An Abbreviated Preview
It should be an interesting season as the big boys of Barclays English Premier League try to establish and distance themselves from the rest of the pack.
We’ve already seen Chelsea score a couple of 6-0 victories, so they have to be considered the frontrunners for now. Arsenal and Manchester United have already dropped points, which could be crucial at the end of the season.
None of the other big clubs have impressed in their first few games, but they still have the rest of the season to turn things around.
Here are previews of the teams that should be contending for top 4 status in the EPL this season (top 4 teams qualify for the Champion’s League in the following season).
I’ll start with the top 4 from last season and then touch upon the other teams that are trying to make an impression.
The Gunners started the season by salvaging a point away at Liverpool thanks to a late Pepe Reina own goal. They followed that with a 6-0 thrashing to Premier League newcomers Blackpool. Arsenal hasn’t won any major hardware since winning the FA cup in ‘05, so they’ll be looking to change that going forward.
The team has faced some uncertainty as star player Cesc Fabregas was subject to constant rumours of a transfer to Barcelona over the summer. Striker Robin Van Persie has also struggled with injuries and neither of the 2 has yet to play a full match this season. However, Fabregas has committed himself to Arsenal for at least this year and Van Persie has featured as a sub in both of Arsenal’s games as they look to ease him back into the squad.
This team always has the talent to be in the top 2, but with a commitment to youth, they have often lacked the necessary experience. They will need their veteran players like Fabregas, Van Persie and Andrei Arshavin to come through if they are to win the EPL this year or any other trophies.
Players to watch- Fabregas, Van Persie, Arshavin, Abou Diaby and Theo Walcott.
CHELSEA- placed first with 86 points.
As mentioned before Chelsea have come out of the gate running. A pair of 6-0 wins led their manager Carlo Ancelotti to brand their style of play as “Playstation” football. They may not get these results every game, but it is clear that Chelsea are already nearing midseason form. Chelsea are definitely my favourites to win as they usually come through with wins when they need them and they almost never drop points to bad teams, which is critical to winning the league.
Didier Drogba looks to have recovered fully from his broken arm and midfield stalwart Michael Essien is also finally healthy. The rest of the league will be in tough to top Chelsea this year.
Players to watch- Drogba, Essien, Ramires, Nicolas Anelka, Frank Lampard
Ramires is Chelsea’s latest big signing and the Brazilian is coming off a strong World Cup performance. He comes highly recommended by former World Player of the year Kaka, so watch out for him. Anelka will be looking to shake off a disastrous summer in which he was kicked off the French national team and Lampard will be looking to show that English players can at least still play well in their own league.
MANCHESTER UNITED- placed second last year with 85 points.
I don’t think there is any team I hate more than the Red Devils. I just can’t stand them. It annoys me how they always find ways to win and this is their greatest asset. United is probably the best team when it comes to winning ugly and I mean that as no insult. Winning ugly games is key to doing well in the league and it’s a reason they are always in the top 2.
Man U can also pile on the skill when necessary with players like Rooney, Nani, Berbatov and Valencia. Bias aside, I can’t be sure what this team will do this year. They will lose or draw games they should easily win, but they’ll also probably easily win some games that many experts would say are tough matches.
They haven’t made any major signings and there doesn’t seem to be any plans to, so what you see is what you get, at least until the January transfer window. On another note, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs continue to defy the age monster and remain capable players. I am flabbergasted every time I see one of them score as they already have this year.
Players to watch- Rooney (how will he recover from a poor World Cup?), Giggs, Scholes, Nemanja Vidic, Edwin Van der Sar
Giggs and Scholes will continue to provide experience in the midfield as the other players have their ups and downs. Vidic and Van der Sar will be key as their questions to be asked as to how good Man U’s defense is. If Van der Sar struggles at all it could spell trouble as Manchester doesn’t have any great backups at goalkeeper.
Tottenham Hotspur- placed 4th with 70 points.
The Spurs are one of those squads who are looking to cement their status as an elite team by joining the big 3 of the EPL. They started their season with a win and a draw. They also qualified for the Champion’s League for the first time in recent memory, so this is a pretty important season of football for them. They have a solid squad that is a good mix of the best English talent and internationals. However, I don’t think these players will be enough to keep them in the top 4. Their only big addition to the club has been William Gallas from Arsenal and he doesn’t really stack up to the players the other big clubs have brought in. Tottenham is going to have to play over its head if they want to stay a top 4 team once again.
Best Players- Jermaine Defoe, Peter Crouch, Aaron Lennon, Gareth Bale, Luka Modric
The Spurs do hold some of the best English talent available with speedy players like Defoe and Lennon and the big gangly striker Crouch. Bale has been a revelation in defense and he’s a pretty good offensive talent as well. Modric controls the midfield with great skill and as a result he has been coveted by teams like Manchester United.
Look out for part II detailing the other EPL clubs looking to join the top 4. Until then you can catch premier league action on TSN2, Rogers Sportsnet and their new channel Sportsnet One along with Setanta sports.
Alejandro Perreira is a Sports writer for The Scene in TO. He is an avid fan of footy and loves giving his opinion on the game. Email him at: alejandro@thesceneinTO.com