Top Ten: Under pressure
Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti may not feel pressure, as he settles down to watch another classic film, but many in his position are not so lucky. Here, Soccernet runs the rule over those who will be in the spotlight this season.
Roberto Mancini. Of course all managers are under pressure at the start of a new season as the bookies take bets on who will be the first to get their P45, yet Mancini is in a class of his own when it comes to pressure. The Manchester City boss has spent over £80 million on new purchases this summer and will be expected to be pushing for the title, although he should heed the warning left by predecessor Mark Hughes. Indeed, with Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham to come in their first nine games, he could be out before Christmas.
England's players. After a dismal World Cup in which a 1-0 win over minnows Slovenia was the highlight, England's finest have a point to prove. Not just to themselves, but also to Fabio Capello, who will be clearing the squad of any deadwood ahead of Euro 2012. Fringe players always face a fight for survival, but this time it's the likes of John Terry, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Rio Ferdinand and Gareth Barry that will find themselves in the spotlight. Wayne Rooney's awful form in South Africa should put him in the list as well, although his position as England's golden boy will likely see him avoid the axe even if he does not fire immediately for Manchster United.
Tottenham Hotspur We've seen it all before - a side reaches unprecedented levels, then capitulates the following season as the pressure of European football proves too much for them. Spurs are this season's offering as they find themselves in the Champions League and will be keen not to follow the example of Everton from 2004-05 when they failed to make it through to the group stages. With quality performers in Luka Modric, Gareth Bale and Jermain Defoe, Spurs may fancy their chances - but Harry Redknapp will have to work his magic and strengthen the squad's depth.
The big-money signings. In the current financial climate, everyone wants to make the most of the money they have; with one exception. Manchester City seem happy to splash the cash with reckless abandon and have spent one Cristiano Ronaldo (£80 million) on four players: David Silva, Yaya Toure, Jerome Boateng and Aleksandar Kolarov, with more certain to be on the way. As if the pressure of coming to play in a new country was not enough, the quartet now find themselves under the microscope for their transfer fee and wages as well. The aim? To avoid becoming the new Andrei Shevchenko.
Cesc Fabregas. The situation over the Arsenal captain's future may not be completely resolved but, if he is still at the club on September 1, then his commitment to the Gunners' cause will be the subject of much interest. Having declared his love for Barcelona, he faces a tough challenge to persuade those in north London that he is 100% focused on achieving success at the Emirates and will have every frown, every tantrum and every below-par performance analysed with scientific precision.
The promoted clubs. As ever, the relegation battle will take centre-stage at some point during the season and the new arrivals in the Premier League will face added pressure from the fact that Wolves and Birmingham stayed up last year. Newcastle and West Brom will be in familiar territory as they have bounced back at the first attempt but Blackpool are something of an unknown quantity and their ability to cope with the spotlight under Ian Holloway will be tested immediately as four of their first five games will be away from home. The inexperience of Toon and Baggies bosses Chris Hughton and Roberto Di Matteo will certainly make it interesting.
Howard Webb. England's best referee will return from South Africa with the usual mixed reaction afforded to a man in black. After reaching the peak of his career in Johannesburg on July 11, when he dished out a record 15 cards in the World Cup final, Webb was criticised in some quarters for failing to control the players, while others saw his card-happy performance as the only way he could deal with some disgraceful behaviour. Either way, his first match in charge is bound to attract attention (although hopefully not to the extent that his entire family is paraded before the world's media again) and there's only one way down from the top.
The FA/Wembley's pitch. The much-maligned Wembley groundsmen face a tough test this season, as they have a Champions League final to prepare for on May 28. Conflicting dates have already seen the Football League play-offs moved to another venue (although they haven't yet decided where they will be) and another PR nightmare for the 'spiritual home of football' is in the offing. Indeed, England's first Euro 2012 qualifier occurs just a week after the rugby league Carnegie Challenge Cup Final, when the pitch is sure to be in a wonderful state. This year, at least, someone has had the foresight to book the American Football game AFTER the important qualifier against Montenegro, but one feels that we have not heard the last of the troublesome turf.
FIFA. After a World Cup full of debate over goal-line technology, it won't take much to fuel the fire again once the Premier League begins. Roy Carroll's error against Tottenham for 'the goal that never was' in January 2005 highlighted the issue, but the situation has not moved on at all, save for the admission by football's governing body that they should probably look at introducing some kind of technology eventually. A decision that should have been taken long ago, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) will meet in October to talk it over again, but that leaves a good two months for a new issue to arise.
Accountants. Football's money-men have had a torrid year with Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) making a case against Portsmouth, Cardiff, Notts County, Crystal Palace, Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday, to name but a few. The Premier League may have been relatively untouched in this regard, but debt is still a major talking point for clubs and many are working simply to turn a profit. A report in February suggested that English clubs owed £3.5 billion - which accounts for 56% for Europe's football debt - and things do not look like improving anytime soon.