The wait is finally over and the insanity can resume. Kieran Davies dons his straight-jacket and looks ahead to a tumultuous weekend of introductions.
The anticipation is almost over and you’ve got to try and remember the channel numbers of the Sky Sports channels you haven’t switched on since last May. After all the guide is too slow of a form of navigation and you may miss a goal! You’ve purposely avoided Sky Sports News for fear the mundane drivel and made up stories about players coming to and leaving your club may send you into a football coma, but not anymore. It’s that time again where your Saturday afternoons are spent with Jeff Stelling and his troop of football pundits…….and Matt Le Tissier! Chris Kamara has spent the summer playing football spot the difference games to hone in his skills to be able notice when a player is missing from either of the teams to mask his inability to see the colour red when brandished by referees. Gary Neville has been working on his comebacks for the abundance of references to his failed management career that Carragher and Redknapp have lined up for him. BBC’s coverage of the day’s action will come with an air of smugness until at least Christmas as Gary Lineker basks in the glory of Leicester’s unexpected title win. Let’s just hope he has all his clothes on at the very least.
The champions quite rightly kick off the season, away to new boys Hull City. If you are planning on going to the game, it might be wise to take your boots with you considering how light Hull’s squad is due to injuries and other anomalies. Mike Phelan, the man who nearly killed Alex Ferguson by popping a balloon at Stamford Bridge, will take charge of The Tigers following Steve Bruce’s departure. It’s debatable whether the greatest managers the game has ever seen would be able to do the job asked of Phelan, no players, no investment and an owner seemingly looking to sell the club while they have that Premier League status. Meanwhile the visitors will be keen to show they are no flash in the pan and can reproduce the form of last season. Time will tell but I think the added distraction of European football could be a big strain on their squad. New boys Burnley will be keen to rid themselves of their ‘yo-yo team’ tag as they host Swansea City. It will be interesting to see how the Welsh team cope with the loss of the lynchpin of their back four, Ashley Williams. The centre-back starred in Wales’ Euro campaign which saw them reach the semi-finals.
Two teams who struggled for goals last season match up as Crystal Palace face West Brom. Only Aston Villa scored fewer goals than these two sides, knowing the fate of Villa last season, they will need to address this as a concern. While Palace continue their search for a striker and West Brom still try to flog the dead horse that is Saido Berahino, don’t expect a flurry of goals in this one! Everton meanwhile face up against Pochettino’s impressive Tottenham team who will want to pick up from where they left off last season. Actually scratch that, they will want to pick up from where they left off a month before the end of the season before they fell away and ended with the disappointment of finishing below rivals Arsenal. The Toffees have injuries and players lacking match fitness with new boss Koeman stating they are only 70% of where they need to be. Sneaky Premier League chiefs keeping the start date of the new campaign from the Dutchman, oh wait no they didn’t! Middlesbrough will kick off their return to the top flight with Stoke City visiting The Riverside. Mark Hughes has added to his squad in the summer and will be hoping to improve on last season’s finish. However, he needs Jack Butland back to full fitness following his ankle injury which may see Shay Given start between the sticks this weekend.
Southampton fans must feel like every summer is like Groundhog Day for them. Whoever performed well last season has moved on, yet again they have lost their manager and this time they have to replace the goals scored by Pelle and Mane. They face another team having to deal with transition as Watford travel to St Mary’s. Despite their great season last time out, it is a very strange club currently. Why and how their manager was sacked last season still amazes me as Flores did a fantastic job from an outsider looking in. The team who only a few seasons ago had more Italian players than the Azzurri national team due to their strange ownership situation, seem intent to mesmerise opposing fans with their crazy antics year by year. David Moyes returns to the Premier League with Sunderland and faces the task of a trip to Man City first up. Guardiola will be keen to get off to a positive start in front of the home fans, with the quality of the squad at his disposal; this could be a long afternoon for Moyes. Rumours that a mountaineer feel into one of the wrinkles on Moyes’ non-HD friendly face and had to sever his own arm off to escape have yet to be confirmed but an onslaught of City goals could see the Scotsman further resembling Emperor Palpatine by the end of this one!
Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth match up against the ego bus that is Man Utd and their manager Jose Mourinho. With Pogba suspended, it will be a chance for Jose’s other signings to step up to the plate and perform. The team whose fans used to pride themselves in telling everyone how they ‘don’t buy titles’ have now spent more money than CERN, but at least THEY have a Large Hadron Collider to show for it! Hold on, United do have a charity shield to show for it and they will no doubt try and build on this success on the South coast this weekend. The big game which wets the footballing appetite this weekend takes place at The Emirates as Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal take on Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. The Gunners are struggling with defensive injuries, while the fans are struggling with the Frenchman’s inability to spend in the transfer market! I feel their pain when the major shareholder at the club proclaims they are unable to compete financially in the transfer market! How on earth is the team who made THE most money from matchday revenue unable to compete? Ludicrous! Maybe Stan Kroenke is trying to hide the fact that he was scammed by a ‘Nigerian prince’ as he tried to help him allegedly move money to the UK? This aside it’s not the opening fixture Klopp would have hoped for, but what a statement it would be to walk away with all three points.
Monday Night Football returns also this weekend (footballing weekend that is) and it’s a Conte versus Bilic head to head at Stamford Bridge. After a disastrous campaign last time out under the guidance of Jose Mourinho (that’s right the now saviour of Man Utd who almost relegated the West Londoners for the first time in 29 years), Chelsea need to win back their fans this season. Otherwise they will no doubt return to supporting Man Utd like the Abramovic years never happened! West Ham however had a fantastic campaign last time out and from their perspective did well to keep hold of Payet this summer. A new tax payer funded stadium and all things look rosy in East London going into the new campaign. The only way it gets any better is if we all have another whip-round to buy Lionel Messi for them. Carragher, Redknapp and Neville will no doubt dissect the weekends action with their own brand of punditry while reminding Gary, whenever the opportunity arises of his Spanish failings. Its back! Its back! Its back! Like a broken watch is right at least twice a day, this time the English fans had it nailed………football has come home………..a new season starts!