What if “ludicrous” Premier League ends with same top four?
We’ve had some knockabout fun in the Premier League this season, no question, but for all those eager for a change to the established order the table is taking on an all too familiar look.
Best Premier league season ever? It looked like we were heading that way, thanks to Liverpool’s flabbergastingly bad form, United’s post-Portuguese predicament, Chelsea’s baffling inconsistency and Arsenal’s eerie ability to conjure defeats and draws from matches they should have walked. William Hill even announced that the series of upsets involving the Big Four had helped them restore their profit margins at the expense of punters.
But with 16 or 17 matches left to go, look at the table now. For all their ragged performances, Arsenal, Chelsea and United have pulled away at the top, and even Liverpool, desperate, woeful Liverpool, are a point off fourth place having won three and drawn one of their last four. Arsene Wenger says it’s ludicrous that his team are back at the top, but really it’s anything but.
The problem, I think, is that in their eagerness to sell the story of financial woe at Manchester United and Liverpool, the media have exaggerated the decline of the two teams on the field.
Liverpool have had a terrible season so far, everyone agrees, yet they are only three points down from where they were after 22 games in both the 2006-07 and 2007-08 campaigns. The domestic blip, in fact, was last season’s abnormally strong challenge for the title.
Meanwhile, the Guardian screams in a headline of Manchester United’s decline, yet third place, a point off the top, and easy qualification for the Champions League knock-out phase shows the situation is not so dire.
So will it matter if the top four at the end of the season is, say, Chelsea, Man Utd, Arsenal and Liverpool? Will the few heady months of surprises have been enough for those desperate for a new twist to the all too familiar tale?
Or does English football need City, Villa, Spurs et al to actually challenge for the title? There’s no evidence of that sort of shift happening just yet.
PHOTO: Arsenal’s Tomas Rosicky celebrates his goal against Bolton during their Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium in London, Jan. 20, 2010. REUTERS/ Eddie Keogh