For those following The Barclays Premier League you’ll no doubt be aware of Arsenal’s crumbled title challenge. For those that don’t, in recent years the team has made a habit of spending an entire season hot on the heels of whoever is leading the race, only to completely bottle it with four or fives games to go – and this season has been no exception.
Since losing the Carling Cup final to Birmingham City back in February Arsenal seem to have hit the self destruct button, only beating Leyton Orient and Blackpool since – losing another three and drawing the remaining five. The most recent defeat at home to Bolton Wanders all but conformed the end of their title challenge, they’re currently nine points behind leaders Manchester United with four games to go. Not only that, they’ve also relinquished second place to Chelsea, meaning they’re most likely going to finish third.
It’s outrageous to assume the ‘Big 4’ clubs of the English Premier League could ever possibly finish outside the top 4 league positions by the end of the season, but if early performances are anything to go by it looks as though we might maybe have a slight reshuffle on our hands come the end of next May. The title of this blog post is incredibly far-fetched and in a lot of ways wishful thinking on my part, I don’t support a Premiership club but I’ve always had something of a soft spot for Tottenham Hotspur and would therefore absolutely love them to break up the Big 4 again and maybe go one better and ultimately win the league. Alan Hanson perhaps jokingly said “Spurs for the league title” after watching them totally annihilate Hull City on their home turf, and after putting a bit of thought into it I truly believe it could happen this year. Their chances are slim but as long as there’s that element of hope I’ll continue to believe it can happen.
It felt so good to see the best football league in the world kick off this past weekend, a summer without a major international tournament is sheer torture for any fan of the sport. The opening weekend as always didn’t fail to disappoint, with a goal of the season contender already courtesy of Hugo Rodallega for Wigan and the usual controversial talking points.
One (in fact, arguably two) of these controversial moments came in the game played yesterday between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at White Hart Lane. In what was a hard-fought battle Spurs came out victorious thanks to a fine goal by defender Benoit Assou-Ekotto and a towering headed goal from new boy Sebastien Bassong, but unfortunately the talking point at the end of the game wasn’t about a brilliant performance from the home team but the fact that Liverpool didn’t get two penalty decisions in their favour – if they’d been awarded both and converted them they would have won the game 3-2 instead of losing 2-1.
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.