The English Premier League: season thus far
Posted by Sports Snob on December 29, 2006
Its just past the halfway stage, but a few things are already pretty obvious.
Title: A two horse race
The title race is a duopoly, with Manchester United having the upper hand and Chelsea having serious problems at the back without John Terry. It is the exact opposite at United who have strong back up in defence, but are lacking in quality replacements in midfield and attack. Both these problems should be addressed when the transfer window opens. My prediction, a Chelsea hattrick of titles mainly due to the firepower they have in the squad. Classic case was last weekend when Chelsea and Man U played Everton and West Ham respectively. Chelsea brought on Kalou and Sheva while Man U brought on O’Shea to replace Giggs. Also given the amount of money that Chelsea have, a replacement defender for John Terry will not be too tough to find.
It’s going to be interesting to see the impact that Henrik Larsson has on the United squad. And what happens if he is a success? Is there a clause that lets him stay on till the end of the season? Also, will the whole Owen Hargreaves saga will come to an end? Hargreaves should cost upwards of 12 million pounds and this signing might mean that United wont have cash for any other signing.
Two confirmed, the third unpredictable
The other almost sure occurrence is the relegation of Watford and Charlton. Watford are putting up a fight, but that does not seem enough. Frankly, they haven’t been scoring enough goals and it remains to be seen what happens to Adrian Boothroyd if they get relegated.
Charlton have some quality (Hasselbaink, Rommedahl, Darren Bent have decent pedigree), but given they way they have been performing, any number of new managers will not change what has been happening. It’s going to be interesting to see the sort of impact that Pardew has on the squad. Of course he can’t make any new signings as Iain Dowie had spent next year’s transfer money as well.
The third team to get relegated is the most exciting part of the league for the neutrals and will cause the most tension to the supporters of the clubs in contention. Could be any of West Ham, Sheffield, Blackburn, Boro, Wigan, Man City, Fulham, Newcastle or Aston Villa. Just 7 points separates all these teams, so its just a question of a couple of wins or a couple of losses to be right back into the relegation “dogfight”. The other factor that makes this part of the table interesting is the unpredictability of these teams. On their day, they surely can beat the top of the table teams (Boro vs Chelsea, Blackburn vs Pool, West Ham vs Man U, Man City vs Arse etc).
The fight for Europe will be between the usual suspects Liverpool, Arsenal now challenged by the improving Spurs, the surprise of the season, Portsmouth and the team that introduced 4-5-1 to the EPL, the abrasive Bolton. Should be a good battle. Liverpool and Arsenal are still the favourites for the Champions League spots, but just when they seem to be getting into a winning run, they encounter a speed breaker in the form of a draw or a defeat.
Reading and Everton should be comfortably mid-table, a fair achievement for Reading. Everton owe a lot to their manager, David Moyes and after years of unstability, Everton finally seem to be settling down.
Goal of the season: Mathew Taylor against Everton
Honourable mention: Drogba against Everton again (is it something to do with Tim Howard? )
My team of the season so far: (4-4-2)
Keeper: Ben Foster (one of the few shining lights of the Watford team)
Defence: Steve Finnan, Nemanja Vidic, John Terry, Leighton Baines (of Wigan)
Midfield: Christiano Ronaldo, Joey Barton, Tim Cahill, Gareth Barry
Strikers: Drogba, Kanu
(Read the Author’s blog here)
Z’s team (3-5-2)
Keeper: David “calamity” James (who would have thought!)
Defence: , Vidic, Campbell, Terry
Midfield: Ronaldo, Gilberto, Essien, Scholes, Barry
Strikers: Drogba, Kanu