After a long few weeks of no action to speak of, the EPL season is here, with matches kicking off this Saturday. Holy hell, I'm excited.
Nearly anyone would argue that there are really four teams fighting for the title this season: Chelsea, City, United and Arsenal. Some might include Liverpool, but I don't see them as legitimate contenders for the top spot. Same goes for Spurs.
With the season upon us, it's time for predictions. I'll be doing all of my predictions little by little this week, and there's one logical place to start.
Who will win the EPL this season?
Chelsea ready to repeat?
Even though I believe that they have the best squad up and down, I don't think Chelsea will win the title this season.
At the back, John Terry seems ageless and Gary Cahill is a great pair for him. Ivanovic is one of the most versatile players in the division, and Azpilicueta has proven himself time and time again. Not to mention, if you do manage to get past the solid back four, you've got to beat Thibaut Courtois, maybe the best goalkeeper in the world. The defense is sure to keep many clean sheets.
The skill in the midfield is undeniable. Fabregas dominated the league last season, finishing a league-best with 18 assists. Oscar is creative as can be, Matic is an absolute world-beater, and Hazard is, pretty clearly, the best player in the league. Not to mention William, Ramires and the forgotten Juan Cuadrado off the bench and deepening the squad.
However, that's where it ends. The problem lies up front. The striking force is just too thin. Even when he's playing, Diego Costa is often injured, and I don't trust deputies Loic Remy or Falcao. Maybe they sign another striker before the window closes, but if not, I don't think they have what it takes.
Another thing they have going for them is the evil genius Jose Mourinho, the best manager in the world. But I think Costa will be worn down by too many games - he's going to be needed in the Prem and in Champions League - and Remy and Falcao will fail to get enough goals to win the title.
City to rebound?
Sorry, but I don't think City have what it takes, either. In fact, I think they are the fourth best team in the Prem this season.
Joe Hart had a great season last year and I won't deny his quality. He's a top keeper. But the rest of the defense worries me. Zabaleta is aging and fell off in production last year. Kompany had a terrible season, and while I think he will bounce back, it won't be enough. Massive signing Eliaquim Mangala was a total failure last year and I don't see him getting all that much better. Clichy is older, too, and they don't trust Kolarov enough to start each match. The back four could struggle as they did last season.
In the midfield, we see more aging stars. Who knows what to expect of Yaya Toure? Losing James Milner was a huge blow, and I think City should have protected him more given how useful he has been. Fabian Delph is not good enough, and while I like Fernandinho and I love David Silva, the former is not influential enough and the latter may not be able to repeat his quality from the past three seasons. Navas and Nasri are not nearly consistent enough.
Agüero is the best striker in the division for me, but that's really it up front. Jovetic has taken off, and Dzeko looks set to leave any minute for Roma. Wilfried Bony is a solid striker, but I don't know how creative he is if the service doesn't come in. And new singing Raheem Sterling looks like a letdown for me. Maybe he'll be great in a few years, but I don't see him breaking into the team just yet.
There isn't enough consistent quality in this team to win the title. City will finish fourth.
Will he stay or will he go?
David de Gea's final landing place - either staying with United or moving on to Madrid - will greatly influence this season in the EPL. If he stays, I say United have a legit shot at the title.
The defense is shaky, yes, especially at center back. But the wing backs are beyond solid - Valencia, Blind, Shaw and the newboy Darmian - and could help this team a lot.
The midfield is full of similar players, but that's not necessarily a bad thing when you factor in their quality. Schneiderlin is a real monster, and if Schweinsteiger can stay healthy, he is going to be hugely influential. Marouane Fellaini showed glimpses at the end of last season and he looks like he could be ready to show his Everton quality. Mata is oustanding, and Ashley Young continues to prove me wrong with his performances.
They are a bit thin up front, but I think Rooney has more than enough to hold this force down. With youngster James Wilson (more on him in a coming card) ready in the wings and the potential for Chicharito to get a goal off the bench, plus the great service that will come from the midfield and wings, United should get plenty of goals.
If de Gea stays, United could make a real title challenge. And I think he will stay. That said, I don't see them winning it all, as the squad through and through isn't quite up to par.
Arsenal will win the 2015-16 EPL title
Yup, you heard me. The perennial runners-up, whose most recent title came in 2003-04 will break the streak this season and overcome the long odds to win the whole thing.
No one needs convincing that Petr Cech is a top, top keeper - he was an amazing singing. John Terry claimed that Cech alone would win Arsenal 12 points this season, and he might not be wrong. Laurent Koscielny is the best center-half in the Prem, bar none. Mertesacker is still great, if aging, and the fullbacks are excellent: Bellerin's fantastic pace will change games, and the combination of him, Debuchy, Monreal and Gibbs will keep everyone fresh and at their best.
The midfield is rivaled only by Chelsea in depth and talent. Ramsey, Ozil, Wilshire, Coquelin, Cazorla, Rosicky, Oxlade-Chamberlain... the list goes on. Each brings his own great qualities to contribute to the squad, and the sheer number of them means all will be fresh.
The strikers can be seen as weak, but with Alexis - who will finish in the top 3 for Player of the Year voting - and Walcott to provide service for Giroud, who I just believe in, they will get enough goals to support the midfield and stellar defense. Beyond Giroud there isn't much in the way of an out-and-out striker - Welbeck is a waste, for me - but both Alexis and Walcott can play centrally if needed.
Wenger has proven time and time again that he is a terrific manager of both the match and his players.
He will do enough this season to win a close title race.
Gunners fans, the wait is over: this is the year Wenger breaks the spell and takes the title.
Stay tuned for coming cards previewing the rest of the season, including the relegation battle and Player of the Year candidates.