Keane ridicules Arsenal
LONDON — Arsenal are not capable of winning the Premier League title this season because they have too many players interested in selfies and six-packs rather than winning football matches, according to former Manchester United captain Roy Keane.
Keane, a fire and brimstone midfielder, won seven Premier League titles as a player and enjoyed a particularly competitive relationship with Arsenal and their similarly combative captain Patrick Viera.
The current Ireland assistant manager, however, said he saw little in the current Gunners side to convince him that they are poised for a first league title since their Vieraled ‘Invincibles’ team in 2004.
“Arsenal have some really good players – some good characters who roll their sleeves up,” Keane told the Mail on Sunday.
“But they also have one or two players who are more interested in selfies and six-packs, guys who are trying to get their pictures taken every day of the week.
“Every year we hear the same thing about Arsenal being contenders. Instead of focusing on the Premier League, it’s all about how their bodies look, how their hair is, more so than winning football matches.”
Arsenal, under manager Arsene Wenger, have become one of the most dazzling attacking sides in Europe but a perceived lack of leadership has undermined their ability to make a sustained title challenge for a number of years.
Back-to-back FA Cup triumphs ended their nine-year trophy drought but for too long the north Londoners have not been relevant during the intense 38-game toil of a Premier League season.
Last season, under Jose Mourinho, Chelsea – built around a strong spine of hard-working, physical players — stifled their closest rivals to canter to the league title and Keane said the Stamford Bridge side remained the benchmark in the upcoming season.
“For me, Chelsea remain the team to beat,” the 43-year-old added. “Their team is the one with the strongest spine — John Terry, their goalkeeper (Thibault Courtois), Eden Hazard – and if they can add (Everton’s England defender) John Stones to their team then they will be even harder to beat.
“The bottom line is that if Chelsea’s players show the same hunger and desire that they did last year then they’ll win the league. They will only be in trouble if they are complacent.”
Meanwhile, the Premier League is undoubtedly one of the most exciting in world football but as it embarks on its 24th season on 8 August, is it also becoming one of the most predictable?
Last term only Newcastle United and Everton, both of whom dropped down the table, moved more than four places either way, while two of the three promoted clubs went straight back down.
Clubs outside the top six will aim to avoid relegation which will be more important than ever with a lucrative three-year domestic television deal, worth over five billion pounds ($7.77 billion), starting in 12 months’ time.
Overseas TV rights will add half as much again, making the struggle to stay up intense.
While the usual suspects are expected to contest the title, however, none of them have managed to win it for two years in a row since Manchester United completed a hat-trick in 2009 under Alex Ferguson.
Since the Scot retired in 2013, the Old Trafford club have not been in serious contention to add to their record 20 championships, finishing seventh and fourth.
They have spent vast amounts of money in that time, with only mixed success, and during the close season Louis van Gaal has continued to revamp his squad.
Germany captain Bastian Schweinsteiger from Bayern Munich and Southampton’s Frenchman Morgan Schneiderlin will improve the midfield options and allow the Dutchman to use Wayne Rooney in his best position, further forward.
By the end of the season Rooney should have overtaken Bobby Charlton’s records as record scorer for England and United.
He will be more interested in whether United have regained the title from Chelsea, who led the table from the third match of last season and finished eight points clear of the previous season’s champions Manchester City.
On the day in May that Jose Mourinho’s side made sure they could not be caught, television pundit and former United defender Gary Neville told viewers, “the rest are absolutely miles behind this Chelsea team”.
United, City, Arsenal and Liverpool will all believe they have reduced the gap after a transfer window in which the champions have so far been comparatively quiet.
Other than bringing in Asmir Begovic from Stoke to replace Petr Cech as second-choice goalkeeper, Mourinho’s only notable signing has been Colombia striker Radamel Falcao, who failed to live up to his reputation at United last season.
He impressed Chelsea’s captain John Terry when scoring a hat-trick against the London club for Atletico Madrid in the 2012 Uefa Super Cup final and, like United, they have now taken him on loan from Monaco, while hoping for a better return.
City scored 10 goals more than Chelsea last season and hope to outscore them again after paying a fee that could rise to 49 million pounds for England’s Raheem Sterling.
Their total of 83 goals was 31 more than Liverpool, which explains why Brendan Rodgers made forwards his priority and signed Christian Benteke from Aston Villa, Hoffenheim’s Brazil striker Roberto Firmino and Danny Ings from relegated Burnley.
Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger has felt less need to strengthen a squad that retained the FA Cup and returned to the top three, although experienced former Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech will doubtless save them plenty of points.
Newcomers Watford, Bournemouth and Norwich City will inevitably be tipped as relegation fodder but Villa, Sunderland and Leicester City, all heavily involved in the scrap to avoid the drop last term, cannot expect much more than mere survival.
Fixtures Aug 8: Man U v Spur, Norwich v Crystal Palace, Everton v Watford, Leicester v Sunderland,
Bournemouth v Aston Villa, Chelsea v Swansea.
Aug 9: Arsenal v West Ham, Newcastle v Southampton, Stoke v Liverpool.
Aug 10: West Brom v Man City. — Reuters
Alex Oxlade-chamberlain jumps for joy after scoring Arsenal’s only goal against Chelsea on Sunday.