It was a period of boredom, especially over the weekend, to most Kenyan men and women football lovers ever since the World Cup ended about one month ago but in just a few hours from now Manchester United kickoff against Swansea in the curtain-raiser to the 10 month tournament.
The English Premier League (EPL) has picked up popularity over the years here in Kenya due to its competitiveness and aggressive marketing (especially when compared to the poor management of the Kenyan Premier League which at some point was characterised by hooliganism). Kenyans await as their favorite teams battle it out for the coveted trophy with clubs like Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool enjoying a huge fan base in the country.
It is anticipated that this year is going to be even more competitive as many clubs have strengthened their squads and the big teams’ category is now becoming congested. We now have the likes of Tottenham and Everton catching up with the usual front runners Chelsea, both Manchester teams, Arsenal and Liverpool.
BUSY TRANSFER WINDOW
The pre-season has been characterised by signings as many clubs have been busy in the transfer market shopping, buying and selling players in preparation for the 2014/15 season.
Following a dip in performance towards the end of last season, Newcastle United has been the busiest in the transfer market bringing in nine players followed by West Brom then Liverpool. Though with Liverpool there are possibilities of a few more signings with Sevilla defender Alberto Moreno close to completing a move to the Merseyside as the Brendan Rodgers side, who finished 2nd last season, look to assemble a title-winning squad.
Among the players Liverpool have signed (but immediately loaned back to his former club) is Belgium star Divock Origi who has Kenyan roots. When he finally plays for Liverpool he willl be the first ‘Kenyan’ to play for a top-four English club and second to play in the English Premier League joining Victor Wanyama who plays for Southampton.
Arsenal have also made some good signings bringing in former Barcelona star Alexis Sanchez, Chambers, Debuchy and Ospina and there were some good signs of things to come when they outplayed Manchester City in the Community Shield beating them 3-0.
Chelsea alongside Manchester City are seen as the potential winners of the trophy as they have a strong squad compared to the rest of the teams. Chelsea manager Jose Morinho looked to have addressed all the issues with his squad by bringing in Cesc Fabregas, old boy Didier Drogba, Diego Costa, Mario Pasalic and Felipe Luis.
Manchester city quietly brought in six players including Bacary Sagna from Arsenal, Fernando, Willy Caballero, Frank Lampard, Bruno Zuculini, Eliaquim Mangala. And with an already strong squad and so long as they can keep their star man Yaya Toure happy by remembering his birthday, they should be capable of winning it again.
Manchester United wanted to put last season’s mess behind them and they first did it by sacking former Everton manager David Moyes and replacing him with decorated manager Louis Van Gaal who has coached big teams including Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
United had a great pre-season beating all its opponents including LA Galaxy, AS Roma, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, Liverpool and Valencia. This is despite the fact that they have brought in the least number of players compared with their premier league counterparts. Van Gaal has managed to restore the confidence in the same players who were part of the poor campaign last season. They only bought Luke Shaw from Southampton, Ander Herrera from Atletico Bilbao and goalkeeper Vanja Milinkovic. It has been predicted that under LVG, United will bounce back to the top four but it would be harder for them to win the title mainly because they haven’t brought in a lot of experienced players.
(See below list of clubs ranked according to the number of players they have brought in)
West Bromwich Albion
West Ham United
Queens Park Rangers
So fasten your seatbelts as this is going to be an exciting campaign. Does your team stand a chance of winning it? Time will tell.