Premier League back in spotlight after Olympics

Premier League back in spotlight after Olympics

LONDON - Reuters
Premier League back in spotlight after Olympics

AP photo

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.

Although it will be the usual frenetic, high-octane business on the field when Manchester City kicks off its title defense against newly-promoted Southampton and European champion Chelsea visits Wigan Athletic this weekend, some post-Olympic re-evaluation would do football no harm.

Twitter and other social messaging sites have seen 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 behavior and diving and cheating from players.

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 favorite

City, who clinched its first title for 44 years last May with Sergio Aguero’s last-minute winner in its 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 last week.

City has made only one major signing so far, buying England international midfielder Jack Rodwell, 21, from Everton for 12 million pounds.

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

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

Arsenal, who finished third last season, has 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.

Chelsea, who won two trophies last season, will be without long-term talisman Didier Drogba after he left for Shanghai Shenhua in China, but has been busy spending 64 million pounds on new players, including exciting Brazilian playmaker Oscar, Belgium striker Eden Hazard and Germany winger Marko Marin.

Owner Roman Abramovich kept faith with Roberto di Matteo after its Champions League success, while Andre Villas-Boas, who was replaced at Chelsea by Di Matteo last season, has a new job, replacing Harry Redknapp as Tottenham Hotspur looks to improve on its fourth place last season.

Liverpool, still chasing former glories, has signed Joe Allen from Swansea City for 19 million pounds, and begins life under new manager Brendan Rodgers against West Bromwich Albion, managed by former Liverpool assistant boss Steve Clarke, tomorrow.

The Reds also signed young forward Fabio Borini from Roma and are likely to add Real Madrid’s Turkish midfielder Nuri Şahin to its squad on a loan deal.

Van Persie set to join Manchester United

Manchester United said on Aug. 15 that it had agreed a deal to sign Dutch striker from Premier League rivals Arsenal.

“Manchester United is pleased to announce it has reached agreement with Arsenal Football Club for the transfer of Robin Van Persie,” said a club statement.

“The deal is subject to a medical and the agreement of personal terms. A further announcement will be made in due course.”

Van Persie stunned Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger when he declared immediately after Euro 2012 that he wanted to leave the north London team because he felt the club’s ambitions did not match his own.

That came after a superb season where the forward scored 37 goals in all competitions and was voted player of the year by fellow professionals and football writers.

Van Persie’s announcement sparked interest from Premier League champions Manchester City, as well as Italian giants Juventus, but it is Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson who has won the race for the striker’s coveted signature.

Provided the deal goes through smoothly, the Dutch superstar could make his United debut in their Premier League opener away to Everton at Goodison Park on Aug. 20.

The transfer is set to be the most expensive deal United have done since Bulgarian forward Dimitar Berbatov’s club record 30.75 million move from Tottenham in 2008.