The Premier League returns this weekend with 20 clubs vying for supremacy in the top flight of English football. A Different Week looks into its crystal ball and sums up what we are likely to see in the 2009/10 season.
A Premier League manager will lose his job in the first 10 games of the season. Paul Hart is a contender for this. He has lost his best players and received no funding to replace them. A poor start and his head could be on the chopping block if they ever get their ownership situation sorted out. Mark Hughes should be safe until the next transfer window at least and of the promoted teams only Alex Mcleish’s position is likely to be fragile. The favourite thought must be Gary Megson of Bolton. Unpopular with the club’s supporters for his brand of football, which is saying something as they had to put up with Sam Allardyce for years, he may well be the first to go.
England players will pull out of meaningless friendlies through injuries only to miraculously recover three days later to play for their clubs. This has already happened with Steven Gerrard pulling out of this week’s friendly with Holland, there is no doubt he will turn out for Liverpool on Sunday at Spurs. The solution to this is to stop playing international friendlies during the season, there is no chance of that happening however.
Sir Alex Ferguson to have a falling out with a fellow manager. Last year it was with Rafa Benitez, who he genuinely seems to hate. It would have been easy to feel sorry for Rafa if he did not come across as arrogant. Jose Mourinho was arrogant but at least he had charm to go with it. Fergie seems to have made his peace with Arsene Wenger so perhaps it will be a baptism of fire for Carlo Ancelotti as he faces the wrath of Sir Alex. In fact if Chelsea are United’s main challengers you can bet on it.
The majority of teams will play 4-5-1 at some stage of the season. This writer is no traditionalist but what happened to the old fashioned 4-4-2? Just as important what happened to the concept of striking partnerships? It seems to have gone the way of cheap tickets, decent matchday grub and a top-flight Leeds United team – gone and never to be seen again. Dalglish and Rush, Gray and Sharp, Shearer and Sheringham, Yorke and Cole – duos with an almost telepathic understanding. The best striking team the modern game has to offer is Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres, and Gerrard does not even play up front.
Michael Essien will remain the most underrated player in the league. Amidst the talk of Terry, Lampard and Drogba Essien hardly gets a mention yet he is Chelsea’s most important player. He has everything that is needed to be a top player, speed, power, skill, passing, even shooting like this corker against Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final. Much was made of Guus Hiddink’s influence at Stamford Bridge last year but it was Essien’s return from injury that really kick-started their year after a mediocre start.
Wayne Rooney will position himself as the best player of his generation. With Cristiano Ronaldo gone expect Rooney to have more of an influence in a central role for United this season. It was overlooked last year how much work Rooney did for the team, not many England strikers are willing to defend in their own penalty box. This should be the year that Rooney comes of age and finally fulfils his talent. He has been good, watch him be great.
Not forgetting Phil Brown maintaining his headset and tan combo. Frank Lampard scoring 20 goals again (17 of them deflections). Sky forgetting that there are 20 teams in the league not four. Michael Owen being injured. David James making world class saves followed by world class mistakes. Rory Delap ‘s throw ins earning him a place in the 2012 Olympic squad. Gianfranco Zola still being a better striker than any of his West Ham players. Harry Redknapp pointing out Spurs only had two points when he took over. David Moyes scowling, Arsene Wenger being declared legally blind and England winning the World Cup. Maybe.
It is going to be a hell of a season.
What do you think will happen this season? Send your comments to email@example.com