Every year during the pre-season phase of the football calendar there appears the same old debate – who will win the league this year? Pundits, fans, bookmakers, and managers alike continually discuss this topic at length, citing their reasons behind why Manchester United would overcome Chelsea, or how Manchester City’s extravagant spending could lead them to glory for the first time in forty two years? In Marouane Chamakh had Arsenal finally found the goal-getter they needed to fire them to the title, or would it be their North London rivals Spurs who built on the success of last year’s campaign, having added the quality of Rafael Van der Vaart to their ranks.
It seemed back in the months of July and August as though the title race was shaping up to be fiercely competitive, with more teams than ever having the potential to go all the way. Now that we are over a third of the way through the season it appears that this prediction was correct, the five aforementioned teams are separated by just six points, with all considered to still be very much in the hunt for the Premier League Crown. Therefore, with twenty three games of the Barclays Premier League still to go this season – who does have the edge?
Manchester United – Experience
Currently sitting atop of the pile, the Red Devils have been picking up results so far this season, without playing particularly well compared to their own high standards. The 7-1 demolition of a usually tough Blackburn side could represent the turning point though. United are renowned for their ability to ‘kick on’ and start a formidable run of victories in the second half of the season, which usually sees them very much in contention for the title. Manager Sir Alex Ferguson has won the Premier League no less than eleven times, and his experience will be vital in attempting to steer his relatively young side to a twelfth success. Ferguson is the master of blending young, raw talent in the forms of Chicharito and Rafael for example, with the experience of players such as Giggs and Scholes. In addition the Scotsman now has a refreshed Wayne Rooney to call upon, whilst the diminutive Bulgarian Dimitar Berbatov’s confidence can only have improved having bagged five this weekend.
Title odds – 15/8
Chelsea – First eleven
Despite the fact that they lie second in the table at present, Ladbrokes have Chelsea as the favourites to win the title this year. Such odds are indicative of the strength and quality of Ancelotti’s side, which is widely regarded as having the best starting 11 in the league when all are fit. The problem for the blues is that all eleven have very rarely been fit this season, with the two biggest losses being England duo Frank Lampard and Captain John Terry. The two are expected to be back in time for the visit of Everton this weekend, although the damage could already have been done in recent weeks, with Chelsea failing to gain a win in their last three league games. We all know that Chelsea will be there come May, as they are too good not to be challenging, however they will have to return to winning ways quickly, to ensure that they don’t lose too much ground on their rivals.
Title odds – 11/8 (Favourites)
Arsenal – Beautiful football
Wenger’s men are consistently praised for the way they play the beautiful game, and often maligned for their inability to ‘tough it out’ against certain sides in the division. Arsenal fans would have been full of hope going into the North London derby, with the prospect of returning to the top of the Premier League if they gained a victory at home over Spurs. The result of course did not go to plan, and Arsenal could very well have begun to question their credentials having slumped to a fourth home league defeat of the season. The 4-2 victory away at Aston Villa however, illustrated that they are serious about trying to win the league for the first time since their last triumph in 2003/04. Wenger has got them playing their usual attractive football, but they must up their game against the other title contenders if they are to succeed in realising their ambitions this season.
Title odds – 9/2
Manchester City – Endless Resources
The turnaround in the last three or four years at Eastlands has been incredible in terms of both speed and magnitude, even by football standards. Players like Rolando Bianchi, Darius Vassell, and Dietmar Hamann have moved on, to be replaced with stars in the forms of Carlos Tevez, David Silva and Kolo Toure. The resources available to the club were the main reason pundits tipped City to do well this season, and having spent £300 million over the last three seasons to build a title challenging side we can see why this was the case. Many have been surprised by how quickly the current team has gelled though, a fact which is outlined by City’s current position in the league. The signs are that it can only get better for Mancini’s men, and with potential further additions in January, expect to see the blue half of Manchester closing the gap on their red cousins in the near future.
Title odds – 9/1
Tottenham Hotspur – Strength and Depth
As is endlessly but correctly pointed out at present, it is an exciting time to be a Tottenham fan. A first Champions League campaign is going extremely well, they lie in fifth place in the Premier League, and having recently recorded their first victory over bitter rivals Arsenal in too long, all is going well for manager Harry Redknapp. He clearly believes the side have the ability to win the title, if only they would believe it themselves. This optimism appears to be backed up by recent performances, particularly the spirited comeback against Liverpool at White Hart Lane yesterday. An interesting point to observe was the substitutions that occurred as a result of injuries suffered by Rafael Van der Vaart and Younes Kaboul in the first half. Spurs were able to summon Jermain Defoe and Sebastian Bassong to replace them, two players which it is fair to say would make many Premier League sides starting line-ups’. The White Hart Lane outfit have at their disposal a wide array of talent, which provides cover and competition for places throughout the team. This is of course excluding the current lengthy injury list, which includes potential first choice centre backs Michael Dawson and Ledley King, alongside ever improving central midfielder Tom Huddlestone. With such quality available Redknapp is correct to be optimistic about the rest of the season, where the long hard slog that is the Premier League could perhaps prove to be an advantage to his side.
Title odds – 33/1
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