This past Sunday I went to Wembley for the Charity Shield despite saying like I do every year that it’s a waste of time. My £20 ticket price was the main reason for my attendance; that and the fact that I haven’t been to a game since Paul Scholes’ last minute header at Eastlands sent me into delirium.
United deserved to win but as the new season gets underway this weekend I’m struggling for things to look forward to. Here’s a cobbled together list of what I think will be of interest in 2010/2011:
1. Javier Hernandez
When United signed this kid from Mexico I was pretty sceptical. For starters recent young strikers signed to the club haven’t exactly been successes; Dong, Manucho, and to a lesser extent Diouf have hardly lit up Old Trafford over the past few years. Yet there is something different about this lad. His two goals in the World Cup filled me with some optimism, but then again so did Karel Porborsky. His movement looks fantastic and in 5 minutes on Sunday he did more than Owen managed in 45. What we didn’t see on Sunday was him play with Rooney. Whilst it was great to see Rooney smack in goal after goal last year, I can see his natural ability to link with players like he did with Ronaldo, to be of great benefit to Hernandez who appears to have a good eye for the target. This kid has potential. Plus he has the ability to kick the ball against his own face and still score.
2. People whinging about the league been rubbish because the standard has dropped
Last season I heard people complaining that the league was rubbish. The reason? The big teams were losing too many games and therefore the standard of the league had dropped. Whilst this may be the case, this doesn't make the league as a whole not good to watch. If anything it makes it a more entertaining league because it gives fans something to talk about. There was a point last season where Everton beat Chelsea and United in the space of three days at Goodison Park. Two years ago United and Chelsea took maximum points from those trips to Merseyside whilst a year later both could only manage a draw. It shows that the standard of the teams that are outside the so called ‘big four’ is improving, which is surely better for the league in the long run because it makes it more competitive. A more competitive league makes for a better, dare I say it, product as fans will maintain interest. Which, in a way, leads me onto my next point.
3. The Title Race
Six teams could win the league this year. That’s right, six. At the moment I have Chelsea as favourites but wouldn’t be overly shocked if United, Arsenal, City, Liverpool or Spurs go close. If Chelsea had of had a fit Michale Essien last season they would have won the league by nine points. Even though he is returning this year, the squad is continuing to get older and they have lost a creative player in Joe Cole who has great ability. Whilst United and Arsenal have added a couple of players, they are by no means world beaters who have taken the squad to another level. City have spent a lot of cash this summer and will compete whilst Spurs and Liverpool have added one or two players to the mix. I have Chelsea winning it from Arsenal, with United third and and City fourth just ahead of Spurs and Liverpool. But one team could blow that prediction out of the water.
4. Everton to continue their good form
Everton are a team that I would be keeping a close eye on next season if I were Spurs, City or anyone else who ends up in the fight for a Champions League place. If the team can stay healthy they can certainly make a push for fourth spot. Last season with a fully fit squad the Toffees had the third best form after 1st January, behind United and Chelsea, losing just two games. They seem to have fought off the advances for some of their best players in Arteta and Jagleika and are producing talent such as Seamus Coleman and of course Jack Rodwell who looks to be the real deal. David Moyes has put together a fantastic bunch of players, which may be lacking a little in depth but make up for that in spirit. They have a great chance this year.
5. Blackpool to beat Derby’s low points record
In 2008 Derby County managed just 11 points all season long and this year it will be touch and go as to whether or not Blackpool will beat that record. I don’t mean to have a go at Blackpool because in all honesty I don’t know enough about them to break their squad down bit by bit. What I do know about them is that they have an unproven manager at top level, no players with top flight experience and they already appear to be having money issues, as they have only just managed to pay bonuses to players for last seasons promotion. They are struggling to get their ground ready and already have had to switch one fixture around. No matter what pundits may say, off the field problems do have an influence on the pitch when teams are struggling; look at Pompey last year. Their one shining light looks to be Charlie Adam who from what I have seen looks fairly useful. They have to go to Arsenal, Chelsea, and Liverpool by early October where they will surely take a hiding. Big defeats at grounds like that can have a huge knock on a teams confidence and they will find it very hard to come back from that.
And that’s about it. The lack of movement in the transfer market has meant that there are no huge big players going back to former clubs where feelings will run high and the atmosphere will be good. There haven’t been a huge number of managerial changes either. It’s been an incredibly dull summer. What the league needs is a couple of great games in the first weekend of the season. Spurs v City and Liverpool v Arsenal has the potential to do the trick.