MICHAEL PEARLMAN SAYS: Wales dominated opening weekend of the Premier League

Crystal Palace manager Tony Pulis during the Barclays Premier League match at Selhurst Park, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday December 3, 2013. Photo credit should read: Nick Potts/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. Maximum 4

Crystal Palace manager Tony Pulis during the Barclays Premier League match at Selhurst Park, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday December 3, 2013. Photo credit should read: Nick Potts/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. Maximum 4

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THE Premier League is back and more than ever before on an opening weekend, it was Wales dominating the headlines.

Irrespective of where you stand on the 'best league in the world' boasts, there is no questioning the Premier League as the most high profile in football and on the first days of the 2014/15 campaign, it was a host of Welshman providing the key talking points.

The upcoming campaign promises to be one of the most exciting in recent memory, because it would certainly appear that at least five clubs are genuine title challengers, though the gap between the top sides and the rest of the division is getting bigger and bigger.

The five clubs I think can win the title, Manchesters City and United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal, have all invested heavily in their squads this summer and it's incredible to think that with such an outlay, as least one of them is set to miss out on even playing in the Champions League next term.

United's horrible season last time around is surely not going to be repeated under Louis van Gaal, but it was still a massive achievement from Garry Monk's Swansea City to win at Old Trafford on the opening day.

United will spend a fortune between now and the close of the window and even if Swansea played them at the right time, they receive top marks for execution at Old Trafford and can expect plenty more goals from Gylfi Sigurdsson this term, a hugely underrated talent who is built for the Premier League and scoring goals in it, much like Frank Lampard.

It was also a huge performance from Wales captain Ashley Williams that helped the Swans to stun Old Trafford. His signing of a new contract might be the difference between Premier League and Championship football in a years' time.

To mention Swansea and relegation together is no slight on them, because behind Tottenham - now with added Ben Davies - and Everton who should again contest the Europa League spots, it's not difficult to make a compelling case why any of the Premier League's other 13 sides could go down.

A top manager is arguably the best way to ensure you avoid the drop and that's why it'll be fascinating to see where Tony Pulis ends up after his shock exit from Crystal Palace.

Newport's own has never been so highly regarded as right now and the first Premier League side to change manager will surely go for someone whose presence in your dugout is as close as you can get to a guarantee of survival.

Perhaps that side will be West Ham, whose central defender, James Collins, faces a big battle to line-up alongside Ashley Williams in next month's qualifiers. His first day red card was in contrast to the display of his rival, James Chester, who scored the winner for Hull City at QPR. In the bigger picture I think both sides will be fine this season because of the quality of their managers. Wales' only current Premier League boss, Mark Hughes, should also see Stoke well safe despite their opening day reverse to Villa, who in the long term, I feel are in for a more testing campaign.

In the race for the title, I think United and Liverpool will ultimately play second fiddle this season with Chelsea, Arsenal and champions Manchester City battling to the bitter end to lift the Premier League crown.

Man City have tremendous stability for a club that have built their success on excess and Chelsea appear to be incredibly strong having added Diego Costa, Filipe Luis and Cesc Fabregas to a squad already challenging for top spot.

Arsenal are the club who have been most active so far this summer in terms of recruitment and indeed, since signing Mesut Ozil last season, they've spent well over £100 million, Nett, which should guarantee a perennial top four side takes the next step.

At the forefront of their efforts will be Aaron Ramsey and his last-gasp winner against Crystal Palace underlined his importance to the Gunners.

His rise at Arsenal has been meteoric, from boo-boy to a player valued just as highly as Ozil or summer signing Alexis Sanchez in just 12 months. Truly, as stated by Alan Shearer on Match of the Day, Ramsey has become a £40 million player.

Wales might have lost a Premier League team and their best player no longer lights up the Lane, but Wales' Premier League presence is extremely heartening ahead of another qualification campaign in what could be the most exciting campaign in memory.

Here’s how I think the table will look in May.

Pearlman's predicted Premier League table: 1) Chelsea 2) Arsenal 3) Man City 4) Man United 5) Liverpool 6) Tottenham 7) Everton 8) Newcastle 9) Hull City 10) Stoke City 11) Queens Park Rangers 12) Swansea City 13) West Ham United 14) Crystal Palace 15) Southampton 16) Sunderland 17) Aston Villa 18) Leicester 19) West Brom 2O) Burnley

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