A New Dawn - A Look At The Big Boys - Part II
Manchester United - United field a much similar lineup to the year that passed, with the additions of forward Chicarito Javier Hernandez and defender Chris Smalling.
Vidic's commitment to the squad after baseless rumors about his Old Trafford departure was a welcome sign to the Manchester outfit. The fitness of Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney is very much the deciding factor this season. Berbatov needs to shoulder the weight on Rooney's shoulders this season and get in to the fore.
Looking at last season, the reason he is staying maybe because Sir Alex had seen something in the Bulgarian and spoken to him about influencing and showing himself more in games. The midfield is a little lacking as the pair of Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs grow a year older and question marks on their legs' return start to come up.
It is up to the relative youth of Fletcher and Carrick to take over from the veterans. Carrick was disappointing last season, he will have to improve for United to mount a serious title challenge. Nani and Valencia would be deployed in the wings and their consistency is key. Throw in Park Ji Sung, the utility man, to cover for injuries at any place in the midfield.
Wayne Rooney is shouldering too much of the team's weight and expectations of the fans. He must be supported by Hernandez, Berbatov and Owen this season. He must be taken off the responsibility of the only main source of the goals for United up top, to give him better fitness and more fire to perform with his heart worn on his sleeve. The likes of Anderson and Darron Gibson can provide cover to the midfield. It is finally up to the injuries and players coming good in the season.
Prediction - Winning the title depends on Rooney repeating or bettering what he did in 2009-2010 and the other strikers coming good this season. Definitely top three.
Chelsea - Last season's champions still remain the team to beat. They've added Yossi Benayoun from Liverpool to their ranks, Ramires of Benfica also looks a bright prospect. Anyone who witnessed his run to end with Robinho scoring in the recently gone tournament would know the caliber of this player.
Chelsea have grown one more year and except for the above mentioned, have not added anything new to the attack or defence. Much falls on Didier Drogba's shoulders this season again. Will he be able to repeat the golden boot winning performance of last season is a question that needs to be asked. With the resurgence of Michael Essien from injury, Chelsea's midfield has taken a big boost. However, they've lost Michael Ballack, Deco, Beletti and Joe Cole this summer. Ballack was a key player as he provided the midfield steel in Essien's absence and was an experienced head in the centre of the park. They had also relied on services of Deco and Joe Cole in bit parts on rotation of squad last season.
Gael Kakuta is a big prospect lined up to take centre stage as the 25 - man rule permits unlimited under 21's in the squad. John Terry needs to show assurance in his defence after a shambolic World Cup display and must be fit for most part of the season as an injury to him or Lampard or Drogba will prove detrimental to Chelsea's progress in the league. With Petr Cech suffering from injury, the goalkeeping situation doesn't provide much confidence either. Frank Lampard is key to Chelsea and without him, the pace of the attack will not last.
Defensive Minded Mikel and Right Back Ivanovic deserve a mention in this space as they were a class act on Chelsea's walk to the trophy last season. After a double in his first season as manager, Carlo Ancelotti is quietly confident about this campaign but pre season results suggest otherwise.
Prediction - Will retain the title based on the consistency of Lampard and Drogba upfront and Terry & Carvalho/ Ivanovic at the heart of defence. Hilario or Turnbull in goal might put Chelsea on the back foot when the season is underway giving an opportunity for their opponents to take an early lead in the race. But they still remain the strongest side in England bar the age. Definitely Top two.
Arsenal - Well here come my personal favorite - The Gunners. Much has come to the fore about the captain Francesc Fabregas supposed transfer to Barcelona, Arsenal have done well to keep away from the astronomical speculation linking their captain away from the club. But this has only been supported with Barcelona making a derisory offer of £30 million for one of the brightest midfield maestros in all of the land.
Cesc Fabregas is set to stay in the red and white as Barcelona remain incapable of putting in a proper transfer fee. Goalkeeping issues are yet to be sorted out and this might be a big confidence downer in the defensive department and another season of goalkeeping bloopers cannot be tolerated.
Arsene Wenger identified the defensive side of things as the downside of last season and that conceding 41 goals cannot land the title. The defensive setup has taken a make over this season with William Gallas, Mikael Silvestre, Sol Campbell and long gone Phillippe Senderos leaving and only Lorient centre back Laurent Koscielny added along with Johan Djourou coming back from injury.
Arsenal are short of numbers, strength and height at centre back and with revolutionary signing Thomas Vermalaen taking the senior position at the age of 24. Arsene Wenger has promised to add defensive signings before the close of the window and this would prove very significant to their title challenge. The midfield is overloaded with the likes of Alex Song as the pivot with Frimpong emerging from nowhere as cover and the brightest 18 year old prospect in Jack Wilshere looking to take it to the highest level. Along with Nasri who has been in obscenely super touch in pre season with Tomas Rosicky returning from injury as cover and of course Cesc Fabregas who just won the World Cup with Spain. Though, many may claim he sat out most of the World Cup, he made the pass that won the World Cup, eh?
Walcott , Arshavin, Van Persie, Vela, Bendtner and Chamakh add fire power and dynamism up top. They boast a brilliant passing game of football, but their conversion to trophies would be put to test this very season as it decides on Wenger's and more importantly Cesc Fabregas' commitment to the club.
Prediction - Can possibly win the League if additions in key areas (Centre back and Goal keeping) are added to the ranks. It comes down to injuries to key personnel and collective defending. They've done very well in the pre season, the knack is about maintaining the consistency and not switching off in games. Definitely top three with an outside chance at the title based on defensive solidarity and new signings.
That is it for today folks. This is the first official post and all your reviews and criticism is most welcome. Till then, Cheers! And Hey, GO GUNNERS!
Article submitted by Sriram Iyer