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.
With the vast majority of us Liverpool fans being in complete and utter shock when he decided to move having only just signed a new contract Luis Suarez swiftly departed to one of his dream teams in Spain to kick off his career again. Having once again been naughty biting another player on this occasion Cheillini the Juventus and Italy centre back we as fans were preparing to yet again wait for the return of our talisman this season. In a surprise £75 million bid Barcelona lured him away knowing full well he would not be available for much of the season, showing their intent in signing him top help the club progress in the absence of Alexis Sanchez.
Having got Suarez back fit and free of suspension he was thrown straight into the team failing to score in his first seven games for the club. This then lead people to question whether or not Barcelona’s risk had been worth while all along and had they just wasted such a significant transfer fee. During this period Suarez was showing his metal through assists finding Messi and Neymar on several occasions, proving he had that creative spark but lacked the end product at the time. Since then he has been on a mission for the side scoring in the Champions League more recently against Manchester City twice at the Etihad.
It is only fit that we talk about this great player in advance of the All star charity match taking place at Anfield in the coming weeks. Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher have selected there squads and the first forward Stevie chose was obviously the Barcelona star who has now scored 1 in every 2 games this season. This change in form has coincided with the Catalans rise to the top of the table knocking their biggest rivals off of the summit.
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.
The final act of the season is for me to round up and evaluate if the season was a success or a failure. Ideally I would like to have been saying the wait is over we are finally part of the elite group of teams who have won the Barclays Premier League but as most would expect it has been another let down.Start of the season if you told me we would finish fourth then I would have no issues with that and be talking about how this is a platform for next year. The lucrative prize of Champions League football forcing us to build and improve on this season, however if you told me we would be challenging for the title and just miss out on winning I would be annoyed but pleased at the great improvement from the team. Now when I am asked how I feel it is a mix up of anguish, confusion and disarray, how can a team so dominant for the most part of the season come undone in just two games: chelsea and Crystal Palace.
This season should really be a celebration of the great achievement from everyone involved with the club, starting with the ground staff, the media teams, training staff, Brendan, players and most importantly the Reds faithfull who turn out every game to see it all unfold. recent years have been an uphill struggle for everyone invloved in the club wondering when we will hit the big time again and I wouldn’t have it any other way. This season nobody could argue we have been the side that has been the most exciting, inventive and exhilirating to watch and for that we have Brendan to thank. Brendan’s understanding of players freedom to move within a set structure has allowed us to play adventurous football that will undoubtedly go down in Liverpool folk law with vivid memories of possible a premier league classic Liverpool 3 – 2 Manchester City.
As always we do need to recognise the protagonists of the plot, to begin with captain fantastic has found his place in the team which benefits all parties Defenders needing cover, strikers needing service and the energetic box to box players like Jordan Henderson. This year Stevie has chipped in with a fair share of goals scoring over 10 in the premier league joining the SAS on the list of high scorers. We couldn’t go without mentioning Martin Skrtel who has been tremendous all season with his last ditch challenges reading of the game and his presence in the box on corners. A particular young man named Raheem Sterling could not go without a mention for his dynamic running of games either; as part of a three man attack or as the point of the diamond ensuring that our doubts of young English talent is put to rest. Two men who have been superb all season Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez have easily engraved themselves into kop history of greta strike partnerships joining keegan and toshack, Rush and Dalglish. This has been an especially potent season for them both, Daniel Sturridge has been a bright light for English forwards showing that power and pace does still exist beating Wayne Rooney to being the highest scoring british player in the league. Inevitable he wouldnt have benefitted the team as much if he did not feature alongside the allustrious Luis Suarez who against all odds stopped at Anfield to become the leagues most dangerous man equalling Cristiano Ronaldo for goals seeing them both share the spoils for the european golden boot.
Lastly, a great deal of appreciation should be shown to Brendan Rodgers who has turned this team around into a champions league side who can only see things going forward. For a final note to quote myself at the end of every season “Next years our year”
We’ve all seen the banners predominantly ‘Make Us Dream’ which has featured quite frequently on twitter being one of the main trending hash-tags #makeusdream showing the popularity, hope and expectation of the loyal reds supporters. Those who have played Liverpool have become yet another stepping stone for them towards what seems to be our title to lose but what does this actually mean for Liverpool. In 3 extremely strenuous and nervous matches Liverpool will be 270 minutes away from lifting the Barclay’s Premier League for the very first time in the clubs history.
We as a club have over come so many hurdles on the way on and off the pitch.The remembrance of the 96 is always an upsetting time for everyone in football particularly our club.Dealing with the added emotions and feelings has shown how mentally strong the players have been especially since the turn of the year proven through this tremendous run we’ve been on. On the pitch this season we have overcome so many hurdles fighting back against teams after exhausting games like the Manchester City game. Resilience has been key for us showing we can get our selves up and motivated for the games we are expected to win which is something we struggled to do last season.
Trying to find reasons why we can’t win the league now has become very difficult; maybe were not ready, this is a year too early, we don’t have the depth in squad but, surprisingly we’ve answered these showing why we are the title favorites and people shouldn’t look any further for the name that will be inscribed on the premier league trophy.
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.