The football season has barely begun, and yet many supporters know that there is an air of predictability over where the Premier League crown will go.
The odds are that Manchester United, the current champions, could retain the title come the end of the season. Rivals Manchester City, the current FA Cup holders with rich owners and extremely deep pockets, reached the group stages of the European Champions League for the first time.
Meanwhile, Liverpool, twenty years after their last top-flight triumph, are finally putting together a team that would challenge their northern rivals for the title.
Having heavily strengthened their squads, the three teams are expected to challenge for some silverware at the end of the season.
Contrast that with the fortunes of the top London sides. Despite some riches of their own, Chelsea have suffered because of constant managerial changes and an ageing squad, which meant that they are not as invincible as the side which won the double just two years ago.
North London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham have both suffered poor starts to the current season tempered only by empathic wins in Europe. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has been criticised for his refusal to pay over the odds for players, an admirable stance, even though he lost several key players to other clubs, particularly Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri.
Meanwhile at Tottenham, manager Harry Redknapp spent most of the pre-season trying to stop players, particularly Luka Modric, from leaving. Both clubs have been left behind in their quest to buy players, mainly in their part from their owners’ perceived tight-fistedness. As the summer transfer deadline day approaches, the advantages the top northern sides have over their London rivals are set to widen further.
All this doesn’t always mean that the big clubs will win the lot this season. Unless the other sides start to create genuine competition within the Premier League, it will end up like the current situation in the likes of Spain and Scotland, where there’s virtually none at all.