Premier League 2015-16: Arsenal’s bottling and Leicester’s history

What a fascinating premier league season this has been. Traditional powers have faltered and a team which was almost relegated is on the verge of creating history. Against all the odds stacked up against them of skepticism (myself included up till February saying they will eventually fizzle out), the riches of the Russian and the Arab, the ‘astute’ economics of a professor and the mad should have been genius of a Dutchman. For all the neutrals out there and also for all the supporters of the smaller clubs – Leicester are carving their name deeper into stone and going right up there to remain in the premier league history for generations to come. The fairy tale ending for the club is almost here and what could be more fitting then Claudio (that oh so love able manager) lift the trophy at the very club which parted ways with him at the start of their own success era – Chelsea.

It has of course been frustrating for me as an Arsenal fan. This season should have been made more of especially in the face of Chelsea being a disaster, Liverpool rebuilding itself in the vision of Klopp, United not really going anywhere under LvG and Manchester City simply fizzling out amidst the Pep taking over next season talk. Arsenal had the squad, they had the players, they should have made more of a fight of this. But the failings were the same. Arsene Wenger’s reluctance to reinforce the squad in the summer surely has to be a huge factor in this. Not being able to strengthen in January isn’t much of a concern as genuinely there won’t be much talent on offer during the winter window (exceptions in the past exist but are rare). I take nothing away from Leicester and Tottenham in how they have played all season. They deserve to be where they are. But with all that Arsenal poses in terms of a squad they should have been fighting till the end with them. Mathematically they might have recently gone out of it but honestly Arsenal were out of the fighting back in February. When they lost to United and Swansea and failed to gain ground after winning their second match against Leicester. This was compounded by an exit from the FA Cup to Watford – a cup which has been a silver lining in the last 2 seasons. And yet another round of 16 exit in the Champions League. Its not just a mental thing anymore. They bottled it. They bottled it because some parts are mental. They bottled it because some parts were just plain wasteful and not enough depth in terms of resources. Ozil inspired and arguably had a superb season. He came into his own. He has finally started looking like the Ozil of old who is familiar now with the premier league. The first half of the season he was hailed. The second half perhaps he did find a dip but what hampered Arsenal more was the dip in form of those around him who he was creating the chances for. He can’t help it if his chances created are not being converted. Giroud and Walcott both disappointed. Welbeck was injured for ¾ of the season. Sanchez was out for almost half of it. And it has affected us. We terribly missed Carzola too. The partnership between him and Coquelin had become a driving engine for Arsenal in the midfield. So yes there were injuries as well. There were mental issues and injuries – but then there should have been more. Wenger should have gotten squad depth in the summer. The only glimmer of hope from this season now is the emergence of Iwobi. He has proven himself to be quite capable of being a regular with a good footballing brain. That and the acquisition of Elneny. Two good points. The rest however has been disappointing and that is putting it mildly. Fact remains: Arsenal should have done better this season.

 If Arsenal are to go beyond being a ‘consistent 4th place’ finisher they need some serious strategy overhaul and change. And it is going to be tougher next season with more clubs getting richer with the TV rights deal money pouring into the premier league clubs wallets. So more of the same may very well mean Arsenal don’t even qualify for Champions League next season. More of the same strategy that is. Change is necessary. Change is required. And it has to start with the board. And it has to start with the manager.

Arsene Wenger has given Arsenal 20 years of unparallel service. He will always remain a core part of what Arsenal is today and it’s modern day football successes. He has been invaluable during the club’s time of building a new stadium and the financial constraints that were presented during the time. However that is all done now and there needs to be a decisive way forward where a 4th place finish is not enough. An FA Cup victory is also not enough. There has to be more fight to challenge for the premier league and there has to be better showing in Europe. For this the board’s strategy and vision also needs to change. They are quite comfortable right now because of the astute business deliverables Wenger has been providing them and as long as that remains things will stay the same.

Arsenal need to add depth to their squad. They need to get a 20 goal a season striker. Out and out class of a striker. They need to reinforce their defense as well given Per is getting older and soon Kos will be heading towards the twilight as well. And given the performance this season a clear out of those who have been given a lot of time to establish themselves has to be done. Walcott should be done. Ox should be done. Get them out and get Mahrez if that is even slightly possible. Or someone of the like.

As for managers to be honest right now there are no clear world class options available. So don’t know what can be done in that regard. Certainly don’t want a post Ferguson type of era happening at Arsenal as it has at Manchester United.

Leicester are closer to their title triumph after drawing with Manchester United over the weekend and can very well wrap it if Tottenham fail to beat Chelsea tonight. I am all for them winning the title – they truly deserve the history they are making.

Kudos Leicester, kudos Claudio, kudos Vardy, Mahrez, Morgan, Kante and co. You deserve it.

The Mother of all Rivalries

Sports competitions and battles have long kept us glued to our seats or on the edge of them across the globe since forever. The adrenaline, the competition and the heroism of our warriors on field is something that never fails to attract. And all of this gets ever more exciting when it is between rivals. Whether you are the player or the fan a match or game against a rival is just as important as the entirety of the competition itself. Such rivalries tend to be larger in fact then the competition itself at times. And we have had examples of it across almost all sports since almost forever.

Formula 1 had the Niki Lauda vs James Hunt rivalry in the 76-77, Mikka Hakkinen vs Micheal Schumacher in the late 90’s and Ferrari vs the rest of the constructs since forever to name a couple of them.

Tennis had Jimmy Connors vs John McEnroe, Steffi Graff vs Monica Seles, Andre Aggasi vs Pete Sampras from the yesteryears. And at present who has not heard of Nadal vs Federer.

Football – All club football Derby Matches (Manchester United vs Manchester City, Arsenal vs Tottenham, Chelsea vs Arsenal, Liverpool vs Everton, Athletico Madrid vs Real Madrid, Inter Milan vs AC Milan etc) and then of course El Classico (Barca vs Real) or the United vs Arsenal rivalry in the early 2000’s. Rangers vs Celtic in Scotland. Roy Keane vs Patrick Vierra, Messi vs Ronaldo. There are many. And all of these were/are just that big. They are bigger than the competition.

Cricket – England vs Australia, one of the oldest rivalries of all times further characterized by the Ashes series played between the two sides.

And then there is Pakistan vs India. The mother of all rivalries. A rivalry which is so famous that even people with limited interest in the sport would know about it even if they are from neither India nor Pakistan as long as they are from a cricket playing nation (minnows included). *the above being said more so because of being a Pakistani and a cricket fan

There is never any love lost between the two sides whenever or wherever they meet. Regardless of the competition, regardless of the consequence or inconsequence – your team needs to win. The feeling is mutual on either side of the border. History adds to this rivalry of course. It further fuels it. Even thou there is plenty of on field history and excitement and drama over the decades of cricket – it never really is just about the cricket. This rivalry has always been beyond even the sport itself. It’s just that mammoth.

And it has been mammoth over the decades. Miandad’s last ball six at Sharjah. Prasad’s vital 3 wickets in the 96 quarter final. The sultans of swing Waqar and Wasim. The little master Sachin. Imran Khan. Gavaskar. Saeed Anwer. Anil Kumble. All names that have had their time in this mammoth rivalry.

And on the biggest stage of ODI cricket these two teams will be starting off their respective world cup campaigns against each other come Sunday. They will be resuming their rivalry. Familiar foes meet again. What a way for the 2015 World Cup to start.

As a Pakistani of course my heart is beating and screaming for the boys in green to emerge victors. As I am sure would be my counterparts across the border. Till Sunday the barbs (oh and the Indians have come up with a  good one *reference to the firecracker ad), the conspiracies, the predictions, the experts, the seasonal fans, the specific to Pakistan vs India fans etc etc will all be buzzing, talking and dissecting everything there is to. Come Sunday of course everyone will be glued to their television sets in the anticipation of this every so mammoth clash.

I will again as a Pakistani of course be glued as well and will hope beyond hope that we defeat the Indians (if for nothing else at least so that we can give them a fitting reply to that ridiculously stinging ad). Who unfortunately we don’t have a single win against in World Cup matches. Yep. Even thou we have a superior record against them in overall ODIs – we still haven’t defeated them in World Cup encounters. The first time being in 1992 and the last one being the Semi Final in Mohali in 2011. It’s like a jinx. And they have been a better one day side over the past year or so (albeit more so at home – they have been lousy away from home as well). And they have had more time in Australia thanks to the big three keeping a triangular between themselves (all hail the powers that be at ICC – bravo on ensuring fair play for everyone). And they have a stronger batting side while our bowling is suffering from some major absentees due to injuries and suspensions (ICC please read previous line again… excellent timing on the clampdown btw).  All the logical factors point to another win for the men in blue.

But in comes the heart. This is the first world cup meet between the two sides without Tendulkar. Their perfect record against us cannot go on forever – it has to give sometime. And now seems like as good a time as any. Pakistan won its solitary world cup in Australia when the competition was held here last almost 23 years ago. Pakistan can be unpredictable on their day. And let’s not forget. We have LALA!!! AFRIDI!! (Wishful thinking I know but still you never know).

So the predictions, the logic, the wishful thinking, the heart and all of the above will go on an on till Sunday. But one thing is for sure which I will repeat again. Regardless of the bigger consequence of Sunday’s match on the remaining world cup campaign – it is a match that needs to be won. That feeling is mutual on either side of the border. Pakistan vs India is always bigger than the tournament, the rest of the competition. It’s for glory, for pride. It’s for the green and white of our flag. For Pakistan!

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2013-14: The Rollercoaster Premiership Post Fergie

So after 37 match weeks of one of the most roller coaster Premiership seasons the final day has arrived. Although it will seem pale in front of the rest of the season it will still have some if not a lot of nerves showing. Life of the Premiership post a Fergie Manchester United has been anything but predictable or consistent. It has been one of best seasons especially from a neutral’s point of view. We have seen fortunes come and go and basically come crashing down as well. And the goals have been mouth watering and a plenty! Both Liverpool and Manchester City play their final games with chances of breaking Chelsea’s record of most goals scored in a single season. It has been insane.

That most things have already been decided either in theory or by math as well is sort of a disappointment from an overall point of view. It would have made for an even more intense finale had Liverpool not drawn with Crystal Palace. Or if Norwich would not have given up the relegation battle to a mere draw with Chelsea (they didn’t fight.. they just parked the bus which was not a characteristic of a team fighting for survival. 4th place is no longer a contest and Arsenal will remain consistently in the top 4 and claim their place in the champions league for a 17th consecutive season (albeit disappointing to finish 4th after much better promise at the start of the season – they were top till Christmas – and very much in the hunt for the title till the end of February). 2 teams are already relegated. One Europa spot is already decided. In theory just the top 3 positions remain to be seen off (I cant stress enough the in theory bit), Norwich’s official relegation and the 2nd Europa position between Manchester United and Tottenham.

So as we are about to head into the kick off of the final game week, the Liverpool fans will be hoping their terrific trio (Suarez, Sturridge and Gerrard) hit the the back of the net more times then the Magpies and that somehow the footballing Gods take pity on them and Gerrard the most and somehow bring out the worst performance from a Manchester City side who are ahead on points and need only draw their game to ensure they still win the title on goal difference against a West Ham side they have already comprehensively beaten 3 times this season. So in all probability the 24 year wait for a league title for the Reds will translate into year 25 years. However I would rather have preferred Liverpool to win it for Gerrard (it is my personal and humble opinion that the guy deserved to get there for all his loyalty to his boyhood club).

Liverpool have had a massive season despite that. Suarez has had a fantastic season, one which has been much beyond than just merely re-establishing his image from all the damage inflicted from the eager bites at the end of last season. 30 goals in 32 games is phenomenal. He has surely etched himself into the hearts of the Liverpool faithful and will be one of the players to watch in the upcoming world cup in Brazil. Brendan Rogers must be given absolute credit for driving the Reds to their fantastic season and managing Suarez as well. Yes that they have not had Champions League football on the side has helped and definitely something for which they will have to work accordingly for next season if they are to continue the gains from this season.

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City have not really had any dip in form throughout this season apart from when Yaya Toure was injured (who has been fantastic this season) and the initial parts of Aguero’s absence (very little). The depth in their squad thou has more than compensated for such injury absences. Their front line has been a power house of scoring especially at the Etihad and also in some away games. Their premier league focus grew stronger after their exit from the Champions league thus further (further proving the point mentioned above for Liverpool). They should easily bag their second title on the final day and this time probably on points. Pellegrini and the Sheikh will be happy men.

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Chelsea have had a good season given Mourinho was working with half a squad which was ageing, which has seen a flurry of Managers come and go over the last 7 seasons and that they were involved in the champions league up till the semi finals. It will be disappointing thou to finish the season without any silverware. The special one has again proved this season that when it comes to tactics and strategy, there are few who can match him in the game (as of now). He will have to enforce the squad for next season to bring silverware next season and again mount a sustained run for the league title and champions league both (which would be a bare minimum requirement for the boss).

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Arsenal – they have in the end had the exact same kind of season as they did last year, and the one before and the one before and the one before etc etc (need I continue). It however started very differently this time (apart from that first game). Arsenal led the league for a good part of the season. In fact between Arsenal and Liverpool they have led the league for perhaps 90% of the season. However the gunners faced uphill tasks once the injuries started flowing in. Ramsey who could potentially have had a brilliant ‘complete’ season went to injury. Walcott was out in January. There were absences in between for Ozil (our record breaking signing), Koscielny, up front etc. The season has ended more or less the same with just one hope that they might win the FA Cup against Hull and end 9 trophy-less years. And perhaps Wenger feel a little vindicated in his unwavering belief of keeping an ‘economical but quality squad’. However if they suffer any sort of collapse in the FA Cup final it will be yet another season without any sort of real positives or indication towards a move forward. And despite having consistently been in the top 4 and champions league qualification for 17 years – it is not enough. Not for the fans and most definitely not enough for sustainability as an ambition. The competition is getting tougher in the Premier League (it is by far one of the most competitive leagues). Everton almost beat them to the 4th place. Wenger needs to either reinforce heavily or he needs to say sayonara even if they win the FA Cup (which I doubt will happen). I feel it is perhaps time for a new thought process at the Emirates. And I say this as a fan who has been very supportive of the Professor’s way of management and results with the resources we have had. But now time has come to move forward and aim higher.

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And continuing on the same vein as being a Gooner – Manchester United have had by far the worst possible season. It has been their worst in many years. They have let teams come and win at Old Trafford who haven’t won in 20, 30 or 40 years. Or even those who have NEVER won at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’. Moyes will not be remembered well by the United faithful. He has had to endure a squad which has not nearly hit anywhere near the type of quality they are capable of. They have been utterly disappointing at home and have recorded their lowest points table in their Premier League history. I for one have thoroughly enjoyed their season, their fans journey from ‘Moyes is the chosen one’ to ‘Go home Moyes’. Sir Alex didn’t do him any favors either by leaving him a squad which was not really well equipped for this season and especially without the great Scot at the helm of affairs. It will be very interesting to see how they respond next season without Champions League and probably under the leadership of Louis Van Gaal. In all fairness a club like Manchester United need a big manager who is capable of managing big players and big squads along with big expectations of the fans and board alike. Moyes for all his endurance and achievements (albeit of mediocrity as shown by Martinez’s Everton) in the preceding years with Everton was never going to be successful in filling Fergie’s shoes. But the expectation might have been a far 3rd or 4th. To miss out on Europe altogether has been a culture shock for everyone at Manchester United that goes well beyond the term ‘in transition’.

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So as I finally wrap this blog we are at half time of the final gameweek and as things stand:

United are missing europe completely losing to Southampton and with Spurs winning at Villa

Chelsea and Liverpool are both trailing while City are leading.

So as it would seem – there are no twists left for the season. But then again you never know. Kudos 2013-14 – a fantastic season you have been, from a neutral’s point of view of course.

United’s 20

Well one can say whatever they want to. They can say it was a one man show this season for them. They can say that it wasn’t a case of a gulf in the quality of the squads just more occasions of not dropping points. That they were luckier. That they had fewer competitions to focus on for the final third of the season. Blah Blah Blah. Regardless, Manchester United have clinched a 20th league title (now the club with the highest league title wins, 1 ahead of Liverpool). And they have done so sitting quite comfortably.

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For United it was a great achievement especially doing with 5 games to spare and redeeming themselves from last season. I mean all the more sweeter when you are reclaiming it from your ‘noisy neighbors’. And let’s be honest. Even the noisy neighbors were more or less out of the race by early March. I mean it didn’t seem like it would be a repeat of last season where United would start dropping points. Rio’s dig at City was all too obvious when he said ‘We did it the right way. On points and not on goal difference’. Last season did hurt the Red Devils and vengeance has been all too sweet.

They have been the more consistent team in the Premier League by far this season. They may not have been a dominant outfit with an outright gulf in class. BUT they have managed to win the title with an extremely comfortable point gap. 13 points between them City (who sit second). They have deserved this and rightly so.

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The biggest impact (as also stated by Sir Alex Ferguson himself) has been that of Robin Van Persie. 23-24 goals for United and a hat trick against Villa in the last game to win Premier League. I am an Arsenal fan – and of course as a gunner I am not all that happy about the fact that we didn’t even figure into title fight for a good part of the season. Or the fact that we sold our captain and highest goal scorer to united in the summers. But I am happy for RvP. He needed this. Had been giving a lot at Arsenal and he performed till the very last game. He kept giving 100% but the fact is that he isn’t getting any younger and it is only natural for him to yearn for winners medals to add to his career. That wasn’t seemingly coming through with Arsenal so he made the difficult decision to move on. So again I am happy for him. Kudos Robin, kudos United. Ferguson also commented that Wenger while selling RvP to United quite hesitantly said to him ‘He is far better than you think’. I think the first 6 months of the season more or less proved that. Money well spent.

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Another player who should be hailed for this wonderful achievement is Ryan Giggs. I have always admired Giggs. He has been a phenomenal player for United and continues to be one actually. He is 40 and he has managed to play a pivotal role this season to add to his and United’s achievements. I think he has been one of the fantastic greats to have blessed this game and a rare breed of footballers that are few and far in between.

And finally coming to Sir Alex himself. Again a legend for football. For English football. For Manchester United. His feats would be very very difficult for any manager to achieve let alone whoever does take up his role once Fergie decides to call it quits. Amazing, glistening managerial career.

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Congratulations United, congratulations Robin van Persie, congratulations Ryan Giggs, congratulations Sir Alex Ferguson.

See you next season

And The Premier League Returns!

The stadiums were packed. Club colors were evidently everywhere. Fans were screaming. The players were itching. Even the sun was shining (well at least in the matches that I saw on the telly) as the Premier League returned to action last weekend with goals galore. Some premier league debutants made impressive impacts while others promised much but fell short of delivery. And then there was that one who made a journey from London to Manchester only to see an extremely disappointing debut match. There was certainly no shortage of goals but surprisingly most of them for clubs you would not expect such numbers from. There were a total of 26 goals scored on the opening weekend! And if you include the midweek clash between Chelsea and Reading then 32 Goals! That’s 32 goals in 11 games and comes to an average of almost 3 goals per game and if it’s anything to go by as a trend for this season then it’s fantastic news for the neutral.

Manchester City started life in the 2012/13 season just as they ended it in 2011/12 – coming from 2-1 behind to win it 3-2. Albeit the 2011/12 was to win the league title while this one was to ensure getting off on a winning start.

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To be honest.. their overall performance wasn’t as impressive as it should have been. They won the league title for the first time last season and that fire should have helped them demolish newly promoted side Southampton. The defence needs to tighten up if they are to retain their title. With Manchester United always hunting for revenge after losing the title they will face a hard time from their red rivals. Things won’t be easy to come by from Chelsea either. The potential for title deciders will also be with Tottenham, Liverpool (their next match) and Arsenal.

Having said that, from the above list only Chelsea made an impressive start. They had a double game week (with the second game played on Wednesday). Chelsea are top with 6 points at the moment and 6 goals already in their books with 2 against. Eden Hazard has been supremely impressive for them and already looks to be one of the buys of the season in the league.

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He has played a massively important and influential role in the both the games and is surely a top quality purchase. The blues will however face in due course of the season problems up front (Torres hasn’t been the Torres of yore in the last 2 seasons). Plus the back line is ageing. It is but a matter of time when that catches up with them this season. The midfield however is strong and if Torres can manage to get some of that original flair and sparkle back then Chelsea will quite easily be able to keep last season’s domestic league standing behind them and back into the top 4 as title contenders.

Liverpool had the worst possible start to the season. Going down 3-0 to West Brom in what was their worst start in I believe some 25 odd years ( I think its 25, please correct me if I am mistaken. However it was the worst in a long long time). Brendan Rogers has his work cut out. Liverpool above all lack grit and desire. They have good players. But the reliance on a single talisman has taken away the desire from the rest.

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The next couple of games (especially next one being Mancs) will be important in determining how the Reds season will go. Mancini thinks they are definite title contenders but that could just be fancy talk before their clash.

Manchester United. Sir Alex Ferguson. The search for the 20th league title. Star signing of Robin Van Persie from Arsenal. Plenty of firepower up front for him to join – Rooney, Chicharito, Welbeck, Berbatov and fellow new signing Kiguawa. Goodish to average midfield thou. And definitely fragile defence in terms of depth. One or 2 injuries and it comes undone. A still learning and developing keeper in De Gea. But they are United after all.

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They have a massive history and experience in winning titles and reclaiming them. They have a supremely confident attitude of being winners. It is that quality which will always ensure (along with Sir Alex Ferguson at the helm of things) that even thou they had a losing start – you know they will be in the title race till the last couple of games. And yes I hated saying every bit of the last two sentences since I am an Arsenal fan but it is true. So they lost to Everton thanks to a Fellaini header. But you know they will bounce back. They have had slow starts before which have ended in league titles. So what’s so new and great about their defeat at goodison? Nothing. I will just be hoping that we can do better then them and rest.

Coming finally to my club – Arsenal. They have had yet another season of departures and more importantly the departure of a club captain. Not good for the motivation of other players and the club fans this. Van Persie followed Fabregas, Nasri and Clichy from last season in being a big name exiting the club. But more shockingly he was sold to Manchester United. That will be really hard to stomach. And of course will result in a not so warm reception for him if he faces Arsenal at the emirates. With the first game promising much but failing to deliver the new look Arsenal side will be under the microscope through the course of the season. Hopes will be pinned solely on new signings Carzola, Giroud and Podolski to deliver the goods.

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However we need Vermalaen, Koscileny and Scezny to have good seasons to ensure stability at the back which is and has been a major problem area for Arsenal in the past. We have leaked way too many goals in the last few seasons. And with Song gone we need Wishere back and for Diaby to have an injury free season to ensure a solid midfield. Arteta will provide the additional stability as well. Our next game is Stoke and the potters can be a tough ask. Let’s hope the new boys adjust to life in the premier league fairly fast and that we end our 7 year trophy drought. We have the potential but we need the execution and mentality to win as well.

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This will most definitely be a telling season for Wenger and I fear if it is yet another trophy less season than it will be trouble despite the prof’s brilliant business acumen.

My honest predictions for the league:
1. Manchester United / Chelsea / Manchester City
2. Manchester United / Chelsea / Manchester City
3. Manchester United / Chelsea / Manchester City
4. Arsenal
5. Liverpool
6. Tottenham / Newcastle

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Match Day 38: A befitting end to a brilliant Premier League Season

And so we arrive on the final match day of the 2011-12 Season with lots of drama potentially in the making. There is lots to play for and lots to be decided. What a fitting end to what has been by far one of the best seasons over the last few years. Apart from the relegation of Wolves and Blackburn, the rest will unfold today. We have a title race, champions league spots, Europa spots and the final relegation spot all going down to the wire.

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The two Manchester clubs face off for the title with City looking to win it for the first time in 44 years. Also if they win it will be the first time the title has been won by a team other than Man United, Chelsea or Arsenal since Blackburn lifted the crown in 96. In fact City would be the 5th team to win the top flight of England since it was changed to the ‘Premier League’.

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United look to add to their tally of league titles to make it 20 and nothing would please Sir Alex more than to steal the show on the last day from the blue half of Manchester. Albeit it is not entirely in United’s hand. Both teams are equal on points but the blue half has a better goal difference. So as Fergie put it himself United are hoping for something ‘stupid’ by the blue half to hand them the title.

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Arsenal, Tottenham and Newcastle are in the battle for Europe’s elite tournament next season. Arsenal play West Brom, Spurs face off Fulham and the Magpies against Everton. Even thou Chelsea are out of this particular battle through the league thanks to their heavy defeat against Liverpool they still have a role to play. In the Champions League final against Bayern Munich this season if they win then they get a chance to play in the Champs League next season. Now this is how it goes: top 3 places in the league get automatic qualification for the Champions League group stages. 4th Place gets a chance to play in the qualification matches for the tournament. 5th place is Europa League. Currently Arsenal are 3rd, Tottenham 4th and Newcastle 5th with a difference of 2 points between them. If Chelsea win the Champions league then the 4th place team goes to Europa and not the Champions League.

For Arsenal it is incredibly important that they secure a place with Europe’s finest next season. They risk losing the services of talismanic skipper Robin Van Persie who has had an outstanding season. 30 League goals, led from the front and right up there with the assists as well. His contributions have made up for almost 40% of Arsenal’s goals this season and the risk of losing him will prove to be extremely costly next year. Besides, Wilshere made a bet with I think Bale or Lennon or one of the Spurs players about Arsenal finishing below spurs. We simply cannot let that happen now can we.

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Spurs it would often seem are more inclined to upstage Arsenal then anything else. They have unfortunately been down this road once before when on the final day they lost and surrendered the final place in the champions league. It was a case of some virus then which had half the spurs squad playing below 100% fitness. They would like to ensure that doesn’t happen this time around.

Magpies have the most challenging match of the 3 teams. Their trip to Everton will hardly be easy. Even thou all Everton will be playing for is a chance to finish the season better then their derby rivals (Liverpool), it should be a difficult game for Newcastle. At home only Manchester City have conceded fewer goals then Everton.

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Last but not least let’s come to the relegation battle. The face off for survival in England’s top flight. Blackburn and Wolves are already gone. Queens Park Rangers, Bolton and Aston Villa will be looking to avoid the last spot. Villa are more or less safe thou – mathematically speaking they could still go down but realistically it isn’t happening. They are 3 points ahead of Bolton and 1 point ahead of QPR. Their goal difference is –14 to QPR’s –22 and Bolton’s –31. So even if they do lose to Norwich, it will have to be a record breaking goal fest of a defeat for Aston Villa to be in danger. So practically it is a straight shooter between QPR and Bolton for the final survival. QPR face the daunting task of facing City at home and making themselves and Sir Alex the happiest people of the day. I don’t see it happening but then again the pressure of the final day could still get to Mancini’s side and the possibility of twists and turns isn’t that far fetched. Bolton play Stoke at home. If they lose that means they will be out of the Premier League for the first time since 2002. Also it will mean that for the first time since 2002 that all 3 promoted clubs will stay on in the premier league for next season. In that year it was Bolton, Fulham and Blackburn.

So that’s in store for the final match day of the season. What a befitting end it is. 6 important matches. There is bound to be drama. There are bound to be emotions. Tempers will rise. Heated words will be exchanged. The refs will be under the micro-est of microscopes. Plenty of goals or wall defense. I can’t hardly wait. Almost wishing all 6 matches were being broadcast here and I had 6 televisions!

My predictions:

Manchester City vs QPR 2-1

Manchester United vs Sunderland 3-1

Arsenal vs West Brom 1-0

Tottenham vs Fulham 2-0

Newcastle vs Everton 1-1

Bolton vs Stoke 2-2

So yes …. I think and hope that City win the title. A) because I am a gunner and hate United B) Because it will be good for the game to have a new league winner C) because I don’t like United.

Arsenal will be 3rd as per my prediction not only because I am a gunner but also because I do feel they will have more hunger in a game which means nothing to West Brom other then the last day of the season.

A Super Sunday awaits us Open-mouthed smile!

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