Mourinho factor gives Chelsea the edge
Much has happened in the last two months. Back on April 22nd, when Manchester United sealed their 20th title, Sir Alex Ferguson, had not announced his retirement, Mancini was odds on for the FA cup, Chelsea were attempting via their supporters to string up their interim manager, and Arsenal were panicking at the implications of Spurs having just beaten Man City.
Move on two months, and Sir Alex has retired, Rafa has walked away with another European trophy, City contrived to lose both the FA cup and their manager, and Arsenal finished in their customary top four position while flattering to deceive with a run of form that allows Arsene to claim his players really are good enough to compete against the best.
While none of this on its own may be enough to suggest that the 14 point difference between Chelsea and United can be overturned, the reintroduction of the self proclaimed "special one", Jose Mourinho, combined with the securing of the services of Frank Lampard for yet another year, the return of recent form of Torres, and the acquiring of David Moyes for Man United, a manager with no experience of how to win titles or cups at the top tier, are a set of positives for Chelsea which cannot be ignored.
The Ferguson factor surely must be worth 6 points that Man United will lose purely through his absence on the touchline, while 6 points will be gained by Chelsea because of the presence Jose has on his players.
14 points becomes 2 without a ball being kicked.
It would be foolish to rule out City before the season has even begun, and, if they get off to a good start, the game changes. Win their first 4 matches, against Newcastle Cardiff, Hull and Stoke, and confidence will be high going into the Manchester derby. Win that too, and United could even find themselves 3rd at the end of the season.
United's opening 5 games involve Chelsea, Man City, and Liverpool. and while it's entirely possible they will win all of these clashes, my gut feeling says it just wont happen. Lose all 3 and they might find themselves 9 points behind Chelsea, City, and even Arsenal, who have by far the easier start to the season, who play their first game against one of the other top 4 teams 11 games into the season.
Visits from Spurs and Liverpool will be tricky, but both of these teams could easily lose their own star players in the transfer market, and it's not impossible given Arsenal's form at the end of last season to see them take 26 points from 30 in those 10 games, especially if they do decide to open their cheque book and bring in some quality signings. I still expect them to finish 4th, irrespective of their start though. It's what they do these days, although, a cup is not beyond the realms of possibility this time round.
My instincts say Chelsea's time has come again, with United second and Arsenal and City fighting it out for 3rd. The loss of one of the greatest managers of all time, and the re-introduction at Chelsea of arguably another, should be just enough to give Chelsea what they require for the coming months. Whatever happens, the start of the season cannot get here soon enough.
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