"Come to me in my dreams, and then/By day I shall be well again!/For so the night will more than pay/The hopeless longing of the day."-Matthew Arnold.
I don't know for whom Mr. Arnold had written his poem 'Longing', but it perfectly fits for me when I describe the helpless wait for the new English football season. For a guy who practically lives on soccer, a 2-and-half month existence without any 'real' action on the lush green English fields was similar to starvation. For people, especially the male gender, like me who have nothing better to do but argue with equally crazy friends in hushed voices at the back of the class who were the best and worst of the weekend, this long wait was just about trying to kill the pain. For a Man Utd fan like me, these months were even worse, what with a certain Portugese guy deciding to shift base to a place I absolutely hate and an Argentine moving just cross-town to a place I hate even more. There has been enough talk,enough of the transfer news and rumours,now is the time for some real action-the time to show that there are certain people who can play only with their money but can't do much out there in the green. Many people maintain that the EPL will now lose its sheen and Spain will have all the glamour, with a club there gone absolutely crazy, but me, like Sir A.F., maintains that this has and will be the hardest fought league in the world. We all know who will take the top two spots in Spain... pundits say there are at least six teams out there in the English jungle who can claim the big honors. Only time will tell what happens, but let me make a few predictions at my own risk as we take a tour through the Isles-
1. We begin our journey in the North, in a quaint industrial town called Manchester. Let's begin with the newly rich kids on the block. Man City have the money but not the brains or the feet. Max 5th in the table.Who will Mr. Hughes choose as strikers...he has bought so many of that breed that now he risks a rebellion in his ranks-even if he plays three strikers,two among the following have to sit out-Bellamy,Ade,Santa Cruz, Robinho, Tevez. I'll support anybody who plays against City, except perhaps Liverpool and Chelsea.
2. Going cross-town to the Theatre of Dreams...yes,the best player in the world has gone only to leave a long shadow behind. But the best brain in the business has experienced similar situations before, and everytime he has come up with answers to shut the critics up. Maybe the buys were not big names,but still if this team works as an unit,there is no reason why a 4th successive trophy would elude them.Rooney has to be at his best,and eagerly we look forward to a Mr. Hargreaves taking the field. Best I expect? Champions! Worst I expect? 2nd place. Come on you reds,come on you reds....
3. We take a 35 minute flight from Manchester to the capital...and from Heathrow take a cab straight to the Harbour...welcome to the home of the Blues!! The big question in the air is will an Italian job be perfect for a Russian? Mr. Ancelotti has been there,done that. He knows his job and has sent out a warning to United on 9th August at Wembley. But the English rumble is a wee bit tougher than the Italian mesh...and he knows this is gonna be a struggle. Though they didn't get most of their targets in the summer,they successfully retained most of their team...and are United's main rival contenders this season.
4. Take a cab again, to the armoury of Arsenal. I think this is gonna be a 5th straight disappointing season for the Gunners. A lone Frenchman maintains they can get top spot this season,but I don't see too many hopefuls among their very own fans. The Fabregas saga is still disturbing them and thouugh many maintain Ade was a good riddance...i don't think so,what with V.P. and Eduardo both being injury prone and the other striker being a hapless Danish called Bendtner. Their only good addition has been Vermaelen in defence but can he substitute Kolo Toure? They have the broad shoulders of Andriy Arshavin to ride on though...and that is their only hope. Brace for another season without silverware, Gunners, anything more should be a bonus!!
5. Just a short open air bus ride through the busy London thoroughfares brings us to White-Hart Lane. Many people are saying they are good contenders this time...it's been three years they are beginning with this tag only to come splendidly out of relegation trouble to finish 10th!! They got a problem of plenty in the strike as well-Defoe,Pavlyuchenko,Crouch and Keane have to perform for places. But is there plenty of quality elsewhere? I don't think so. A top six-finish should be good enough for them and a good manager in Redknapp should take them there.
6. Again to Heathrow. A flight to the port city of football-crazy Liverpool. Can their team reward the most vocal fans in England,if not the world? They went splendidly close last time and gave some astonishing performance, including thrashings of Man Utd, Real Madrid, Villa and ran Chelsea tantalisingly close in the CL. They have lost a midfield stronghold in Xabi Alonso and a good defender in Arbeloa (another victim of Real's crazy wallet). Nobody is giving them too much this time, but they are the most unpredictable team in the world and on their day can upset anybody's applecart. Expect the deadly trio of Gerrard,Torres and Benitez to deliver...
7. We've travelled enough. Sitting in a pub over a chilled beer, let's talk about the other teams chances. Villa and West Ham played well last time (Villa had a better 1st half and Hammers a better 2nd one)...will do well to finish top 10 this time. A team that stunned us with its rise over mediocrity last time was Fulham. It'd be interesting to see what they do this time.
8. Let's order another beer and talk about another very intersting part of the season...one that is as exciting as the fight for glory...yes,you're right!! It's the battle for avoiding relegation,a bloody war of survival. The names that instantly come to mind are Hull, Sunderland, Wolves, Birmingham City and Burnley. Two of these clubs would definitely go down. Fact!! But who would've thought that a certain team in black-and-white would play 2nd division this season...who would've put Boro in that bracket as well! So don't be stunned if there's a big scalp among those last three names in the table!!
Get,Set...and let the fight for the enemy's blood begin!!