12 August 2016

EPL: Greatest show on earth

The managers; Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, Antonio Conte, Arsene Wenger, there are five of them and one has to finish fifth — if they are the top five — one of them is going to get slaughtered and they are all big names.

That is a phrase that was coined by West Ham boss, Slaven Bilic, acutely aware of the tantalising line-up of managerial superstars lined up in this season’s English Premier League (EPL) – such depth, he forgot to mention Mauricio Pochettino and Claudio Ranieri.

This is going to be a lot of fun. The challenge to unseat Leicester City and prove a point was always going to be tantalising. But, the fact that the class of 2016-2017 features such a chasing pack has EPL fans giddy with expectation of the most compelling season we’ve ever seen. Last season was the fairy tale, but after the supposed aberration comes the fierce fight to restore the natural order.

Renewed challenge
After writing the EPL’s greatest fairytale with their astonishing title triumph last season, Ranieri’s side find themselves under siege from rivals determined to end their reign.

Ranieri’s men made a mockery of their status as 5,000-1 outsiders as Jamie Vardy, N’Golo Kante and Riyad Mahrez emerged as genuine stars and carried Leicester to the title – a year after they narrowly avoided relegation.

Showing a remarkable refusal to crack under pressure despite their lack of big-match experience, Leicester finished a staggering 10 points clear of second placed Arsenal. Having lost only three times in 38 league games, no-one could quibble about Leicester’s right to call themselves English champions for the first time. But to some, Leicester’s rise was aided by the complete lack of a sustained challenge from any of the traditional superpowers.

Previous champions Chelsea surrendered the title with a whimper and Arsenal were consistent only in their inconsistency, while Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool all underachieved.
Ranieri’s side is unlikely to have such an easy ride this time as City, United and Chelsea all look stronger as their new managers splash out on a host of costly signings.

Leicester have tried to keep up with the elite, breaking their transfer record twice within a week as they spent £13m on French midfielder Nampalys Mendy and £16m on Nigerian striker Ahmed Musa. Ranieri has also signed goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler, defender Luis Hernandez and winger Bartosz Kapustka.


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