2012/2013 English Premier League season: The unending battle begins…
BY OSHO SAMUEL ADETUNJI
Confidence is when West Bromwich Albion hosts Liverpool at the Hawthorns in the opening match of the season and kicks three fantastic goals past Jose Reina into the net. It should have been four goals, thanks to the stronghold guardian for stopping Shane Long’s penalty kick. Humiliation is when Everton defeats Manchester United in the opening match of the season despite the presence of goal scoring experts: Robin Van Persie, Shinji Kagawa and Wayne Rooney. Fate is when Arsene Wenger’s men struggle to get a win at home against Sunderland just because the god of goals did not see Robin Van Persie on the pitch. Arsenal FC is a big name but the players are toddlers fumbling on the bridge that links antecedence with the future. For Queens Park Rangers and Norwich City, the opening match was a catastrophe as both conceded five goals each to their opponents. It is too early to say who eventually wears the crown. Let us take a walk from the past to the present.
The 2011/2012 season will go down in history of the English Premier League as a monumental one with an unending string of hair raising tale of suspense. There was never a dull moment and it only shows better days of fun in stock for teeming fans of the English football league. It was an enthralling season with high score margins between top clubs; Manchester City beat Tottenham 5-1 at White Hart Lane hours before Manchester United demolished Arsenal 8-2 at home, City then beat United 6-1 at Old Trafford and Arsenal beat Chelsea 5-3 at Stamford Bridge. What a season! Absolutely fantastic! The icing on the cake was when the title race reached the final few seconds of the final match of the season and won by a goal difference for the first time in the Premier League history. With Manchester City 2-1 down against Queens Park Rangers as the match proceeded into injury time, it looked as if the Red Devils were to be crowned the champions for the 20th time as they were beating Sunderland 1-0. The story line changed when Edin Dzeko got an equalizer in the 91st minute and Sergio Aguero slotted a fireball which was to be the last shot of the season past Paddy Kenny just fifteen seconds after the United match was concluded at the Stadium of light. This is simply unbelievable! This was the climax of the action-packed and suspense-filled season that revealed the blue-half of Manchester as the worthy champions of the Barclays Premier league for the 2011/2012 season. Thus, the 2011/2012 season was awarded the Best season of the 20 seasons (1992-2012).
As the 2012/2013 season gets underway come August 18, 2012, it would be a Herculean task to predict the performances of the teams in the coming season; all the teams will be coming out very strong, loaded with energy to surmount the insurmountable. The three new teams promoted from the lower division; Southampton, West Ham and Reading will be looking forward to their opening matches, they will want to give a good impression of themselves to onlookers, they would want to scream loud and clear that: ‘we are not push-over, watch-out for us’. The Eastlanders commenced their title defence on August 12 with a showdown at the curtain raiser (Community Shield) with a 3-2 win over the Blues at Aston Villa’s home ground, Villa Park in Birmingham. It was a clash of the titans since Roberto Mancini’s star-studded team pitched their tents against 2012 FA Cup champions and 2012 UEFA Champions League winners, Chelsea.The teams to watch out for in the new season are: Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and Newcastle. In the just concluded season, Tottenham Hotspurs succeeded in displacing Chelsea from the top-four, a lot was expected from Tottenham, they started well but lost momentum towards the end of the season when Harry Redknapp got distracted by the Three Lions vacant position speculations, Harry paid dearly for this with his job. Andre Villas Boas, the precocious gaffer who was the erstwhile manager of Chelsea is now at the helm of affairs at White Hart Lane. Despite his failure at Stamford Bridge, a lot is expected from the young Portuguese, he is no longer a fresher in the University of Premier League football, he must have learnt his lessons from the Chelsea catastrophe; especially his relationship with old players. Villas is back to prove a point, watch out for him!
Alex Ferguson never ceases to surprise all and sundry with packages from his trailer of tricks, he is an elder statesman who is tagged with a placard: ‘watch out for me till the last tick of the season’. He is now being saddled with the task of winning United’s 20th league title, believe me, he can do it because he has done it on twelve (12) different occasions and besides 25 years is not a joke!
Being on an expedition for 8 years to win a league title could be a tiring journey where the only song hummed is ‘don’t give up’ and immunization against pessimism is administered year in year out. Only Arsenal fans can tell you the full story line of how it feels to hope for silverware talk less of a league title. Arsene Wenger has to deliver this year or else the next captain will start making prayers for the exit door. Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy all left last year and they are now proud holders of one title or the other. It was not surprising to see captain Robin Van Persie on a crusade clamouring for his emancipation from the jaws of the gunners’ creed; ‘Don’t give up, never, never, never’. He got himself on the list of controversial transfers in the world of football by leaving Emirates Stadium for title rivals, Manchester United. Old Fergie just needed to pay 24 million pounds for the Dutch striker. With 30 goals in the 2012/2013 season, half of Everton’s striker, Dixie Dean’s total in the 1927/1928 season, Van Persie should be able to win himself a title at Old Trafford considering his penchant for scoring goals.
Alan Pardew’s men came out of nowhere to take the centre stage in a bid to restore the lost glory of the Magpies in the just concluded season; instrumental to their success are the Senegalese strikers, Demba Ba who netted a total of 16 goals and Papiss Cisse who landed in St James Park in January. The team would definitely prove to be very stubborn to defeat and acclimatise themselves with winning.
The Italian tactician who has luck written all over him, Roberto Di Matteo would want a taste of how it feels to be a proud winner of the Barclays Premier League having won the FA Cup and Champions League within 3 months while he was a caretaker coach. On June 13, 2012, he was appointed as the first term manager, on a two year contract and having failed once with West Bromwich Albion, he would use Chelsea to correct his wrongs and write his name in gold. The arrival of French brothers, Eden and Thorgan Hazard, Marko Marin is a sign of better days to come. Observers have lamented about the massive influx of midfielders into the Chelsea playing style; Marin, Hazard, Mata, Lampard, Benayoun, Mikel, Essien, Romeu, Ramires, Miereles. Matteo would have a good answer for that, maybe he wants to adopt the massive midfield playing style of Spanish football. Only time will tell! Didier Drogba’s exit will definitely take its toll on the striking force of the Blues; it would be difficult to replace the Ivorian talisman.
The title holders, Manchester City will need to do more than what they did last season to retain the title; they had a lacklustre performance in the Champions League as they crashed out of the group stage. Mancini would need some permutations and combinations to maximise the potentials at his disposal at the Etihad Stadium. Carlos Tevez is back, Mario Balotelli had a sterling display at the Euro 2012 and the middle of the park is in the safe hands of Yaya Toure, David Silva and Samir Nasri.
It is surprising to know that since the inception of the English Premier League in 1992, an English manager is yet to win the league title. The world is waiting for the first Englishman to lift the title; the future lies in the hands of Brian Mc Dermott of Reading, Nigel Adkins of Southampton, Alan Pardew of Newcastle, Sam Allardyce of West Ham United, Brendan Rodgers of Liverpool and Martin O’Neil of Sunderland. Are they capable of overturning the tables? We are in for an interesting and fantastic season; fasten your seat belts because you might encounter what you do not expect; Underdogs flogging the big names!