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Premier League promises excitement

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Warren Barton

Warren Barton draws on 16 years of professional soccer experience as a studio analyst for FOX Soccer. With more than 350 Barclays Premier League appearances, Barton starred for Wimbledon before rising to prominence with Newcastle United and the England national team. Follow him on Twitter.

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If Sunday’s Community Shield match is any indication of what lies ahead for us this season, I think we are in for a real treat. What we saw in Birmingham were two teams that should be forces to be reckoned with in the Premier League this upcoming season.

This is a great time to be around soccer – there is a real sense of excitement after the terrific summer we had, with the US women winning gold and Mexico beating Brazil to do the same — and that we got to see a really competitive, pride-filled contest at Villa Park has really convinced me that we are in for a magnificent run.

Before we get into specifics, I want to say that I think anyone who wins the Premier League this season is really going to have earned it. Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal lost a lot of games and I don’t see that happening this season. This is going to be a much tighter season with a lot of pressure coming from the middle of the table and I would not count anyone out.

After Sunday’s result, Manchester City have to be considered the benchmark. It’s funny how Roberto Mancini comes out and says that he needs some money to spend, which is not what we think of when City comes to mind.

When you look at the greats in this game – in fact, across all team sports – the best teams do not stay content after winning a title and always refresh their roster up. City’s problem is that whenever they pick up the phone and enquire about someone, a couple extra zeros get added to the price tag. Rest assured, Brian Marwood will do an excellent job. I think he realizes that City have to be like Chelsea and PSG and spend big if you want to stay on top. They got Jack Rodwell on Sunday and I think they will pick up Liverpool’s Daniel Agger as well.

Chelsea have opened their wallets this summer. The Blues have added some good players in Eden Hazard and Oscar, building off last year’s magnificent Champions League title. Hazard needs time to settle in, but he will. I also think Roberto Di Matteo is the right man there. They are going to be a tougher team in the league this season – I have no doubts about that.

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That freshness is even more important when you lose the title, which is why Manchester United really needed a wakeup. United have always gone out and made that impact signing — Sir Alex Ferguson reaching for the Wayne Rooney’s, Rio Ferdinand’s and Cristiano Ronaldo’s of the world – but not so far this season. I think right now he’s got his eye on Robin van Persie, and if they can get him, that’s a statement. I think what we saw in preseason, particularly against Barcelona, was that United really needs a little of that sparkle and a big name like van Persie.

The year I was at Newcastle when we lost the title, the club brought it Alan Shearer. I can tell you that was a wake up in the lockeroom. All of a sudden, we were looking around and feeling that we could compete, that the club was behind us – and that the other clubs were going to have to pay attention to us. These big signings don’t just get the fans fired up – they get the players excited as well.

Now, what happens if United do get RvP? What does that do to Arsenal?

With or without van Persie, the Gunners will still be a better team this year than last. Arsenal have also added talented players this summer. While I don’t think they are going to win the league, they can compete against anyone on any given day. They are not going to lose as many games as last season and people have to pay attention to them.

My old team should make some waves, too. Newcastle was strong enough to hold on to Demba Ba and the question there is how much does the Europa League affect them. They are not a deep squad, and the European competition could take something out of my former club. The team people are underestimating, however, is Liverpool. With the addition of Joe Allen, Liverpool will surely be a top four team in the Premier League.

The most interesting team to watch is Tottenham. Like it or not, Andre Villas-Boas has a lot to prove in a short amount of time. If he starts there as he did across town at Stamford Bridge, it will very difficult at White Hart Lane.

The other teams I’m eyeing this year are Everton, Aston Villa and Sunderland – they will be there and they will push the leaders all year long.

I want to close by offering my congratulations to both the USA women’s team and to the Mexican national team. I think those wins are magnificent for soccer in America and Mexico. Let’s not forget, there are a lot of fans of Mexico right here in the USA and I think competition makes all soccer here that much better.

As always, I hope you join me next weekend right here on FOX Soccer for the season kickoff. You can follow me on Twitter at @warrenbarton2 and ask a question of me anytime here or at @FOXSoccer. I’ll answer the best ones each week.

Thanks for reading and hope that you enjoy the new Barclays Premier League season.

Former England international Warren Barton is the lead analyst for FOX Soccer Match Day, Goals on Sunday, and UEFA Champions League coverage.

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