- The ‘Big Club’ mentality is back.
For over a decade before Leicester’s victorious crusade the so called ‘big four’ dominated England’s top tier. Sir Alex and the Red Devils struck fear into the hearts of their opponents, and Wenger’s invincibles showed a ruthless quality key to the consistent success of any top football club. In recent years however, the unbeatable aura surrounding England’s traditional giants has been on the wane and the Foxes’ heroic year can be seen as a culmination of this decline. Ranieri’s team won the 2015-16 Premier League title with a grand total of 81 points, the lowest score for any English champions since Manchester United finished top with 79 back in 1998-99. So could this be the year the fall is halted? The opening weekend certainly suggested so. The new managers at Manchester United, City and Chelsea have spent a combined total of over £350 million this summer alone, and the difference in quality was evident during the opening round of fixtures. The winning mentality installed by the new star singings and the strong character of the new managers seems to have given these three sides the push they needed to reclaim dominance over England’s traditionally weaker outfits. Although City’s game against Sunderland, Mourinho’s trip to Bournemouth and Chelsea’s home derby against West Ham were all fixtures one would expect to win, it seems a long while ago to me that each of these clubs took three points on the same weekend.
2. Arsenal are consistently dropping off the pace.
Arsenal fans can argue amongst themselves as to the point at which Wenger started to lose ground on his Premier League rivals, the fact is, as far as i’m concerned, Arsenal will continue to fall short of expectations until the Frenchman departs the Emirates. This has rarely been more obvious than after last Sunday’s 4-3 opening defeat to Liverpool, a game in which the Gunners can count themselves lucky to have lost by just the one goal. Wenger may point to the players missing through injury or fitness but at the end of the day a successful modern manager accounts for these incidents before the start of the season. Although finishing second in the Premier League for the first time in years, Arsenal have accrued fewer points in each of their last three seasons and with the new found power of the top clubs it would be a great surprise if this pattern did not continue.
3. Anyone could be relegated.
Aston Villa’s debacle of a 2015/16 season was quite something to behold. For so long the claret and blue had been a mainstay in the English top-flight but last year the Villains performance was so poor it looked at one stage as if they were to contest Derby’s 2007/8 record of just 11 points in a Premier League campaign. This year, for now, looks to be different. From the last of last year it was obvious that Villa’s squad was underperforming and unready for the challenge of 38 tough league fixtures. This year each of the three clubs promoted from the Championship looks not only capable of dealing with the pressure of the first division but ready to make an impression of their own. The lower league incumbents too look to have strengthened over the summer window, and their relative parity was shown on Saturday, will no fixtures being won by greater than a one goal margin. This, combined with the increased financial power for each side means that this year really could be anyone’s year to drop out.
4. The year of the big strikers?
Aguero, Ibra, Costa and Kane. It couldn’t look much more inviting for Premier League fans this year, but will one of these marksmen make the difference in deciding the 2016/17 title race? For City the form of Aguero has in recent years been a massive factor determining their success. We all remember the famous AGUEROOOO… goal to win City the league back in 2012 but the Argentine has amassed an outstanding 102 others in just 153 league appearances for the Sky Blues since his move from Atletico Madrid. If fit (and that’s a huge if) he will surely make a massive difference to Guardiola’s chances this campaign. Then there’s Zlatan, a man who can change the fortunes of any side with a single bicycle kick from half way. Costa, the terrifying face at the point of Chelsea’s 2014/15 domination, and Kane, last season’s winner of the Premier League golden boot. In my eyes there is no doubt that the winner of the Premier League this year will be the team who’s frontman fires from the start. Augero, Zlatan and Costa have done just that, netting in each of their opening games.
By Freddie Stuart.