The Premier League's key Men
In less than a week the hurly-burly rush of the Barclays Premier League starts again and the emotions of all involved will be put through all sorts. To be honest it will be better if the transfer window was shut just as the season starts.
Having followed the league since its inception I always look forward to the start and want to see some players and teams performing to their optimum. It is no different for this season. Come with me as I look at some of the players I hope will, injury permitting thrill us all.
ASHLEY COLE: The premier league's most consistent performer over the last 10 and a half seasons. Bred at Arsenal but has been superbly fine-tuned in his years at Chelsea.
Cole for me has been the best left back in the world since the retirement of Paolo Maldini. He is the player most opposition fans love to hate but this is usually as a result of how great a footballer he is. Yes, he has not helped himself with his off the field antics but on the pitch for club he is almost flawless in his all round play.
Some of the best full backs attack with his type of gusto and relish but Ashley Cole hates to cross the ball, or crossing is not the strongest part of his game and this is probably a result of his time at Arsenal where Wenger's team hardly crossed the ball. His combination with Henry and Pires down the Arsenal left caused team's tremendous and regular problems.
I can only remember one period during the backend of Ancelotti's reign and the start of the ill-fated AVB's when it seemed like his form dropped. One visit to Old Trafford saw Antonio Valencia destroy him time and time again in a 3-1 defeat that I actually feared for his career. He however recovered and was key in Chelsea's excellent rear guard actions in the run up to winning the Champions League and then the Europa Cup the next season.
It was dramatic and had accusations flying between Arsenal and Chelsea when he moved from north to west London during Jose Mourinho's first stint. Ashley Cole turned down more money from Real Madrid to join Chelsea and in doing that he became part of a generation of Chelsea players who have basically won it all in club football.
One cannot be sure how much longer he has at the top level but it has been a privilege to have seen him develop from a callow youth into a world great. I am looking forward to seeing him some more this season.
VINCENT KOMPANY: I first saw the current Man City captain play as a teenager at Anderlecht during a Champions League match. There had been a lot of great press about him how every big club in Europe was chasing him. I was impressed. It was then a shock when he joined Hamburg in the Bundesliga.
I have seen him more at close quarters after he joined Man City and since realised that he was much better than I thought. This man is as close as you can get to a complete footballer as a defender. He has also showed his versatility when deployed as a holding midfielder in some matches for City when he first joined.
However, it is as a leader and a commanding centre-back for the blue half of Manchester that he shines right through as a beacon. When City won the title, it was easy for the likes of Aguero and the returning Tevez to steal the headlines with his goals but it was the calming but towering influence of Kompany that kept the team steady as they won the title.
Kompany is quick enough, strong in the tackle and dominant in the air. He also is a fantastic reader of the game and so does not have to dive into tackles, preferring to stop the danger early before the need to dive in. City has got a new manager is in charge again and will need Kompany playing at his best and free of injuries if they are going to reclaim the Premier League crown from their neighbours.
STEVEN GERRARD: The Liverpool skipper in my view is in the best five players to have played in the Premier League. Age and injuries are taking their toll but Gerrard is still pivotal to how Liverpool will fare in the new season.
Brendan Rodgers favours the quick, short passing game that was his team's hallmark at Swansea and he has tried to do at Anfield since his arrival. However, the dynamism and even unpredictability of some of Gerrard's play cannot be ignored. His drive and his passion for his home town club has not diminished one bit and they will need him fit for long periods if the club can at least close the gap at the top.
It is vital that Liverpool hold on to the sought after Uruguayan Luiz Suarez but should he depart, Gerrard's presence will mitigate what might be a disaster. We have been spoilt over the years watching one cross field Gerrard pass after another, or his crunching tackles on an opposition midfielder especially in Merseyside derbies or against Man United. No shame in that really. So, for this coming season we want to see more and those ferocious shots from outside the box into the top corner.
RAFAEL DA SILVA: The Brazilian came into last season under a cloud after having a poor Olympics football event in which he was heavily criticised back home in the press. However, right from the start of the season he showed no side effects of it and proceeded to have a fantastic season scoring so many beautiful goals. The missile at Loftus Road was just exceptional. The curler at Anfield beyond a bemused Pepe Reina was also not bad.
Defensively he is also very strong in the tackle and very quick to match many wingers. He is a very good player and into a world cup year wants to perform well enough to put enough pressure on Dani Alves for a spot in the Brazil world cup squad.
Another big motivation has to be a new manager in David Moyes, as surely, he is one of those who have to show the watching world that there is life in Manchester United after the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson.
He has to also contend with Chris Smalling and Phil Jones, both also able to play in that right-back but Rafael knows remaining in the United first team comes first before thoughts of the world cup. United fans were worried about him when he first broke into the team, now they can swear by him as a new generation starts to take over at the Theatre of Dreams.
Next week, I shall pick out some of the attacking midfielders and forwards am looking forward to.
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