by Ifreke Inyang
The EPL is back. Not even if the riots in London, which might possibly lead to the postponement of league matches in the capital can stand in its way. After a short post-season that barely allowed us to swallow that last drop of celebratory champagne or, in most cases, wipe away the tears of pain and anguish from another year of disappointment or relegation, the English Premier League swings back into action this weekend.
And the 2011/12 season shapes up to be one of the most interesting installments in some time with a myriad of fascinating plot lines set to unfold over the next nine months. The Community Shield which was played out between the two Manchester rivals last weekend gave a glimpse of what we will be served on our TV screens every other weekend till May. Truly, as it is claimed by the hype merchants, the EPL is Britain’s most watched drama series.
Three teams can claim legitimate title ambitions. Meanwhile new powers are rising, some old superpowers are in decline and we haven’t even got to all the transfers, mind games, refereeing blunders, manager sackings or amusing crowd chants yet.
Manchester always seem to be eternal favourites every other season. And with their energetic display in the season’s curtain raiser, no one can dare place bets against them.
Their noisy neighbours, City will also be in the mix. If they don’t, then the club’s owners need to fire everyone from Roberto Mancini down. The club have the right manager and all the right players to make a serious run for the title this year but it all feels as if all their eggs are in the basket. Few teams will be under as much pressure to succeed more in less time.
Chelsea, with Andre Villas-Boas in charge may pose a good challenge too. But I really do not fancy their chances as another rebuilding process might take place in Stamford Bridge. Their London neighbours, Arsenal might also have a lot of reshuffling to do as midfield lynchpin, Fabregas and Samir Nasri appear to be close to exits. Arsenal will play some dazzling football this season, but from February next year, keep your fingers crossed for a collapse – or not.
The race for fourth place was probably the talking point of last season. But I expect the race to be for fifth this season. Liverpool, Tottenham and Villa will all be fighting for that spot. The usual suspects like Bolton, Stoke City, etc will be stuck with their mid-table mediocrity.
For the new comers and possible relegation candidates, I’d like to think that maybe Swansea City would be a pleasant surprise. But their roster is just a shade above what Blackpool brought to the league last year. It’s pretty awful. Wayne Routledge, Leroy Lita, Luke Moore and Nathan Dyer aren’t going to keep that team up. On the other hand, I like Queens Park Rangers and what Neil Warnock has done with the extremely limited funds he’s had. Apparently Kieron Dyer is still alive but the likes of Jay Bothroyd and Heidar Helguson bring quality experience to the squad and if Warnock is able to bring in DJ Campbell as expected, there’s a bit of punch and flair in that squad that could see QPR avoid the promotion/relegation yo-yo.
However it pans out this season, the English league will get more intense, intriguing and interesting. And this is a public service announcement: My weekends are fully booked till next May!