English Premier League

Shortened transfer window, World Cup hangover marks start of Premier League season

As Manchester United kick the season off against Leicester, Manchester City are still seen as favourites for the title followed by Liverpool.

There is little time for the Premier League’s stars to shake off a World Cup hangover as less than a month on from Russia’s summer showpiece, the chase to catch champions Manchester City begins in earnest on Friday.

On top of the quick turnaround from the World Cup, a shortened transfer window that closes 24 hours before the season kicks off has left many sides scrambling at the last minute to strengthen their squads, none more so than Manchester United.

The Red Devils raise the curtain on the campaign at home to Leicester on Friday night hoping to put a troubled pre-season dominated by manager Jose Mourinho’s outbursts behind them.

Mourinho has rounded on the club’s hierarchy for failing to sufficiently strengthen in his opinion despite the signings of Brazilian international midfielder Fred and Portuguese full-back Diogo Dalot.

As United dither, Liverpool have emerged as second favourites for the title behind City after splashing over £170 million ($220 million) on goalkeeper Alisson and midfielders Fabinho, Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri.

“The other clubs who compete with us are really strong and already have fantastic teams. Or they are investing massively like Liverpool, who are buying everything and everybody,” warned Mourinho.

“If we don’t make our team better it will be a difficult season for us.”

United are further hamstrung with a host of key players including Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford involved in the later stages of the World Cup limiting their pre-season preparations.

Fast start for Liverpool?

By contrast, Liverpool are well-placed to hit the ground running ahead of Sunday’s kick-off at home to West Ham as Virgil van Dijk, Keita and Fabinho missed out on the World Cup, while Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane bowed out at the group stage with Egypt and Senegal.

Jurgen Klopp’s men demonstrated their ability to beat City on the big occasion last season, winning three of the four meetings between the sides, including a 5-1 aggregate win in the Champions League quarter-finals.

However, they finished 25 points back in the league as Pep Guardiola’s men romped to the title with a record 100 points.

“The players from last year are responsible for the excitement, and then we brought in a few new players as an icing on the cake,” said Klopp on the club’s promising pre-season tour in the States.

“It’s not just that we have to be more consistent, we have to create circumstances where we can be more consistent,” he added. “Nobody is consistent with 11 players. What we are working on is the depth of the squad because you need it.”

City still favourites

City haven’t dipped into the deep pockets of their Abu Dhabi owners as significantly as Guardiola’s first two summers in charge, but have still strengthened with club record signing Riyad Mahrez.

No side since United nine years ago have retained the title with Chelsea twice and Leicester failing to even make the top four in past three seasons.

Despite missing a host of World Cup stars, City looked in ominous form as they dismissed Chelsea 2-0 to lift the Community Shield at the weekend but face a tough start as Arsenal begin the post-Arsene Wenger era at the Emirates on Sunday.

Unai Emery has enjoyed the luxury of having most of his squad available for pre-season with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette forming a fearsome front four.

Chelsea also have a new boss but are already playing catch-up with Maurizio Sarri only appointed a month before the start of the campaign.

However, the Blues swung into action late Wednesday when they agreed to sell goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to Real Madrid in a deal which paved the way for Athletic Bilbao ‘keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga to move to Stamford Bridge on a seven-year deal worth an estimated £71 million.

Kepa becomes the most expensive goalkeeper of all time.

In contrast to the change across London, Tottenham Hotspur have yet to add a single signing ahead of their first season in a new 62,000 capacity stadium.

Yet, based on the World Cup performances of Golden Boot winner Harry Kane, Hugo Lloris and Christian Eriksen among others, there is still plenty for Mauricio Pochettino to look forward to.

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.