Premier League race is on to catch Manchester City high fliers

No big-money signings for Mancini ahead of today's Community Shield but the European champions seek a fresh start

There are curmudgeons for whom the football season always comes too early, and their mood will not be improved by a new one arriving in England this week hard on the heels of an Olympic Games in which the sport was more prominent than usual, itself preceded by a European Championship. In fact, the world's most popular game never went away, even in Europe; Spain demolished Italy in Kiev on the first day of July to round off one season and Champions' League qualifying matches began two days later.

It is equally true and quite proper that the levels of sportsmanship and dignity shown – for the most part – at the Olympics place a new responsibility on football, whose customary excesses will strike a more jarring note than ever and will consequently be highlighted across the media.

The best possible introduction to today's Community Shield match and next weekend's full league programme would be repeated showings of the final few minutes of last season's Premier League; the thrilling climax in which Manchester United thought they had retained their title, only for their neighbours to snatch it away in comic-book fashion by scoring two goals at the death. So at Villa Park this afternoon it is Manchester City, champions for the first time since 1968, who will take on Chelsea, European champions for the first time ever after an almost equally improbable finish to their own campaign when Didier Drogba's last kick for the club beat Bayern Munich in a penalty shoot-out.

Drogba has now joined Nicolas Anelka in China and Chelsea have spent some £65million (so far) revamping their squad. Unexpectedly, and to the annoyance of Roberto Mancini, City have not bought anyone. That will surely change in the remaining 19 days of the transfer window, although the manager appears resigned to missing out on Robin van Persie. Mancini rather undermines his own case for strengthening, however, when he says there is no room for Emmanuel Adebayor among his clutch of strikers. "He has no chance of playing this year. It's important for him he finds a good solution as he scored a lot of goals last year. But I have confidence in our strikers, we scored 90 goals last year."

It is presumably in other areas that he would like more back-up, insisting that without them United are favourites to regain the title. "Fergie [Sir Alex Ferguson] said we can change history in two years. This is impossible. Maybe we can move but to change history we need more time. United will be fighting because they are used to winning every year over the last 25 years."

They will be fighting even harder if they can secure Van Persie, whose affection for Arsenal after eight years does not extend to signing a new contract but means he would rather play abroad than for either Manchester club. United still hope to convince him otherwise, for their own recruitment has been modest so far – the Japanese midfielder Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund and one for the future in Crewe's talented Nick Powell. Used to the pace and power of Bundesliga football, Kagawa should settle in England more quickly than some imports. Chelsea's Eden Hazard (£32m from Lille) and Oscar (£25m from Brazil's Internacional) may take longer, Hazard having not yet shone in a pre-season period in which Chelsea have conceded 10 goals in five friendlies, winning just one.

Di Matteo says of the Champions League triumph that secured him the job, "It is part of the past, it is done and dusted now and we have to look forward to the future and forget about that. It is going to be difficult for us as everybody is probably going to raise their game."

All in all, the old order seems unlikely to change, even if last season's order is subject to minor adjustments. It is an extraordinary fact that at present Arsenal have spent more than twice as much as the two Manchester clubs combined, but it would be surprising if they did much more than cut the 19-point gap on the top two. If Van Persie were to stay, their attacking options would look impressive, but if he goes they will need Olivier Giroud (£13m) and Lukas Podoloski (£11m) to prove their worth quickly.

With Tottenham moving in the new direction that Andre Villas-Boas brings, and Newcastle probably having peaked in fifth place, Liverpool are more likely to be upwardly mobile. Eighth place and, worse, just 47 goals scored were recent lows and Brendan Rodgers should be able to improve on both as well as the playing style, even if, like Villas-Boas, he will be implanting what the latter calls a new "methodology".

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker