Sunday 31 July 2016


The Barclays Premier League starts in a fortnight. I dare say the fans in Manchester are perhaps the most hopeful. The Red side has done loads of good business and is in the process of ‘nuking’ the world record transfer fee by buying the first £100m player.

The Blue half is not too far behind. I dare say they are likely to be the favorite team of most neutrals because they expect Man City’s manager to hold his own against The Motormouth. Also they are aware that the owners of the club can outspend their nearest neighbor. Although to be fair, the Red Team is not really a resident of Manchester, more a local of a satellite location on the outskirts of Manchester. It’s a bit like someone leaving outside TFL Zone 6, claiming they reside in London. I digress.

Man U fans are delirious. It looks like the rot starting with the Moyes years is about to end. They have a manager who has a reputation for winning things although he does come with a lot of baggage and was sacked in all his previous 3 jobs.

Man City fans are quietly confident. They have Pep who is arguably the most successful manager in the modern era. He is making all the reasonable noises asking fans to be patient, letting them know that it will take time to assemble the team he wants and reminding people of the super competitive nature of the Premier League.

On a lighter note, it appears to me as if the Man U fans with their ‘Winning is in our DNA’ attitude are somewhat morphing into a version of their brash manager, while the City fans although reflecting the somewhat understated nature of their Manager are perhaps apprehensive because this is Pep’s first foray into the EPL and they wonder if his style and philosophy will work in the self styled most competitive league in the World. They also aware that critics have claimed Pep can only be successful in a 1 or 2 horse race league like Spain & Germany. We will see.

What about the fans of other clubs? In no particular order, I will start with ‘Boro’. I imagine the fans of Middlesborough are over the moon. Delighted to be back in the Premier League after 9 years. They have done lots of brilliant business in the transfer market. The sense I get is that the fans will be delighted with any type of staying up. However given the rising star of their Manager and the team they appear to be assembling, a top half finish is not out of the question especially if we witness a repeat of last season’s conditions where everybody bar Leicester showed themselves to be up for it.

I am guessing fans of Burnley & Hull will probably be demanding more of their clubsides considering the fact that their squad is peopled by many with recent Premier League experience. Minimum expectation should be survival but the fans might want more to get them super excited.

Fans of Swansea, Bournemouth, West Brom, Crystal Palace, Sunderland and Watford will be very worried. They toyed with relegation last season and were lucky to escape the trap door. You might start to see lots of agitation from Palace & West Brom fans especially if the season doesn’t start well. I think the fans of West Brom are close to losing their rag because of the somewhat one-dimensional play of their manager. In the case of Pardew’s Palace, nobody has been able to dimension the unexplainable dip in form.

The managerial changes in Sunderland & Watford are potential red flags for the fans at both clubs. The former because some might believe that their manager’s reputation is shot after 2 back to back unsuccessful stint at Manchester & Spain. The latter because of the achievements of Quiqe Sanchez Flores.  

I find it difficult to place the aspirations of the fans of Stoke & Southampton. I believe their fans have implicit trusts in the club ownership and management and buy – in to the latter’s aspirations to finish as high as possible. Southampton appears to have mastered their succession planning despite the expectation of many pundits that things will fall apart after every managerial departure and player sales. It is fair to say that the club has progressed and it will be interesting to see if Claude Puel continues the upward trajectory of the club.

What about fans of the reigning champions Leicester? I think the euphoria of the league win means Ranieri has a lot of goodwill in the bank. I suspect the fans will be ok with anything bar a disastrous sequence of games. They will be okay with their boys showing the same type of fight and spirit they displayed last season even if the odd results goes against them. However if they were to end the season empty handed and without impressive performance and a long run in cup competitions, the modern day fan with his entitlement mentality will be demanding a public execution of Ranieri.

Wither West Ham fans. I believe West Ham had a chance to disrupt the Top 4 hegemony alongside Leicester and Tut Tut tenham last season and they blew it. Injuries, key players not turning up at some game, basking in the fame of beating the traditional top 4 / top 6 away from home was perhaps responsible. A season that promised a lot ended up delivering Europa League with a competitive start in late July. Going by the protests in the Big Sam years, it appears West Ham fans are content with the fact that the team is playing beautiful football ‘the West Ham’ way. They have loads of cult players that the big clubs covet. Slaven, Lanzini, Reece - Oxford & Payet will no longer be surprise elements. I m aware the club has showed ambitions in the transfer market, they have bided unsuccessfully for some well known & highly priced players. I suspect the fans will be satisfied with the finishing in the same ballpark this season and doing very well in the club competitions.

The Merseyside clubs are at different stages of their development. The manager of the Red half now has his often quoted 3 transfer seasons to reshape the club. He sounds about ready but the fans don’t appear enthused. I suspect this is down to the Dream Team the Motormouth appears to be putting together on the other side of the M62. It appears the only thing that will appease / enthuse Liverpool fans this season is a Top 4 place. Barring a top 4 place, perhaps winning the EUROPA will do. I guess the Liverpool Reds will be hoping they don’t meet Sevilla in the final again. Deep down and going by his understated comments, my hunch is that Klopp will surprise everybody this season. I know Liverpool fans might find the next sentence disrespectful but I think they are quite capable of doing a Leicester.

Everton fans will have high aspiration for the coming season. The 29th richest man in the United Kingdom is now the controlling shareholder of the club. He appears to be willing to spend money to underline his ambitions for the club. With recruitment of a new EPL experienced manager and the transfer market moves, I believe Everton fans expect their club to be competitive and to at least challenge the traditional top 4 teams.

Difficult to place Chelsea fans considering their spectacular fall from grace last season. Under normal circumstances, you will imagine that a top 4 finish will be very welcome by their fans. However knowing their owner, I wont be surprised that the manager has been tasked to win the league in this first season. I’m not sure the addition of Kante alone will do the magic. The fixation with Terry appears illogical to me. Terry is not Bonucci, Chiellini or Barzagli. I am of the opinion the fans will bond with Conte, as he appears to be in the Mourinho mold.

Spuds fans will be praying they don’t come 2nd this coming season. If they do come second, you don’t need a crystal ball to tell you their near neighbors have won the league. Spuds fans will be hoping to win the ‘We beat Arsenal’ cup and any other cup competitions that the big clubs don’t take seriously. I am yet to encounter any Spuds fans that think their club will win the league. They will fancy their chance of a top 4 place going by their performance last season and will be bitterly disappointed if they don’t. However with respect to Top 4 aspirations, at least 3 of Guardiola, Wenger, Klopp, Motormouth, Conte, Ranieri & Pochettino will be disappointed next season.

Finally, Arsenal fans. Not sure you can say with a straight face what Arsenal fans want as the club’s fan base appears to be like the Middle East (Shite versus Sunnis, Iran vs. Iraq, Israel vs. Palestine, Kurds vs. Turks, Kurds vs. Iraqis) the divisions are deadly. I have witnessed virtual and real life fights. I have seen fans publishing each other’s personal, work and family information on Twitter. You think Brexit was divisive; you haven’t witnessed Arsenal fans squabbling.

I dare say there are 2 broad groups of fans; the most vocal ones are The WOBs. If Wenger morphs into Sir Alex Ferguson, the WOBs will not accept him. Simple.

Then you have the AKBs. I wear this badge proudly and I suspect there are many like me who do so because they believe the current manager might still deliver one more glory season, are broadly supportive of the club and understand there is a need to balance our passion as fans with the reality of ownership by Kroenke et al and stewardship by Gazidis, Wenger et al.  Deep down I think AKB is a label deliberately used to tar us reasonable fans by demented and fringe elements of the WOBs. Other labels they use are ‘lack of ambition’, ‘deluded’ and other unprintable ones.

I think there are other groups too. There are those who don’t want to be tarred by any of the labels, they are independent minded and might or might not believe in a change of guard.  So it is very difficult to decipher what Arsenal fans want.

If Wenger delivers the League next season. The WOBs will bask in the glory of the win but will still insist Wenger leaves. Speaking as an individual, I am a bit more realistic in thinking that we can’t or we don’t want to compete with the firepower of Chelsea and the Manchester clubs. For me, a strong performance week - in week - out with the boys standing up to their opponents and not showing signs of the weaknesses we have come to associate with Arsenal, will do well for me thank you. If that wins us the league, I will be delirious, if it doesn’t, I will rue the fact we have missed out again but will be pleased with the strong performance throughout the season.

I am also not ruling out Arsenal doing a Leicester. I am hoping Pep & The Mouthy one focus on each other that they don’t see Arsenal in their rear view mirror nicking the EPL.

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