The new season kicked-off yesterday and there was no shortage of talking points. Ahead of the opening Premier League fixtures just about every leading neutral pundit (Bob Wilson, Paddy Crerand and Paul Lake don't count) had written-off Arsenal and big-spending Manchester City (I use the term neutrality advisedly, because it is a rarity where punditry is concerned - as Alan Green would no doubt concur - more on him later)...
Arsenal haven't won a trophy since 2005 and of the accepted top four English clubs many "experts" have been claiming that Arsene Wenger is the manager most likely to come under pressure following the loss of Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Toure. Lack of silverware in the Gunners trophy cabinet has unsettled some supporters, it's not surprising because many fans had become used to regular success, but that was prior to the arrival of Roman Abramovich, whose multi-millions have ensured Chelsea have finished in the top-two places of the Premier League four times out of the last five - who says money can't buy success?
On Saturday and with few expecting fireworks, aside from the oh so very predictable mixed reaction given to Manchester City transfer target Joeloen Lescott, it turned out to be a complete rout as Arsenal thrashed Everton 6-1 at Goodison Park. BBC 5-live 'ABU' commentator Alan Green pointed out that he'd not seen a ground empty so quickly since Liverpool hammered Manchester United 4-1 at Old Trafford last season - and he really DID emphasise the word hammered... (Nice early dig Alan).
As for Manchester City, no one is actually sure of the whereabouts of the keys to their trophy cabinet, it hasn't been opened for so long. However, with limitless funds at his disposal and following a summer in which Mark Hughes has upset just about every leading manager in England with his dogged pursuit of his top transfer-targets from rival clubs and several astute signings expectations have rarely been higher.
For City fans, success isn't judged on how many trophies their team has won in a season or even a decade or three - only one thing matters - how many points they can win in the Manchester derby and it's been like that pretty much forever.
For United fans, up and until this season Liverpool were considered bigger rivals, at least on the pitch at any rate. However, with Fergie taking time out recently to tell City exactly how small a club they are, you wondered if the great man is more than a little bit worried about the prospect of facing what looks like being a serious threat. Because if yesterday's performance is any sort of indicator of what might lie ahead then it looks like City will indeed be genuine contenders for one of those top four places this season.
City won two-nil away at Blackburn, which is no mean feat given Ewood Park isn't always a happy hunting ground for either of the Manchester clubs. The scoreline wasn't particularly impressive, but the performance of what is essentially a new team was polished and despite Shay Given being called into action more than once when making good saves, it was City who were by far the better team. Former Liverpool transfer target Gareth Barry was at the heart of everything that was good about City's midfield and his link-up play with Ireland worked extremely well. With the very real danger of being subjected to the wrath of angry United fans, City look like a very useful outfit, with no apparent weaknesses in their team, aside from possibly Richard Dunn...
United and Liverpool kick-off the season later today when facing Birmingham (h) and Tottenham (a) respectively and many will be wondering if they can start the season with a win to match City, Arsenal and Chelsea, who had to rely on an injury time winner from Drogba against Hull City.