Who are next season's title favourites?

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Jenny Leigh takes an early look at the chances of Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal amid an already transitional transfer window.

With all the moving and shaking happening over the summer, who are actually the favourites to win the Premier League next term?

Manchester United

Obviously, the title-winners from this season will present another strong challenge next term. However, after the retirement of manager Sir Alex Ferguson who will be replaced by Everton boss David Moyes, the champions will go through a period of transition inevitably.

They still have Robin van Persie who has been the league’s top goal scorer for the past two seasons but Wayne Rooney’s future is currently shrouded in doubt after he handed in a transfer request earlier this month.

The Red Devils ran away with the title this year – they notched up 89 points and finished 11 points clear of runners up and previous title-holders Manchester City.

The loss of Ferguson will undoubtedly have a huge impact on United next season as a new era is phased in under Moyes. It’s also important to note that Ferguson’s record of title wins brought bags of experience into play, which Moyes does not have.

The junior of the two Scotsmen has never won a trophy at al, despite being regarded as one of the best British bosses in the game. That lack of experience may prove crucial next term, especially with the other changes in personnel going on at rival clubs.

Manchester City

On the subject of personnel changes, Manchester City’s sacking of Roberto Mancini and the likely replacement by Malaga boss Manuel Pellegrini will likely mean City will present a much stronger title challenge in 2013/14.

Pellegrini is one of the most well respected managers on the continent and has wealth of experience at the highest level. He had a win percentage at Real Madrid of 75%, which, couple with the talent in the ranks at City, could be explosive.

City have money to spend this summer and, whilst I doubt there’ll be a complete overhaul, there will be changes – and at least a couple of marquee signings. Whether Radamel Falcao, Edinson Cavani or someone else, City will be improved over the summer and the boost of a new boss looking to impress from the offset will make them genuine title contenders.

Chelsea

Meanwhile, Chelsea finished out the season with a Europa League title under interim boss Rafael Benitez. However, the immense quality the Blues have in their ranks should have competed much more seriously for the Premier League, domestic cups and Champions League this term.

Speculation that Jose Mourinho could return to Stamford Bridge persists and, should the Blues get the most successful manager in their history back at the helm, they may well be unstoppable.

Chelsea have been chasing Radamel Falcao for months and I suspect if Mourinho comes, so will the Colombian goal machine. One thing’s for sure, Chelsea will have a world-class 20-plus goals a season striker next term – exactly what they’ve missed this term since the departure of Didier Drogba.

Juan Mata has been simply outstanding, along with impressive debutantes in Eden Hazard and Oscar who have adapted to the English game remarkably well and will be even better next term.

Chelsea could even recall Romelu Lukaku back to the club as and, after the season he’s had a West Brom, he could play an important part next season at the Bridge.

They also have the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Lucas Piazon on loan if they wanted to add even more quality and depth to their squad. It’s hard to see the Blues not mounting a serious challenge next term, either with or without Mourinho.

Arsenal

The Gunners status as also-rans in the Premier League has becoming something of a running joke over the last decade.

The last time Arsenal won the tile was back in 2003/04 and the fans discontent with their transfer policy will likely force the board and the manager’s hand this summer.

Arsene Wenger will be dipping into his pocket this summer and if the reports of a £70 million ‘kitty’ are to be believed, Arsenal could improve their squad immensely this summer.

The North Londoners will also stand to benefit from the managerial changes going on above them – they will likely be the only team with the same manager next term and Wenger’s 17 years in charge may prove to be a decisive factor in the top four.

They will bring in a world-class striker, most likely to be Stevan Jovetic, along with young Frenchman Yaya Sanogo who can add extra firepower up front. The Gunners finished out the season well – they were the most successful in terms of results in 2013 and if they continue in the same vein of form from the offset next term, they could present more of threat to the Manchester sides.

However, it’s hard to see Arsenal fixing all their problems in just one summer – they still need to bring in more than £70 million worth of quality star players to compete with the teams above them.

If they can show the defensive solidity they have in 2013 all season that will improve their title chances immensely compared to previous seasons and if they can go into next season with the consistency of 2013 they could present more of a threat but the spending power of their rivals will likely eclipse them once again.

If I were a betting woman, my money would be on Chelsea – on the condition they get Mourinho back at the Bridge, the ridiculous amount of quality and experience in their squad, and the young starlets eager to impress I think they could blow United and City out of the race next term.

It’s hard to see United continuing with the same intensity without Ferguson and I think Van Persie may not have the edge he has enjoyed for two injury-free seasons at 30 years of age.

Their other retiring legends will be sorely missed, not just on the pitch but in the dressing room too and I think the noisy neighbours will be far more focused and determined next term, especially if they get Pellegrini.

I’m betting on a Mourinho return, a Chelsea title win and United to be the surprise strugglers – City to finish above United and Arsenal to be the also-rans once again but overall I’m expecting it to be a much closer race next season with just a few points separating the top four teams. I can't imagine anyone running away with it like United did this term.

images: © edwin.11, © Free-ers

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