Friday, August 5, 2011

Football starts!

Furner's Green did not take part in the Listed race.

This week-end, the Community Shield kick-starts the football season with the clash of Manchester between City and United. This will be City's first Shield game for a long time and it is tough to predict what kind of team Mancini will come up with. United are a little bit more predictable in that even during the fierce rivalry days with Arsenal and Chelsea, the United boss did not see the need to field his best team. It seems more a case of him to use this game to evaluate some of his fringe players than to win at the end.

It has been a rather muted transfer summer market with no Mega transfers of note in Europe. Sure, Spanish giants Barcelona and Madrid made big swoops for Alexis Sanchez and Coentrao but they are not big game changers for these teams. Man City got a very good striker in Aguero but he's not among the five best strikers in Europe, yet. The one deal that would be a game changer is the Sneijder move to Man Utd, which has been the whole talk of the Summer in all newspapers, but one which looks very much unlikely. Not much doubt that he will be a huge asset for the Mancunians as they try to replace Paul Scholes, but I am miffed as to why they haven't showed more interest for him. Maybe they are working hard behind the scenes. Maybe it's a tactical affair for better bargaining power. Many smart foxes playing the game to their chest.

Regardless of any more transfer activity, here are my picks for the first 4 in the EPL, in no particular order.

Man Utd. The reigning champions are always among the front runners and there's no reason to think they won't be winning this again or be close to winning it. Their team of last year, which many pundits did not fancy, will have improved and matured. The newcomers Ashley Young and Phil Jones certainly add depth to the quality of the squad. Much of the continued success of the club will depend on how well new keeper de Gea does between the posts. Van der Sar was instrumental in keeping serenity to the back four, and if the new Spanish recruit does more or less the same, the Red Devils will be tough to beat. If Sneijder is added to the mix, then they will have that extra edge in the Champions League. The team everyone has to beat again in the EPL.

Man City. Possibly the main challenger to their neighbours. The team won the FA Cup which will have given them the mental belief that they can win something together. Much on this side depends on stability; the threat is that if Mancini and his management are let go after a stretch of poor runs, then it could be all back to square one for the club. Much also depends on on-going Tevez saga. Will he go, won't he? Clearly, his off-field antics overwhelms any enormous quality he shows on the pitch. Aguero and Balotelli will provide major firepower although it looks likely that the Italian is more apt to make the front pages for the wrong reasons. If they focus and play well as a team, this is City's best chance for the title for a long time.

Chelsea. A new manager, but seemingly a great one as well. If he's given the time and commitment from owner Ambramovich, Villas Boa could bring a lot of success to Chelsea. His problem this season is to motivate an aging team, with many players having their best days behind them. Terry, Drogba, Lampard are on the decline. It is very possible Drogba will have a better year than last year, when a malaria virus heavily hampered his season. Torres also will score much more (orelse he'll be shipped somewhere). Sturridge is their bright spark in attack and is a major attacking threat if given the chance. But this team needs serious rebuilding and while it is possibly still one of the top 5 teams in Europe, it is hard to foresee it gaining some of its dominance or fluency back. Will win many matches, but destined for the places.

Arsenal. Will Fabregas stay or not? That's their main question. Even if he stays, there's always a doubt about the mental strength of this team. The quality is there no question, but they are not winners by any means yet. The problem is Wenger himself. A great coach who can spot talent and have his team play great football, no doubt. But one that has difficulty motivating them into winning when it really counts. The championships he won were based on solid defence, as exemplified by the legendary back 4 of the 1990's. Until he gets that kind of rigidity again, they are bound to drop points in many winnable games. Looks destined for places as well.

These are the teams to focus on this coming season. Sorry Liverpool and Tottenham. I think they'll do well winning many games but it's hard seeing them crack the Top 4. If they do, it will be because of Chelsea or Arsenal faltering, in my opinion.


  1. Hola quería saber si podemos intercambiar enlaces!; mi blog es:
    Yo ya te añadí a mi lista de enlaces.

  2. Hi not sure I understood you, but I added you to my blog list :)