United to retain again?
With just over a week to go until the 2009/2010 football season kicks off, the transfer market has been one of the busiest and most prolific ever. We’ve seen huge names and upcoming names move all over the world, and there’s still another three weeks to cram in any last minute signings. One topic I wanted to talk about was whether or not Manchester United could retain their Premier League title, and also if the ‘Big 4’ could retain their statuses as the very best in English football.
It’s no secret that Manchester United have lost their biggest asset in Cristiano Ronaldo, not to mention the very popular Carlos Tevez as well. An old proverb states that ‘one player does not a title winning team make’… or something like that. The phrase does ring true however because United will cope just fine without him in the long term despite being quite a big blow to the team, but in a lot of ways losing Tevez is just as big a blow for the short term. I’ll be brutal here (which is one of my criticisms about blogging, I’m too soft), Berbatov has been largely useless since joining from Tottenham for a rather whopping £30 million this time last year. In fact for £30 million he’s been shit. This season he’ll spend a lot of time up front with Wayne Rooney of course, who adapted rather well to a role on the left wing last season to accommodate for Ronaldo’s scoring habit, but frankly between the two of them they probably won’t score too many goals as Rooney isn’t a goal scoring striker and Berbatov is a flop in the eyes of the Old Trafford faithful.
Sir Alex Ferguson is taking a massive gamble in the centre forward department to replace his top goalscorer in Ronaldo and one of his best playmakers in Tevez. Michael Owen is the big one for sure, who on his day is a phenomenal player but due to injuries he had his day once he left Liverpool for Real Madrid in 2004. If he can stay fit he’ll be a terrific signing, but other gambles include youngsters who will no doubt have to step into the spotlight when Owen cripples himself stepping off the team bus upon arriving at an opposition stadium. We’ve seen glimpses of what Macheda will be capable of in the future, and new signing Gabriel Obertan looks to be one for the future as well. The frequent use of the word ‘future’ brings me back to what I was talking about when I mentioned losing Ronaldo won’t matter in the long term, it will in the short term though. It stands to reason that goals will need to come almost exclusively from Michael Owen for the club to realistically win another league title because the young strikers simply aren’t ready and the two established ones will be lucky if they score 20 between them. Berbatov has vowed to improve for the forthcoming season and it is essential that he does, but far too much rests on him improving and Owen being fit throughout the campaign.
As for the other teams in the ‘Big 4,’ it’s not looking too good for Liverpool or Arsenal either in the transfer department. Both teams have lost key players that would have been paramount to any success they would have achieved this season, Arsenal in particular have absolutely no chance whatsoever to mount a serious challenge to their first Premier League title since that unbeaten rampage in 2004, and Liverpool had a lucky season last time around which they won’t be able to replicate without Alonso. Teams like Everton, Aston Villa and particularly Manchester City will be looking to take fourth place from Arsenal as well, but I think they will just about hold onto it for one more season. Manchester City look the biggest threat to them with the signings they’ve made this summer, once Arsenal slip to 5th it’ll gradually go from bad to worse for them as no Champions League football will allow Everton and Villa to go above them one day soon. By about 2016 I predict Arsenal will regularly finish 7th or 8th.
This essentially leaves Manchester United and Chelsea, who I think will battle it out for the title – the latter of which haven’t had any significant departures which I believe will be the key factor in crowning them Premier League Champions when it’s all said and done. They’ve got a very unified team with a good manager, plus no major shake-ups to distract them from the important matter of actually playing football.
Manchester United will ultimately recover from losing Ronaldo and Tevez as mentioned, but they’ll likely struggle at the start of the season with injuries to van Der Sar and Vidic to add to their problems. I think Chelsea will gain the early lead over their nearest rivals and maintain it throughout the season much like Liverpool did last season, but Chelsea are professional enough not to bottle it like they did. They’ve got what it takes to win it this season and possibly next season as well, but United do need to regroup and sort themselves out as soon as possible. Who knows though, Ferguson could have pulled out a master stroke with his signings. Antonio Valencia could be as good as Ronaldo, and Obertan could fill Tevez’s shoes quite nicely for all we know. Time will tell, the first few weeks of the new season will be crucial for them if they want to retain their Premier League crown.