How will the business end of the Premiership unfold?
Unlike previous years the traditional quartet of Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool will not be jostling at the top end of the table. This is due to poor seasons by the standards of Chelsea and Liverpool who have generally been right at the centre of the action come the last game of the season. However placed a distant fourth and sixth position respectively both Chelsea and Liverpool will only be hoping for European football next season all hope of the title having long gone for these to stalwarts of English football.
There are a few major things that teams will be striving to achieve and avoid in obvious cases. These are the race for the Premiership title, Champions League positions for next year, Europa League positions for next year and perhaps most exciting at this stage of time the relegation battle which will be bitterly contested by all involved at the end of the season.
The race for the Premiership is slowly becoming a two horse race between Arsenal and Manchester United who are six and ten points ahead of their nearest rival Manchester City. Both teams no doubt will continue the strong football that they have played so far this season. However the question is whether one of these two contenders will stumble and fall or whether both teams will carry on performing and fighting till the end of the season. Arsene Wenger heard the first strains of discontent from the previously unquestioning Arsenal support last season after four years without a trophy. Is potential now simply a cover for under-achievement at the Emirates?
With the recent Carling Cup upset Arsene Wenger and the fans will be sure to want a strong finish to the end of the season and the trophy to end the barren spell. Sir Alex Ferguson will have a glint in his eye as sets his sights on a fourth successive Premier League and passing Liverpool’s record of 18 titles. The title is United’s to be lost as it so often has been, will Ferguson be able to steer the ship of Manchester United FC to safety? Only the coming weeks will tell.
Two of the Champions League positions are more or less confirmed, the battle for the last two will be between Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham. The poor season Chelsea have had has surprised many, however the underlying talent and experience means that Chelsea are not out of the running by a long shot! Man City’s strong performance this year seems to suggest they will continue in this vain. The battle will be between the mercurial Tottenham and Chelsea.
The Europa League positions will most likely be contested by Tottenham and Liverpool. Tottenham’s season has been one of mixed performances winning some big matches but at the same time losing some of their more straightforward fixtures. After Liverpool’s brilliant performance two seasons ago they would not have envisioned themselves fighting for a Europa League position, however after the torrid start to their season and managerial difficulties a place in the Europa league will be settled for.
The anxiety and anguish faced by those teams who are in the relegation battle will be felt once more this year. The spread of points this year has fallen in such a way that a lot more teams are involved in the battle this year. The main antagonists are Wigan, West Ham and Wolves who have all struggled to find form from the start of the season. Defeats against Bolton and United seem to have secured Wigan as an almost certainty to go down.
A great win against Liverpool from West Ham have moved them off the bottom but West Ham seem to follow up every great victory with a disappointing performance. Wolves will also need a strong performance to stave off relegation, such results as the 4-0 drumming against Blackpool will help them do this. The relegation battle is ever changing by its very nature so other teams such as Birmingham and West Brom may find themselves in the drop zone come the end of the season.
All these issues are still left to be decided and leave us the spectators with a lot of football to watch and speculate as always!