It has been a year where a lot of teams have looked for missing pieces in their jigsaw rather than just look at the stardom quotient while doing business in the transfer market. Neither Madrid nor Manchester United have made a marquee signing, still, their squads seem to be complete with the youngsters who are immensely mature for their age and quite comfortable at the big stage. The Young-Jones-Cleverly-Evans-Welback-brigade has added such a zing to the Man Untied side that a Chicharito/Bebatov have to sit out for now. To think of what menacing a combination the Red Devils can be with the experience of Vidic-Ferdinand-Giggs-Rooney is a thought which gives jitters to me, although, the challenge still remains the lack of assurance in the goal and this young system cracking up in Europe against the biggies – SAF will not get mauled so easily again in Europe. In terms of the pieces fitting well into the jigsaw, Man City seemed to have done a commendable job with their buys – atleast offensively they seem to be clicking brilliantly with plan-B, plan-C at their disposal with the likes of Nasir-Aguerro-Dzeko-Barry-Milner-Jonshon etc etc at their disposal. Their start to the season has been phenomenal, more so because Edin Dzeko has hit a golden patch, good enough to displace their talisman Carlos Tevez and with this new challenge in front of him, I think he will remain at City for another year which is what City can bank upon. Defensively, City have been found wanting against Man United few weeks back as well as their lack of application after being in a comfortable position – something they will have to guard against.
While all this while I have been talking about the teams from Manchester having strut their stuff, do not make the mistake of ruling out the Blues. The core of this Blues squad has not changed and although they are still searching for that creative midfielder to complete their jigsaw, the additions of Mata and Lukaku should augur well for them in the season. With McEacheron ready to flourish and a Modric deal might just happen in time and worthy additions of other youngsters, they will come into their own soon. For now they seem a bit bland, but they will be solid as ever and challenging for the title, above Manchester City in the pecking order. This now brings us to the dismal reality that the other London club, Arsenal, has got relegated now from the title-contender podium to being the attempters merely. As much wisdom and vision that Mr Wenger has brought to this team, as much as we have loved their youngsters be the “Barcelona-in-attack-of-the-EPL”, it is disheartening to see their slide , and it has been downhill for six years now. Wenger stuck to his philosophy and made men out of youngsters, only for Arsenal to become a training ground for youngsters with an able master at the helm preparing them for the big stage – unfortunately they wont remain with Arsenal anymore. The battles between an Arsenal – Man United or the london derby do not have the same zeal to it and quite frankly, the beginning of another cycle as it seems to be will leave a lot left to be desired for the ardent Arsenal fans.
It would be foolish to discount Liverpool, because, in Kenny Dalglish they have a man who knows what it is to be the best club in the world in his era and he is certainly on track to bring the glory back to Anfield. His shrewd business acumen in selling Torres and getting Suarez/Carroll last year was sheer brilliance and the buys this year have merely been the required necessities rather than excess of indulgences. The core of their side hasn’t changed either and a fit Gerrard with the new-found belief will be nothing less than superb. Tottenham , unfortunately, will remain a side who will seriously give the biggies a run for their money, maybe even enable/disable a top side in their title march, however, they now face a problem of living upto their raised standards from last year – It will be extremely tough looking at their defeats to Man United and Man City.
EPL 2011-2012 will be a 3-horse race – Man United leading the charge, with able contenders in Chelsea and Man City. Liverpool and Arsenal will be the outsiders and Tottenham might just be the spoiler for one of the top teams, they can do nothing much beyond that. The rest of the EPL brigade looks pretty much the same. With the bigger teams getting stronger this year, the mid-table masters like Bolton-Fulham-Everton-Villa should not be a huge threat at all. All in all, an exciting season to look forward to and an even more exciting last 3 days in the transfer market where it would be interesting to see if Modric comes to Chelsea or they settle for someone else. Tottenham would do well to hold on to Modric, however, he has his heart elsewhere and Chelsea are desperate for him and it might just be right for them to sell him for an absurd amount of money. It will be a rare situation for Arsene Wenger, but, the need of the hour for him is to spend and I think atleast 1 marquee signing is on the cards with all the money garnered from Clichy-Nasri-Fabregas deals. It will be interesting to see if Sneijder moves to Man United or SAF will surprise us with something else.
All in all, the ingredients and the spices seem to be simmering well into a recipe of utmost deliciousness called “EPL 2011 – Fantastic Football”.