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5 things to look out for before EPL 2015-16 kicks off

Here's hoping football fans get to see a pinch of genius, an even better version of Rooney's bicycle kick and unlikely victories (or losses!) which have become characteristic of the English Premier league (EPL).

football Updated: Aug 08, 2015 07:45 IST
Prerna Madan
Prerna Madan
Hindustan Times
EPL 2015/16,Football,Manchester United vs Tottenham

Phew! Months after Chelsea was crowned champions, the new season of English Premier League will kick-start on Saturday with Manchester United taking on Tottenham at their home turf Old Trafford.

Rivalries may have toned down over the years, with EPL missing hostile Arsene Wenger-Alex Ferguson-like hostile greetings, mind-games and sarcastic comments but the league still has a lot to offer.

Here's hoping football fans get to see a pinch of genius, an even better version of Rooney's bicycle kick and unlikely victories (or losses!) which have become characteristic of the Premier league. Until then, look out for these 5 things:

Petr Cech as a gooner

Until last year, the Czech goalkeeper's name was synonymous with Chelsea, a tall figure who symbolised consistency in a team which was often presided over by various managers. This was, of course, till Jose Mourinho took over the reign for the second time.

With Thibaut Courtois replacing him as the first-choice goalkeeper, 33-year-old Cech was recruited by Arsenal in June for an undisclosed fee. Wenger has already praised his "charisma" and compared his move to Manchester United's former Dutch goalkeeper Van Der Sar, who left Fulham to join Manchester United and eventually played an incremental role in its UEFA Champions League-winning team.

Interestingly, Arsenal has won 3 trophies in the pre-season with Cech having played in all, earning him the nick-name 'The Magnet' by pundits.

Petr Cech was a part of the Arsenal team that won the Community Shield against Chelsea this year. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored the winning goal of the match.

The stoic goalkeeper is already a hit with fans too -- Wembley resounded with chants of "Petr Cech is a gooner" on Sunday as Arsenal emerged victorious in the Community Shield match against Chelsea.

Whether it's luck or a sign of silverware to come, Cech might just be the answer to the Gunners' EPL woes.

Manchester United's over-populated midfield

Louis Van Gaal has so far spent 77 million pounds to attract Memphis Depay, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin and Matteo Darmian with a little less than a month to go for the transfer window to close.

The signings are impressive, but with players such as -- Juan Mata, Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young, Daley Blind, Maroune Fellaini, Adnan Janujaz, Anders Herrera and Michael Carrick -- all vying for the numbered slots, it is bound to ground some to the sidelines.

Chaotic mid: Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal has strengthened the midfield but it might be at the cost of some players. (AFP Photo)

The big question is -- can the team finally come together as a coherent force without a solid defence and remind us of the Alex Ferguson-ian era?

All the newbies

Manchester City shelled out a whopping 49 million pounds to snare Raheem Sterling from Liverpool. While the Scousers will miss his pace on the field, critics have argued if the 20-year-old has done enough to prove his merit, even if clubs are willing to invest heavily in him.

Another inter-league, unexpected move was Radamel Falcao's switch to Chelsea on a loan from French club Monaco. The Columbian striker didn't quite live up to expectations on his one-year loan spell at Old Trafford but Mourinho is not ruffled with his last season's performance. Rather, he confidently stated on TV, "If I can help Falcao reach his level again, I will help him."

Manchester City's £49 million signing Raheem Sterling and Chelsea's Radamel Falcao. (AFP/Reuters Photo)

Now who can forget the first German player to be gracing Manchester United first team! There's no dearth of anticipation to see Fifa World Cup-winning player Bastian Schweinsteiger in the Red Devils's colours. Although this has been the primary talking point, one major concern is his age. The 31-year-old German is no longer at the peak of his career. Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola has cast doubts on his fitness, saying "He is a top player, top player. Unfortunately, during the last three years he was never in good condition."

Manchester United unveiled a new poster sporting former Bayern Munich midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger. He is the first German to be in United's first team. (Picture credit: Manchester United official website)

The exits and in-betweens:

Perhaps, a more sombre exit was that of Robin Van Persie. He was rumoured to be Van Gaal's favourite, having played under him in the Dutch national team but true to his shrewd nature, the manager let him leave for Fenerbahce.

The Flying Dutchman finally did win the EPL title with United but he was often restricted by injuries after Alex Ferguson's retirement. Either way, his exit broke many hearts.

English fans may be upset about Robin Van Persie's departure but he received a grand welcome at Fenerbahce. (AFP Photo)

Meanwhile, a major disappointment has been James Milner's walk-away from Manchester City to Liverpool. He too, is not in the prime of his career but surely, he was handy for the blue end of Manchester.

Other not-so awaited transfers are United's Angel Di Maria, now confirmed to be en route to Paris Saint Germain and goalkeeper David De Gea, most likely towards Real Madrid. What's to be seen is how Old Trafford copes up with their absence.

Also read:Ray Parlour, Sol Campbell tell you which players to watch out this EPL

New sponsors, new kits

Every team is recognised by its colours, which in turn become a part of its identity and culture -- for instance, Liverpool as 'The Reds', Newcastle with its black and white stripes, Norwich City in its bright yellow and green, and so on.

It is no wonder then that teams scramble to display their new kits every year with the hope of attracting fans. This year was no different. Although there were a few upsets and some makeovers, it's better to just let the pictures do the talking.

From left to right: Arsenal away kit, Liverpool home kit, Tottenham Hotspurs' home kit (Picture credits: Twitter)


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First Published: Aug 07, 2015 16:05 IST