August 23, 2012
For years, the most dominant color in English soccer has been the red worn by Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool. These have been successful clubs for over 30 years and even in a bad year are usually the best team in the city they come from. Many countries consider red a lucky color and the most successful teams since the start of the Premier League certainly follow that superstition.
However, last season was something of a change. The two most successful teams in England were Manchester City, the league champions, and Chelsea, winners of the FA Cup and Champions League. Not only do both of these teams play in blue, but so do Everton – who finished highest of the Liverpool clubs – and Reading who won promotion to the Premier League from the Championship.
In fact, the only trophy to go to a team wearing red was in the Carling League Cup, where Liverpool beat Cardiff (wearing blue) in the final. Incidentally, as part of a takeover Cardiff will break over 100 years of tradition and play in red from the start of this season.
The New Season
So far this season seems to be following the trend. Already the fixture planners have allowed Chelsea to establish a three point lead at the top of the Premier League by playing their second game earlier than their rivals. Even with this help, the team have to perform on the pitch and a 0-2 victory at Wigan was followed with a comeback from 1-2 down at home against Reading to record a 4-2 final score.
Winning the Champions League last season has given the team plenty of confidence for their first full season under manager Roberto Di Matteo. It is still early days, but already the pressure is on the other rivals for the title. London rivals Arsenal are five points behind already and Manchester United are six points down before the end of the first week of the season.
Manchester City also have a 100% winning record, but have only played one league game so far. They are still behind Chelsea, but have an advantage over the other main rivals for the League title. They also beat Chelsea in the traditional season opener to claim the first trophy of the season by winning the FA Community Shield.
Both Chelsea and Manchester City benefit from wealthy backers and with good management will challenge for honors for years to come. Both clubs have Italian managers, and Roberto Di Matteo (Chelsea) and Roberto Mancini (Manchester City) have had plenty of success as players and managers and will love the challenge for domestic and European honors.
The owner of Chelsea is the Russian billionaire, Roman Abramavich, who is not known for showing patience towards managers and has hired six managers in the seven seasons since Jose Mourinho left the club. The feeling is that a bad run will leave Di Matteo looking over his shoulder even after winning the Champions League.
In terms of personal wealth, probably the only person that can rival Abramavich is the owner of Manchester City, Sheikh Mansour is part of the royal family of Abu Dhabi. Since the takeover in August 2008, the club has only changed manager on one occasion and Mancini will get more time to build a successful team. The pressure will be on to mount a successful challenge for the Champions League as well as defend the Premier League title though.
Both teams added strength over the summer break, with Manchester City signing England international midfielder Jack Rodwell from Everton on an undisclosed fee. This is a great addition to a squad bursting with experienced Premier League and International players. Chelsea have brought in two big name players in Eden Hazard and Oscar as part of a squad rebuild that saw talismanic striker Didier Drogba depart for Guangzhou in China. All these new signings will take time to settle in to the demands of the English game.
The transfer window has not closed yet for the season, so there is still time for both clubs to change squad members. Chelsea are more likely to bring in players, and rumors surrounding Brazilian star Hulk have been circulating all summer. Whether they can offer enough to prize him from Porto has yet to be seen.
It is a long season, and no doubt the season will be full of twists and turns before the honors are decided. However the start of the season is shaping up like the end of last season, with teams playing in blue leading the way.