IT’S BACK!!!

There is no other way for me to describe it, I am a football JUNKIE and more specifically I am an English Football junkie. I am not talking about that lower league shit either, (sorry Southend Fans) I am talking about the most exciting league in the world, The English Premier League. It’s back this weekend and I for one am delighted.

The end of a premier league season always bring with it to me a certain amount of sadness (and to my wife absolute delight), not because Liverpool once again fell way short of expectations, no, but because with the turn of the weather season the stark realization hits me that I am going to have to endure three whole months without football, going COLD TURKEY. Its almost unbearable. Three whole months of having to watch boring tournaments like the Confederations Cup or searching daily transfer news in desperation of something exciting breaking all the while knowing ninety percent of what you read is complete and utter bullshit, written or posted by inept and lazy journalists, the kings of the copy and paste. For the record, I fucking hate the off season.

But hey, to hell with all the negative hoo haa, it’s back baby and like with every new season I go in full of hope and expectation like every single football fan the world over. What I wanted to provide in this piece is my review of the season ahead, winners and losers and a few other observations along the way…

THE WINNERS: MANCHESTER CITY

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Whilst as always it will be a tight battle for the Premier League trophy in 2017/2018 I am afraid I cannot see past MANCHESTER CITY as the champions come May next year. I just can’t. There are a few reasons for this…

First of all their summer transfer activity. I am not talking about the money spent either, a cool £216 million, its about the areas in which they’ve strengthened. It was painfully obvious for all to see last season that Manchester City’s weakest area was in the goalkeeping and fullbacks departments. Claudio Bravo, brought in the previous summer from Barcelona, had a real struggle adapting to the hustle and bustle of the English game and some key errors throughout the season really cost City badly. The signing of the relatively unknown Ederson for big money is a bit of a gamble, but he has rave reviews from his time with Benfica in Portugal and you would think the Man City scouts have done their homework here. Christ, its highly unlikely he could be worse than Bravo was last season. In terms of the fullback situation, Kolarov, Zabaleta, Sagna and Clichy were either too old or not good enough. Playing the style of football that Guardiola likes to play, you really need to have fullbacks with pace and energy, who can bomb up the pitch to help create spaces in the final third while at the same time having the ability to get back at a moments notice to help keep things tight at the back. With Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy & Danilo coming in, they have pace, power, flair and game intelligence. They are players who understand the modern day fullback role perfectly and all three will be great additions to the squad.

Now looking further ahead on the pitch, I don’t think that anyone can deny that City already had the best and most balanced midfield and attack in the league. Fernandinho, Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane, Ilkay Gundogan (when he is back to full fitness this season), Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus…. I mean like WOW. They are an absolutely awesome attacking force and on their day they can put any team out of their misery in the space of 15 minutes. If you add to all that the new signing of Bernardo Silva, who had an outstanding past season at Monaco, they look in pretty good shape for an all out ATTACK (sorry for the pun) on the title this season.

My final reason for selecting Manchester City as title winners for the season ahead is, well, PEP GUARDIOLA. I don’t think anyone can argue that he is the best tactical manager in the world and with a year of the Premier League under his belt I think you will see the real Pep Guardiola this year. The one that wins titles and trophies. The guy who’s team plays sexy football that all in the world love to watch. This year he will have no excuses, WIN OR BUST.

THE REST OF THE TOP 4: MANCHESTER UNITED, LIVERPOOL & CHELSEA

Let us start with Manchester United. My oh my how I hate Manchester United. Sorry as a Liverpool fan I can’t help it. Let me clarify this quickly, I hate them, but I have a huge amount of respect for them. They are a club that sets the example for how a football club should be run, how a football club should be. They are a club who puts winning trophies above all else. They have tradition, a wonderful stadium and a huge global (and might I say, fucking annoying) fan base. Sir Alex Ferguson, who I also hate, is arguably the best manager the game has ever seen. Not tactically the best, but in terms of all aspects of management I would say the best. What he achieved in his time with United was nothing short of miraculous and along with the golden generation of home talents produced in the nineties has really put the club in the position it finds itself in today. Now let us talk about the coming season. Where do I think they finish? Second is my guess. Do I think this because they play great football? Nope. Do I say this because they had an amazing summer transfer season?Nope. The reason I think Manchester United will finish second in the league this coming season is because of Jose Mourinho. Before I tell you why, let me state that I have never been impressed with Jose Mourinho as a football manager (trophies aside). Ever since he arrived in English football as the self proclaimed “special one” his arrogance has pushed me to the point of violent oral discharge. He has not impressed me with his style of football either which I find direct, defensive and quite honestly a god damn snoozefest. BUT, and here it is, the son of a bitch knows how to set up his team to nullify the opponents and win bloody football matches. He did it with Porto, he did it with Chelsea, Inter and Real Madrid. And picked up a truck load of trophies and medals along the way. THIS is why I think Man United will finish second and even perhaps challenge for the title. To be honest they have a good squad too, with a few great players. While I am not a big fan of Romelu Lukaku (especially at £90m), he will suit United’s style of play under Mourinho perfectly and he will get them goals. You would expect Paul Pogba to step it up a notch this season also, and with Herrera, Bailly, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Matic and Rashford they have some good tools at their disposal. For all my Manchester United friends reading this right now I hope you bastards end up relegated, unfortunately that would only be in my WETTEST of dreams.

Moving on to Liverpool (brace yourselves people). I have always been open an honest in my assessment of Liverpool. I feel it is my duty as a football fan overall to speak the truth rather than comment through a pair of rose tinted spectacles. So as much as I would like to say Liverpool will win the league this year, unfortunately I do not think they are quite there yet. Whilst Liverpool were breathtaking at times last season, there were also moments where you could see a certain naivety (which winning teams don’t possess) creep into their game. Too many draws and losses to mid to lower table teams. Teams which played with obvious intent to defend deep and frustrate, which left Liverpool unable to lock the gates to the promised land. The addition of Mohamed Salah will be a big help in this department in the coming season but that alone won’t be enough. There are still obvious weaknesses at the back for Liverpool. Thankfully Mignolet had an outstanding second half of last term and if he can continue with that form heading into the new season then that is an area Liverpool can leave as it is. Defensively they still have problems as well. Dejan Lovren is an anomaly to me. At times he looks assured, confident and like a world class defender. And then at other times he looks like a “headless chicken”. If only he was able to get some consistency into his game he would be a world beater, unfortunately that has not happened in his time with Liverpool and I just can’t see that happening again this season. Joel Matip I think is a very good central defender, and if say Virgil Van Dijk were to arrive before the transfer deadline that might go along way to improving Liverpool’s defensive situation overall, but that is a pretty big IF at this moment in time. Left back is also an issue for the reds. Alberto Moreno has looked really good in pre-season so far and possesses some really good qualities, but his history is that of being a player who is great going forward but at the same time a defensive liability often found out of position and often at fault for important goals. Liverpool fans will hope the acquisition of Hull and Scotland defender Andrew Robertson would be a solution to the problem, but I suspect this season it would be unfair to heap huge expectations on his shoulders. Realistically he will need time to get used to his new surroundings and become accustomed to his team mates and the teams style of play. Further afield, somewhat like Manchester City, Liverpool also have a pretty impressive midfield and attack. Henderson, Lallana, Emre Can, Wijnaldum, Coutinho, Mane, Salah, Firmino and Sturridge are all very accomplished players who understand exactly what manager Juergen Klopp wants (alright maybe Sturridge aside, but on his day he can pick up three points all by himself). Looking at some of the young players as well the future looks bright for Liverpool. Trent Alexander Arnold is a wonderful young player who already has a mans head on his shoulders. I expect at some point this coming season he will make the right back position his own. Ben Woodburn is also a seriously impressive young talent who can play anywhere in midfield and attack. I think that this season might be too soon for him, but I honestly see him as the natural successor to Philippe Coutinho. Time will tell. And finally Dominic Solanke who Liverpool nicked of Chelsea this summer is a fantastic striking talent. Recently named player of the tournament at the recent under 20 World Cup, Solanke has had a great pre-season scoring a number of goals and I can see him having an impact already this coming season. As a final point I do not think we should forget Juergen Klopp. Charismatic, personable and the purveyor of “full metal football”. The players love him, the fans love him, the media loves him, heck the whole god damn world loves him. In fact my wife loves him a little too much. He is a smart man, a football man and it may not be this season but I suspect he will bring the Premier League title to Liverpool sooner rather than later.

The final place in my top 4 goes to Chelsea. Runaway champions last season, there is just a totally different feeling to Chelsea going into this campaign. Firstly the loss of Diego Costa (inevitably), John Terry and Matic are monumental. Irreplaceable players who formed a big part of the back bone, the spine of the squad and in John Terry the natural leader and step father to all. They will be a huge miss and even the additions of Alvaro Morata, Rudiger and Bakayoko will not be enough to bridge that gap and i fear will ultimately see them fall back in the table. There also some very negative noises coming out of the Chelsea camp regarding Antonio Conte and his relationship with the club. For some reason he just does not seem happy. Not exactly sure the reason why but the glitter of his successful first campaign seems to have fallen away and you get the sense that something isn’t right. I maybe wrong and perhaps all is rosy behind the scenes, but usually there is no smoke without fire. Time will tell, but I still get the feeling that Chelsea will find it a lot more difficult this coming season.

THERE OR THEREABOUTS: ARSENAL & TOTTENHAM

Arsenal football club have unfortunately fallen greatly from the great side they once were especially between 1997 and 2005. On their day they can play such a beautiful brand of football that one can feel privileged and honored to be a spectator that day. And on other days they just don’t show up. To me they are the enigma of English football, beyond understanding. Fear I say it Arsene Wenger has taken the club as far as he can take them. I truly believe that. Unfortunately he has a lot of power at the club and it has become painfully obvious he will only leave when HE decides its time to go. But looking from the outside I can see a club that is desperate for new ideas, new blood and new energy. Sorry Arsenal fans, not gonna happen anytime soon.

And then there is Tottenham. Their first team, I am talking about the first eleven here, player for player is the best in the league. No doubt. Unfortunately beyond that they are way short. Add to that moving out of White Hart Lane and playing their home games at the unfamiliar Wembley Stadium, the weight and financial burden of building a brand new state of the art stadium and the fact that the clubs top players are all pissed off and unsettled because the clubs wage policy sees them earning half the salaries of their peers, and I am afraid I see Tottenham slipping dramatically this season in comparison to the past few. The one saving grace, Mauricio Pochettino. Probably the best young manager in the world he has managed to coach the current crop of players into a formidable and competitive footballing team. If he can conjure up another miracle then I may be proven wrong, but I fear for Tottenham fans that may even be beyond him this season. Its Spurs finishing sixth for me.

BYE BYE LOSERS – RELEGATION: BRIGHTON, HUDDERSFIELD & SWANSEA

Well two of these choices are really easy to explain. What Huddersfield achieved last season, getting promoted to the Premier League was almost as big an achievement as Leicester City winning the title a couple of seasons back. They have a great young manager in David Wagner and a some decent players. But the step up in level this season for them will be HUGE, and they will not be able to handle it. Would be a great story if they did, but I wouldn’t bet my low hangers on it. Brighton are a club in general who are on the up and up and had it not been for a late slump they would have won the Championship last season. They also have a really good manager in Chris Hughton with Premier League experience but again I believe it is too soon for them to become a regular Premier League club. It is a huge step up between divisions and I think they will fall short. That finally brings me to Swansea. They almost found themselves in a very difficult position last season, thankfully the arrival of Paul Clement settled things down and they managed to keep themselves up. Unfortunately for them I expect them to lose their best player by a mile, Gylfi Sigurdsson, and thus far they have had a very poor transfer window. With their current squad I think they will find it very difficult to pick up regular points and that will be their downfall. Bye bye Swansea.

FIRST MANAGER TO GO: 

You may think I am crazy, but Pep Guardiola is going to be under extreme pressure this season. Considering the amount of money they have spent the past two seasons and the expectations of the owner Sheikh Mansour, should the first third of the season not go to according to plan there will be some seriously unhappy rich people who may just “throw their toys out of the pram”. Its difficult to see this scenario happening but you never now. Antonio Conte is another one that comes to mind. As mentioned above something does not seem right at Stamford Bridge and HRH Roman Abramovich has a habit of sacking title winning managers the following season when the chips are down. Sounds crazy I know. But these are my gut feelings. Finally Hammers fans are gonna curse the ground I walk on but I get a feeling that Slaven Bilic could be the first to go. He just doesn’t inspire as a manager and whilst West Ham have a pretty good squad I think Bilic might be the weak point. Just my opinion, but if the shit hits the fan in East London I get the feeling he may go.

I apologize in advance for this somewhat long winded review of the forthcoming Premier League season, but believe me I had to control myself to keep it this short. All I can say at this moment is that we are only hours away from the new season and I feel like a fat kid in a candy store, like a dog in a biscuit factory, like a virgin in a strip club, like a woman in a bag and shoe superstore, i think you get the point.

THE PREMIER LEAGUE IS BACK… BRING IT THE FUCK ON!!!

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Discussion

  1. rootshallbloke

    I’m just impressed that you have heard of Southend United and real fans football in the midst of all that Premier dross. No publicity is bad for Southend. Keep it up.

    1. davidoziborg

      Haha. That was actually a personal slight against a close mate of mine. But i appreciate your feedback just the same. Sometimes i truly wish i wasnt mesmerized by all the bright lights… and could go back to the grass roots were it ain’t all about the

  2. onceknownasrab

    Tut, tut. How on earth does anyone refer to Southend United as lower league sh*t? Our club only dwells in the lower levels to bring them class and culture. The difference between a Southend cross and a Maltese cross? We have Cox on the end of ours and you have coc*ks delivering yours.

    1. davidoziborg

      Now now… no need to slight a nation over one citizens opinion.. and that is all it is an opinion. To be honest the Southend reference was not meant to offend all Southend fans, just one in particular. Who us a close mate. Wish you all the best for the coming season.

  3. rootshallbloke

    There ya go, ‘ave some of this, we’re more well travelled than you thought and you may want to buy a copy?
    http://www.shrimperstrust.co.uk/shop.asp?catid=13

    1. davidoziborg

      Haha. By any chance was that written by that famous Essex playwright Mary Warner?

  4. Darren Muscat

    it’s back and i’m gonna fucking miss the our first match against Watford due to work commitments.

    1. davidoziborg

      That sucks my friend…

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