PREMIER LEAGUE SAILS AHOY!

PREMIER LEAGUE SAILS AHOY!
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The 2016 English Premier League (EPL) season has taken off and from all indications, it’s going to be one of the toughest seasons ever witnessed anywhere in the world. Previewing the new season, I made the point that come the end of the season, I see the title being won by a club in London or Manchester.

It’s early days yet but our old folks have a saying “that when it’s going to rain, the wind leads the way. Going into the first international break and after three matches, the top of the table reads Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United all with the maximum nine points!

The great Sir Alex Ferguson once remarked that to gain momentum and for morale, It’s important for a club that has ambitions to win the premiership, to win its first four matches. The three clubs have so far won their first three matches and clearly have thrown the gauntlet to the others.  The question now is which team would win be the first to win the fourth and what would that portend?

Pic Jopse mourinho, Man Utd's manager

Pic Jopse mourinho, Man Utd’s manager

I guess you would want to know what has caught my fancy thus far? I believe the match of the season so far was the Arsenal against Liverpool at the Emirates stadium. It had everything.  There was passion, big game players like Philipe Coutinho, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez and a wonderful stadium atmosphere.

Plus there were goals. Goals bring a football match alive. I mean five glorious goals were scored in that match epic match with Liverpool carrying the day. What stood out though was that defensively, the two sides were suspect and if they are serious to annex the title, they have to find antidotes.

There was a lot of talk and hype of certain players before the season begun especially those who commanded huge transfer fess and it’s important to zoom the lenses on such players to ascertain whether they are living up to the hype or not.

Manchester United’s new boy, Zlatan Ibrahimovich has so far shown that he would be a bargain. With three goals in two matches, he cannot be faulted. He’s also a big game player who could be relied on to deliver the goods for United.

Ngolo Kante moved from champions Leicester City to Chelsea in a big money move. So far, he has done very well marshaling the midfield of the Blues that has resulted in four victories. He works so tirelessly that even one pundit remarked that with him in the team, Hazard would not have to trudge back to help the defence.

Pic: Chelsea midfield dynamo, Ngolo Kante

Pic: Chelsea midfield dynamo, Ngolo Kante

Pogba’s transfer dragged and dragged for a long time and when it was finally resolved, he couldn’t even play the first match because of suspension. However, his presence alone in the midfield of United is huge and much is expected to come from him.

Nolito’s transfer to Man City did not engender much funfair but he has gone about his job effectively. Two goals in three matches and a promise of many more to come, is good return for any amount that was paid for him.

With the advent of Pep Guardiola to Man City, Joe Hart, the English number has been pushed from his perch and he has had to go around looking for new grounds to ply his trade. Mercifully, Torino has stepped in to save his blushes.  He’s not the only player in that predicament with Cesc Fabregas and Daniel Sturridge facing similar trials at Chelsea and Liverpool respectively. Chances are that if they do not move camp, they would have limited playing time in their respective teams which could ultimately affect their international careers.

Pic: Cesc Fabregas, frozen out of Chelsea?

Pic: Cesc Fabregas, frozen out of Chelsea?

One other thing that also stood out was the never say die spirit of Chelsea and especially, Man United, is back and this is giving their supporters a lot of belief. United’ late victory over Hull City as well as Chelsea’s last gasp winner against West Ham, speak volumes.

My stand-out performers after three matches are Eden Hazard of Chelsea who seems to have re-discovered his old spark and is rearing to go. Nobody can downplay the impact the signing of Zlatan Ibrahimovic is having on Man United. He has the temperament for the big game and he is a handful for defenders added to the fact that he scores lots of goals and he’s a winner having won league titles in Italy, Spain and France before coming to England.

Sergio. Aguero has also begun the season very well scoring some beautiful goals. So long as the midfielders do their work and create the opportunities for him, he will bang in the needed goals. There’s however, a call for a 3-match retrospective ban for him for elbowing Winston Reid, in the match against West Ham. If as expected he is banned, some of the shine would have been removed ahead of the big Manchester derby.

Antonio Conte is a huge catch for the EPL. Before the start of the league most pundits focus was on the two managers that had pitched camp in Manchester that is namely, Pep and Mourinho but I tell you no lie when I say their focus is changing and people are having to rewrite their notes. The antics of Conte on the side lines have made it difficult for people to take their eyes off the man. When was the last time you had a manager go into the crowd to celebrate with the supporters? The Chelsea supporters have got more than what they bargained for and it’s no wonder that most have consigned the ‘Special One’ to the antiques library.

So with three matches played, who is your money on to win the premiership? To Atessitame akalanyaba staff of WAEC, this is ‘Arsenal’s year’. To him, the team’s weakness last year was the defence and with the defensive reinforcements brought in by Wenger, ‘there would be no stopping the Gunners’. Andy Ofosu Ofei, a National service person in Cape Coast believes Antonio Conte is going to be the ‘key that would propel the blues to the title after last year’s debacle’. Tekyi Wahab Abdul, a national service person based in Mankessim is of the opinion that Jose Mourinho is the ‘lucky charm’ that Manchester United have been waiting for. To him, the inclusion of ‘super stars like Ibrahimovic and Pogba, the title will certainly be won by United’. Who is your money on?

Pic: Chelsea manager, Antonio conte

Pic: Chelsea manager, Antonio conte

After the international break, the heat would go a notch higher with the big guns locking horns against each other. Don’t forget the London derby between Chelsea and Arsenal at the Emirates is only a few weeks away. Before then, the matter of who rules Manchester would be settled on September, 10th.  Morale in the camp of the two teams is very high following the three straight victories. Whether we like it or not, the winning streak of the two clubs would be broken one way or the other that day.  This would be the first clash between Man Utd and Man City with Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola in the dug-out and football lovers cannot help but salivate at the prospect.

 

NB: The transfer window shut yesterday but not before Arsenal showed that they can still rumble with the big boys by bringing in German international Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Perez. Chelsea brought in ‘legend’ David Luiz from PSG and Marcos Alonso from Fiorentina to shore up their defensive deficiencies. Tottenham Hotspur managed to prise Moussa Sissoko fromthe clutches of Newcastle United.



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