The days of top four certainty are over for English clubs. The top four that was once Arsenal, Chelsea, LIverpool and Manchester United has disspated with the demise of Liverpool and United. This year we have seen the resurgence of both sides wanting to be included in Europes elite competition. This year deciding who will be in the top four will not be a formality, with even Arsenal in doubt having been there every year under Arsene Wenger. For me there are five teams in contention with Chelsea and City having already secured their position fighting it out for the league title. What makes the battle for Champions league even more interesting is that 5 points splits the teams. I’ll not go into definitive positions but who’s in and who’s not getting the much coverted Champions League football.
Arsenal and Liverpool for me will be the teams that find themselves in the top four come the end of the season. Unfortuantely that means Manchester United, Southampton and Tottenham will miss out and I’ll tell you why. Manchester United have been performing poorly all season but, have found themslves in and amongst the race for European football. In my opinion their luck is about to run out and rightly so, no team deserves to be this high up the table having yet to turn up properly. As for Southampton they began the season fantasically but, have began to peter off now. Most likely due to the volume of games and players tiring as Southampton lack a depth in squad. Tottenham have been fortuante enough to find themselves a goal machine in Harry Kane who has been superb all year. Had they put him in the team earlier in the season perhaps, they would be far closer to securing a second stint in the Champions League.
Arsenal under Wenger have never failed to secure a top four finish and this experience will help them as the games are closing in on single figures. Wenger has come under a lot of scrutiny since the defeat to Monaco but, going out of the Champions League next week might help their league objective. Liverpool are the form side in the whole of Europe, yet to taste defeat since the turn of the year in the league. The change in formation implemented by Brendan Rodgers has rejuvenated this squad who are aiming towards the heights of last year.
If you feel like the top four will look any different to how I have suggested it will, comment down below the team that will, who they’re replacing and why.
Since Chelsea won the champions league which was only recently English teams have been seen to be struggling against the larger sides in Europe but why? For a large period of time English teams dominated the European stage on occasion hosting the four teams in the semi finals. The sudden deterioration of the top quality European sides has come as a shock to a large number of people yet the expectation to succeed has continued and is this perhaps an outdated opinion.
Having watched English teams truly struggle for the past few years I have wondered why have we taken steps back when we were once so dominant and struck fear into the hearts of the opposing teams. Some people may question the quality of teams as a whole having gone down. For me this point can not be argued because as a nation we are one of the biggest traders being involved in high valued transfers every market, so the quality does exist. This then makes us question the maturity and experience of English clubs. Manchester City have one of the oldest starting line ups on average in the competition at around 27 years of age so that shows significant playing experience. Despite the premier league being arguably the most exciting league to watch because of all the goals, we must ask why there is such a large amount of goals being scored every game.
As a nation we have lost appreciation and respect for the art of defending. Having grown up watching the likes of John Terry and Rio Ferdinand in their prime, I have become accustomed to that solid centre back who is dependable and will make game saving tackles or clearances. Looking at the sides in the champions league this year across Europe the defensive qualities of the top teams is exceedingly better than ours. Lets take each of our four teams as an example of defensive immaturity. Arsenal have a world cup winner in Mertesacker who is lacking pace and any form of coordination when running back to his own goal. We then look at Chelsea who undoubtedly have the best defence in the Barclays Premier League yet have had to play a youngster called Zouma in place of an experience centre back like Cahill who was superb last year but, has struggled this year. Liverpool this year have finally managed to resolve the defensive frailties from last year now that they no longer have a Champions league campaign that saw no real leadership or desire to defend. As for Manchester City supposedly there best player and captain Vincent Kompany has been a mere shadow of himself.
While the defensive frailties still exist English teams will not progress far into the tournaments being heavily dependent on the attacking prowess they possess because simply other teams beat them on that basis as well.
It has been on all of our minds what does Liverpool need to do to take the clubs first ever premier league title ending the drought of 24 years without a league title. Interview afetr interview with Liverpool players and manager alike have all said they are taking one game at a time a cliche in world football. Often we hear managers and players saying this as an excuse not to loom forward as not too put pressure on themselves relieving it from those competing against them.
This mantra has seen Liverpool regain the top spot in the premier league where they rightfully deserve to be since the turn of the year being undeafted in the league. In that time they have faced many a good team namely; Arsenal, Southampton, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspurs winning them all convincingly but before and after each game the mantra remained one game at a time which is becoming quite the footballing philosophy around Anfield. What this mantra means for the players; they really have one thing to look forward to not “oh we have Spurs next week” but ” we are paying Sunderland today and our main priority is the 3 points here today” this philosophy has seen the side look a lot more convincing against the smaller league side and most importantly the recently promoted sides that in previous years we have struggled greatly against. Liverpool have dispatched the majority of the smaller sides a part from the obvious hiccup against Hull City (a newlty promoted side).
Looking at only the immediate future and focussing on the next game has ensured that anything else going on outside of the club is not a distraction like the dubious claims of Jose Mourinho. Without the distractions of last years incident involving Luis’ and his ban we have remained quite quiet in terms of on and off field antics meaning there has been no particular emphasis on our players. Surprisingly the media have left Liverpool to their own devise this season without the usual speculation of our best players leaving and ownership changes. The stability of the side and club could stem from the calmness of the backroom staff who work with the players everday on and off the pitch ensuring happiness in all aspects of their life. Raheem Sterling is one who springs to mind when talking of a calming factor, as he has thanked and praised Rodgers for his help settling hiom into the side this season allowing him to express himself more freely.
The topic of football talk just lately has been largely around who will win the Barclay’s Premier League, up and down the country supporters have been debating who will eventually take the title. It’s time for you to have your say but first we need to evaluate the potential winners of the 13/14 season.
Arsenal were many people’s favorite before Christmas showing displays that could only be described as title winning. Throughout the team you could see a unity which has been lacking in previous years, this shows that the continuity within the club same staff, players and managers should be an ethos implemented by all clubs. In terms of the title challenge Arsenal have dropped off slightly; could this be due to pressure or the longevity of the season but, with no doubts in my mind will Arsenal still be pushing right to the last.
Chelsea under Mr Mourinho have been formidable winning at any cost, whether it be a scrappy 1-0 victory or just outclassing the opponents. Chelsea this season have been ruthless closing up shop after they managed to breech the opponents defenses usually resulting in a Eden Hazard goal. The young Belgian has been the bright spark for Chelsea who themselves have an array of attacking options. What has made them so successful this season is the partnership at the back between Terry and Cahill who have been superb stopping many of the leagues finest attackers.
Liverpool have been the the surprise package this season bearing in mind previous disappointments since the departure of Rafa Benitez. The allure of striking ability in the squad is unquestionable with possible the best strike partnership in Europe’s top 5 leagues. Liverpool have already surpassed their goals scored in one season with 7 games remaining which is proof of this seasons mantra “you score 4, we’ll score 5”.
City have been undeniable one of the most attractive teams to watch this season with captivating performances throughout exemplifying the importance of the league to the club. City easily have the most depth in their squad which is shown via 3 strikers all passing 20 goals in all competitions. City are in pole position with 2 games in hand over Chelsea and are 3 points behind meaning; if they win the games in hand they will go 3 points clear with all still to play.
Now it is time to cast your vote and let us see who you think will win the league.
The question on many football supporters and pundits lips are can Liverpool really sustain a real title challenge with the remaining games they have to play. With the continuous denial of the 3 main contenders managers it is becoming a very frustrating time as a Football follower to make any real sense of the interviews that particular managers give. According to Jose who is as ever playing mind games with everyone Chelsea are not the favourites for the title despite the extensive wealth of title-winning experience in the team. Jose has on numerous situations shifted the attention of the media towards the other blues in the title race. Manchester City currently have 3 games in hand and have a much superior goal difference in comparison to Chelsea but also face a less so tolerable time when you look at the fixture list with Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool still to play. Despite the games in hand Jose will still be a lot happier than City boss Pellegrini as he currently has the points on the board which only puts more pressure on the City players who are not strangers to such pressure winning their first ever Premier league title on the final day with a final flourish from Aguero.
In and amongst all of the back and forth claims between the two financial heavyweights of the league, Liverpool have been the dark horse going under the radar winning games and beating their total goals scored in a season already with 7 games still left to play. Liverpool on 17 occasions this season have scored 3 or more in 20 of their wins which is a ridiculous amount of goals for a team who last year didn’t lack creativity but the final part of the game hitting the back of the net. The obvious difference being this season that Liverpool have got the prolific strike force of Sturridge and Suarez who between them currently have 47 goals which has significantly contributed to the team. The two front men for Liverpool can go out and win games themselves which is a considerable difference between them City and Chelsea’s forwards they are consistently scoring and winning games for the side without needing the aid of goals from other areas of the field,
Are Liverpool real title contenders, I would say so but the pivotal games coming up like Spurs, City and Chelsea will probably decide who the champions are.
For my future blogs I’ve decided based upon feedback on twitter to make the blogs shorter and brief. This will be the first of the new format.
It’s a Red New Year
Since the turn of the new year Liverpool are undefeated excluding the loss in the cup against Arsenal at the Emirates following up the 5-0 thrashing of them in the previous week at Anfield which was more than embarrassing for the Gunners. That game was a prime example of the ever improving side under the stewardship of Rodgers showing the arsenal of attacking options available to the red men. Liverpool have been superb home and away with great displays like the Arsenal victory, the Merseyside derby and most recently showing how the squad can adapt to swift formation changes the 3-0 victor at St. Mary’s.
With the mentioning of the Southampton victory previously and also it being the most recent, it would be more appropriate to talk about that with regards to Liverpool’s rich vein of form this year. Liverpool as they have done throughout BR reign pushed high and forced Southampton into mistakes and a faster tempo which meant passing errors would be more frequent allowing Liverpool to capitalise with the unbelievably fast attack they have on the counter. The story of the first half was with both team not having much luck in front of goal.
The second half got under way with another one of Liverpool’s explosive moves going forward with the usual end result a Luis Suarez premier league goal which left Southampton stunned like it has other previous red’s opposition. Normally after the first goal it becomes an onslaught on the opposition teams goal leading to further key chances being created by the little Brazilian and his majestic jinking in and out of defenders waiting for the ideal time to slide in a delicious pass to a member of the SAS. Strangely this time at St. Mary’s it took slightly longer than expected to double the lead, it took the introduction of the dynamic flair Raheem Sterling with his first touch to help the red men put real separation between them and the The Saints. As the game was about to come to an end Suarez ran his man down into the ground with a final cut back in side on to his left foot forcing the Saints defender to take him down and the leaving the ref with no choice but to point to the spot where Gerard ended any hope of a dream come back.