Will Anyone’s Face Be As Red As Fergie’s?

James Milner: Swapping Claret for Sky Blue?

Once again we delve into the unknown – this season really could throw up anything. Soon the talking will be over, the silly season will be long gone, and the real action begins with a key opening fixture being champions Chelsea yet again “drawn” at home to whipping boys/easy meat/relegation fodder (delete as appropriate) – West Bromwich Albion to be precise.

This will undoubtedly set the ball rolling for the Blues to dominate yet again, and all the while Sir Alex Ferguson will continue to grow redder and more tired looking, Manchester City will continue to disappoint (resulting in Mancini’s sacking come May), and as for Arsenal and Liverpool….. best not to think about it really.

Even cash-strapped Everton will aspire for greatness, but only after floundering in the bottom six early on, before their annual late autumn kick up the backside in the Goodison derby against Liverpool, and a top half finish recovery. However, if there’s one thing the Premier League does well, it is conjure up shocks and surprises – enter Blackpool.

Why are Chelsea my favourites? Despite only relatively modest signings to date, they simply have too much pedigree to perceive any other club (Manchester United excepted) as a genuine threat to their hold on the title, despite the fact that Frank Lampard, John Terry and Ashley Cole may be utter garbage when it comes to international duty.

Chelsea will no doubt deliver through the same players’ sheer long term devotion to the club cause. With Ashley Cole now unlikely to move to Real Madrid, stability can be maintained, and by leaving the silliness to other clubs, Chelsea can become more unified than ever. On their day, they look half ready for a stab at “The Quadruple”, and if the players avoid off field controversies by keeping to their wedding vows, there should have no trouble at all off anyone this season.

The red side of Manchester looked like a spent force in the latter part of the previous season. True they may have taken the title race to the last day, but slip ups such as losing 3-1 at Everton (usually their favourite hunting ground bar none) cost them dearly, and such mistakes are rarely learnt from when Sir Alex Ferguson, the man who has done it all and won it all, is on the Old Trafford throne – who honestly has the cohones to tell him he is doing it wrong, especially with his nigh on faultless tenure since 1986?

His policy for employing youngsters who grow up together is his unique selling point – whether Chris Smalling and Javier Hernandez deliver the goods has yet to be seen, but with rumours of re-signing of former United duo Giuseppe Rossi and the older (yet more potent) Diego Forlan, the direction in which Sir Alex Ferguson can now take his club is uncertain.

United’s neighbours and now nearest rivals  City have spent big, and this season they have really bested their previous summertime extravagances. The negotiations with Mario Balotelli represent both the pinnacle of both the genius and the stupidity of their situation.

Prodigious, and not even out of nappies by footballing standards, the Inter Milan striker would be one of the “long term” options that City could have with their vast wealth.

Thankfully, absurd allegations of Fernando Torres and Didier Drgoba as potential signings have been dismissed, but Aston Villa’s James Milner is this year’s Joleon Lescott, as City continue to pursue one of England’s few natural talents. With Lescott set to be shown the exit door after just one very disappointing season, there are lessons to be learned. Money talks, and so will City, as they begin their ascent towards Champions-elect territory, and with it an irreversible madness.

Moving our attentions to Merseyside, what Liverpool need is stability, or they could find themselves once again back in the worst of the “Houllier Days”. Despite a poor pre-season, new manager Roy Hodgson has the rare ability to turn a turd into a truffle.

This season, that is precisely what he will do to ensure Liverpool achieve their true potential – that potential being an establishment back amongst the Champions League, since they are still a long way off title contention standard. Joe Cole represents a shrewd and very ambitious piece of business, as a proven attacker, he can use his experience and wisdom when the likes of Javier Mascherano and Dirk Kuyt lose the plot during the more testing games.

Hodgson’s selling point could be the future of Liverpool under new ownership, should a deal be pushed through in good time.

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