So we’re one game in and the jury’s already out, cast it’s vote and gone off to eat their cocktail sausages. Arsenal are back to their scintillating best, Rooney’s in his favourite position and the Hull manager still cares more about his fake tan than anything to do with football.
However, with a couple of weeks still left of the transfer window there’s still time left for a few more swings and roundabouts. Rumour mongering is still fierce and before proper form kicks in our best avenue for crystal ball gazing lies in last season’s final analysis.
At first glance the top four appear to be a shade weaker. United have lost their talisman, Liverpool’s Alonso has left for Madrid, Chelsea’s average squad age ticks up another notch and Arsenal have sold key players. The lack of box office signings are conspicuous by their absence. Early indications suggest that their stranglehold on Champions League entry may about to be compromised.
Step up Manchester City! What better way to flaunt your open chequebook than asset strip the most vulnerable occupier of the position you covet. Only time will tell the wisdom Arsenal displayed allowing City access to Adebayor and Toure. Throw in other new stars and the ones still to sign and I predict City to take the last Champions League spot at the expense of Arsenal, then Spurs.
My initial feeling, that despite an overall decline, the top three will remain unchanged. Fergie is desperate for that 19th title and his ability to filter his desires onto players is uncanny. The squad as a whole is experienced and freshened by the arrival of Valencia and Owen. There is also the incentive of an unprecedented four-in-a-row and with Giggs plus Scholes still kicking about, I expect only complacency can prevent United from the holy grail.
If Fergie is motivated for that 19th title, don’t think Liverpool will be any less so. Desire won’t be a problem; However, it’s in other compartments they’ll fall down. They have lost the services of Alonso. He gave players like Kuyt and Benayoun the platform to have the best season of their careers, which they will struggle to repeat. Throw in the lack of a quality back-up for Torres and they’ll be just short.
Chelsea have a new manager, but then again, don’t they always. The squad is pretty much the same and players like Carvalho, Lampard and Ballack are getting on. Having said that their strong and should comfortably attain their Champions League status.
Fulham, Villa, Everton and West Ham have enough to occupy slots seven to 10. However, after that it’s turbulent territory. Hull are on the run from hell and unless they replace their clown manager should prop up the rest. Burnley and Wolves will make valiant efforts, but Alex McLeish’s managerial nous should see Birmingham as the only promoted club to stay up.