EPL 2012-13: The First Half - Things to rememeber
It’s here. Well, almost. Like towards the end of a Shakespearean play, the curtain is slowly falling on this year and 2013 is tugging at our sleeves and prodding us towards a new one. For me, as it is with most of my football crazy cohorts, this is a time to ruminate. It’s that time of the year when I make the journey to a nearby cave, wear saffron, paint a thick beard on my face and go into a deep, thoughtful trance. The highlights from the current season begin playing in my mind, the goals obviously in slow motion, and I dutifully write down my observations, the result of which is the ensuing document.
The first half of EPL 2012-13 has been mesmerising. Despite the fact that the table currently resembles what many pundits may have foreseen at the beginning of the season (with a few exceptions of course), there is no denying the fact that the twists and turns this crazy ride has taken us on has left a lot of us feeling queasy but begging for more. And like they say, unexpected experiences are a hard teacher. And that’s what watching the Premier League this year has felt like. Like I was sat down by my kindergarten teacher and taught life lessons through watching football. So here goes kids, class is in session.
Five lessons from the season so far:
- The bigger they are, the harder they fall: Manchester City
City, with its extremely wealthy benefactors and more than competent manager, pulled off one of the most astounding finishes in league history to walk away with top honours for 2011-12. Coming into the current season, the club was surfing a huge wave. Their confidence would certainly have been augmented by the fact that a few good signings had been made and also that they would get a chance to play on the biggest footballing stage in the continent- the Champions League. All good right? Not quite. The team’s endeavours in Europe showed no evidence of all this gathered momentum. They floundered at each stage, and came away with the worst performance in the history of the Champions League by an English team.
The one person who had an inkling of how bad the club would do, surprisingly, was their manager himself. “I don’t think we can play for the Champions League with this squad,” Mancini was quoted saying, prefiguring the fall from grace of the current English champions. (source)
To the credit of the Blues, they have put the dismal showing in Europe behind them and done well to remain at the top end of the points table.
- The greatest things in life are free: Michu – Swansea City
Well, not exactly free. 2 million pounds. But compared to what his counterparts in top string clubs are making, Swansea acquired this guy for virtually nothing. But some background first.
Michu (or Miguel Pérez Cuesta) is a Spanish footballer acquired by Swansea from Rayo Vallecano for the aforementioned paltry sum. Here’s why we’re hearing about this erstwhile unknown player: He is currently the top goal scorer in this Premier League season. Yes, top scorer. No, I’m not kidding, top scorer. It isn’t Robin van Persie or Luis Suarez or Wayne Rooney. It’s Michu. And he doesn’t even cost a gajillion pounds.
The execs at the club are obviously thanking their lucky stars for this serendipitous find they’ve made, but news on the grape vine suggests that Liverpool will swoop down on this rainmaker as soon as the January transfer window opens.
- A friend in need is a friend indeed: Rafa Benitez and Fernando Torres
A comeback story in the making, for both men.
Benitez’s previous tenure was at Inter Milan, during which he led them to Italian Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup victories. His consequent ouster, despite the impressive showing, would have left him feeling gutted.
Torres’ poor run at Chelsea is more than well documented. Drogba’s departure from the side placed goal scoring duties squarely on his shoulders and he revealed signs of crumbling under the pressure. Now, what is also well documented is Torres’ enhanced performance under Rafa Benitez. Torres amassed 56 goals in 79 games with the Spanish coach but only managed 20 goals under 5 different managers since Benitez left Liverpool.
So when Chelsea decided it was time to shift managerial responsibilities, who did they look to? Their star striker’s old friend of course.
And the ruse worked. Torres has found the back of the net 4 times in the 5 games under Benitez, at an average of 0.8 goals per game; a far cry from the measly 0.25 per game he was eking out before his old boss came along.
It may be too early to come to a conclusion on the effect this synergetic relationship will have on the club this season. The signs however, do seem auspicious.
- Desperate times call for desperate measures: Arsenal
Arsenal has hit a slump, there is no denying it. The start of the season brought the shocking news that one of the team’s doyens, Robin Van Persie would be moving on after an illustrious stint spanning 8 seasons. The club is currently placed 7th in the league and faced shock defeats to sides such as Swansea and Olympiakos in the Champions League. Discontentment among supporters reached a head when the team’s supporters group, the Black Scarf Movement, launched a protest at the Emirates, the biggest of its kind since Wenger has taken over the reins at the club.
Coming to the desperate measures. It has now been confirmed that the club is enlisting, once again, its most prolific goal scorer, Thierry Henry. Despite the fact that this is something Arsenal and Henry fans (including myself) would love to see, the fact remains that he is now 35 and may not be the best choice at the moment. The indisputable reality is that Arsenal desperately needs a string of uplifting performances, akin to the one by Jack Wilshere against West Brom, to be able to nurse dreams of walking away with silverware this season.
- You can’t teach an old dog new tricks: Robin van Persie - Manchester United
Well, the league kind of threw us a curve ball on this one, didn’t it? Apparently you can teach an old dog new tricks, and really good ones at that!
Watching Robin van Persie walk out onto the pitch sporting a red shirt with “AON” emblazoned across its centre kind of reminded me of how I felt watching Ashton Kutcher on Two and a Half Men – they just didn’t go together. But the Dutch striker has managed to allay all my misgivings (Ashton Kutcher hasn’t) with his ongoing stellar performance with the Red Devils. His tally this season stands at 11 goals, but his real worth has been on display when the team has been put under the pump. The Reds have been bailed out of a number of sticky situations by the Dutchman, including the most recent one when he scored in the 92nd minute after his side squandered a 2 to nothing lead against City.
So there you have it. The first half of the season in recap. We’d do well to follow these stories through to the end to see what their long term effects were on the clubs and the players. What is certain is that we have another great season of football coming our way. So grab a bucket of popcorn or wear your seatbelts or whatever. This one’s going to be epic.