English Football Premiership – The Run In
What a strange season we've had so far in the English Premiership football. At the start of the season, teams were taking points off each other and there was no team laying claim to establishing themselves at the top and it was becoming almost impossible to predict how the season would pan out.
Even at the top of the table, we had the likes of Hull (in their first ever season in the premiership) in fourth place and the best team in the world, Man Utd in the bottom half. It was truly bizarre.
It wasn't really until December that things began settling down and we started to get an idea of how the top section of the table would pan out. Aston Villa were doing brilliantly, even having a great slice of luck. Liverpool were challenging for the title along with Chelsea and Manchester Utd finally had a great run of form and joined them. Everton began a great run that saw them rocket up the table to sixth, but the rest of the league continued taking points off each other, meaning relegation was a threat up to seventh place Unheard of.
So, over the Christmas period and into the New Year, the top six of Utd, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Villa and Everton began moving away from the rest. The bottom three continually changed, until West Brom decided they would like to stay at the bottom. Villa looked strong in fourth as Arsenal had a major injury crisis. Everton had their own injury crisis, playing several games without a recognised striker. It didn't hamper them as they remained unbeaten in 18 games, losing once only to a penalty to new world club champions, Man Utd.
In that period, it looked like Liverpool had lost their chance to take hold of the division as too many draws were costing them. Utd looked supreme, being several points ahead with games in hand over their nearest rivals.
However, all that was to change as a humiliating 4-1 defeat to second placed Liverpool at Old Trafford was followed by a 2-0 loss against Fulham. Liverpool then snuck a win in the last minute against Fulham themselves and they were two points clear at the top, although Utd had two games in hand. But it still looked like Liverpool would hold onto top place as the next day in Utd's game against Villa, they were losing 2-1 at home with just eleven minutes left. But Utd's class managed to overhaul that and win 3-2 thanks to a last minute goal by a seventeen year old Italian, to return to the top. Exciting stuff.
As the season approaches its climax, we are finally getting an idea of where many teams will finish. The current top four of Utd, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal will likely remain that way. Neither Villa (5th) nor Everton (6th) have the resources to mount a serious challenge to break that elite group, although both will of course try. The battle for fifth will go to the wire, and I think Villa might just sneak it. The game at Villa Park in mid April maybe the decider for that.
Relegation wise, West Brom looked doomed. The other two clubs currently in the bottom three, Newcastle and Middlesboro, look like they have the strength to stay up, but of course there are still many over clubs that could yet get sucked in. Even though Newcastle legend Alan Shearer has taken the reigns at St James' Park as manager, I don't think this latest Messiah has what it takes to rescue this poor Newcastle team.
Mid table will be dominated by underachievers such as Spurs and Man City. Both have spent heavily, but neither have a strong team spirit. You only have to look at the likes of Jo to realise this. Bought by Man City for a cool 19 million last summer, he has struggled and so went out on loan to Everton for the remainder of the season. He wants now wants to stay at Everton rather than return to the cold team spirit of Man City. Whether Everton will be able to afford him is another matter. But it just goes to show, money cannot buy everything.
Of course, over achievers with the likes of Wigan and West Ham look set to finish strongly, but even they have to be careful to be pulled back into the relegation battle. A couple of losses there could see them in dangerous territory.
Many Premiership marketers claim that the Premiership is the best league in the world. Based on this season, they may be right, but in my opinion, there are only seven or eight good teams in it, the rest being a much of a muchness. The rest of the season will be interesting to watch, and finally we may see a great finish to a season.