Nothing takes the sting out of the summer’s finale like the dawn of a new Premiership season. A new season always prompts certain questions; will anyone breach the top 4? Which promoted team will hold their own amongst the big boys? Will Liverpool actually mount a threat to the other 3? Will Arsenal learn how to close out a match? Will Villa, Spurs or Everton gain the consistency needed to challenge at the top? How will the new signings fair? It’s always fascinating to see these questions answered over the ensuing 9 months. As much as I love a new Premiership season, I hate missing the opening encounters, which happens more and more regularly as I habitually migrate to sunnier pastures for June, July and August.
As my arrival home from the states coincided with the break for internationals, Gameweek 5 was my first real opportunity to size up the top 20 sides in England. As a fanatical Man Utd. fan their performance was my primary concern. After a shaky opening against Birmingham and a disgraceful defeat to Burnley the boys in red got back on track with a barely deserved win over Arsenal. Saturday saw United put in their first reallyimpressive performance against high-flying Spurs. Inspired showings from Fletcher, Giggs and Rooney helped United dig out a 1-3 victory. It was especially good to see Scholes pulling all the strings in midfield…before being sent off!
Elsewhere it looks like Man City, like Chelsea in 2003, are going to reap instant reward from their sudden influx of finance and household names. The sky-blues have had a flawless opening 4 matches and look like serious contenders this season. Liverpool, by way of contrast have already lost as many games as they did in the entire season last year. One wonders if Benitez made a serious blunder in selling Alonso, a key figure for the scousers over the past few seasons. Unless Torres and Gerrard conjure up some magic every week the outlook is bleak for the reds.
As always Arsenal flatter to deceive. They have played some magnificent football and in Arshavin, Fabregas and VanPersie they possess genuinely world class players but without the necessary leadership at the back they won’t be able to capture the coveted domestic title. Early defeats to both Manchester outfits highlighted glaring deficiencies. Meanwhile Chelsea look like they mean business this season. Their appetite has been growing having been starved of a league title since ’06. Drogba, Lampard and Ballack have all impressed in early encounters and if they can continue to dig out hard victories like last weekend’s 1-2 triumph over Stoke they have to be among the favourites.
It could be a fairytale season for our newly promoted friends if sides like Bolton and Pomp continue their kamikaze mission. One suspects Everton will pull themselves together sooner or later. Wolves and Birmingham look ready to put up a strong fight while Burnely look by no means out of their depth. My favourites to go down; Pompy, Wolves and Hull. While City, Spurs and Villa look the likely candidates to knock the top 4 off thier perch.