MITCH COOK’S COLUMN - Big race for title begins

Chelsea's new signing Eden Hazard
Chelsea's new signing Eden Hazard

The Premier League season has kicked-off once again, following on from a great summer of sporting action.

There have already been a few surprising results, with great wins for Swansea and Fulham, with Southampton putting up a great fight against Manchester City.

At all levels of football the league does settle down though, with the usual top three of Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea, with Arsenal and Liverpool on their shirt tails. After that you usually have a surprise like Newcastle of last season, maybe it will be somebody like Everton this time around.

There was a rude awakening at Liverpool at the weekend when they lost out to West Brom. I think Brendan Rodgers does have a tough job implanting his type of football into the players he has there. Hopefully he will be given time though, with fans and owners alike being patient.

For me I think Chelsea could be the team this year because they are giving Roberto Di Matteo the backing, allowing him to get rid of the big and strong focus and bringing in flair players.

One of these is Eden Hazard, who has had a great start. He has been involved in all but one of the Chelsea goals so far. I think Hazard has possibly been the best signing of pre-season,

You do have to ignore the fees in today’s game, if you look at Robin van Persie, Arsenal have a great price for him, but at the end of the day United have signed their captain and arguably the best player in the league last season. So however much money you spend it has to be seen as good business.

Van Persie could play a part in helping United back to the top, but I’m sure they will be in the top three with City and Chelsea. Any of those three could win it.

I am a little surprised that City have only signed Jack Rodwell, though they are looking at Scott Sinclair as well. Maybe they are changing the way they think about things. The team they had was good enough, but the squad didn’t have that much depth.

Now they are adding English depth, but that could be deterimental to the national team as they won’t be playing every week.

It wouldn’t surprise me this week if they do make one or two more bigger additions to their squad before the transfer window slams shut.

At the other end of the table, Southampton, who I do like, might struggle. Paul Lambert might be good enough to keep Aston Villa away from the drop zone, but the perennial strugglers like Wigan will have a battle, as will the promoted teams like West Ham and Reading.

If you look at the Championship it is now the Premier League’s division two. There are only three clubs in there who haven’t played Premier League football.

Bolton came down last year and I think they could go straight back up, Middlesbrough and Nottingham Forest will also be in there.

Locally, people are hoping that Neil Warnock will work his magic at Leeds, but I think the problems will come from above him at board level.

One club that may surprise are Sheffield Wednesday. If Dave Jones can utilise the big crowd and make some great signings then I think they could do well.

I think there could also be some Yorkshire interest at the top of League One, as I can see Sheffield United being involved in the championship race.

I hope that Doncaster are up there, it would be great to see another Yorkshire team getting back into the Championship. They had a few problems last year, but they seem to have sorted them out.

Bournemouth and Preston may also be in the running for a promotion place.

League Two is a tough one, but I can see newly-promoted Fleetwood moving straight through. They seem to have the financial muscle to move on and their momentum could take them up.

Morecambe and Nothampton are two other teams I expect to do well.

I can see York City struggling, though I hope they don’t, especially as they have recently signed Michael Coulson, who was a good lad for Scarborough FC in his days there.

Keeping on a local theme, I think that the NCEL Premier has laready been sewn up. Everybody is playing for second place now.