Yet another season starts, and there's already a few changes that will have bookies busy and pundits chatty even before kick-off.
Let's take for instance the Big Four.
Manchester United, current champions, have lost their biggest asset in Cristiano Ronaldo. This will make a lot of players quite chirpy about the season... off the record, of course. However, is it really that bad? The same was said when Beckham and others left Old Trafford, but still the team managed to do "quite well" after their departures. I do not doubt this is the case again. Sir Alex Ferguson will definitely build up yet another strong team around another of his stars (maybe Rooney now?). But there is definitely a change in the atmosphere. The usual "respect" that allowed Mancehster United to score goals before the other team had woken up or after they went to sleep will be considerably reduced, for this year at least. Michael Owen IS a smart buy. A team like Liverpool needs someone that can hang around and score in stalemate 0-0 games.
Arsenal don't have much to offer either. Lost Adebayor and Kolo Toure, and Fabregas is always at risk of abandoning ship. Don't think they'll be contenders this year, but might get far in cups again if some of the key players come back from injury.
I think this team will be strong in a couple of years when all the youngsters have grown and gained experience.
The latter is something Chelsea does not lack of. This is their strongest team in years and probably predict a cup win but not the league again. Even though they have a new manager, their style of play is much negative (Parking the bus anyone?) and an Italian coach does not help the cause. Like my flatmate Paul says, if he comes in with a Serie A state of mind, it'll take a while for this team to kick off a Premier League contention, but if he's done his homework, they'll mean trouble to more than one.
They already have their first match. The Charity Shield is a great example of this. Chelsea won a very tied match against a Manchester United without Cristiano Ronaldo. So, either the red devils were very strong or Chelsea are not as strong as they pretend to show the world? They ended up winning in penalties. One year for them, next one for us. They have hardly changed their team which means an advantage over the other troubled four, but still. It's the same Chelsea that bottled up Premiership and Champions League in more than one ocassion.
And there we have Liverpool. Their best campaign in years and definitely the best league performance under Rafa Benitez. There is the "little" hiccup that is losing Xabi Alonso. In terms of importance, Liverpool relied more on him than Manchester on Ronaldo. This is a big blow. However, having Glen Johnson in the team means more attacking ideas and trusting Rafa that Aquilani is a good buy, should be a great season for Liverpool. People keep going on about the last 3 months of the season last year. If they play like that, not for the entire season but maybe even 5 months only, They'll get the league. This is their chance. The other Big Three have a way to be beaten and Liverpool discovered that last year. Just win 3 of those stalemates 0-0 and they get it.
As a Liverpool fan, I did ask a "Wish Tree" in the Bluecoat a couple of years ago for them to win all the cups on their sight. I'm still waiting, and I know it'll happen in my lifetime. Hopefully this year?
But now, let's wait till the whistle blows and enjoy yet another great season!!