After this summer’s World Cup, fans are in for a longer treat as the new season in England begins. And guess who’s back, too? Sunday Einstein Omeike, our analyst of the World Cup fame.
In this interview with TheCable, the soccer aficionado bares his mind on his expectations for the new season.
Teaser: Manchester United fans will, at the end of the season, be seen carrying placards telling Louis van Gaal and his side-kick, Ryan Giggs, #Bring back our title!
The transfer market will not close until midnight August 31. But so far, which clubs have done the best deals?
Sunday Omeike: Starting with the defending champions Manchester city, the sky blues have gone about their transfer business with the Financial Fair Play rules in mind (cue Frank Lampard) but they still managed to bring in the likes of Fernando, a genuine extra cover in midfield while Eliquim Mangala will beef up a creaky defence.
Liverpool begin post-Suarez life with a raid on Southampton’s Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Dejan Lovren. Brendan Rodgers also splashed the cash on youngster Markovic from Benfica, meaning no world-class striker to fill the gaping Suarez hole.
Manchester United have also been restricted to only the talented duo of Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw due to new coach Louis Van Gaal’s insistence. London rivals Arsenal and Chelsea are, however, the leading winners in this summer’s market. Jose Mourinho snapped up Cesc Fabregas from Barcelona and also raided Champions League finalists, Atletico Madrid, sealing deals for Diego Costa and Felipe Luis, while also recalling world-class goalkeeper, Thibaut Courtois.
Arsenal and manager Wenger carried out a transfer coup that brought with it Alexis Sanchez, robbed Southampton of the multi-talented Calum Chambers and also recalled Costa Rica’s World Cup hero, Joel Campbell, meaning a solid frontline and an adaptive defence to complement the world-class midfield.
However, with the transfer window still open, there is still the chance for the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool to burn the cash with mouth-watering signings, so it is still early days to conclude the winner.
Strangely, you are the only Newcastle fan in Nigeria! Aside your derby with Sunderland, which other games are you eagerly anticipating?
Like you rightly pointed out, the game we the Toon Army always look forward to is the Tyne-Wear derby double-header against Sunderland FC. Taking four or six points off the “Mackems” each season gives us the bragging rights up North and it is equivalent to winning the league.
However, being a hardened EPL fan, the matches I can’t wait to see are those pitting Manchester United against Chelsea and Liverpool. Manchester United’s Louis Van Gaal has always been an egoistic manager, a blue-print Chelsea’s Jose Mourinho took from him during his time at Barcelona and upgraded, so it would be interesting to see how these two monsters of man-management and masters of tactical analyses out-fox themselves. Liverpool, however, are an eternal rival and a revitalized United would only annoy the Merseyside giants, making their encounters this season an explosive in the making.
Which African players are you expecting to excel?
It still has to be Manchester City’s Yaya Toure. The Ivorian beast has been marshaling City’s midfield for over three seasons now and a repeat performance would be expected. Also, it will be of keen interest to see how John Obi Mikel will again manage to get game time at the base of Chelsea’s midfield.
Another player of interest would be Nigeria’s Brown Ideye. The Super Eagles import has finally landed from Russia in a club record fee and it would be interesting to see if he would adapt to the rigors and high tempo of the English game and repay the faith West Bromwich Albion are placing on him (the club’s manager never saw him in live action before signing him).
Getting into the top four is an achievement on its own, especially when you consider the Champions League. So, which teams are you tipping?
Except the unexpected happens – which is the norm in the BPL – it should be Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City in no particular order. The loss of Luis Suarez and the absence of another world-class replacement will hurt Liverpool come end of the season. Lambert is not a 20-goal striker, while Daniel Sturridge could be injury-prone. Raheem Sterling is good but being hailed as a world-class player by the British media and his manager would not improve him, and he is not the everyday performer.
The race to the BPL crown is between the quartet of Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United in that order. The title, in my opinion, is Jose Mourinho’s to lose. The treble winner with Inter Milan knows what to do to win the BPL and he certainly has ticked all his boxes so early in the summer.
Arsenal are no more financially constrained and will definitely challenge with full throttle, thanks to the acquisition of Alexis Sanchez, the expected improvement of an adapted Mesut Ozil and a strong back line marshaled by Koscielny and Mertesacker.
However, Manchester City are their own devil and a combination of ill-luck with poor away form would not be forgiven so easily this season. Across town, an excellent pre-season from a coach who posted third-place finish at the World Cup with Holland has got Manchester United rocking again. However, it is yet to see if a supposed broken and imbalanced squad (words of the manager) could stand the test of time – especially in matches against the top six teams.
Key Opening-day Stats
Top opening-day appearances
18 – Frank Lampard
17 – Paul Scholes
16 – Ryan Giggs, Phil Neville
15 – Jamie Carragher
14 – David James, Emile Heskey, Mark Schwarzer, Gary Speed
Top opening-day goalscorers
8 – Alan Shearer, Frank Lampard
7 – Teddy Sheringham
6 – Louis Saha, Didier Drogba
5 – Dennis Bergkamp, Kevin Campbell, Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen, Les Ferdinand, Darren Bent, Wayne Rooney
14 August 1993: Mick Quinn (Arsenal 0-3 Coventry)
19 August 1995: Matthew Le Tissier (Southampton 3-4 Nott’m Forest)
17 August 1996: Kevin Campbell (Coventry 0-3 Nott’m Forest)
17 August 1996: Fabrizio Ravanelli (Middlesbrough 3-3 Liverpool)
9 August 1997: Dion Dublin (Coventry 3-2 Chelsea)
17 August 2008: Gabriel Agbonlahor (Aston Villa 4-2 Man City)
14 August 2010: Didier Drogba (Chelsea 6-0 West Brom)
Most opening-day clean sheets
7 – Petr Cech
6 – Mark Schwarzer, Jussi Jaaskelainen
5 – David James, David Seaman, Peter Schmeichel
4 – Nigel Martyn, Thomas Sorensen, Shay Given
3 – Paul Robinson, Shaka Hislop, Edwin van der Sar, Neville Southall, Mark Crossley, Dmitri Kharin
Most opening-day goals conceded
21 – Brad Friedel
19 – Nigel Martyn
18 – David James, Mark Schwarzer
16 – Jussi Jaaskelainen
Biggest opening match winning margin
14 August 2010: Chelsea 6-0 West Brom
Highest-scoring opening matches
20 August 1994: Crystal Palace 1-6 Liverpool
20 August 1994: Sheff Wed 3-4 Tottenham
19 August 1995: Southampton 3-4 Nott’m Forest
15 August 2009: Everton 1-6 Arsenal
The statistics have been collated in partnership with Opta, the official data provider of the Barclays Premier League.