The wait is over, the most exciting and competitive football league in the world is back. Weekends are never the same again until May 2018!!! Quite coincidentally for the first time in its 129 years history, the league starts on a Friday, today!!! The first game of the 2017-18 season is between Arsenal and Leicester City.
This game is has a lot of interesting parts to it. First of all, from a Nigerian’s point of view, it will give us the chance to see four of our boys in action. Striker Kelechi Iheanacho just joined Wilfred Ndidi and Ahmed Musa at Leicester while Alex Iwobi is waiting anxiously to welcome them to the Emirates. You can’t wait to see how 20-year-old Iheanacho will cope with the Arsenal defence or how Wifred Ndidi will protect the Leicester defence against Iwobi and co.
The game will also allow fans to see what new signing; Alexandre Lacazette has got to offer. But moreinterestingly is how Riyad Mahrez who has been hoping for a move to Arsenal will handle what is effectively his audition. A great performance from him may just convince the cash-shy Arsenal manager to make a bid for him. One minus blow for Leicester is that they will be without influential midfielder Danny Drinkwater and new star Vincente Iborra who was signed for £15m from Sevilla in the summer; they are both out with injuries. Arsenal have injury concerns of their own. Alexis Sanchez is out for at least the first two games of the new season while Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey are major doubts. This should be an easy win for Arsenal, they seem to know how to handle Leicester.
WATFORD v LIVERPOOL
IF Phillipe Coutinho plays in this game, it should be a Liverpool win on paper. But if you remember last season, Liverpool lost a lot of games everyone felt they would win. Probably that contributed to them not winning the league. Nothing seems to have changed this season. Liverpool are still great going forward but they are equally still dodgy while defending. It was hoped they would get Southampton Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk but they shot themselves in the foot by being caught tapping the player. They had to apologise to Southampton and withdraw their bid. However, it seems the player’s head had been turned by the offer that awaits him at Anfield and he has already submitted a transfer request. Chelsea are said to be also interested in the Dutchman whose style of play is a combination of silk and steel. He will provide the leadership that Liverpool’s defence currently lacks. Watford have not done meaningful business this window and this is looking like a Liverpool win. BUT, football? You never know.
CHELSEA V BURNLEY
Still smarting from the FA Community Shield loss to Arsenal, you would expect that Antonio Conte and his boys will be baying for blood when they meet Burnley. Although he has already signed four new players, Conte is more worried about the players that were allowed to leave the club by the board. Observers believe Chelsea are a weaker team now than they were when they strolled to the title last season. Also, Eden Hazard is out injured, new boy Bakayoko is still unavailable, Alvaro Morata still does not look match fit and Victor Moses is suspended. This may not trouble Chelsea so much in this particular match up because Burnley only won one game out of the 19 they played away last season. They have also lost their best defender Michael Keane to Everton to make them even weaker than last season. Now, Burnley may have to partner Ben Mee with James Tarkowski. Morata may not be Diego Costa, but surely, the Chelsea firepower will be too hot for Burnley to handle.
MANCHESTER UNITED V WEST HAM
This has been tagged the return of Chicharito. A crowd favourite at Old Trafford, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez was not a regular starter for Manchester United but he was a reliable scorer. There were great hopes for him at the club until Louis van Gaal came in. In one of the numerous strange decisions the Dutch coach made, he sold Chicharito, to make room for flop Memphis Depay. The return of Javier with West Ham brings a sense of de ja vu.