HARARE – The past 48 hours have been one of those moments in a football season us fanatics of the game live for.
The newsroom was abuzz on Wednesday with colleagues scrambling for the Castle Premiership log standings following Dynamos’ shock 4-2 defeat to Hwange at the Colliery.
It is expected. The Glamour Boys are loved and hated with the same passion, and indeed the news from Hwange sparked some kind of celebration in the office, greeted with a sharp retort by those from the blue-and-white camp, to the effect that at least their team was still top of the log.
But more significantly, Hwange’s thrashing of Dynamos has thrown the title race wide open, with second-placed Highlanders – DeMbare’s closest challengers in the last two seasons – now just a point behind the greatest rivals.
Harare City and CAPS United are following closely behind, but City have not been consistent enough to mount a strong challenge while United, sadly, might be weighed down by internal issues in their camp. Our exclusive interview with their coach Taurai Mangwiro today (see back page) does not paint a good picture.
All taken into account, with eight games to go, a lot can still change at the top, and this can only be good for the league and Zimbabwean football in general.
Away from home, the dramatic start to the English Premiership has also sent tongues wagging, with Manchester United’s awkward start to their BPL title defence and Arsenal’s sizzling opening to the season dominating debate.
It has been a turbulent opening period for United under new manager David Moyes, but I do not doubt that with Wayne Rooney and Robin Persie in their midst, two of the finest forwards in Europe, the record English champions will react well at some stage in the season.
Whether that reaction will be good enough to secure another title, and depending on when it will happen, only time will tell.
Whatever outcome, I am particularly excited about the developments coming out of the Emirates.
Questions have been raised about whether Arsene Wenger’s team can go all the way, with the team’s depth being a cause for concern.
I was one of those concerned about the nature of the club’s thin squad at the beginning of the season, but those fears are slowly being erased, and I have my reasons for this optimism.
Here is a scenario; Arsenal’s biggest guns have not quite started firing on all cylinders, yet the team find itself in such a good position early on in the season.
When the season began, who would have had Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud among the club’s key players, yet these two alone have literally propelled the team to where it is now.
Mesut Ozil is a midfielder of genuine quality and his assists have been a source of a large chunk of our goals so far in the season, but you get this feeling he has not yet shifted into top gear. The slick German will be unplayable when he starts to exploit all his talents.
Jack Wilshere is another obvious key player who has not yet joined the party and can still burst once he regains full fitness.
Wilshere, alongside fellow midfielder Mikael Arteta and Tomas Rosicky returned from injury in the midweek Champions League win over Napoli, but the team has continued to do well without Theo Walcott, who can also be a thorn in the side of the opposition.
And when you consider that attackers Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Santi Carzola are still side lined and lined-up for a comeback, Gooners do have reason to believe.
What of Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester City?
Well, Chelsea have on paper the most balanced squad in the league, and a very, very good manager in Jose Mourinho. They will however kick themselves for sending Romelu Lukaku back on loan, only for the Belgian to hit the ground running at Everton while Fernando Torres and Samuel Eto’o have been a shadow of their old selves save for occasional flashes of brilliance.
Liverpool will be in with a good shout if Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez stay fit and they maintain their concentration.
City and Spurs spent big, but Andreas Villas-Boas and Manuel Pellegrini will be hard-pressed to make their teams gel. If they fail, their investments will count for nothing.
What a season it promises to be.