The new Premier League is upon us to take us away from life’s many miseries and give us something to cheer about. As always, the new season begins with high optimism as clubs bring in new faces while casting out some old ones in an attempt to do better than the previous year. Arsene Wenger, for the first time in my memory, decided to be take a stubborn stance in the transfer window, spent a club record amount for Lacazette and even managed to keep hold of Sanchez and Ozil. The same can’t be said for Conte though as many players were offloaded, and the squad is stretched thin with injuries to key players. All the top 6 sides (except Spurs) have spent a lot of money to bring in marquee players as the title race promises to much tighter than last year. Everton and West Ham have made some smart buys while relegation candidates, Swansea and Burnley have not made any significant additions yet. It’s a custom for every football fan to start the year with a bunch of predictions and to argue with friends about the same. I’m no different and here are my predictions for this season.
The International Football Association Board (IFAB) is the body that determines the rules and regulation of the game of football. It is a separate body from FIFA, consisting of all the football associations of the countries belonging to the English Isles (England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland) and FIFA itself. Although FIFA is just one member, it has 50 percent of the voting rights. Two weeks back, the IFAB proposed a few changes to the way the game was played, as part of their ‘Play Fair’ initiative. While taking a conservative approach to change is the usual way for the IFAB, the new proposals are, what many would call, radical.
Chelsea’s victory over West Bromwich Albion secured their 5th Premier League title and their second one in the last three years. Spurs pushed their London rivals till the end, but ultimately felt just short. The Manchester Clubs are facing a rough period of transition, while Liverpool keep falling short because of injury problems. #WengerOut trended once again as Arsenal are fighting a losing battle to secure UCL football next season. Palace and Swansea turned up the style in the last few weeks to confirm safety while Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Hull City went down. In a season of many twists, certain individuals stood out from the rest due to their stunning performances and decisive contributions for their clubs. The team of the season is as follows:
The R-16 in the Champions League this year has to go down as the most exciting one yet in recent history. There were plenty of goals, comebacks, flashes of individual brilliance and some high octane drama for the viewers to feast their eyes on. Real Madrid overcame an early scare in both games to comfortably qualify for the next round. Arsenal produced another no show as Bayern steamrolled their way past them. Juventus and Atletico hardly broke a sweat after an impressive first leg win. The biggest highlights of the round were the incredible comebacks of Barcelona and Monaco. Winning with aggregate scores of 6-5 and 6-6(away goals) respectively, they proved that no lead in the first leg is insurmountable. But what really set this round apart from many in the past was the decisive role the next generation of football stars had in it.
The English Premier League is considered by many to be the best football league in the world. There are atleast 3-4 favourites to win the title at the halfway point every year and you can never consider any fixture to be an easy win. Not only the title race, but even the relegation battle becomes increasingly thrilling as the season progresses. It’s not just high on quality, but high on the excitement levels as well. But year after year, Premier League teams struggle in the Europe’s Premier competition and fail to compete at the same level as the Spanish, German and even the Italian giants. In each of the 2006/07, 2007/08 and the 2008/09 seasons, the EPL produced 3 of the 4 semi finalists with the 2008 final being an all English final between Manchester United and Chelsea. However, in the last 6 years, the EPL has produced only 4 semifinalists in total. Why has the level of domination deteriorated so quickly?
A couple of month back, I watched the movie ‘Goal!’ on television. When the protagonist is informed of his father’s sudden death, he immediately leaves to the airport to get back home. Waiting there at the lounge, he thinks long and hard and decides that the best way to honour his dad’s memory would be on the football field and returns back to the club. Although this is not exactly similar to the story of Frank Lampard, I think we can all agree that not many players can return after such a personal tragedy after just a week and guide their team to the Champion’s League final like he did.
We have barely completed a month into 2017 and English Football has already provided us with some memorable (and ridiculous moments). Arsene Wenger, of all the managers in the Premier League, gets a 4 match ban for “pushing” the 4th official. Costa seems to have pulled off a transfer U-turn although Antonio Conte insists it was just a minor back problem. For a change, Bravo wasn’t the worst keeper on the field as Lloris assisted both of City’s goals against Spurs. Manchester United’s unbeaten run came to an end with a 2-1 defeat against Hull, but Jose Mourinho is still in denial, claiming that the game ended as a draw. But nothing can beat Liverpool’s dreadful form that sees them eliminated from two cup competitions and stranded 10 points behind Chelsea in the race to the Premier League title.
It took a while, but it was worth the wait for Wayne Rooney as his stunning free kick in injury time against Stoke City made him the all time top goalscorer in Manchester United history. The strike took him to 250 goals for the club, breaking Sir Bobby Charlton’s record in the process. The former Everton player will definitely go down as one of the all time greats, but not many greats can claim to be as divisive a figure as the Englishman. Throughout his time at Old Trafford, there have been numerous standing ovations, and at the same time, numerous calls for his axe. The incidents in his personal life have always made him a big target for the English Media who have made him a national scapegoat, blaming him for every failure the team encounters. But, for a neutral football fan, what will Wayne Rooney’s legacy be?
Every time the FIFA World Cup is round the corner, almost all Indians ask this one question – Why can’t India, with a population of over 1.2 billion, come up with a team of XI talented players to represent the country at the major tournaments. The question seems justified considering that much smaller countries, both in size and economic development, like Haiti and Zimbabwe sit well above us in FIFA rankings. Unlike cricket, football has only recently emerged as a popular sport in the country. Recent developments like the Indian Super League has helped to increase awareness of the sport by adding more gloss and glamour to it. But has the ISL actually helped improve the quality of Indian football? Continue reading “Why Mission XI Million will improve the quality of Indian Football in a way the ISL could not.”