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Friday, December 1, 2023

Embracing the EPL: Previewing the season at hand

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By Batou Saidy

The best league debate in football and across Europe is a hackneyed something now. However, amidst the reality revolving around this conversation, the English Premier League is the league we wanna watch.

It is a league thick with quality players and overpopulated by top coaches. Dense with fanfare and fierce with rivalry – all immersed in a thrilling fashion of never before.

This new season in the bag, into the bargain with all its signings so far, seemingly promises a lot – from establishing new rivalry to intensifying the title race; from setting the bar so high to putting gaffers on hot seat, we have high expectations already.

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But before I delve into the meat and drink of this preview, let me welcome you to my show.

Batuwo leng

Having witnessed a very tight title fight last season, and the fight for the coveted golden boot, as well as a spot in the top four for a potential reward for a spot in the  elite Champions League, I’d wanna bring your attention to preview-worthy key points ahead of the new season.

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Who can finish in the top four?

Considering the unpredictable nature of the EPL, finishing in the top four often comes with some degree of resistance, persistence, consistence, and more of performance. Not dissing squad depth and fitness levels, but last season taught us that these two indicators are somewhat futile without commitment or confidence. At least Manchester United adminiculated that.

In the past, we’ve seen surprising finishes in the top four, and even winning the league, so it doesn’t depend on heritage or history, profile or class, it largely depends on who can meet those indicators in the last paragraph. In spite of this proposition, we still expect the big teams to finish in the top four.

So who among them can finish there?

Paying attention to the various squads that finished last campaign, their transfers and so, well, so far, it’s perhaps safe to propose that City and Liverpool will make the top four. The other two teams to join them depends on who will be well prepared to develop their team ahead of August 5 when the league will officially kickoff at Selhurst Park.

But despite losing star defender, Rudiger, probably the best defender of the league in the last two seasons, and likely Lukaku, their top scorer as well, you can’t take anything away from the Blues, essentially a top four finish.

At the Theatre of Dreams, following the shambolic season Manchester United had had, and the confidence dip of most of their players, the only thing we can expect is a repetition of yet another abysmal season to forget; unless if you remind yourself that a new Eredivise-winning gaffer is at the helm of affairs this campaign, which would still keep you asking the possibility of a top four finish without even a proper signing so far.

At the Emirates Stadium, Mikel Arteta has done a great job. He has really pulled the strings last season. He won our confidence and showed us the viability of his project at Arsenal. After recovering from an early season setback, they really showed up, fought back, and played a typical Gunners game; a reward that projected them into the top four, only to be disappointed at the eleventh hour of the league, maybe due to squad depth, or low fitness levels at that time, but maybe they won’t be able to also forget that typical Rob Holding against Spurs.

With some quality addition to their youthful squad, Arsenal also has high chances of making it back to the elite competition, a privilege that has eluded them for a while now. But maybe Arteta would also need to visit his ego.

Erstwhile Chelsea gaffer and now of Tottenham Hotspur, Antonio Conte is a top coach known for ending streaks, dismissing curses and proving points. The fact that he mostly does this with limited resources is quite laudable. When replacing Nuno at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, it was very low at the club. Bringing the club back into contention and finishing in the top four is an achievement of overt zenith considering how low he inherited the club. And completing the task by beating archrivals Gunners sums it all for the Italian talisman. 

Having the league’s top scorer in his ranks, if Conte can replicate his displays in the new season, Spurs may return to the UCL in the subsequent season.

Not taking anything away from Leicester City, we have huge respect for West Ham United and Aston Villa. Brendan Rodgers, David Moyes and Steven Gerrard are all good managers with good teams.

Villa tried hard but they couldn’t hold onto their nerves at the explosion of De Bruyne’s verve. Gerrard and Coutinho did it for Liverpool but it wasn’t all done. If we have gunmen in football, maybe you can identify one as Gundogan.

Mid-table teams like the Saints, Eagles and the Magpies are serious troubles too along the way. Thanks to Lampard for nearly relegating dear Toffees. Oh Frank, we are frank with you.

Of course you may wanna exhibit the thrill of the coming of new boys in the top flight, particularly – Nottingham Forest – a club that has more UCL crowns than City. Forest has pedigree, something you struggle to buy, if buyable. Fabinho’s wife said there are some things that oil money cannot buy.

Haaland and Nunez amidst top scorers of proven valor

It seems that a new goalscoring rivalry is about to go underway in the EPL, courtesy of Man City’s Erling Haaland and Liverpool’s Darwin Nunez. Both these young strikers have good scoring records in their former leagues, and have been banging highly in the Champions League as well. Whether they’ll live to expectations in the EPL is not certain, but that uncertainty won’t stop us from imagining the potential iron-hot rivalry in finding the back of the net in our darling league, and the ultimate fighting for the coveted golden boot.

Whether they can hit the ground running and outscoring Son, Salah, Bamba and Kane, we’ll wait to see that, but for the fact that they’re both not above 23, and tied up to long-term contracts, we can anticipate a long youthful striking rivalry of excitement and aggrandizement.

Becoming a Premier League mozart is a long journey but these two have the tekkers.

Jumping into the pidgin bandwagon, of course in my own style – nte Batuwo, if no Premier League, I don’t want.

Batou Saidy is a Public Health Officer and a writer. He’s a Manchester United aficionado.

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