It’s August yet again and an august visitor is knocking on the door!
What better way to preview the 2015-16 Barclays Premier League (BPL) campaign than to give you a letter-by-letter guide with a Nigerian flavour strewn around it?
Welcome to the A-Z guide to the new season!
A is for APL…
And that’s not the new name of the ruling party in Nigeria. It means Alphabet Premier League, which also should not be mistaken for BPL – Barclays Premier League! Arsenal always win the APL title despite not winning the BPL since 2003 when President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) was General Muhammadu Buhari (GMB). But now they are both top dogs – well before Saturday’s big kick-off, though, for the Gunners.
Welcome BPL, goodbye APL!
B is for bet
These days, it’s not just enough to love the game and follow a team passionately and scream “Up Blues” after a 90th-minute scrambled goal by the London club. Most Nigerians now put their money where their mouth is by patronising NairaBet and other betting companies online and offline.
Will Swansea surprise Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Match-day One? Don’t ask me. Just (Eden) “Hazard” a guess and you could win millions!
C is for Chivita
Chivita is the leading fruit juice in Nigeria and one of the many sponsors of the most successful English side, Manchester United. Both parties became an item in the middle of last season but this season offers Chi Limited, the company behind the brand, an opportunity to leverage on the partnership. Nigerians are waiting!
Honorary mention: Petr Cech, who could be the last piece to Arsene Wenger’s jigsaw puzzle in winning the title after 12 years.
D is for Departed stars
From Didier Drogba to an Angel (Di Maria) who quit the Red Devils, the new season will miss – or won’t it? – the dive, goal, artistry, and industry of some players who have left to seek pension elsewhere or moved to pastures new, and hopefully, green(er)!
E is for English players
English players are becoming a rarity in most of the clubs and the FA and senior national team coach Roy Hodgson are not happy about it. To address the situation, the FA chairman Greg Dyke has outlined new proposals to change the rules governing homegrown players in English football and look at ways of improving the chances of young English talent succeeding at the highest levels of the game.
We don’t intend to bore you with the long proposal that will task your patience. So, if you are really interested in knowing the details, because you want to see more Harry Kane in the top flight, go to the official website of the FA.
F is for forty-nine million pounds
Yes, £49m, the amount homegrown-player-seeking Manchester City paid Liverpool for England winger Raheem Sterling. His name is the currency some people have in their pockets but will this name and the transfer fee hang like a debt burden around his neck? Check with us in May 2016 for answers!
But if you don’t like discussing money, then…
F is for Fluke
Can they really do it again? That’s the question for Ronald Koeman, Eden Hazard, and Harry Kane. Last summer, in his first few weeks in the job, Koeman lost a whole host of Southampton’s important players but was able to replace them hugely impressively and they almost gatecrashed the top-four party.
The best player in the BPL last season, Hazard enters this campaign facing one of the biggest challenges a footballer can face: proving your consistency. And same goes to Tottenham’s Kane.
We might be about to see something special – stellar performances – or something ignoble and conclude it was all a flash in the pan.
G is for Ghana
The country of new Swansea City signing Andre Ayew, who joined on a free transfer from Marseille. The move has already been touted as one of the best moves of the summer and Ayew, the joint-top scorer at the Africa Cup of Nations this year, should add even more of a goal threat and flair to the Welsh team that impressed everyone last season.
H is for Hausa
Yes, the Hausa service on BBC! President Muhammadu Buhari is arguably the number-one fan of this station and we are hoping he will be keeping abreast with the latest news and views of the BPL using this medium! We will be joining him as well.
I is for Investment
Investment on new players and chief among the additions is Manchester United’s Memphis Depay. The former PSV winger has already got Old Trafford supporters salivating at the prospect of just what he can do in his debut campaign in English football.
But here is what all the 20 teams have spent so far this summer transfer: € 14m Arsenal; € 53.9m Aston Villa; € 25.3m Bournemouth; € 22.9m Chelsea; € 28.8m Crystal Palace; € 6.3m Everton; € 31.2m Leicester; € 110.9m Liverpool; € 86.5m Manchester City; € 98.5m Manchester United; € 50.5m Newcastle; € 9.9m Norwich City; € 27m Southampton; € 12.6m Stoke City; € 31.8m Sunderland; € 12.8m Swansea City; € 27.9m Tottenham; € 29.6m Watford; € 17.6m West Brom; € 27.3m West Ham.
J is for Jose
With letter ‘M’ sacrificed on the altar of ‘nepotism’, ‘J’ is for no other person but Jose Mourinho! He’s back, and this time, he’s got the added swagger of a reigning Barclays Premier League champion. His team starts the campaign at home to Swansea, but it’s the words and actions of the Portuguese that most neutrals are really interested in! Keep it flowing, Jose!
K is for Kiss and makeup
The neutrals, yet again, wouldn’t want Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger to kiss and makeup! We have added it to our list just to make up the number and hope (fingers crossed) it won’t happen. We are with the neutrals on this!
L is for Little General
He’s called the Little General, which will obviously be seen as an insult to most generals in the Nigerian army. But the diminutive Dick Advocaat care less!
The 67-year-old has gone through 21 different managerial spells in his career yet his passion for the game has not waned (his tears on the touchline after the goalless draw at Arsenal that kept Sunderland up last season showed you everything you needed to know about the Little General).
We hope to see more of cheers and less of tears from our own LGDA this time around!
M is for Mikel and Moses
Our ambassadors in the Premier League. We hope, like Sunday Oliseh, to see them using more of their feet than their bums in the course of the season, though!
N is for Nigerians
Yes, Nigerians, who watch and love the games and their better halves who don’t watch and love the game. Power – remote control power, that is – has changed hands. What’s needed now is tolerance from both parties. Tolerate him for the few hours of Chelsea v Bournemouth on Saturday and Sunday (and Monday Night Football). Guys, hand over the remote control ASAP. It’s time for E!
O is for Other Nigerians
Other Nigerians, whether full or half, in the league. Osaze Odemwingie, Jordon Ibe, Victor Anichebe, and Brown Ideye, good luck to you all!
Honorary mention: Ordem 3, the name of the new football Nike has launched for the new season.
P is for Pinnick
Pinnick, yes, Amaju Pinnick, the president of the Nigeria Football Federation – a card-carrying-vuvuzela blowing fan of north London side Arsenal. He was in the eye of the storm recently when he was accused of abandoning the match involving the U-23 team in Congo and the Super Falcons game in Equatorial Guinea for the Community Shield clash between Arsenal and Chelsea in London.
On September 5, Nigeria will face Tanzania in Dar es Salaam. But too bad for conspiracy theorists because that weekend is for international games and his beloved Gunners will only be back in action on the 12th against Stoke City at the Emirates!
Pinnick, this time, has only a one-way ticket to East Africa!
Q is for Quique
Q is a dodgy letter to fill so we have opted for Quique Sanchez Flores, the new Watford boss who is having his first taste of English football. Can he get his new players to jell quickly? Or will he be quickly fighting for relegation? Whatever happens promises to be interesting for Mr Q!
R is for Rule
There’s a new offside rule in place for the new season, and it’s supposed to make things a lot simpler. Whereas in previous years the offside flag wouldn’t be raised if a player was hovering in an offside position but not playing the ball, now they are going to be deemed offside if they even make a motion toward the ball, thereby putting off the opposing goalkeeper. Commit this to your memory because we know you will still argue over it with your pals when Wayne Rooney scores the winner against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge!
S is for Supersport
The channel of champions! A rival station now has the right for the Bundesliga, Serie A, and other series of Mexican soap operas but not the father of all attention-grabbing event on TV – the BPL! Supersport, the channel of champions, erm, subscribers!
T is for TheCable
TheCable, yes, us! We hope to improve our coverage of the biggest league in the world this time around. But no, we won’t be revealing how we intend going about that just yet. Watch this space!
U is for Upton Park
It has been West Ham United’s home for 112 years but this will be the last year football will be played at the Boleyn Ground – more commonly known as Upton Park – before the Hammers move to the Olympic Stadium.
V is for Viewing Centres
Business has been dull for most of them since May and the start of the league means more turnover, which translates to prompt payment of staff salary, more souvenirs from Guinness and Nigeria Breweries, and more respect from bank tellers!
W is for Wenger
And his quest for a first league title since President Olusegun Obasanjo’s second term campaign for office! After winning three “major” cups and shield in August 2015, the signs and omen point to this happening in May. No?
X is for…
The soul mate of letter ‘Q’, ‘X’ can only be for X-rated tackles that sometimes lead to X-ray and in worst case scenario, xenophobic attacks from opposing fans that have no X-chromosome in their system!
Y is for Yokohama Tyres
We are not interested in the location of Chelsea’s new kit sponsors. We are also unconcerned that the cost of the new jersey is above the minimum wage in Nigeria. What pricks our interest, which we can’t wait to see, is the picture of John Terry et al parking the bus with the aid of Yokohama Tyres on their chest!
Z is for…
“Z” is always a tough customer without the help of Zinedine Zidane! But thank God for the presence of Zabaleta, Zaha and Zouma.
We will end this A-Z countdown to the season on the only three active BPL players whose surnames begin with Z.
Will Pablo Zabaleta still hold on to the first-choice right-back position in Manchester City in the face of competition from Bacary Sagna? Will Wilfried Zaha eventually fulfill his potentials? Will Kurt Zouma get enough game time if Chelsea sign John Stones from Everton?
So, don’t go anywhere for the next nine months because there is no zzzzzz time when the Barclays Premier League knocks on the door!
Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur
Bournemouth v Aston Villa
Norwich City v Crystal Palace
Leicester City v Sunderland
Everton v Watford
Chelsea v Swansea City
Newcastle United v Southampton
Arsenal v West Ham United
Stoke City v Liverpool
West Brom v Manchester City