If you have been stressing about the performance of the Indian cricket team and don’t know what to watch on TV this weekend, fear not. The Premier league is back - which takes care of your tv time on weekends for the next nine months! If you already have a favorite team then great, or else pick one and be ready for nine months of highs and lows. If you want to get really involved with teams and players, get a good fantasy football team together for a great inside view to the season.
As far as season beginnings are concerned, this is poised to be one of the most interesting ones in recent times. While most other seasons would start with one or two key contenders, the 2011-12 Premier League season is starting with five key contenders – Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool. Depending on how the Modric saga plays out, Tottenham could jump into the mix.
While pre-season games usually give only a limited insight into a full season, the Community Shield game was a cracking match with all the traditional Man United – Man City intrigue thrown in. While Man City started well and threatened to walk away with the game, United came back strongly in the second half. A 93rd minute injury time Nani winner gave further credence to the idea that United never gives up till the final whistle.
The most interesting thing about this game was how United looked the more fluid attacking unit. A number of slick moves and passes, cool link-ups and touch play had me checking whether this was United or Arsenal playing. With Clevery and Welbeck returning from impressive loan spells and the arrival of Young which has clearly galvanized United, they look good to start well.
Notwithstanding the fact that they lost that match however, Man City still look like good value for the season. All key aspects of their game seemed to be working well and one should remember they were without Aguero, Tevez and Nasri when they played ManU. Sticking my neck out, I am tipping Manchester City to edge the season ahead of United. I am sure this is going to cause much derision amongst legions of United fans in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore. But then... What’s life without controversy in the beginning of a new season?
In my earlier piece I had expressed concern at Chelsea’s lack of activity in the transfer market given their aging squad. I am sure Villas-Boas’ has great credentials, but he can’t do the running around for the team himself. This is going to actually be a great lesson for purists on a new coach’s ability to galavanise a team without any major fresh signings. Of course with Abramovich’s money, Chelsea could come into the transfer market late and make a flurry of acquisitions. Whether they will get all their targets then is another story. While they look good for a top four finish, winning the league looks to be a bridge too far even if they manage to prise Modric away from the Spurs.
Liverpool’s pre-season has certainly been leaky having conceded almost 15 goals in six games. However with the Jose Enrique signing, the more exciting aspect for Liverpool fans is the closing most of their pre-season transfer targets before the start of the season. If only a Centre Back is found before August 31st, they certainly look good for a top four finish.
Finally the Greek tragedy at Arsenal shows no signs of abating. While fans seem to be tearing out their hair about finding replacements for Fabregas and Nasri, Arsene Wenger seems to be busy giving speeches and stating obvious truths like “we only want those players who want to play for Arsenal” … really Sherlock. I am actually going to stick my neck out and say that this is the season that Arsenal will stay out of the top four. What that does to Arsene, the Board and fans will be an interesting drama to watch.