Monday, 12 November 2012

Premier League Title Contenders So Far

by Neil Chhabda

It’s almost a third of the way through the Premier League season and this is without a doubt, one of the most exciting and closely contested seasons in history. The gap between  first and third place is just four points and the battle for the fourth place, the last Champion’s League spot, is hotly contested, with six teams targeting Europe’s most exciting competition. The battle to avoid relegation is also tight, with five points (less than two wins) separating last place and the safe seventeenth place. Everything so far suggests that the season will only get more competitive and exciting and although nothing is set in stone, there only a few teams that could realistically win the Premier League.
Van Persie
Manchester United remain at the top of the table and with their current form, and particularly that of Van Persie, who leads the Premier League scoring charts with an exceptional 8 goals in 10 games, they are looking like genuine title contenders. Sir Alex Ferguson is probably the best manager in the Premier League; having managed Manchester United for 26 Years and having won 19 Premier Leagues, he knows how to get the job done. Despite Manchester United’s attacking talent, the club have struggled defensively, having gone two goals down to Aston Villa at the weekend and having conceded 18 goals in 11 games. If they can solve their defensive problems, perhaps by signing a new player in the January Transfer Window, and continue their current form, it would be extremely tough for any team to stop them from winning the title.
Edin Dzeko
Two points behind in second place are United’s cross town neighbours Manchester City. City are so far unbeaten in the League and despite their dismal form in the Champions League are looking strong. They missed out on the big names in the summer Transfer Window; they signed promising youngsters Scott Sinclair and Jack Rodwell as well as defensive midfielder Javi Garcia. City have been in good form, but their strikers are not scoring goals, apart from super-sub Edin Dzeko who has scored some very late winners, such as this weekend against Spurs. They have also conceded 16 goals in 11 games and they lack defensive responsibility. City do boast a very strong attacking line-up and if world-class strikers Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez (and Mario Balotelli) can find form, and increase defensive responsibility, there is a good chance City would win the title two years in a row.
Juan Mata
The third and last Premier League title contenders are Chelsea. Despite being first for most of the season so far, the London club find themselves in third and three points from first place after a disappointing draw with Liverpool at home. They do have plenty of things going for them though. Defensively, they are much more solid than the Manchester Clubs and have conceded 5 fewer goals. Gary Cahill and David Luiz have formed a good pairing in the continual absence of Captain John Terry although the consistency of Luiz continues to be in doubt. Chelsea also have a decent centre midfield with the amazing stamina of Ramires, although Frank Lampard is ageing at 33 and John Obi Mikel is prone to lapses in concentration. Chelsea’s biggest threats come from their attacking midfield, which has, in my opinion, the two best attacking midfielders in Eden Hazard and Juan Mata. On their day, these two are unstoppable. Juan Mata simply decimated Tottenham and Arsenal at the away fixtures while Eden Hazard recorded four man-of-the-match appearances in his first four games. As much as it pains me to say this, Chelsea’s biggest weakness is the inconsistency of Fernando Torres. He had a strong start to the season and after fine performances against Newcastle and Arsenal he has struggled. However if he can find his feet again and Chelsea continue to maintain their initially strong defence, they too could win the Premier League this season.
In my opinion these three are the only teams that could win it this season. Tottenham, who finished fourth last season are 10 points behind United, and Arsenal who finished third last season are 11 points behind. West Brom and Everton who are in fourth and fifth place respectively are seven points behind United but realistically they lack squad depth and are relatively inexperienced this high up the table. Liverpool haven’t come close to winning the Premier League for many seasons now and this is unlikely to change seeing as they are in thirteenth place. Like the top three, Arsenal and Tottenham have some world-class talent in Players like Gareth Bale and Santi Cazorla but this season, they are lacking in spirit.
Conclusively, I believe that the top three will rotate, but the teams will remain the same. I would like Chelsea to win the title but realistically I believe Manchester United will come first due to their amazing attacking talent, Chelsea will come second with their fresh, exciting, and technically skilled young talents and City will come third due to the underperformance of their strikers and their defensive vulnerabilities. I do argue that no other teams can really challenge for the title, but who knows? This is the most exciting and unpredictable league in the world.

See Thomas Penlington's alternative Premier League predictions here.

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