: Stoke’s 14th-placed finish last season was their worst since they were promoted to the Premier League, although their Europa League campaign was a mitigating factor. Tony Pulis will be expected to deliver a top-half finish this season, but it was made clear to him by chairman Peter Coates that players must leave before new ones arrive. Click here for full preview.
Southampton: Back-to-back promotions have returned Southampton to the big time after a seven-year absence. A founder member of the Premier League, the Saints will feel that they are back where they belong and ready to put a tumble into League One firmly to the back of their mind. New arrivals have been thin on the ground, but there is not too much wrong with a side that boasts a strong spine and goals aplenty. Click here for full preview
Sunderland: Sunderland’s Premier League season ended with a whimper as they failed to win any of their last eight games of the campaign. Nonetheless, Black Cats on Wearside remain optimistic – aware that Martin O’Neill hauled the team away from a relegation battle when he took over in December. Clickhere for full preview
Swansea: One of the surprise packages of the top-flight last season, Swansea will be hoping to carry the momentum from their remarkable maiden Premier League campaign into the new term. The summer has brought a change of manager to the club, as they approach the impending season with an expectation on their shoulders not just to survive on their second year in top tier, but to impress. Clickhere for full preview
Tottenham: It has not just been the change of manager keeping Spurs in the news this summer, with a couple of lengthy transfer sagas meaning that fans have had little time to relax. A deal for highly-rated Belgian defender Jan Vertonghen was eventually finalised, paving the way for Ledley King to hang up his boots, while Gylfi Sigurdsson has also arrived after an impressive spell on loan at Swansea. However, the subject of Luka Modric’s future has again threatened to disrupt focus. Click here for full preview
West Brom: It has been a few months of change, with Roy Hodgson having left at the end of last season to take over England and Steve Clarke arriving as head coach. West Brom fans could still be on a high after an excellent top-half finish last season and now it will be a question of what next. Can the Baggies improve on the top 10? Click here for full preview
West Ham: Pre-season results have not been encouraging, and perhaps Modibo Maiga aside, none of the signings so far will set pulses racing – but West Ham fans will fancy their team can bed back into the Premier League during a relatively kind fixture schedule early on. Many bubbles of optimism, but they’re understandably fragile. Click here for full preview
Wigan: Dave Whelan once again fended off the interest of Premier League rivals to retain the services of manager Roberto Martinez, with the Spaniard staying put at the DW Stadium despite links to Liverpool and Tottenham. The Latics produced another great escape last season, with memorable victories during their run-in seeing them climb away from danger. Can they do better this term?