Has there ever been a league so weirdly wonderful as the Premier League this year? For this man, whose BetFred account stands proudly in the black following some nerve-wracking bets, the league has been intriguing but impossible to call. The stars have aligned, the dice are cast, and no one seems to be able to predict results anymore.
Why? Well, at the top half of the table is a weird combination of the “big boys” led on nervously by new managers, and the challenging few who have managed to build teams on the sly (or have sold one player for an obscene sum, and then bought an incoherent and random set of foreigners instead). Mixed in, are clubs whose philosophy seems to finally be paying dividends.
For United, Chelsea and City, new managers bring with them a bedding in period, even for the “Special One” himself. Between Sir Alex’s retirement, Mancini’s failure, and the strange tenure of Benitez finally coming to an end, all these teams are looking strangely frail. None yet have a clear indication of their strongest line up, just parts of it – Rooney and Van Persie yes, but who in midfield for United? Lampard and Ramirez for sure, but who in front of them for Chelsea? All are struggling to emerge as the undisputed power, and all are equally far from fulfilling the “Godfather” status that Sir Alex held with such aplomb. This in turn has allowed smaller clubs to get greedy, to dare to say no to their advances. Suddenly, the chasing pack are much closer than they first realised.
The “Eternally Four-and-a-half Stars on FIFA”
As the only English club in the Champions League to have kept their manager from last year, Arsenal are reaping the rewards of continuity. Their style is more effective, their young starlets a year older and more mature. To go with this, they did bring in a certain Mesut Ozil on deadline day – the best player in his position worldwide? Probably.
Tottenham are in transit following a summer spree, a team desperate for some chemistry and also for some attacking football. Being a club with a history of flair and style, the physical counter attacking of AVB just may not do it. If he can’t provide a trophy, will he keep his job for another year? Everton meanwhile have plenty of that swagger that is so craved at the Lane, but they may not have quite enough in the engine to push the whole way. But, my God, is Lukaku terrifying.
And so we bring ourselves to the Kop and to Southampton, a team that no one expected to still be sticking around this long.
But first, Liverpool. A game of tug and war with Arsenal over the “bitey, cheating racist” (as I like to call Suarez) ended when Liverpool pointed out there was no release clause, a slight error then on behalf of his agent. Still, with his contributions combined with Sturridge’s rapid improvement, a cutting edge has finally been provided for the possession platform that Rodgers has so dearly been attempting to provide from an unusual 3-5-2 formation. Steven Gerard seems to be able to keep going like a Duracell battery, and that helps a little too.
So that leaves Southampton – my favourite team aside from my beloved Lilywhites for the moment. Southampton have an English core, press high up the pitch like no tomorrow, are scoring great goals and seem to do all of this whilst their manager can’t speak English. What a club. Whether they can sustain it in the long run is debatable, but they definitely add an interesting thought into the current Premier League mixer.
So overall, what a weird and wonderful collection. I don’t think that any of these eight teams would come close to the Man United of 07/08, and certainly can’t compete with the big boys abroad, but that’s a different story. All I know for the moment is, this year, anything can happen.