The three that played yesterday all won their games, but they also showed why it is so difficult to predict. Chelsea beat Blackburn in what on the surface seems to be a pretty straightforward and comfortable win. Arsenal were easy winners at hapless West Ham and Manchester City saw off visitors Wolves at Eastlands.
Like Manchester United this season, the results don’t always tell the whole story. Having said that, it is a results business and three points is what each game is actually all about.
Chelsea returned to the top four with what was just their second win in ten games. Although winning the game will be a confidence booster for the team we have to keep the result in perspective. They dominated the game against a poor Blackburn side who I remain convinced will struggle to stay in the top league despite their current mid-table position. It took them until nearly the hour mark to open the scoring and despite dominating the game and playing a poor side, they never quite managed to put the game totally to bed.
Arsenal were ruthless against an, even poorer than Blackburn, West Ham. In what was almost certainly Avram Grant’s last game in charge at the crisis club, this match was never a contest. Arsenal had all of the possession, all of the attempts at goal, took an early lead, scored three goals and looked every bit like title contenders. After the game Arsene Wenger said,
“We had a good, mature performance today. It became pretty comprehensive. I said many times that the Premier League will be exciting and interesting until the end. It is in our hands, we play all of the big teams at home and we have a strong run at home now.”
In that statement lies Arsenal’s problem. Against West Ham they were ruthless and looked like champions. Against the other top sides it is often very different. Manchester City at home, 0-0. Manchester United away, lost 1-0. Tottenham at home, lost 3-2. Chelsea away, lost 2-0. They did have a win at ten man Manchester City and against an under strength Chelsea, but it remains doubtful that they are capable of being as ruthless when they come against the better sides.
Manchester City did beat Wolves but their 4-3 win that took them to the top showed both their title credentials and the reasons why it is difficult to back them to win it.
For twenty minutes Manchester City were awful and Wolves were running the game and deservedly 1-0 up. Let us not forget that this is the Wolves that are in the relegation zone. City gradually got better and in a devastating twenty-five minute spell either side of half-time they tore the visitors apart and scored four times.
A scrappy Kolo Toure goal was followed by a brilliant goal from the outstanding Carlos Tevez, an excellent goal from the equally outstanding Yaya Toure set up by promising debutant Edin Dzeko and a second goal from Tevez. Sixty-six minutes gone, 4-1 up and looking like champions. After that it all went wrong. They allowed Wolves to score twice and were hanging on for the win in the end. Wolves had ten attempts at goal, seven of which were on target. That is too many against a team who should be defending better if they are to win the league.
Today sees the last two realistic contenders play each other. Tottenham are outsiders but if they can beat Manchester United they will move back in to the top four and be just six points behind leaders City with a game in hand. If they don’t win, their chances will be greatly diminished.
A win for United, or even a draw and they will remain unbeaten at the top of the league with games in hand on everyone. It would be difficult to see past them for the title.
The exciting thing is that Tottenham will fancy their chances of getting a result and it is certainly more than possible.
Although there is a strong feeling that the standard of the Premier League has fallen slightly, and the fact that no Premier League players made the FIFA world team this week tends to confirm that, it is also true to say that the fact that we have five really good teams and no great ones has made the whole thing a lot more interesting to watch.
If Manchester United don’t lose today I think they will red hot favourites for the title. If they do lose, I wouldn’t want to bet. It really could be any one of the five.
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