Premier League back in spotlight after Olympics

LONDON, Aug 17 — After two glorious Olympic weeks when cycling, rowing, athletics, swimming and boxing have captured the public’s imagination, Premier League football emerges from the shadows and back into the spotlight this weekend.

For once, in England at least, the trials and tribulations of the big clubs, and their close-season transfer spending sprees, have been pushed off the back pages by the exploits of Usain Bolt, Mo Farah, Michael Phelps, David Rudisha and the others.

Arsenal’s Robin van Persie headed for Manchester United. — Reuters file picArsenal’s Robin van Persie headed for Manchester United. — Reuters file picAlthough it will be the usual frenetic, high-octane business on the field when Manchester City kick off their title defence against newly-promoted Southampton and European champions Chelsea visit Wigan Athletic this weekend, some post-Olympic re-evaluation would do football no harm.

Twitter and other social messaging sites have had thousands posing questions such as: “What can football learn from the Olympics?”, and in general the answer is that fans want to see an end to arrogant, spoilt-brat behaviour and diving and cheating from players.

What can football learn from the Olympics? That fans want a return to a far more Olympian sporting sense of fair play.”

They want a return to a far more Olympian sporting sense of fair play and even FIFA president Sepp Blatter agreed during the Games that football could learn from other sports — and male players could learn something from their female counterparts now playing the game at a high standard.

Blatter told reporters at Wembley: “Absolutely, we can learn a lot.

“There is even a difference between women’s and men’s football. In women’s football simulation practically doesn’t exist. They are not lying down and saying they are injured. They stand up.

“We can learn inside our sport and also outside our sport. You can learn something every day.”

Olympic glow

Once the Olympic glow has faded, however, all the fans will probably learn over the next few weeks is what they knew already.

That is that the title will go to either Manchester City or Manchester United, that Chelsea and Arsenal will finish in the top four and that promoted Reading, Southampton and West Ham United will all fight against an immediate return to the Championship.

City, who clinched their first title for 44 years last May with Sergio Aguero’s last-minute winner in their final match against Queens Park Rangers, warmed up for the new season with a 3-2 win over FA Cup winners Chelsea in the Community Shield on Sunday.

They have made only one major signing so far, buying England international midfielder Jack Rodwell, 21, from Everton on Monday for £12 million (RM58.8 million).

Arsenal striker Robin van Persie was linked with Manchester City but the Dutchman, the League’s top scorer last season with 30 goals, now looks poised to move to Manchester United.

The two clubs have agreed a deal reported in British media to be worth £24 million, and Van Persie is set to join Japanese striker Shinji Kagawa at Old Trafford.

Kagawa, 23, moved from German champions Borussia Dortmund for a reported £17 million to boost United’s bid to take the title back from City, which begins at Everton on Monday.

Arsenal, who finished third last season, have had a busy summer, with French forward Oliver Giroud from Montpellier, German striker Lukas Podolski from Cologne and Spanish midfielder Santi Cazorla from Malaga all moving to north London.

Wenger hinted that Podolski would make his debut tomorrow against Sunderland, although he is not fully match fit, when Arsenal set out on their campaign to end a seven-year trophy drought.

Chelsea, who won two trophies last season, will be without long-term talisman Didier Drogba after he left for Shanghai Shenhua in China, but have been busy spending £64 million on new players.

Among them are exciting Brazilian playmaker Oscar, Belgium striker Eden Hazard and Germany winger Marko Marin.

Billionaire owner Roman Abramovich kept faith with Roberto di Matteo after their Champions League success, while Andre Villas-Boas, whom Di Matteo replaced midway through his first season in March, has a new job, replacing Harry Redknapp as Tottenham Hotspur look to improve on their fourth place last season.

Liverpool, still chasing former glories, have signed Joe Allen from Swansea City for £19 million, Italy striker Fabio Borini from AS Roma, and yesterday announced the signing of Morocco winger Oussama Assaidi from Heerenveen.

They begin life under new manager Brendan Rodgers against West Bromwich Albion, managed by former Liverpool assistant boss Steve Clarke, tomorrow. — Reuters


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