What makes the English Premier League so interesting in the last decade is (was?) the rivalry between Manchester United and Arsenal. There were many, many important matches over the course of years, but nothing exemplified the EPL like a Man United- Arsenal match. The aggression, the one-upmanship, the mind games, the sheer will to defeat the other team were all the usual ingredients of the Man United- Arsenal games. Oh, and a fair bit of controversy too. These were games that usually decided the flow of both teams’ seasons. The fans gobbled it up, and how. Even here in India, the fan debates were equally passionate and sometimes aggressive.
But something changed slowly but surely. The usual two-horse race now had new contenders. In the 2004-05 season, Roman Abrahimovic and the Chelsea boys ensured that for the first time in ten years, since Blackburn Rovers won the title in 1994-95, a team other than Arsenal and Manchester United won the EPL title. Chelsea is one of the big boys now. Just a few years later, Manchester City came knocking on doors, creating arguably the most talented team in the world, to finally secure the title in the 2011-12 season. Arsenal, considered invincible just over a decade ago, slowly began to fade away from this elite group.
And today, with no silverware in their cupboard for the last seven years, has Arsenal dropped out of the title race? The rivalries have changed. The Man United- Man City derby, the Chelsea- Manchester United/City matches are the ones that have the crowd buzzing. All three teams have proved that they have enough depth in their squad to win the coveted prize. Arsenal on the other hand, has lost all their best players to mainly these clubs. The most important transfer of all, that was completed just a few hours ago, RVP to Manchester United. Imagine ten years ago, Thierry Henry leaving Arsenal to play for Man United. There would have been a riot on the streets of London. There was no way that could have ever happened. But today, Arsenal sold arguably their best player to a team that was once considered an arch-rival.
This begs the question, where does Arsene Wenger see his team this season? Will the likes of Lukas Podolski, Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey, among others able to deliver as hoped? This season promises to be an exciting one. Arsenal plays the opening match of the season. Here’s hoping they bring their A-game. So, I’ll try to answer my own question. Is this the end of an era? I certainly hope not. Nothing like some good, old-fashioned rivalry to bring the best out of football.