Weekends have been quite boring for soccer fans in the last two months. Well, after the end of club competitions season in May, there was the European Champions in between, but it was short-lived and not as attractive.
As a guest writer, I will be focusing on different club competitions across the board will start with the English Premier league, because it has the highest fan base here and in the world; it’s the most attractive.
The English Premier League has become so competitive that it is unpredictable which team is going to win the title. The reigning champions, Manchester City, are arguably a hard nut to crack; they have a world class striking force in Carlos Tevez, Mario Bilotelli, Kun Aguero and host of other talented strikers.
They have undoubtedly a strong creative midfield in Samir Nasri, Yaya Toure, David Silva, and capable back-ups. They have a reliable back line-up led by Joe Heart, probably the best goal-keeper in Britain.
Precisely City’s Billionaire owner has bought them some of the best players the game has to offer and the fact that they have invested over four hundred million pounds on players over the last three seasons speaks volumes.
And they are still on the spending spree and their appetite for glory is insatiable. But will they retain the EPL title?
What is evident is that the likely winners of the top three slots are obviously the title holders-Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United.
City arch-rivals Manchester United do not have the might to go on the spending spree and outcompete Mansur and Roman Abromovic but they are very strong, stable squad and under a shrewd manager Sir Alex Fergusson with an enviable winning history.
And despite the financial might of Man City, United just missed out on retaining the title on the eleventh hour on mere goal difference!
And they have now rejuvenated the squad with more talented striker in former Arsenal’s skipper Robin Van Perse and Japanese midfielder Shinji Kagawa and other back-ups.
Chelsea took many by surprise to win the Champions League for the first time. What surprised many, however, was not winning the final but overcoming the reigning champions and the strong favorite FC Barcelona.
Chelsea also beat Liverpool who were the favorites win the FA final at Wembley. Abramovic’s team were taunted as the oldest squad in the Premier League with an average age of 27, but they have won more premier trophies in last five years than anyone– 3 premier titles, 2 FA Cups, a Carling Cup and the Champions League.
Now the Stamford Bridge giants have been reignited with young, talented players including Eden Harzard, who cost them a whopping £32 million, Oscar, Marko and a versatile wide boy Victor Moses. And unlike new players who take some time to adapt to the English Premier League, Hazard, 21, has burst on the scene with a goal and four assists from three matches to help Roberto Di Matteo to the top of the table.
The Belgian and the Brazilian playmakers, adds to the Spanish superstars in Juan Mata and Fernando Torres, who is currently settled at the Bridge and has regained his form of old.
In essence, Abramovic has strengthened his squad to reckon with and it won’t take anybody by surprise if they win trophies by the end of the season.
Having said that, the prediction for the English traditional ‘big four’ is incomplete. Why? Because the fourth slot is up for grabs between Arsenal, Liverpool, Newcastle, Tottenham and even Everton who beat Manchester United in the opening game.
The Arsenal fans will excuse me, but the reason I’m putting the Gunners in a mini-league battle for fourth place is simple: Arsenal have become a selling club, a finishing school for the big boys to pick off stardom and join giant trophy winners at their prime.
To quote Robbie Savage an aggrieved fan of the Gunners and soccer columnist for English Daily Mirror: “To sell one captain may be an accident, to sell two may be careless and to sell three may be dangerous.
“But Arsenal have now sold FOUR captains in seven years - Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie - and the Gunners are in danger of becoming also-rans where they were once market leaders.”
For five or six years around the turn of the century, they were not just the most attractive team to watch in Europe - they were arguably the most successful. They even won the Premier league title unbeaten in 2004.
But the worm turned around 2006, when they moved from High bury to the Emirates. Since then, one by one, Arsenal have not just sold the crown jewels: they have ironically sold them to Chelsea, Man City and Man United of recent, their main rivals for the title.
Equally in a pitiable state is Tottenham. Foremost, I believe the owner made a blunder by replacing the skillful gaffer Harry Reddnapp with Andre Villas-Boas, who flopped at Stamford Bridge. I’m not saying he isn’t a quality manager but he lacks experience on Premier League level plus, his relations with the squad and staff is wanting.
On the team quality, they have lost a world class playmaker, Luka Modric who moved to the Spanish giants Real Madrid. The skipper Michael Dawson, creative wingers Aaron Lennon and Rafael van der Vaart are likely to exit AVB’s dressing-room sooner than later.
Well, they have signed Icelandic ace Gylfi Sigurdsson from Swansea and the Belgian Jan Vertonghen and have the £30 availed from Modric’s transfer to bring in new blood but it will take some time for the arrivals to settle and make value contributions. I will honestly be surprised if the Spurs take the fourth.
Newcastle United is a good club with enviable striking talents in Demba Ba and Papiss Ciss and Hatem Ben Arfa. They have an impenetrable back-line but like Everton they lack enough quality squad to compete in top echelons of English football.
What about Liverpool? To be fair, they have really endured the hard times in the last three or four years. The club have changed managers four times and ownership twice. The initial two American investors bought Majority shares, promised to put up a state-of-art stadium and bring in a world class squad but it was easily said than done.
Owing to the crisis and failure to qualify for the European Champions, Liverpool lost ambitious world class players in Alonso, Mascherano to Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively plus Fernando Torres and Raul Meirales to local opponents Chelsea.
To make matters worse, the iconic playmaker and skipper Steven Gerrard and Brazilian midfielder Lucas are injury prone.
But against all the odds, Liverpool eliminated the big three Man United, Chelsea and Man City from both Carling Cup and FA Cup, winning the former and playing FA Cup final they lost to Chelsea.
At the moment, however, the squad is really strong, creative, attractive and has a promising future with a new young but quality football manager, Brandon Rodgers. For the last three months in charge, he has proved to be a charismatic manager. The new owner has proved, ambitious and focused to return success at Anfield.
They now have reliable attacking forces in Luis Suarez, Fabio Borini, Assauma Assaidi, influential skipper Gerrard, Joe Allen, and Raheem Sterling and other good cover-ups.
The club have perhaps the strongest defense in Glen Johnson, Jose Enrique, Martin Keelly, Danie Agger, Martin Skrtel, Jamie Carrager and Coates. Big earners like Alberto Aquilani, Maxi Rodriguez and Dirk Kuyt have left.
So, in a nutshell, it’s against this analysis that I believe the new owners, manager and the players have and will ambitiously work through thick and thin and claim the fourth slot for the Merseyside club.
The author is a guest writer