Friday, August 07, 2015

EPL 2015-16: The season begins!

Stat Alert: 76 – number of days since the last EPL weekend.

That’s quite a lot of days in a calendar year!

A football league where there are more clubs vying to win the league is exciting in my opinion. This is why I consider the English Premier League the most exciting Football league of them all. Yes, a couple of Spanish clubs (Barcelona and Real Madrid), one German club (Bayern Munich) and one Italian club (Juventus) are top clubs in Europe. But there’s hardly any competition to them in their respective leagues. I know, many will have a difference of opinion on this, and I completely understand the reasoning. It’s just that competition excites me. And as a matter of extension, EPL excites me.

The Interlull before the storm – 

If you were tracking personnel changes (player / manager) during this ‘vacation’ period, you found a way, not a legit way but something nevertheless, to remain in touch the sport. And by now, you know that statistically 99% of the transfer articles are fake / opinions / only written for clicks. The remaining 1% is what matters. I don’t know a way to decipher the 99% from 1%. There are some trusted sources and there are a lot untrusted ones. Being an Arsenal fan, I found my club (virtually) tracking every other footballer on this planet whose names are not Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. If these fake transfer news sites are to be believed, Arsene Wenger (Arsenal’s manager) is a fan of anyone who’s young and even remotely plays football. Nevertheless, many clubs have taken advantage of the transfer window and sold fringe players and strengthen their team with newer ones. Manchester United and Liverpool have led the buying spree and have almost changed their entire team. League champions Chelsea, FA cup holders Arsenal have not been too active as on date. Manchester City, as are expected from them, did their bit of overspending on one player and thereby inviting criticism. The mid-table teams have been smart enough to pluck low hanging fruits at a bargain and hoping that one / few of them make it to count.

How the top 4 teams are preparing for the new season? (arranged in the order they finished last season)

1. Chelsea: Chelsea ran away with the league last season. They were the best team of the season, and by quite a significant margin (8 points adrift from 2nd place Manchester City). They lost less games last season (3) which is quite a mean feat considering the 2nd placed teams in terms of matches lost were Manchester City and Arsenal (7 each). Considering what Chelsea achieved last season, it’s safe to say they have the best team even for this season provided there's no high profile exit. Also, if they can have their top performers fit, they are early season favorites to repeat the feat. One possible blip is their poor form in pre-season matches. But a Jose Mourinho team is not to be under-estimated at any level.
EPL Chelsea transfer business 2015-16

2. Manchester City: Manchester City finished 2nd in last season but hardly competed for the 1st position. They have an ageing squad which needs tweaking and future planning. Manuel Pellegrini is one manager who has to perform this season, failing which the much maligned axe will make an appearance. But then, even if he performs, the axe may still appear (*cough* Pep Guardiola *cough*). They have been relatively quiet in the transfer window but made the biggest transfer this season till date – in Sterling (the player, I mean). 49M for a 21 year Englishman who scored 7 times in 35 league games for Liverpool last season. The numbers don’t add up right? Another Englishman in Fabian Delph and you know the additions are not only strengthening the team but also adding local players to fulfil the English quota. As always, a lot will depend on regulars like Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Joe Hart and Vincent Kompany will up the ante. Don’t count out buying another world class player. Why? Because they will always have the money!
EPL Manchester City transfer business 2015-16

3. Arsenal: Every new season starts with lot of hope and then it fizzles out one way or the other, mainly due to injuries piling up rather than lack of performance. This season is different, in a sense. Arsene Wenger has finally strengthened that one area which needed a world-class player. Welcome Petr Cech. Arsenal’s approach in this transfer window proves they mean business. Apart from Cech coming in, Wenger has allowed some top (but fringe) players to leave – Podolski (sold) and Szczesny (loan). The current players are upbeat; they can sense league success and their performance in pre-season also proved that they can make it happen. One addition in defensive midfield and the team is ready for the league as well as Europe.
EPL Arsenal transfer business 2015-16

4. Manchester United: Louis van Gaal is a task-master. The way he sidelined and sold his once-favorite striker in Robin van Persie proves it. They have been the busiest team in the transfer market. Memphis Depay was signed as soon as the last season ended. Sergio Romero was bought as backup of David de Gea. Add to it one defender in Darmain and two midfield stalwarts in Schweinsteiger and Schneiderlin, you already have a top team on the field. And the business in not yet done. By the time the window closes, expect some significant changes in the first team lineup. The problem doesn’t lie in attracting top talent for Manchester United, the problem lies in making them play cohesively as a unit. That was the challenge in front of van Gaal last season and it remains the same this season.
EPL Manchester United transfer business 2015-16

Special mention: Liverpool is another club buying and selling frantically. The owners gave Brendan Rodgers a long rope and a flexible budget. But time is running out for him to perform. Perform or perish will be the mantra for Rodgers at Anfield.

I can’t wait for the league to begin. It’s time for all the shocks and surprises, the ups and downs, the counter-attacks and parking the bus. Oops. Did I just cross the line? Who cares? Let the games begin!

Transfer source: Wikipedia

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