The thrilling end to last season’s championship race represented one of the closest finishes ever in Premiership history, but this certainly does not automatically mean that next season will go right to the wire in the same way. It is unlikely that any team will win the league easily, because there are too many good teams for that to happen, but it is perhaps equally unlikely that it will go to the final minutes of the final day again: such finishes are very rare.
City have to be considered hot favourites to retain their title, as they have now overcome the psychological barrier of winning that first title, and they will undoubtedly strengthen their squad again this summer. Offering a glimmer of hope to the other sides is the possibility that they may find themselves distracted by the Champions League – which Mancini is believed to be planning a real assault on this year – while the many combustible egos in their squad could also have a derailing effect.
They will be desperate to regain the title from City, and this is likely to be prioritised ahead of the Champions League, but the flaws in defence and midfield mean the squad badly needs to be strengthened. They still seem the likeliest bet to push City close for the title, but look weaker in key areas.
Chelsea will go into the new season on a high, having claimed two trophies – including the long-desired Champions League – from a season which appeared to be heading for disaster at one point. It should be remembered that they finished fifth in the league though, and it is a big leap from there to first. A serious challenge depends on too many questionable factors – Fernando Torres coming good, Eden Hazard settling quickly, Roberto Di Matteo proving a success – that they would not be a favoured bet for many.