Well we’ve now had two rounds of Premier League fixtures and gosh, hasn’t it been interesting!? It’s fair to say there have been some major shocks already, so what have you made of the season so far? What are your first impressions? I’m going to give my two cents worth with three conclusions below, but please leave a comment and let me know what your reaction to the start of the ’09/’10 season has been.
1. Expect the Unexpected
I suppose the best and most obvious place to start today has to be with the raft of shock results that have already hit us this season. If you’d told me before the beginning of the season that Man Utd and Liverpool would lose to Burnley and Spurs, or that Arsenal would hammer Everton, that Wigan would beat Villa and then lose to Wolves I’d probably have said… well, I guess I’d have sat back and felt a bit smug.
As I wrote a few weeks back in a WDKF Wednesday article, I think that the movement of top players out of the ‘big four’ clubs over the Summer has simply made the Premier League an even better spectacle. Without Ronaldo, United don’t have the same air of invincibility. Without Alonso, Liverpool have lost an integral part of the structure of their side that was so important last season. Without Toure and Adebayor, Arsenal will slip up eventually.
This means that the traditional ‘big four’ powerhouses are not as strong, and will slip up occasionally, as Liverpool and United have already shown. What’s more though, is that last season Hull City showed that a freshly promoted club can succeed. The likes of Burnley and Wolves and Birmingham are all unknown quantities and their managers are looking to exploit that. They’ve all got a victory under their belts just two games in – I bet that doesn’t happen very often.
Overall then, this is going to be a season where predicting results is going to be hugely difficult. Last season many results were hard to call because half of the teams were rubbish. Now though, I think that most of the teams in the League have a side that is capable of survival – except Portsmouth. So first conclusion for the new season: anything and everything will happen, so expect the unexpected.
2. The Law of Extended Middle
The law of excluded middle is a logical principal that dictates that in some circumstances there must be an objective truth: so for example, a either exists or it does not. We cannot say that a neither exists nor doesn’t exist because that invokes a logical impossibility. This concept has little to do with football though, because so many things are subjective, a perfect example being the debate over whether a ball has crossed the goal line. Indeed, when it comes to league tables, they’re almost all middle.
The purpose of a league competition is to define which competing team is the best, and inversely, which competing team is the worst. Relevant to these positions there is every other team, who form what can be collectively called the middle. In recent seasons though, we’ve seen a shift towards a point at which there are four ‘best’ teams and usually at least three of four ‘worst’ teams, which has seen the middle realm become significantly smaller.
Following on from the point I made above though, I think we are looking this season, at an extended middle section. As I suggested above, the ‘big four’ sides have all become slightly weaker, closing the gap between them and the chasing pack. This pack has not only gotten bigger – last season it was Everton and Villa, now it surely includes Tottenham and Man City while West Ham, Fulham and Sunderland will be there or thereabouts too – but it has also gotten stronger, with Man City being the case in point.
Furthermore, the gap between these teams and the next ones also looks to have closed slightly. Bolton, Blackburn, Stoke, and Wigan could all realistically push for a mid-table berth while the likes of Wolves, Burnley, Birmingham and Hull aren’t far behind those sides in terms of quality either. This means that the distribution of teams will be far more even this season, with far more direct competition between the teams.
It also means that come the end of the season, there may not be so many distinct gaps in the ‘points’ column, and it may very well be the case that the table will show us which team is the best, which the worst, and display a significantly extended middle section of teams all divided by not too many points. Of course, excluding the middle would be no fun at all, and given that football is rarely entirely logical, extending it seems to be a far better law.
3. Chelsea will be Champions.
A bold statement to make after just two games (in both of which the Blues went a goal down) but one that I am extremely confident in making. I predicted that Chelsea would win the league in my Premier League Preview and, if anything, since then my confidence has only increased. On paper Chelsea are I believe, the strongest of the ‘big four’ because they haven’t weakened their squad over the Summer.
While their core is certainly ageing, the likes of Lampard, Ballack and Drogba have plenty left in the tank and the experience and desire to maintain their best form for some time yet. What’s more, their first two games this season have demonstrated in their performances that they have the mental capacity to win the league too. Having gone a goal down in both games they’ve shown great patience and determination to fight their way back into games.
We’ve already seen that Liverpool and Man Utd, having gone behind reasonably early in games, have not had the necessary grit to come back and emerge victorious. They both looked frustrated in their play against Spurs and Burnley respectively, and began to get desperate towards the end of their matches. Chelsea against Hull though, maintained their composure and kept working away at the Tigers and when Drogba scored his injury time winner it felt both deserved and inevitable.
Ultimately then, Chelsea will benefit from their stability – something we’re not used to saying about them since Abramovich came to the party. They have a strong and experienced squad and enough about them to get results more often than not. Having lost players the other three ‘big four’ clubs have to start afresh and they will take time to re-establish their sense of invincibility. That’s time they don’t have, and so Chelsea will be Champions come May.
Have your say:
Place your vote and leave a comment: what have you made of the season so far?