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Page added on August 11, 2011
Well the Premiership season is back, well not quite. It was almost here until a collection of mindless, consumer enslaved thugs of a feral persuasion went on an England wide tour of wanton destruction, with reckless abandon. Just when you think that following America’s downgrading of its triple “A” credit rating, things would not get any worse, and then comes hooliganism in its purest form. The long awaited Premier League big kick off has been placed in doubt. Fans have been looking forward to this annual distraction from life’s boredom, to help massage some testosterone-laden species. But hey, some things never change. The perennial horse trading, haggling, and auctioneering of players will always be there for fans to savour. Every year, fans are treated to long drawn transfer sagas, blockbuster moves and the odd discovery of a football gem. (Photo: Abdulai Mansaray, author)
This year, Carlos Tevez started early to claim monopoly to the title of “transfer saga of the close season” when he branded Manchester City (the town) as boring and wet, with only two restaurants. Well you could tell that he doesn’t get out much. This is a city that boasts of people like the Gallagher brothers, Manchester United, and eh….what else? By publicly stating that he would not even go back to Manchester for a holiday, you wonder what he was doing at Carrington Training Complex on a wet Monday morning. You wonder what the City fans will make of their “welcome to Manchester” banner now; which they used to taunt their quite neighbours with, when he took the short walk across to the blue half of Manchester. Little did the City fans know that King Carlos was a journey man, hell bent on touring the British Isles and has a serious allergy to the word “loyalty”? You would expect his behaviour to put City on the back foot, with potential suitors seeing this as an irrevocably damaged marriage, hence get him for a lower price. Instead City, with more money than sense, splashed £37 million on his fellow countryman, Sergio Aguero to call his bluff. Now that City are well loaded with world class players, they only need a winning mentality and a manager who is less worried about losing than winning. If the Community Shield curtain raiser is anything to go by, I won’t hold my breath.
Fabregas has made no secret of his desire to return home. To think that he was snatched from the cradle of the Barcelona Academy by Arsenal, it is foolhardy to try and keep an unhappy player. The situation is like preventing a foster child from seeking their biological parents after they have come of age. When Tierry Henry opted to go abroad, he was “bribed” with the captain’s arm band. The same was done to Fabregas, even though it is plain for all to see that he is not captain material. Arsenal now boasts of the longest running football transfer sagas, spanning 3 years. Many pundits feel that Arsenal’s problems lie in defence. No. Arsenal’s trophy drought has gone for six years. Call it a fallow period, as they have lost out on the title because of little hiccups. What Arsenal need is a leader and a heavy dose of siege mentality; the type that saw them go unbeaten for a whole season. Those were the days when Arsene made the players believe that the whole world was against them, the days of “In Arsene we trust”. Gervinho and Alex Chamberlain are good prospects for the future. If Wenger can make them believe that their chances have been written off even before a ball is kicked, that will reduce the pressure and may suit their current embryonic mental strength.
When Ronaldo made the same request in 2008, Sir Alex persuaded him to stay for a further year. In 2009, he was sold to Real Madrid his boyhood team, for a cool £80 million, while the Barcelona players were still celebrating their Champions League victory on the pitch. That is the mark of a good manager, telling a player that he is not bigger than the team. It’s funny that you never know players’ boyhood teams until they have been transformed into “world class” players. Arsenal stands to lose not only Fabregas but Samir Nasri as well. The blow to team morale is unquestionable; all down to Arsene Wenger’s idea of home economics. I am sure that he will get new players in, but the season will be half way through by the time they learn how to say “Eboue”. Sounds like Arsenal don’t want to buy players early, to avoid paying their wages while they are on holiday; that is home economics to the professor of economics. Unlike Wenger, Sir Alex bought early and Ashley Young already knows the type of songs Wayne Rooney likes; team spirit.
Liverpool have bought well too, but the title will be too much to ask. Thankfully, the owner has humbly set his sights on a Champions League place as their benchmark. No pressure. One thing for sure is the return of discipline and self belief that King Kenny will instil in the squad. Chelsea has been branded as the pensioners Brigade. But to write them off for the title will be at anyone’s peril. Their legs might have gone, but Drogba still has some match winning fuel in his tank. How the young manager permutates his ego bursting squad is another matter. He needs a quick nuptial between Drogba and £50 million Torres. Add Romelo Lukaku to the mix, you get an ego fiesta. The manager will need to be brave in mixing the old and the young. With the Champions League trophy as the minimum requirement, I can’t see an AVB-Abramovich marriage lasting beyond May 2012.
Blackburn is at it again, expressing fantasy signings to get the ticket sales up. They would be lucky to be in the premier league next year, after Phil Jones was sold to Man Utd. Aston Villa have sold Stewart Downing and Ashley Young. Last year, they flirted with relegation. Added to the mix is the controversial “signing” of Alex MacLeish, the manager who presided over the eventual relegation of their sworn “enemies” Birmingham City; despite getting them a European competition. The pressure to succeed doesn’t come any bigger than that. Fulham have been relatively quiet on the transfer front. The biggest loser is Mark Hughes, who is still not convinced that “a bird in hand is worth two in the bush”.
Bolton had a breath of fresh air from the huff and puff football that West Ham is now enjoying. Unfortunately, they have lost Elmander (Galatasary), Tyrone Mears and Chung Yong to injuries. With the big guys circling around for Gary Cahill and Loanee Daniel Sturridge back to Chelsea, they need more ammunition to avoid a repeat of their end of season collapse.
Newcastle seems to be cutting their nose to spite their face with the Joey Barton issue. I am not a fan of some players’ twitter antics, because it just makes them a twit. But Barton said what was on every Geordie lips. With Andy Carrol and Kevin Nolan moved on; and possibly Jose Enrique to follow, the future seems bleak. Pardew seems to be replicating the French football Academy, Clairfontaine with a few French signings. Hope it’s not a recipe for a French baguette.
Like his former boss, Steve Bruce has made early signings with the fund from the sale of Jordan Henderson and Darren Bent. In the mix are Wes Brown and John O’shea, who will bring a touch of winning mentality to the team; courtesy of Man Utd breast milk. There is not much to write home about Wigan and West Brom. Suffice it to say that they will hold their own. For many neutrals, Roberto Martinez may just win the Manager of the Year, just for his loyalty. While clubs around Wigan fired their managers left, right and centre for a few bad results last season, Wigan kept the faith and was rewarded on the last day with a stay of execution. The new guys, Norwich, Swansea and Queens Park Rangers have gone about their business quietly. Their days in the premiership have already been numbered by some armchair pundits. But watch out for Norwich City, who might just spring a few surprises. It’s nice to see Neil Warnock back in the premiership; if for nothing else but his post -match comments. As for Everton, David Blaine, sorry David Moyes is fast becoming a magician, just for keeping Everton in the Premier League. Tottenham don’t seem to know what they want as they continue to sniff around many high profile players on the back pages of the tabloid press.
I know you want my prediction for the Premier League. Yes I know you do. Here we go: Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool. You don’t need to examine me from the neck upwards. Remind me in May 2012. But it could all change by the end of the August transfer window.
Let the games begin.
Abdulai Mansaray, UK
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