THIS season, more than any I can remember anticipating, is a hard one to call.
The top three teams from last season, Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea, all have new men at the helm.
Arsenal underperformed last season – but then, Arsenal have underperformed for a good few years now – while Spurs and Liverpool could both be facing up to life without their star men next season.
I can’t see any other team seriously breaking into the top four, but which of these six elite squads will is a hard call.
There’s my disclaimer out of the way.
But neck on the line I find it hard to see past Mourinho’s Chelsea for the title.
His team has a strength in depth matched only by Manchester City, with some real creative talent in the form of Hazard, Mata and Oscar – plus if anyone can hit the ground running it’s the Special One, a manager adept at settling into new clubs, with the benefit of having been here and done it before.
It’s this that gives him the edge over Pellegrini’s star-studded legions of Manchester City, who I’m placing second come May.
Last season, Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal gave themselves a mountain to climb, and they climbed it admirably during the second half of the season. If they come out of the traps in the same form as they finished last time around, I can see them overhauling David Moyes and Manchester United’s defending champions, who’ll have to settle for fourth place.
Liverpool and Spurs I see missing out, without the depth in their squad to maintain a season-long campaign – although I will tip the Lilywhites’ new boy Roberto Soldado for the Golden Boot.
Tomorrow, I’m going to have a look at the other half of the table and predict who’ll be relegated…
THERE’S merit in the argument that Arsenal’s two-legged affair with AC Milan is Arsenal of recent years in a microcosm.
An initial frustration and disappointment creating a mountain to climb, followed by the climbing of it admirably but ultimately failing to reach the peaks promised.
But I disagree after tonight’s 3-0 win, I tip my cap to the Gunners – they played their socks off and deserved parity over the 180 minutes.
And were it not for a whistle-happy ref and a small helping of luck, and of course those four Milan aggregate goals, they’d have been contesting extra time as I type this.
An attack with the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robinho, which is tearing Italian domestic football asunder currently, was subdued throughout tonight while a dangerous-looking Arsenal probed and threatened and took almost all their chances.
One allegation oft levelled at Arsenal in recent years is a lack of character – on tonight’s showing, that is not the case.
Maybe a bit strength in depth might be useful though, Arsene…