Adam Bostock takes a personal look at the league season ahead...
So there you have it. The first trophy of 2009/10 is Chelsea’s but what did Sunday’s colourful clash really tell us about the new term?
Well, for one, I stand corrected on the issue of who United’s main challengers are likely to be. It wasn’t that I had dismissed Chelsea, but I certainly hadn’t bought into the hype that seems to have been building around the Blues since the end of last season.
I’m perhaps over-sensitive to London-based hacks bigging up their local boys – for example, has a team ever been eulogised in print quite like Arsenal’s Invincibles? Hats off, that was some achievement, to go the full league season unbeaten but some of the back-page prose about Pires, Henry, Bergkamp and co was a bit OTT for me.
Chelsea weren’t the team I was worried about. Yes, they had appointed a coach who’d twice won the Champions League, Abramovich’s Holy Grail, during his time with Milan but Carlo Ancelotti’s domestic record isn’t one to shout about. And without a "marquee signing", to quote their chairman Bruce Buck, I couldn’t see the Blues improving on last season's third place.
Having thought about it - and I promise this isn’t a knee-jerk reaction to them winning the Community Shield, it was only on penalties after all - I see the fact that Chelsea haven’t changed anything this summer, bar their boss, as a potentially big advantage. No departures = a settled and, let’s be honest, powerful squad + a manager that might last the full season = title challengers.
Liverpool, on the other hand, have gone down in my estimation. Not for their abysmal pre-season results - they lost to Atletico Madrid on Saturday, with D-i-e-g-o Forlan scoring the winner at Anfield - but for their sale of Xabi Alonso.
Rafa Benitez’s squad still isn’t deep enough to adequately cover for the