EPL Preview: Gianfranco Zola
No one looks stronger than Chelsea this season. The arrival of Diego Costa from Atletico Madrid and Cesc Fabregas from Barcelona makes Jose Mourinho’s men favourites for the title, especially since Liverpool have now lost Luis Suarez and Manchester City have had a quiet summer so far. Both players offer an attacking threat and also have the Champions League knowhow, so European success is a real possibility as well. The team with most depth usually wins the Premier League and this year that’s Chelsea.
It’s a shame to see Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard leave Chelsea. Both were great servants to the club, although it seems that it is out with old and in with the new – at least it was until Jose Mourinho decided to bring back Didier Drogba from Galatasaray. As a player/coach, he might have an important role but surely Romelu Lukaku, now at Everton, was a better option up front.
The dark horses are Arsenal. I think Arsene Wenger has made some excellent signings, especially Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona and Mathieu Debuchy from Newcastle. I hear Real Madrid’s Sami Khedira might be next. Having finally won a trophy last season, Arsenal mean business again. If the likes of Theo Walcott, Mezut Ozil and Jack Wilshere stay fit, they will be a real threat.
Manchester United will struggle for me.
I loved watching Louis Van Gaal during the World Cup and he is a tactical mastermind. But even a genius can’t get a below-par squad to win silverware. United need a fit Robin van Persie and a happy Wayne Rooney, but probably two or three other big names around them, too. Losing Patrice Evra to Juventus is a major blow for me.
The Financial Fair Play rules are going to change the whole dynamic at Manchester City. As a result, they won’t be able to repeat the success of last year. I think Manuel Pellegrini needs a striker, a right back and some would say a goalkeeper, too, to defend the title. Players still want to come to City, but they also expect to be well paid and the selling clubs also assume they will be well compensated. Everyone knows the money is there, but you can’t just throw it around anymore. FFP may just cost City their title but in the long run it will ensure they stay on a strong financial footing.
Liverpool will really miss Luis Suarez. Like most people, I was stunned when Suarez bit Giorgio Chiellini in Brazil. I think the ban was fair and I am glad he has apologised, even if he was told to do so by his new club, Barcelona. By all accounts, Luis is a real good guy – great to have in the dressing room, and we all know what he can do on the field. He just seems to have these moments of madness. Eric Cantona was the same at Manchester United and, really, the Premier League won’t be the same without him. Liverpool certainly won’t be.
The new boys won’t last long. I fear for Leicester, Burnley and QPR. In my day, Leicester always used to make things difficult; they were physical and strong with set pieces. They are probably the best-equipped to stay up. I am looking forward to seeing how Burnley’s Danny Ings gets on in the Premier League – a top striker but it won’t be enough to keep them up.
I hope that I will be coaching in England again soon. Although I have enjoyed the break since leaving Watford last season, I am now really looking to get back into football. I always keep my eye out for opportunities and when the right one comes along you will see me back in the dugout. I can’t wait to get started again.
I wouldn’t take the Italy job if it was offered, though. Whoever comes in to the role after Cesare Prandelli needs to blood a whole new generation. I am not sure I want to go into international management just yet as I enjoy the day-to-day responsibilities of coaching a domestic club. But don’t panic – you will see me on the touchline again.
Take a look at the diminutive dynamo in his Chelsea days here…