Wednesday, 24 November 2010
In a league that is proving close, tight and unpredictable, journalists have been falling over themselves in recent weeks to declare new sides in the title race.
After last weekend’s games Man City, Spurs and Bolton were the latest names to be bandied about as positive results for all three lifted them into the top five.
Chelsea’s little slip up at the top has also got people excited again, given the league was all but sewn up a few weeks ago.
However, despite all the hysteria it is important to remember, without risking to sound like a football manager, there is still a long way to go (ok I did but bear with me).
The reduction in spending, especially among the ‘big four’, has evened the league up slightly, allowing for a more even spread of results. And part of the Premier League’s appeal is that, on their day anyone’s strongest XI can beat another’s.
But it is important to remember that we are only 14 games in and the most important parts of the season - where squad strength is brought into play - are set to come.
For starters we have the busy Christmas period, where a number of games in a short space of time can send teams high up (or down) the league table.
Then there is the January transfer window, which could see inspirational signings come and go (almost certainly at Man City) before the final run in to the finish in March and April.
It is in this period that the experienced teams come into their own – Manchester United for example are masters at grinding out results to finish the season strongly.
So therefore I thoroughly expect the same familiar and predictable names to be challenging for the title come April. Chelsea, Man United and Arsenal all have the squad and experience required to last the pace.
Man City are outsiders and much depends on whether Mancini can manage his player’s huge egos and show a unified front in the games that matter.
Spurs, despite Harry Redknapp’s bold prediction, still lie six points off the pace and are dogged with inconsistency, especially after European games.
Bolton meanwhile, as improved as they are under Owen Coyle, will not challenge for the title.
So I will still my neck out now and predict the same old faces will be there at the top and the almost weekly press prediction of a new title challenger will soon peter out as the big boys pull away at the top.