Arsenal, Not Chelsea, Shall Win The Premiership – My Verdict!

Segun OdegbamiWELCOME to the 2015/2016 Barclays Premier League. Permit me to admit that even with all my wide and varied experiences in football I still do not consider myself expert enough on the subject matter of the BPL to insist on any authority on the subject. Far from it!  The BPL has humbled too many pundits with the sheer power of its unpredictability that I would be a fool to claim any superior knowledge or authority. So, I shall play safe, add two plus two together, and, without the influence of any sentiments, put my money on the one team that fits into my last-minute emerging jigsaw puzzle to win the premiership trophy this season.  One week is a very long time in football. For example, if anyone had insisted last week that I should select one team as my choice for eventual winner of the 2015/2016 season, I would have said Chelsea FC.

My reason would have been simple – Mourinho is the coach! Without question, Jose Mourinho’s consistency in winning trophies year-in-year-out with every club he works with, places him in a class ahead of most other renowned coaches. Buoyed by his awesome reputation and achievements, plus the fact that his winning team from the last season have remained fundamentally intact, I was leaning more towards Chelsea FC. Unfortunately, some things have made me change my mind this past week.

The results of the last set of matches involving the clubs in serious contention for the premiership trophy have been revealing and have thrown up some new considerations. Manchester United lost to PSG; Chelsea lost to Arsenal FC and to Fiorentina FC; and Manchester City FC lost to Stuttgart FC! I watched all the matches! The performances of the four English teams, the pool from which the 2015/2016 champion will be determined, speak volumes. Once again, these are the four teams that have dominated the winner’s rostrum in the 23 years of the premiership. History will surely repeat itself again.  Money plays a big role in determining a likely winner.

This time around no team outside the big four has made the financial commitment that could upset this well-established tradition that has sustained through the years except in 1995 when Blackburn Rovers FC spent a fortune, shattered the monopoly enjoyed by Man United at the time, and became unlikely winners.

Following in that success in 1995 other teams also joined in the club of premiership winners by doing what Blackburn Rovers did and succeeded. That has remained the surest winning formula in the premiership ever since, check the records. When Chelsea FC and Manchester City FC joined the exclusive club of premiership winners it was clearly the product of big spending and massive investment in big players. In the absence of a spending spree by any of the other clubs during this pre-season there is only the minutest of chances for any team outside the big four to upset the applecart and become champions! Having said all that, it is a lot easier, therefore, for me now to examine the situation very closely and start the elimination process that will lead to predicting the team that will emerge as champion this season.

History richly illuminates my path. No other club outside the big four has won the premier league since inception (except the Rovers) but many have kept knocking on the door hoping to re-write the story of a well-established tradition. I, therefore, join my voice with those of all the pundits and analysts that are seemingly unanimous in their verdicts for this season. Like me, many are putting their necks on the chopping block. From Alisher Usmanov, Stanley Collymore, Gary Lineker, it is the same chorus – one of Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal will win the league! So, I now want to dare and narrow it down further! These are my predictions before kick-off. Chelsea FC If I were a gambler, I would not put my money on the Blues any more this season. It is not easy to defend the BPL title. Mourinho is one of a few managers in the premiership to have achieved that feat.

He can, therefore, not be taken for granted, disrespected or disregarded. He knows football very well and how to win trophies! He is one of the best and most intelligent coaches in the world. Yet, for the first time ever his body language following the last two morale-dampening losses on the eve of the premiership, despite his rhetorical dismissal of their significance, is one of doubt! The matches provided the best indication yet of the team’s true strength going into the season. Chelsea FC are largely the same set of players that won the league only a few months ago.

That may be an advantage only if the other contenders have not significantly beefed their squads also. Definitely, both Arsenal and Manchester United have done so! Should Radamel Falcao and Diego Costa recover fully and play to the levels they are truly capable of, Chelsea might have the firepower upfront to propel them to retain their championship. That is unlikely to happen from what we have seen so far. My verdict: Chelsea will put up a good fight but are just not strong enough this time to win the league! Manchester City FC Their player-investment this season has been very limited.

The team looks very vulnerable and weak in the absence of a few key players.  The team does not look like one that can sustain the rigour of the marathon race that the BPL is. This is going to be a repeat of the last season, with plenty of effort without the ultimate result! My verdict: Manchester City do not have the depth in the team to sustain the campaign and win the premiership! Arsenal FC Arsene Wenger has invested heavily, and strategically. He has worked his way backwards, from answer to question. He set his eyes on a higher goal beyond the BPL, on the European Club Champions League.

This is very significant. Only teams that are rock solid in all departments can contest for the Champions League. Arsenal are on course to building such a team which may make the BPL a stroll this season! As I write this, I have read that Wenger still has one more player to buy to complete his projected dream team! It is a critical purchase! I can see how Wenger’s mind is working! Karim Benzema, in my humble estimation, although a great player, is often under-rated. His exquisite skills are often subsumed in the dazzle of Christiano Ronaldo, who feeds off his decoy runs, his quick intelligent passes, and complimentary deadliness in front of goal.

He is the perfect support-striker, playing the role of diverting attention and taking pressure off his partner, providing invaluable assists and finishing clinically himself when opportunities come. Should Wenger get Benzema that would underline my verdict! He will provide the essential edge that Arsenal need to win the BPL and to go very far in the Champions League! Karim Benzema is that good! My verdict: With Karim Benzema Arsenal FC will win the BPL. Without him, they will struggle but still can. Manchester United FC The team is building a new tradition after the exit of Alex Ferguson and the entry of Louis Van Gaal. The team is still passing through the crucible of fire. Man U can never be written off, but the cutting psychological edge that used to see the team navigate through tough times under Sir Alex has not been re-kindled under Van Gaal. This is a United team still in process. My verdict: Manchester United FC will not win the league this season.

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