What a terrific start to the European football season.
We have had wonder goals, major upsets and big money transfers. I have been at my busiest and unable to write about any of the action in recent weeks, due to work I have been doing with the features team at The Sun newspaper down in London.
Normal service has now resumed, and I figured what better way to reacquaint myself with TJRsports than a straight shoot run of opinions and observations.
- Manchester United are still top dogs in the English premier league. The debut match against Swansea was breathtaking football, smooth passing and clinical finishing. Ryan Giggs approaching 40 was playing as good as any midfielder in the league that weekend, and made a goal for Van Persie. Danny Welbeck, the most gifted athlete in the United squad, looks to be adding goals to his game and should be a major player for the champions this season. Tom Clevelerly has already established himself in the England side with his precision passing and if he can add goals then he too will be one of the stars of the United side. With Wayne Rooney now settled I think it is just a matter of time before the champions hit a prolonged period of points accumulation. Would you like Rooney, Welbeck and Van Persie charging towards goal supported by precision passing from Giggs, Cleverley and Carrick? I also think that the established defence of Rafael, Vidic, Ferdinand and Evra will cope fine with their responsibilities; especially with PFA goalkeeper of the season David De Gea between the sticks. The bookies are much more sceptical, and the smart punters are putting some serious money on a much underrated United side to win the league.
- Conversely, Liverpool have just beaten Manchester United. There isn’t much to read into this at this stage of the season, although some Liverpool fans are getting excited at being top of the league for the first time in a long time. Liverpool beat United by a single goal, and suffered a second half United onslaught that left the scousers feeling lucky. It has summed up their season. Liverpool are top but having only managed meagre 1 nil victories in which they often looked the poorer team. It is a matter of time before the Mersey club are found out, and the return of one Luis Suarez should be sufficient enough to derail the decent team balance they seem to have found. Perhaps Rodgers is brave and doesn’t bring Suarez back in straight away, and there is some talk that he will play Suarez as a winger. The fact is that Liverpool are right now better off without the mouthy Uraguay trouble maker.
- Chelsea and City will be the most serious contenders to United’s crown. Chelsea especially look very solid under Mourinho. City had a shocking loss to Cardiff, and new manager Pellegrini has struggled to address the fundamental problems of City the team. Never the less, this talented group of individuals will get their act together and challenge.
- Arsenal are very under rated. They have the most experienced and consistent manager in Arsene Wenger, and an array of good players. The signing of Mehsut Ozil added that one world class player that all great teams seem to possess. Ozil is arguably in the top ten players in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo claiming that Ozil was the second best player at Madrid behind himself. I expect that with Ozil that Arsenal will find that extra gear they sometimes lacked last seaon, they could even push for second.
The Arsenal’s north London rivals, Tottenham, are also looking in very good shape. They have lost Gareth Bale but got around £40 million more than Bale is actually worth. This has been wisely invested in several good players, and with one of the biggest and best squads in the league Spurs seem very plausible for a top four finish.
- Speaking of the transfer dealings, for the most part I thought the whole business was ridiculous. Gareth Bale has had one great season and is now the most expensive player in the world at £85 million. He has some serious question marks hanging over him already at Madrid, with many of the squad unhappy at his arrival, but good luck to the Welsh superstar.
Ozil made way for Bale by going to Arsenal for £42 million. It really is ridiculous, Ozil is a proven world class player whereas Bale is a potential world class player. Arsenal proved the real winners in the dealings, they have acquired a class act.
Manchester United came in for some flack in their transfer dealings, but at the end of the day they got themselves a player who can really enhance their team. Maroune Fellani is a physical and talented player, he can pass, he can score, he can out muscle his opponent. It is his physicality which will really enhance United, it is what they missed in the Liverpool game. Fellani will rough his opponents up and dominate play. His height will help create huge opportunities for crosses and opposition confusion. United will enjoy playing with him, and the presence of Rooney and Fellani should shake up the opponents of the day.
- Across Europe, Italy has seen a predictable start to their premier division, the serie a. Napoli and Juventus are both on six points from six and will be the main challengers.
As I predicted in an earlier column, Monaco have debuted in the French top flight with flair. After signing a host of big names they now sit top of the French league with Ten points. The current champions, Paris Saint Germain, who also spent big, are fourth with Eight points after a poor start.
Predictably, the German league is dominated by last years champions league finalists Dortmund and Munich. Last years winners Munich are currently second on 10 points, whereas Dortmund have won every game and sit first on12 points.
Barcelona are top of Spain’s La liga, but the top four which includes Real Madrid are all tied on the same points. It is fair to say Barcelona have looked the much better team though, with the goal difference saying it all, 11 goals in 3 games having only conceded two goals.
- The real battles start now. The winter period is where teams can really tighten grips on their places in the league. Despite several big player and manager changes, it will be the usual suspects who dominate again this season – those who have been there and done it before will always find it easier. In one heated verbal exchange last weekend, Liverpools Steven Gerrard called Robin Van Persie a “wanker”. Van Persie simply responded, “I have a premier league winners medal, one more than you’ll ever have”.
Football. We love it.
G.J Herbert is a British features writer who has worked in content writing for business and been published in regional titles and nationally in The Sun newspaper. For his sports coverage follow him at https://twitter.com/gjhsports