Premier League Preview: 17th August.
Hallelujah! No more Saturday afternoons spent staring blankly at a changing room curtain whilst the other half tries on a dress for the fourth time, the Premier League is back.
With three of the big four changing management, it promises to be a fascinating title race. Will Jose’s second coming bring the title back to Stamford Bridge? Will the Champions cope without Fergie time? Will the trophy room at The Emirates finally have a collection not exclusively made of dust?
Nobody can really say for sure but what is certain is that it’s going to be a cracking year and whilst the first day is always difficult to predict (so don’t go big) there are a couple of bets that interest me.
No deposit necessary – Just join and receive an instant £10 free bet
Arsenal V Aston Villa. Saturday 3PM
Survival last season was imperative for the future of Aston Villa and in the end you have to say well done to Paul Lambert for not cracking under the pressure and likewise to Randy Lerner for sticking with his manager when all those around him were calling for his head.
That relegation battle will undoubtedly have taught Villa’s young squad many valuable lessons and I believe they’ll be a better outfit because of it. Despite a lack of any noteworthy additions to the squad, the contract renewal of Christian Benteke could prove to be one of the most important signings of the summer.
Villa are still country miles away from the team that challenged for 4th spot just five years ago and they’ll be a bottom half team again this term. Kicking off the campaign with trips to Arsenal and Chelsea won’t help much but by Christmas they’ll be sitting comfortably above the drop zone and will remain safe until the end of the season.
As for Arsenal, the penny has finally dropped to compete at the top that penny needs to be spent. Nobody can question the youth setup and policy in the red half of North London but in the modern game you need to add big stars if you are going to compete at the top.
The trouble is that after eight years of gradually slipping further away it has become increasingly difficult for them not only in buying top players but also in keeping hold of the quality stars they have. On the bright side, Arsenal possess stability in every sense of the word. Consistency is vital to the Gunners philosophy and another year of Champions League football may well be enough to lure in that marquee signing before the transfer window slams shut.
Since Sir Alex hung up the hairdryer in May, Arsene Wenger is the Premier League’s longest serving manager by a country mile and, with the uncertainty surrounding their rivals, this season could signal the end to those trophy baron years. In my opinion, Arsenal will fall short in the league but the domestic cups are a realistic source of success and are my tip to lift the FA Cup.
You sense that with the imminent sale of Gareth Bale by Tottenham, Arsenal can at least cement their place in Europe’s elite competition for years to come and a home tie against a distinctly average Aston Villa gives them a great opportunity to set their stool out from the off. Comfortable home win.
Tip: Arsenal -1.5 Asian handicap @21/20. (Bet 365)
Norwich V Everton. Saturday 3PM.
The Canaries finally got their man this summer in Gary Hooper. Unfortunately for them, he’s gone and got injured. The club hope it won’t be serious but it certainly puts a dampener on their opening day meeting with Everton.
Roberto Martinez will be a man on a mission having been relegated with Wigan last term and this is his chance to prove his worth at a higher standard. With no disrespect to Wigan, they were always a small fish in the biggest of ponds. Winning the FA Cup last season was nothing short of miraculous but in Everton, Martinez has an opportunity to compete for European qualification on a yearly basis.
Whilst his predecessor is now at Old Trafford attempting to step out of perhaps the greatest shadow of all, Martinez will be desperate to hit the ground running in order to prevent his time at the Toffee’s becoming sticky. Victory at Carrow Road will definitely set him on the right track to winning over the fans.
And yes, I did just make a reference to sticky Toffee pudding.
Will Martinez be able to better what David Moyes has achieved at the club? Probably not. The simple fact is the big four are now so far in front that denting a hole in their dominance is a task even Ethan Hunt would struggle with. However, I do believe that if they can hold on to key players then Everton can at least challenge for a Europa League spot through both the league and domestic cups.
One potential problem for Everton in this game could be the mental state of influential players like Baines and Fellaini. The chance to join Manchester United doesn’t come along too often and when it does is extremely difficult to turn down (ask David Moyes). However, I think that the likes of Mirralas, Jelavic and Kone will be too much for Norwich.
Tip: Everton win @ 11/8 (Bet Victor)
Chelsea V Hull. Sunday 4PM Sky Sports 1.
The Special One has returned and as unlikely as it seems is equipped with potentially even more talent than during his first reign. Although I wouldn’t want to bet on the outcome of this season’s title race, Chelsea would be my slight favourites and should they acquire the services of Wayne Rooney then that feeling will grow. The England star has one of the best footballing brains in the world and I’m almost certain that he would link up brilliantly with the likes of Mata and Hazard.
As for the visitors, a name change last week has subsequently led to the Tigers becoming the division’s laughing stock before a ball has even been kicked. I believe that despite an evident lack of quality, Steve Bruce will mould his team into a tough defensive outfit. Nonetheless, there will inevitably be the odd game where a big team hits four or five against them and this opening fixture definitely has the potential to be one of them.
This day will be about one man and one man only. It is Jose Mourinho’s homecoming, and Hull will not be stopping the party.
Tip: Chelsea win to nil @ Evens. (Paddy Power)