English Premier League guide

UAE football fans rooting for a Manchester City title repeat


May 13 2012 will forever be remembered as one of the most important in the history of the English Premier League. Not only did Manchester City win their first title in 44 years, they did it by pipping bitter city rivals Manchester United to the trophy in dramatic style, beating QPR 3-2 and scoring twice in injury time to come from behind and claim the crown.

Now the really tough work starts for City, owned of course by HH Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister of the UAE. Can they retain the title this season? United will be desperate to save face and reclaim the trophy they’ve won themselves 12 times since 1992, while London sides Arsenal and Chelsea will be in the mix as usual.

We can’t tell you the outcome of the season here at Time Out (although we have a feeling City’s transfer kitty will see them celebrating next May), but we can tell you where to watch it and give you our definitive guide to the new Premier League season.

The big transfers

With clubs such as Portsmouth and Glasgow Rangers in dire financial straits, the Premier League’s summer transfer window hasn’t been particularly busy this year. Chelsea have been one of the biggest spenders so far, bringing in nippy Belgian winger Eden Hazard from Lille and attacking Brazilian midfielder Oscar from Internacional. A big loss for them will be striker Didier Drogba, who leaves the club for Shanghai Shenhua. London rivals Arsenal will expect big things from German striker Lukas Podolski and French striker Olivier Giroud. City’s rivals United have been quiet, with Japanese midfielder Shinji Kagawa their biggest signing. They’ve also sold Korean star Park Ji-Sung to QPR, a surprising move considering how reliable a player he’s been for the club. As for Man City? They’ve been linked with Arsenal’s Dutch international Robin Van Persie but no deal has been struck yet. Man Utd have also been linked with the Dutch hitman and are rumoured to be close to signing Brazilian winger Lucas Moura for Dhs175 million.

The new boys

Staying in the Premier League is almost as tough as winning it. Teams such as Norwich and Swansea, who joined the top flight last season, performed so well it’ll give the new boys this season – Reading, Southampton and West Ham – some hope they can survive. None of them have been big movers in the transfer market, although West Ham will miss goalkeeper Robert Green, who’s joined QPR. Our bet to ‘do a Norwich’ and be successful this year are Southampton. Two promotions in a row means they have the winning mentality in place and striker Rickie Lambert knows where the net is, scoring an incredible 87 goals for the Saints in the past three seasons.

The boss

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger might be called The Professor, but he knows it’s not rocket science winning the Premier League: it’s tougher than that

Last season was hard for Arsenal but you still finished third. Were you happy?
We believed we were capable of winning trophies. We didn’t achieve that, so I cannot say it was a spectacular season. But we lost only two of the last 16 League games and went on a fantastic run. In the end we finished with 70 points which is respectable. And we’ve qualified for the Champions League for the 15th consecutive year. Of course we are very proud of that, especially with the season having started how it did.

The start wasn’t ideal…
We had a very difficult transfer market right until the last second of the window. Then we had a hard start to the league with a lot of scepticism surrounding the team. We lost four of our opening seven games and were in 17th position in September. I am very proud of the character we showed to turn things around. We were deeply tested and we did not show any weakness, kept united and in the end came back. It is a good lesson for everybody.

What goals are you setting at Emirates Stadium this season?
The priority is again to fight for the title and Champions League. To finish the season as high as possible and try and win the League. It is as simple as that. The competition is of a high level and many aspire to that so let’s continue to play the game the way we want to play it. I believe we can show we can compete. Our ambitions are exactly the same in Europe.

What’s the bare minimum Arsenal needs to achieve for it not to be a failure?
There are two basic trophies for me that signify a team’s quality in England – the Premier League and the Champions League. We want to win and believe we can with the resources available to us and with our approach.

Can Arsenal realistically compete with Chelsea and Man City now?
Firstly, I must say that not being able to match the spending of the richest clubs does not mean you can’t compete with them on the pitch. When I first came to England, this question did not exist. Every club was run within its resources. The Chelseas and the Man Citys are new problems. But with this new financial environment, what has not changed at all is our policy that we will be as ambitious as ever and spend the money that we have available, if possible in an intelligent and wise way. We have always spent money because we are ambitious for top-class players and if you look at the history of our past 15 years,
we have always had top-class players. It does not mean you can’t win the title if you can’t compete financially.

What impact do you think the new Financial Fair Play rules will have on both the wider football market and Arsenal’s success?
We need first to see how effectively Financial Fair Play can be enforced before we can fully understand the impact but I believe it will make for a more exciting Premier League. When you look at the history of England, Nottingham Forest, Aston Villa and Derby County have all won championships. If that is possible again it will be even more interesting. If the rules are introduced, it will be a massive advantage to Arsenal Football Club, of course, and we will be well positioned for that. I don’t want to go into excuses but you want a business to be run properly and I believe if you lose £150 million a year, you don’t deserve a lot of credit to win a competition. I think it is right that you balance your books – to accept the one basic principle for every company – and that’s that you spend the money which you make. That principle just seems to be a common sense and logical one.

What plans do you have in the coming weeks to strengthen your squad?
We have already brought Lukas Podolski in. He’s a top-class forward, a great finisher and has won 100 caps for Germany. He is a very strong player and will provide us with good attacking options – so we are very pleased with that signing. I won’t say any more than that at the moment but we are always looking to add quality to our squad.

And you’ve signed Oliver Giroud.
He has a very good physical presence and is exceptional in the air, with a great work ethic. He will add an additional dimension to our attacking options next season. Giroud has proved he is capable of performing at the top level with club and country, and we saw what a big influence he was in Montpellier’s championship winning side last season.

Have you ever doubted your football philosophy and contemplated adapting your particular style of play?
I would say we are a bit more controlled and less cavalier. We are less adventurous when the job is done, I must say. For me the important thing is to act with style, with class and with forward-thinking. But there’s one quality maybe that I rate above any of them – the club has always known to be brave. Since I’ve been here – and certainly before that too – the club has had courage and that is an underrated quality. In a big club you need to be extremely brave. Why? Because the pressure is bigger, because the media is always around you and because the drive for results is so big. Every defeat is a disaster. So to make the right decisions, you need to be brave.

The captain

Manchester City skipper Vincent Kompany on winning the title for City after 44 years and how they intend to retain it this season

Take us through the emotions of winning the Premier League
To win the title in the last five minutes of the game was just crazy. At the time, I’m not sure we actually believed it. We all knew we were capable of being the champions, but I don’t think we ever anticipated such a dramatic finish.

After Sergio Aguero’s winning goal, I don’t quite remember what happened. Did you think the title was Man Utd’s?
Throughout the entire season, the team always believed we were capable of winning the Premier League. In the last half of the final game, I never gave up hope, but equally, I could never have imagined such an unlikely comeback.

Where did you celebrate afterwards?
We celebrated as a team then with our families and with our friends. It’s an incredible achievement, one that I have dreamed of since childhood, so it was very special to celebrate with people who really matter.

What was the open bus tour around Manchester like?
The parade was truly a privilege and an amazing celebration. It is also very humbling to see the fans and feel their enthusiasm. We worked very hard this season, but the fans have waited a long time for this trophy.

Which do you think will be harder – winning the Premier League last season or winning it again this season? Did you feel the pressure of securing City’s first title in 44 years?
At this point, we are no longer thinking about last season. We are looking ahead – at this coming season and further into the future. We are motivated to achieve more and with such a talented squad, we are capable of it. In the short term, a strong pre-season is very important.

Mancini has signed a new five-year contract, does that bring you stability in the dressing room?
I’ve always said what we are doing at Manchester City is a long-term project. With the manager signing a new contract, it demonstrates to the players he is committed, as we are, to creating a world-class football club that our fans and community can be proud of.

Which striker are you most looking forward to marking next season?
There are many great players in the Premier League but it’s fantastic to see more and more Belgium talent breaking through. I’m looking forward to playing against a friend I play with in the national team, Eden Hazard, and also Marouane Fellaini at Everton.

Is it true you’re a part-time student at Manchester Business School and studying Business Administration? Does that mean you won’t go into management after you stop playing?
Yes it is and my studies are something I am doing just for myself really. It isn’t about preparing for life after football. What’s more, it’s an outlet which helps create balance now, during my football career.

You’re an official FIFA ambassador for registered charity SOS Children’s Villages. What kind of work do you do for the charity?
At SOS Children’s Village, we believe children can only develop to their full potential if they have a supportive and protective family environment. We work to make this a reality. Our mission is to build families for children in need – and help them shape their own futures and help their communities develop.

You’ve got almost half a million followers on Twitter. How do you find talking with the fans online?
The best thing about Twitter is that it allows you to interact with the people that really matter directly – the fans. It’s nice to have some of the City lads on Twitter too, which means the banter carries on throughout the day after training.

Get free membership for Sky Blue, the official Man City scheme in the UAE, with benefits such as big game screening events, at www.skyblue.mcfc.com

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