Friday, 7 August 2015

Premier League returns as it does every year

The powers that be said ‘let there be football on August the eighth.’

And there was football, and it was good.

Ever wonder if Fergie has a fantasy team?
I bet he gets the best out of them if he does.

The 2015-16 season is tantalisingly close. Optimism abounds, transfer speculation takes a back seat, and we all remember that the reason we follow football is, well, for the matches.

The fantasy football campaign has become an integral part of the pre-season build up as well. Will your hilariously named team, assembled off the back of weeks of pre-season analysis and transfers, soar like an eagle or flop like a seal?

There’s been more build up than an extension on your parents’ semi-detached home, so let’s get to the crux of the matter – 5 questions that everyone wants answered this season.

Mourinho, waiting for a decent title challenger to emerge..

Who can challenge Chelsea?

Chelsea’s league victory left little to the imagination, and gave us the unparalleled drama of who might finish second.

This year however, there are many looking to challenge for the throne.

Arsene Wenger rides on a chariot of continuity, pulled along by a raft of diminutive midfielders. The addition of Petr Cech will offer a level of professionalism which will spread through the team, and with Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ozil tipped to shine after full pre-seasons, Arsenal have arguably their best chance in years to challenge for the lion-bedecked trophy.

Louis van Gaal meanwhile means business. Robin van Persie, Falcao and a number of others have been shown the door at United, Rooney looks set for the striker’s role, and Memphis Depay will be expected to produce the magic as LVG looks to build on a solid first season at the Theatre of Dreams. With the £750 million Adidas deal kicking in, United might well make one more marquee addition as well.

Manchester UnAdidas

Finally, Manuel Pellegrini appears to have been written off this year. The signings of Delph and more prominently Sterling are full of promise, but the spine of the team looks less robust than two years ago. Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure will have to get back to their best if they are to challenge.

Can the new boys make their mark?

Bournemouth, Norwich and Watford will dine at domestic football’s top table this year; but will the food prove too rich for their taste buds?

It'll be a pleasure to have Norwich's Holiday Inn back in the PL
- only 2 adults per room on matchdays I hear

Bournemouth will look to star players Matt Ritchie and Callum Wilson this season, with Wilson providing speed and goals in abundance last year. The Cherries have been heavily invested in, but they’ll need tactical nous to survive the cash-rich Premier League.

Norwich have three recent seasons of PL experience, and have afforded themselves the chance to make right their latest relegation. Can Nathan Redmond make the difference for the Canaries?

Finally it’s Watford. Having not quite made it with Gianfranco Zola, the Hornets will look to their strike force to prove itself this year. Troy Deeney and Matej Vydra, it’s time to step up.

Who can break into the top six?

In recent years the Premier League has taken on a different look, with a top six forming of Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham. A peloton has formed behind the leaders however, consisting of Southampton, Swansea and Stoke. Should Everton perform like they can, the Toffees will join that group as well. Do any of these teams have the ability to make the step up, or is the Europa League just The Man’s way of maintaining the status quo?

GOAL! AND ANOTHER! Who will grab the golden boot?

'Lynn, I'm not signing Christian Benteke. I will talk over you.'

The top two strikers in the Premier League are Sergio Aguero and Diego Costa, but can anyone challenge them for the golden boot this year?

Wayne Rooney might be your best bet. With RvP and Falcao leaving, Rooney is undoubtedly United’s main attacking option. Turning 30 this year, the former Everton player will be focused on securing his place in van Gaal’s plans.

Elsewhere, Christian Benteke will look to add to three impressive seasons of Premier League football. The Belgian will have the likes of Firmino, Coutinho and Adam Lallana behind him, and with his price tag and Daniel Sturridge’s lack of fitness, might this be the chance for him to elevate himself to world class status?

Finally: Harry Kane. His was the fairytale story of last season, scoring 21 goals and increasing his fantasy football price considerably. The question is whether it was all a dream, or if the young Englishman will continue to stick the ball in various onion bags across the country.

Will the Premier League experience success in Europe?

England’s UEFA coefficient is under threat!

The Allianz Arena, one of many stadia you won't be able
to watch on terrestrial TV this season.

Relax, it’s not quite that bad, but England’s cushy fourth Champions League qualifying spot may be given to someone else if clubs from these shores fail to perform in the Champions League and Europa League this season.

After last 16 CL exits for Chelsea, Arsenal and Man City, as well as our poor showing in the Europa League, Italy have moved into a good position to take that fourth qualifying spot over the next couple of years.

Not that it matters, only about five people will be able to watch it this season anyway... LASAGNE.

Enjoy the season!

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