THE BLOG

Finally the Football's Back - But Will the Summer of 2013 Be Remembered as the Summer of Discontent?

18/08/2013 21:39 BST | Updated 16/10/2013 10:12 BST

Finally the football's back. It's been nice to get the chance to watch other sports while we twiddle our thumbs reading the transfer gossip. It's been rather refreshing basking in the glory of British sportsmen actually doing well. We saw a Scot hit a ball successfully over a net, an African-born Brit speed up and down hills in France on two wheels, a group of men bash a ball fairly well against a group of Aussie chumps and another African-born migrant run really quickly round a track in Moscow.

But enough of watching British sportsmen doing well and back to enjoying the bread and butter of foreign footballers outperforming our home-grown, over-paid, misbehaving 'stars'. And this season we've got rivers full of foreign talent flooding the Premier League. From Ricky van Wolfswinkel, to Victor Wanyama, to Wilfried Bony, we're going to be treated to a feast of wacky foreign names this season.

And what a year it's promising to be. I know we say this every year but this year is different (apart from Arsenal failing to spend any money, of course). The top three clubs have changed their manager, with the 'Special One' returning to Chelsea, a Chilean's taken over at Man City and we have the fascinating prospect of a new manager at Old Trafford for the first time in 27 years.

Outside the top three, we welcome back other entertaining personalities such as Joe Kinnear as director of football at Newcastle and Ian Holloway at Crystal Palace. On the flip side, however, we also welcome back football's dullest characters - Mark Hughes leading the way as Stoke's new boss, closely followed by the grumpy Nicolas Anelka at West Brom.

We've seen Premier League clubs splash their cash mainly on imports this summer. Manchester City have spent £87 million on four established Champions League players. But at the same time, they're not the Cavanis, Falcaos and Bales of this world that the other top European teams have been fighting for all summer. The blue half of Manchester have gone about their business fairly quietly and bought efficiently and sensibly while the rest of us got distracted by Suarez's latest change of mind. They resisted the lure of buying a galactico-style player and having ridded themselves of troubling superstars such as Tevez and Balotelli, whose antics caused so much damage to team morale in the past two years, Manuel Pellegrini is building more of a team than one made up of greedy individuals.

Saying that, City have made the summer's most expensive signing so far after buying Fernandinho for £30 million from Shakhtar Donetsk. But if he's still the summer's most expensive signing come the end of the window I vow to sit through every second of the Football League Show this season. If none of Suarez, Rooney or Bale move clubs by 2 September, the summer of 2013 will forever be remembered as the summer of discontent.

The newcomers will inevitably take time to bed in at City, but the signals coming out of the revamped Blue Mooners bode well for last year's runners up. And having signed a player named 'Jesus', they've got God on their side too. If only Jesus Christ was as fast as Jesus Navas, he might not have got pinned to two planks of wood.

Meanwhile, the second-placed top spenders Tottenham have been planning for life after Gareth Bale and have spent £59 million already. Paulinho will be the season's best signing, in my view. Having already established himself in Brazil's starting XI, he offers Spurs creativity going forward and plenty of goals. If only they had another player who offered these skills...

Onto Chelsea, who rarely pass the chance to throw dollar at foreign talent in a transfer window. The £18 million capture of Andre Schurrle will also be one of the signings of the season, and goes straight into my fantasy football team alongside another funny-named foreigner - Marco van Ginkel.

Some things never change: Arsenal are tight bastards. They calculate their offers by the penny and offered Liverpool £40,000,001 for Luiz Suarez. They've only made one signing so far - Yaya Sanogo for free. But in a strange way, and in a way that only Arsenal could manage, they've actually strengthened their squad by finally shedding themselves of Johan Djourou, Marouane Chamakh, Andrey Arshavin and 19 other wasters. They may still have a massive log of Danish dead wood in the form of Nicklas Bendtner, but he's going to be the best player in the world when he grows up so nothing to worry about there, Arsenal fans.

But interestingly, it's not just the top clubs who have whipped out the cheque book this summer. Norwich, Swansea, West Ham, Southampton, Cardiff and Liverpool (yes Liverpool fans, you're not a big club anymore) have all spent more than £15 million each over the summer. Again, the vast majority of their signings have been from abroad, Roman emperors among them (Andreas Cornelius signing for Cardiff).

Out of all the also-rans, I'd say Norwich have spent the most wisely. They've signed the young, goal-scoring Dutch international midfielder Leroy Fer, the most appropriately named Celtic player Gary Hooper after about 15 failed bids and my favourite signing of the window and another Dutch international, Ricky van Wolfswinkel. I'm looking forward to John Motson trying to pronounce his name on Match of the Day.

Sunderland are promising to be the laughing stock and the 'QPR' of the 2013-14 season after Paulo Di Canio has brought in no less than 10 new players - only one of which is English (Duncan Watmore from Altrincham), with nine players having left. His decision to house his players in bunk beds during away trips to build team camaraderie is bound to end in tabloid hilarity. I predict a disastrous year for the Black Cats, who will be closely followed by their local rivals Newcastle as Joe Kinnear tries his utmost to cock things up for Alan Pardew, who currently heads the managerial sack race. Having failed to complete the Magpies' top two transfer targets in Darren Bent and Arouna Kone, Kinnear's claim to be able to "open the door to any manager in the world" already seems suspicious.

In a world cup year, it's going to be interesting to see who stakes a claim for Roy's final squad. There's always a late-comer, although it's unlikely a Theo Walcott-like player will be added this time round. More likely to be someone from the other end of their careers, such as that 31-year-old gypsy-pensioner Rickie Lambert who's travelled through the leagues and scored within 166 seconds of making his international debut last Wednesday.

It's not just the games on the field that will excite us this season. The new rivalry between Sky and BT will get our pulses going on our sofas and we'll also be treated with fresh faces in the studios as newly-retired footballers, such as Michael Owen, David James and Jamie Carragher, begin their new careers - although we'll probably need subtitles for the latter pundit.

All in all, it's set to be another pulsating season of Premier League footy. But I just get the feeling this season is going to be a bit more spicy than usual, what with all the new faces. Let the hair-dryers fly, the beach balls bounce and the fighting talk commence.

Let's be having ya.

My predictions for the 2013-14 season:

1. Manchester City

2. Chelsea

3. Tottenham Hotspur

4. Manchester United

5. Arsenal

6. Liverpool

7. Everton

8. Swansea

9. Fulham

10. Norwich

11. Southampton

12. West Brom

13. Stoke

14. West Ham

15. Aston Villa

16. Newcastle

17. Cardiff

18. Sunderland

19. Hull City Tigers

20. Crystal Palace

World Cup 2014 winners: Belgium (I'm not even joking - check out their squad).