Jigar Shah believes that the Premier League title race isn't as predictable as many think it is...
We are only 6 weeks into the start of the new premier league season and Michael Ballack is already predicting the fate of Premier League. At a recent press conference, the German mid-fielder was in a mood to share his ‘gyan’ on the various Premier League clubs and was quick to suggest that premier league is a ‘two-horse race’ i.e Chelsea and Manchester United.
Michael Ballack may have his own theory for making such an assessment, but I believe it is too early to fancy any team as clear favorites or branding premier league a ‘Two-Horse title race’, especially after Chelsea dropping points at the weekend. Bravo! What a performance from the Latics. From perennial underdogs to stunning winners, an incredible way to register your first win over ‘Big Four’ in 35 games, and yes, who would have predicted that score line! Chelsea’s defeat shows that the Blues are not ‘invincible’ and this defeat throws premier league title race wide open.
Last season Manchester United repeated a hat-trick of winning Premier League, previously winning three consecutive league titles during the period 1998-99 to 2000-01. Manchester United have always been a team to beat in the premier league. They have already won 11 out of 17 premier league titles, which clearly reflect their dominance in the Premier League. So can I say premier league is one horse race? Certainly not!
In the last few years, English Premier League has always been a battle among four clubs – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United. I am sure, with the emergence of mega-cash rich club Manchester City, there will be more drama and excitement in store for the premier league fans across the world. In fact, few managers, including Martin O’Neill reckons that the Premier League Big Four is now a Big Five!
There is another prognosis, as some section of the fans and experts reiterate that premier league is a battle among two clubs i.e Chelsea and Manchester United. Have a glance at league standings: Chelsea and Manchester United have the same number of points (18) and Liverpool and Spurs are three points a drift from the league leader. Manchester City is fifth on the league table (15 points) with one game in hand and Arsenal is sixth on the league standing (12 points) with one game in hand as well. This elucidates that there is very little to choose between these clubs, at this juncture.
I know Chelsea have been ruthless since the start of the season, but their weekend loss confirms the fact that they too have weaknesses. Even Manchester United has experienced a shock defeat at the hands of Burnley, which suggest that they can be defeated as well.
This shows that the gap between Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City, is not big enough to say that premier league is a ‘Two-Horse title Race’. The aura of invincibility, no longer exists in the premier league which makes the league far more interesting and exciting to watch.
The Blues have a very strong team, going forward; they possess powerful forwards like Didier Drogba and last season top goal scorer Nicolas Anelka. Chelsea probably has perhaps one of the best ever assembled world class midfield with Michael Essien, Michael Ballack, Frank Lampard, John Obi Mikel and Deco. The midfield is backed by world class backline consisting of Ashley Cole, Jose Bosingwa, Ricardo Carvalho and John Terry. Chelsea certainly has the edge, but they are not clear favorites to win the premier league.
On the other hand, the Red Devils have lost European Player of the Year, Cristiano Ronaldo, who played an instrumental role during the last three seasons with Manchester United, and the Argentine ace Carlos Tevez during the summer. It will be difficult to replace a player like Cristiano Ronaldo, and a lot will depend upon players like Wayne Rooney, Nani, Dimitar Berbatov, Michael Owen and veterans like Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs. One thing that favors the Red Devils is their experience, consistency, never-say-dying attitude and the most important of all - Sir Alex Ferguson. He is the mastermind behind the tremendous success that Manchester United has enjoyed over 20 years.
I believe teams like Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City, has the repertoire and quality to compete with Chelsea and Manchester United. It will be a crime to underestimate these teams and leave them out from the premier league title race.
For instance, teams like Arsenal has to start performing consistency and develop a winning mentality, especially grinding out 1-0 victories, like they did over Fulham at the weekend.
Liverpool has a fabulous squad, but it will be difficult to replace someone like Xabi Alonso, in the heart of the mid-field, which might prove very costly for them this season. Much will depend on their Captain Steven Gerrard and priceless striker Fernando Torres, who is in the form of his life.
Mega cash rich Manchester City have already had a fabulous start and have demonstrated they can compete against big teams (after their performance against Manchester United and Arsenal) and will surely be a dominant force in the premier league.
To conclude, Chelsea looks to have the edge; Manchester United remains a team to beat, Arsenal back to their free-flowing football, Liverpool relishing their superb goal scoring form and Manchester City has the depth and quality to grind out the results which makes the premier league very exiting and competitive.
If I had the money, I would not dare to place a bet on any team; because in football anything can happen, and it’s too early to predict or forecast the fate of the premier league.
The Premier League is an open race!
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