My Saturday afternoons have had a Geoff Stelling-shaped hole in for too long now but come 3pm in just a few days time, my weekends will be complete again. After the soap opera that was the season finale last year I think it is only fair for all football fans to be more excited for a season kick-off than ever before. Here’s why.
I have been watching football for as long as I can remember and have never seen anything quite like the title race last season. What’s more, I can’t see any team running away with it this year either. Manchester United have already strengthened their side by bringing in the extremely talented Shinji Kagawa (or at least that’s what YouTube tells me) and one-man-team Robin Van Persie, both of which are much more exciting than City’s one transfer so far. Is Jack Rodwell really better than De Jong, Toure and Barry? I don’t feel he is.
However, I think the title will be moving down south this year. London to be precise. West London to be even more precise. David Luiz has done a ‘Lucas’ (he was a useless Brazilian but is now an integral part of the team), Hazard was in higher demand than Joseph Kony this summer, and Fernando Torres looks like he may finally be the man that the Kop once knew. Moving clockwise on the compass to North London let us not forget Arsenal and Tottenham. In the 16 years Wenger has been at Arsenal they have not once finished outside the top 4 and after the signings of Cazorla, Podolski and Giroud you feel they can finally mount a serious title challenge even without RVP; this assumes that Vermaelen and Koscielny can both stay fit and that Jack Wilshere is in fact still alive. Tottenham had us all drooling for a period, but with one striker at the club and their best player (Modric) wanting out, you fear that AVB might do an…urm, well, an AVB and steer the club into a worse position than when he took over.
The Relegation Scrap
The newly promoted teams are always easy to pick on for relegation favourites but this year it isn’t that easy. Trying to predict what West Ham will do is like trying to predict what Carlos Tevez will do next, Southampton have finally given Rickie Lambert his time to shine at the highest level and the last time Reading came up from the championship they finished 8th in their first season. Wigan will of course be down there and I can’t help but fear that Swansea and Norwich are going to suffer from the infamous ‘second season syndrome’ and both will struggle, especially considering that both teams lost their managers over the summer.
Liverpool are an enigma these days so will they challenge for the title or will they be in a relegation scrap? Odds are they’ll do both at varying points of the year and then finish a little better than last year. Newcastle and Everton both looked promising last year. Should Cisse and Ba continue to score at free will then Toon will find themselves at the right end of the table and for once in their lives, Everton fans can watch David Moyes spend a bit of money thanks to Mancini’s deep pockets. Finally, there are the perennial mid-table teams; West Brom and Fulham will both build on encouraging seasons and Aston Villa will surely improve on last seasons turmoil. The team I see struggling out of the pack is Sunderland. Their lack of business this summer may just come back to bite them and it’ll be left to Sessegnon and and the exciting James McClean to keep them up.
So I will now try and do what I’ve been told never to do. Predict the Premier League table. (You’ve not yet learnt the hard way…Ed.)
2. Manchester United
3. Manchester City
10. Aston Villa
12. West Brom
14. West Ham
Agree or disagree, it doesn’t matter. One thing we can all agree on is that this year is shaping up to be one of the most exciting seasons since, well, last season.
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