The relief was palpable at the end of the international break. The quality was dire overall and there was as much excitement over the games as there is in anticipation of a trip to the dentists … initaially for a filling, then a root canal … followed by two excavations. (And rinse.)
The real intrigue remains at club level. To be fair though, that has not been the scene of the most captivating football so far, but there’s a better chance of improvement there than with Hodgson’s England.
Just before the break the dreaded transfer window finally shut. Squads for Premier League teams were submitted. Signings were virtually done and dusted thus giving a fairer base on which to predict how the table would turn out come the end of Spring 2014.
Since Manchester United won the league last season the pace picked up in terms of what their rivals would do to match them. Spurs apparently already knew of Real Madrid’s desire for Bale and went on a shopping spree. Liverpool did some work at the beginning and end of the window. Arsenal made a noise about having money to spend and got involved in some messy links with strikers before nabbing the biggest star and biggest buy of the window. Chelsea’s major signing was their new manager, with only a few new faces refreshing the squad. Manchester City notably got the bulk of their expensive business done early to certainly offer better options throughout particularly their midfield and a attack.
With Sir Alex Ferguson retiring, David Moyes taking over at United, Manuel Pellegrini replacing Roberto Mancini and Roberto Martinez taking charge at Everton, the merry-go-round left some of the top managers suggesting as many as six clubs would be involved as serious title contenders.
Promising though that sounds, beyond that, a different perspective suggests by the beginning of April, only three clubs will be in line to get the PL title.
The unwritten rules of football state quite clearly you should not rule out the defending champions, especially when they’re accustomed to being title contenders for two decades.
All the upheaval at Old Trafford as well as the developments at their competitors have left some suggesting United are not favourites to retain. This is a position that will suit them down to the ground as they relish any chance to prove the doubters wrong.
Any team that has the proven qualities of Ferdinand, Vidic, Carrick, Rooney and Van Persie as well as the emerging lights of Welbeck, Cleverley and Jones will be confident in their own ability. They know how to grind out results, they know how to come back from losing positions. They know the pain of missing out and the hunger to win.
In Fellani they have strengthened their central midfield, and Moyes is content to go ahead with the group of players he has. Although they’ve had a stuttering start to their season, you give a manager time to settle and the players the chance to understabd what he wants and they have it in them to go on prolonged unbeaten runs that have made them Champs on numerous occasions.
The powers that be at City were obviously not satisfied with last season. Maybe losing to Wigan in the FA Cup was the straw that broke the camel’s back. To be fair, though, even that defeat might have been influenced by strong rumours that the manager’s days were numbered.
Whatever the case, City acted to resolve matters and institute the noted ‘holistic’ approach. They were title contenders last season and there’s enough to suggest they should compete again this season.
Fernandinho looks a good buy to compliment Yaya Toure. Navas does not appear to be a slouch either. They have invested heavily again and want to see a quick return on it.
They have a manager who is reputed to be the sort to produce attractive football and place a high value on treating players respectfully. Four games into the season, however, and they look still in the settling period. Once they get in the groove you can imagine it will be difficult to stop them.
Chelsea were not even in the running for the title for most of last season. This is evidently something Abramovich wanted addresses hence the return of the Special One.
There is more pressure this time to succeed due not only to his previous record at Stamford Bridge, but his subsequent consistent title winning teams has established a winning mentality that Chelsea could do with.
A look at the squad and the new personnel gives hope for any fans of the Blues. Despite the recent defeat to Everton there remains an excellent quality among the whole set-up that bodes well fod their title aspirations.
It is weird to see pundits consider the Anfield outfit as contenders. It is more to type to see them slightly brushed off as in it to win the big one. Applause though to Rodgers for improving the squad overall, and the positive start certainly contributes to the more realistic aspiration of competing for 4th place.
Many see the departure of Bale as a big loss to Spurs. Yet Levy and his transfer team are to be applauded for getting way above value for the Welshman and leaving themselves in arguably a stronger position to bid for a top four position. The lack of the winning mentality and settling in period needed is what puts them just outside being a title winner for this season.
C. L. J. Dryden