2014/2015 EPL: A SEASON BECKONS!

With barely a month after the world cup fiesta in Brazil, the bunch of theatrics that has become the English Premier League is almost upon us. Indeed, that football never stops giving is almost a cliché, but there is no more clever way to say it. It might not be the best league by the experts’ permutations, but it is peerless in terms of excitement, intrigues, drama and luxury. The Barclays English Premier League enjoys a followership that is both staggering and legendary. The league is idolized in continents outside of Europe and the passion for the game transcends the shores of Old Trafford or the Emirates. True to type, the 2014/2015 season promises to be another Pandora box of some sorts. It is certain that we will have the usual suspects both compete for the league and fight for survival. However, as it is with almost every other season, a couple of teams will defy the bookmakers.
Undoubtedly, Manchester City are the firm favorites to claim the trophy among the contenders. City comes into the new campaign as champions and having not had a busy transfer market by their own standards, they are still a great force. Bacary Sagna and Colombian keeper, David Ospina were the major acquisitions by City. It is only logical that with 102 goals scored in the previous campaign, the champions are not in anyway short of firepower. Defensive frailties, especially in the absence of inspirational captain, Vincent Kompany, were their Achilles heels. In Manuel Pellegrini, City has a veteran coach and a father figure that will help galvanize their aspirations. While there was an improvement in their European adventure last season, a further improvement will be required. It is the aspirations of City’s owners, Abu Dhabi, to see the Club emerge as a global force. To guarantee this, consistent domestic dominance must be eked out alongside European relevance. A top four finish in Europe this season will be the least that the Club will accept as success this season.
Any team that loses a massive talent such as Luis Suarez was always going to be depleted in quality. The South American might have a notorious attitude, but he remains an amazing talent. Having said that, it was perhaps the sensible thing to let him go at this time and it was a great bargain for Liverpool. His departure has witnessed an influx of talents into Anfield. Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Divock Origi, Lazar Markovic and Dejan Lovren have all been captured. However, as Tottenham found out last season, quantity doesn’t necessarily guarantee returns, after they sold Gareth Bale for a fortune and spent 100 million Euros on new players. It remains to be seen how Brendan Rogers will integrate and tinker with his squad. As a spin to the foregoing, Liverpool will be back in Europe next season and such engagements requires a large, albeit, quality squad. Liverpool were the nearly men of last season and were whiskers from winning the title. The quest before them this season will be how they can build on last season’s success with the distractions of mid-week football in Europe to contend with.
It is stunning how one man’s arrival can change the equation of things in a football club. So much have been said about Louis Van Gaal and his enviable resume and the expectations are close to frightening. He comes into Manchester United with a towering reputation and buoyed by a world cup where he was the love of many. His arrival might have inflated hopes and resuscitated believe in his players, however, it doesn’t gloss over the fact that United are by no means the finished article. He has done well to capture some few players but one must say that losing Ryan Giggs, Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic in a single window is a major loss. United were so poor last season that it will be foolhardy to heap it all on David Moyes. Some of the players were simply not good enough, while some did not stand up to be counted. Van Gaal brings optimism and experienced tactical nous but it is the players who must execute it all on the football field. With no Champions League football to look forward to next season, one wonders what the United faithful will accept as success this season. Just like Liverpool last season, they will have majorly the league to look forward to. It is apt to state that after the shenanigans of last season, Van Gaal appears to be starting up with United from ground zero, and that should worry their rivals. Winning the league next season might be an exaggerated aspiration to have at the moment, but when you remember that these same players won the league only two seasons ago despite their shortcomings, then one must agree that United are contenders at the very least for the trophy. Winning other domestic silverwares will be the ambition of the club but the priority ‘number one’ for Van Gaal must be to return Manchester United to Europe, where their fans will claim they belong.
And then there is Chelsea. A barren season is never a feature in Jose Mourinho impressive resume, but such was the case in the maiden season of his second coming. The special cum happy one, spent a better part of last season convincing everyone that Chelsea is the ‘little horse’ in the scheme of things. While it is true that many of Chelsea’s players last season were ‘work in progress’, that team was still capable of winning anyone on their day. It is remarkable that Chelsea were brilliant in the big games last season, highlight of which was the 6-0 massacre of Arsenal at Stanford Bridge. The greatest undoing of the team was their lackluster display against the so called ‘smaller teams.’ Solving the striker puzzle at Chelsea was a fundamental question last season. It is now a consensus that Fernando Torres will never become the player he once was. He joins an infamous list of Claudio Pizzaro, Hernan Crespo and Andry Shevchenko, who were top shots upon arrival, but suddenly lost their mojo and never regained it. Diego Costa comes with that cloud hovering over his head. A lot of Chelsea’s season will depend on the former Madrid top shot. Suffice it to say, the capture of Cesc Fabregas, Felipe Luis and the return of Thibaut Courtois will be fundamental. So much have been said about who becomes number one between Cech and Courtois. So much of Chelsea’s chances this season will also be dependent on how Jose manages the pair. Though Cech remains world class, last season showed that he desperately needed a competition of some sort. Whether another world class keeper on his heels is the right competition remains to be seen. Surely, Roman Abramovich remains a demanding owner, and another trophy-less season will surely not go down well with him. Whatever Chelsea does, they need to return to trophy winning ways.
Everton and Tottenham will certainly be in the trail of the usual suspects. Godison Park must be buoyed with the capture of sensational talent, Romelu Lukaku. For Spurs, they have had a relatively quiet summer. New coach, Mauricio Pochettino will have to prove that Spurs was not sold a dummy in signing him. The relegation battle will no doubt be a tussle to look forward to. New boys, Leicester City, Burnley and Queens Park Rangers will have their sight firmed on cementing their elite status. It was remarkable that QPR are making a return with only a season absence. Many still believed that they had enough quality in 2013 to have stayed up, but they were the architect of their own undoing.
Arsenal completes the top five team that will certainly jostle for the title. The gunners have a renewed optimism especially with winning the FA cup last season and ending almost a decade of drought. Building upon that feat is the quest before Wenger and his boys. The signing of Alexis Sanchez is a major steal and could be the signing of the summer. The days of transfer frugality at the Emirate is over, and with such luxury comes demand for silverware. Arsenal must now show consistency in contesting for both domestic and European glory.
As the new EPL season sits on the horizon, football fans can be assured of unending drama, twists and sheer ecstasy. It will be attempting a genius of octopus Paul, to say who will lift the trophy in May or who will go down to the championship. However, one fact we can attempt is to conclude today that the season will never fail to give us great value for our money, energy and time! Bring it on!!

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