It is here again. Another season of the Premier League kicked off Friday night with Leicester losing by the odd goal just like they did last season when they lost 4:3 to Arsenal Wenger’s Arsenal in a cracking game at the Emirates in August 2017.
When Arsene announced his exit from Arsenal on April 20, 2018, I was stunned and I was also worried that I might lose my emotional attachment to Arsenal and football. I am delighted that the emotional attachment is still there. While I haven’t quite moved on from Wenger and the disgusting behavior of many towards him, I am hoping Arsenal do exceptionally well this season and into the foreseeable future.
What kind of a season should we expect from Arsenal? As I have always tried to say to anybody who I engage with, it is going to take a while for the legacy of Arsene to disappear from the dressing room. Wenger recruited every single one of the players in the squad bar Guendouzi, Leno, Lichsteiner, Torreira and Sokratis. And all of the five new signings will not start or line up against Manchester City on Sunday. So it is still Wenger’s Team with a different manager.
Why am I saying this? Every single Premier League Manager has been allowed the proverbial 3 transfer windows to turn things around. Jürgen Klopp finished 8th, in his first season, Guardiola was sprinkled with ‘sand dust’ in his first season with Man City so nobody should expect miracles from Unai Emery. Come back at the end of the 2019/20 season if you want to assess Unai Emery’s work.
If Unai manages to get Arsenal playing good football, makes the Gunners more difficult to beat, and ensures they are very competitive in the Top 4 race, this will count as extraordinary success. Let nobody sell you any snake oil that Emery has come to perform miracles.
I believe Arsenal have recruited very well in appointing Emery. His pedigree and trophy count speak for themselves. But he has an uphill battle to fight. He needs to face down the deep-seated referee and media bias that is the cross of Arsenal. The club’s executives need to help him here.
Unai needs to cure many of Arsenal’s opponents and the pundits of ill repute who belief that Arsenal can be bullied. I am 100% positive that Lichsteiner, Sokratis, Torreira and Mavropanos will cure bullyboys of this misguided belief quickly. I am looking forward to Arsenal been referred to as dirty again and I will swim in the tears of opposition and so called neutral fans who dare point this out when the fun starts.
The below defines Unai’s success this season in my opinion.
Good football with the team being difficult to beat.
Competitive irrespective of where we finish in the league.
Significant progress in all cup competitions.
Opportunities given to many deserving youths.
Asking for more from a manager who is aiming to turn a juggernaut around is asking for too much.
With respect to the rest of the league, I have seen nothing to suggest Manchester City wont win it again. I don’t think they will run away with it because I doubt the Premier League will be dire for two consecutive seasons.
All the so – called pundits are 100% certain Liverpool will be the closest team to Manchester City and it is easy to see why they have this view. Liverpool appear to have bought very well and have shored up / upgraded a number of positions. However do not forget that the Premier League can be a first season graveyard for overseas goalkeepers with big reputation. Claudio Bravo, David De Gea etc. Even Klopp’s judgment in backing goalkeepers is suspect. Maybe Allison will be an exception.
For Liverpool to get anywhere near the title they will have to convert the following results where they dropped points last season. Home draws with Watford, Burnley, Man United, Spurs, Chelsea, Everton, West Brom and Stoke. Liverpool lost away to Man City, Man United, Spurs, Chelsea and Swansea. They also drew away with Arsenal, Newcastle, Everton and West Brom. For the relegated teams (West Brom, Stoke and Swansea) substitute with the newly promoted sides – Cardiff, Wolves or Fulham.
To make up the 25 points difference between Man City’s winning tally last season and Liverpool’s points finish, the latter will have to change all their losses last season to wins. That will provide a 21 points swing and two of the draws into wins to overcome the advantage City had over them last season.
If City start from where they left of in May, it is difficult to see how Liverpool will come close. The points Liverpool dropped last time out was not due to Liverpool playing squad inferiority. Perhaps you might want to look at the Manchester United and Chelsea losses as an indication of so called world class players not been able to handle the pressure on big occasions and point to both managerial and player naivety for the draw with Arsenal. Liverpool’s ability to beat Man City should not be conflated with the ability to win the league. They will have to match City’s results against other sides to have a chance. Next season is always their season.
Many pundits and social media commentators have made a mountain out of the whining and whinging Mourinho during pre season. I believe this was a show put on for the benefit of the media and gullible fans. United will be as dire as last season, Mourinho will be insufferable but United will die fighting before they give up that second spot. I believe both Mourinho and the United hierarchy are happy to declare the season a resounding success if they finish behind City with less than double-digit points.
Chelsea are an enigma. As a Top Four club, they have ‘yo – yo ed’ more than any other top club. There is always one crisis every other season. It is almost like Roman Abramovich deliberately sabotages his managers the season after they win the league. Given that Maurizio Sarri the new Chelsea manager comes with huge praise from his fellow managers and seeing how close Napoli came to ending Juventus stranglehold on Serie A last season, please don’t rule Chelsea out of a league championship win if City falters. I want to believe they will be there or thereabout as a Top 4 side.
Tottenham are my major pick to drop out of the Top Four. I will go one step further and add that St Totterigham Day will be back this season even if both sides finish out of the Top Four. Tottenham are financially handicapped because of the new lavatory they are building in Middlesex and as a result were only able to buy Jackshit during the transfer window.
Watch out for Everton because of the Marco Silva factor. Watford were in the Top Four after a few games last season. Do not rule out Everton displaying the same early season form.
Same with Pellegrini at West Ham. A combination of his pedigree and their summer efforts might mean they are strong contenders for the Rest of the League race (Outside of the Top Six).
Difficult to see how Neil Warnock will survive seeing the sums his fellow promoted clubs have spent. Strugglers from last season like Southampton and Huddersfield will find it tough going.
The premier league will welcome minor superstars like Fabinho, Seri, Mina, Meyer and Fred.
Bring on the in – game panic attacks, the ruined weekends, the over reactions and moronic social media abuse.
Infuse the hope drug into my veins again. Make me dream of Arsenal winning the title. Wake me up in May hopefully when we lift the Premier League title again after 15 years. Better 15 years than 30 years.
Baba Grumpy works in financial services in the United Kingdom. He blogs mostly about football at http://babagrumpy.blogspot.co.uk. His Twitter handle is @BabaGrumpy