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The Premier League is back. A new season, a new brand identity– hot pinks and electric teals mixed in with the usual navy blue- and the sound of the starter’s pistol heralding 9 months of spills, thrills and drama.
Here are 4 stories from the most popular league in Africa, summarised for you in case you had to go to a wedding or something, or you don’t like football and you want to feel among when your colleagues are arguing about whether Arsene Wenger is trolling all of us (he is!).
N’Golo Kante is a magician
N’Golo Kante was the third member of surprise champions Leicester City’s holy trinity last season. While Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez got all the plaudits for the goals, Kante was up there as one of the nominees for the Player of the Season. A surprise entry considering most of us were like ‘who?’ when he signed for Leicester last season.
He may not have scored as many goals, or won as many points in real life or fantasy football, but if you watched the games, you could actually appreciate his play.
On Saturday, that appreciation rose another level. Leicester sold Kante to Chelsea for about £32 million. In his absence, the Leicester team looked a shadow of itself. Their starting midfield was made up of Danny Drinkwater, and Andy King, and both looked very average.
King and Drinkwater had always been honest professionals, but last season Drinkwater especially looked like a top-class player in the presence of Kante. Without the dimunitive French-African, Drinkwater reverted to merely normal, and a very uncomfortable 90 minutes at the hands of Hull City, a team with only 13 senior players, was what awaited Leicester City as the champions lost 2-1.
They say you don’t know what you have till it’s gone. Leicester actually did, but now that Kante’s gone, the extent of his importance last season has been starkly revealed in his absence.
Arsene Wenger is not
In about 5 weeks, Arsene Wenger will celebrate 20 years at Arsenal. It is one of the longest managerial reigns at a top-level club in the modern era. As his remarkable tenure reaches another September, the encomiums, infographics and retrospectives will be published.
The way things are, this might be his last September at the helm of Arsenal. Another wasted summer threatens to be lot of the Arsenal faithful. Fans from North London to South Africa are, regardless of whether they are Wenger-in or out, are almost resigned to going into the season without adequate reinforcements for the team again.
Yesterday, Arsenal went into the season with no recognised striker, and two rookies in defence. Another opening day defeat, this time to Liverpool, followed. The match was interesting but neither team will be threatening the title race based on that performance. This will be more galling to Arsenal.
Yet what was especially worrying was that Liverpool, led by Jurgen Klopp, have a well-known and defined style, and once again Wenger and Arsenal had no plans to counter it. It has been the case for the last five or six years when having to deal with teams that play a high pressing game.
It was the opening day of the season and Wenger and the players were booed off the pitch again. It’s going to be a long season at the Emirates Stadium.
No one is ready
Even though the season has begun, the 20 Clubs in the Premier League are not ready. Indeed, it feels like they are students gluing stars and glitter to their school projects last minute while the teacher is walking towards the classroom.
The transfer window- the period you can transfer a player between clubs- will close on September 1, and you can imagine that the clubs will be somewhat happier with their squads then. Right now though, the clubs are still in their first draft stage.
Celebrity Coaches all win
Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Antonio Conte are four of the hottest coaches in Europe. The Premier League might not be the first destination for the brightest players in the game, but on the coaching side, there are about six or seven coaches including the aforementioned four that most sides in the world would be happy to have.
These four, by dint of their personalities, honours lists and experience are the box office draws though. Their names would appear before the movie name if the Premier League was a movie (who says it isn’t?)
Their games were of course the televised games this weekend, although Arsenal vs. Liverpool will always be box office.
All four won hard fought games, displaying their trademark tactical tricks and formations, but with a sample size of one game, it’s too early to say what their effect will be this season. However, one thing we can expect is for the cameras to be focused on their antics on the touchline, as much as their teams on the pitch.