Forget A Four-Horse Race, It Will Be Man United And Chelsea At The Top Again


There is familiar talk circulating around the football world at the moment. It has occurred at this time of the year for the last few seasons now, but never has its idea come to fruition. The many managers, fans and newspapers who spoke of its possibility in the past were left embarrassed when their opinions were made a mockery of. So those who believe the chat this time around are risking their footballing credentials being shattered once again.Manchester United and Chelsea have retained the top two positions in the Premier League table for the last four seasons now and but in many people’s view that trend may be about to buckle. However, this has been said by many supporters and followers of the game for so many years now, at this stage when pre-season is taking place, but never have their theories been proven correct.Every year, fans across the nation say to one another, “This could be the year you know, this could be the year that there all four top teams challenge together for the title.” But in the end, the two teams that clearly possess less quality have fallen short of a worthy Premier League push, and have ended up finishing where they really should finish – in the third and fourth positions. And that is where Liverpool and Arsenal will end up again this term.Both teams may have won plenty of major trophies in the past, and Liverpool may still be England’s most successful club of all time, but for the last few years they have been below par in terms of mounting title challenges. In fact, Arsenal have not even won any sort of trophy since Patrick Vieira lifted the FA Cup in 2005. And Liverpool’s recent league record is even more embarrassing, because they have not been champions of England for eighteen long years. Traditions must be resumed for these two great clubs, but this season is very unlikely to be the time when they re-emerge as the leading two teams in the country.This is because at the present moment, neither side has the necessary talent to maintain a title challenge over nine long, hard months of battle. In fact, Liverpool fans were more confident of a title push last summer after the terrific capture of Fernando Torres. This season, though, only average full-backs have been signed as of yet, and Gareth Barry and Robbie Keane’s transfers looking to be stalling somewhat. If both players can eventually be signed it will bring some brilliant quality into the starting eleven, but I still believe the club needs three or four more match-winning players.As I have said in a previous article, I think another flying winger needs to be bought to accompany Ryan Babel. The fewer attacking starlets that can win a team a match with a moment of brilliance, the less chance that team has of scoring goals, and this is something Liverpool have found out ever since Rafael Benitez took over as manager. This problem needs to be addressed very soon if the Spaniard has any aspirations of one day leading the club to Premier League glory.As I have said, I feel that Manchester United and Chelsea will once again fight for the league crown, and one of the reasons that they are at the top year after year is because they have around five match-winning stars in their ranks. United own Rooney, Tevez, Ronaldo, Scholes and Nani, whilst Ryan Giggs and other players are also major threats. Chelsea have Lampard, Drogba, Joe Cole, Ballack and Deco.During Benitez’s era, Liverpoolhave bought too many average players and not enough match-winning players. I believe only Gerrard and Torres possess match-winning quality, whilst Ryan Babel is on his way to achieving that sort of status. Arsenal have Fabregas and Adebayor, so they also need some more world-class players.World class players mean league championships more often than not, so for at least one more year is will be Manchester United and Chelsea at the top of the Premier League. Don’t believe what you hear about a four-horse race.

11 thoughts on “Forget A Four-Horse Race, It Will Be Man United And Chelsea At The Top Again”

  1. So you are proposing a 3 tiered league then. 1&2, 3&4 and the rest. It is a shame that the top 4 qualify for the Champions League for if it was 3 or 5 it would add spice to the 2nd and 3rd tiers….. if you see what I mean.

  2. I agree with this – Man Utd and Chelsea will consolidate further. I don’t see Arsenal or Liverpool challenging.

    I did a related post in March on the predictability in the top-4. In the last five years, only five different teams have been in the top-4 (Everton were the lone exception to the usual procession).

    More worrying is that once a team becomes estabilished in the top-4 for five consecutive years, they never leave.

    This emerging trend of the top-2 becoming unshakable is worry.

    Here is the post I referenced:

  3. I find it strange that Arsenal is an essential afterthought in this piece, but since it is obviously a polemic and not an argument that can perhaps be forgiven.

    I think it is probably right that Manchester United and Chelsea have to be the picks for the top two spots; but that is no shock. I imagine most commentators would agree. But we have to be careful in parsing our claims. They are clear favorites, but by no means is it decided. The piece concentrates on Liverpool, so I’ll talk about Arsenal to try and round it out.

    The only real analysis of Arsenal to be found here is the following claim:

    ” Arsenal have Fabregas and Adebayor, so they also need some more world-class players.”

    I assume that this is supposed to read “have only” and imply that they are the only two world-class players and that two world-class players is an insufficient number. Well, let’s look more closely at the club.

    This past season, they fell 4 points shy of Manchester United, and led the league for long stretches. Ultimately, they had a dip in quality, exacerbated by a thin squad, and United deservedly won the title ahead of them. This, with the same number of “world-class” players as they have now (by author’s definition). They lost two quality players – Hleb and Flamini, one seasoned backup – Gilberto, brought in a youngster (Ramsey), and a young attacking midfielder (Nasri).

    Obviously, we cannot evaluate the team fully as it stands now, since Wenger has stated he wants to bring in another midfielder – presumably someone to partner with Fabregas and play a bit more of a holding midfield role. If we presume that this signing performs at a slightly lower level than Flamini, and that Nasri performs at a lower level than Hleb (both for arguments’ sake), the club might be a bit worse off. They will have slight downgrades at two starting positions, and the depth problems will remain. On the other hand, if they have more players fit this season (van Persie, Rosicky, Eduardo), then Nasri in particular will have less of a burden placed on him to replace Hleb. Further, with such a young team, one might reasonably expect more players to improve this season than to decline.

    So where is Arsenal FC? Depending on who else they sign, they look a lot like they did last year. They are betting on the improvement of their young players with another year under their belts. Given that they were only four points off the pace last year, it seems they have a reasonable shot at challenging this season, particularly if they have better luck with injuries this season and players continue to progress.

    Does that make them the favorite? Of course not. As I stated at the outset, United and Chelsea are and should be the favorites for the league title this year. One does not predict where teams will finish under the presumption “if things go their way.” However, one can predict an interesting title challenge under that presumption. Arsenal (and also Liverpool, though I have not focused on them here) have the players to win the league.

    Will they? If I were a betting man I’d ask for longer odds than on United or Chelsea, but I certainly wouldn’t rule it out.

  4. I think JM hits the mark – both in terms of analysis and conclusion.

    It’s easy to forget that Arsenal was at the top of the table for a large part of last season.

    Also, I’m not sure if I’d still class Scholes and Giggs with the other “major” threats listed. Great players, but I think age may be catching up.

  5. I’ll get in my time machine and tell Arsene Wenger that despite having 83 points in 04/05 that he actually finished behind Man Utd and their 76 points. =)

    I’m a Liverpool fan, and I actually think they have a better chance of breaking into the top 2 and mounting a real title challenge this season than they did for the last few seasons. Liverpool lost their way after Daniel Agger broke his metatarsal last October, and didn’t fully recover until Martin Skrtel showed up in January. They had a lot of dumb points dropped over that period (Reading away/Wigan Home/Aston Villa Home/West Ham Away).

    It will still be tough to get into the Top 2, but I don’t think the gap is as big as most people on this site seem to think it is.

  6. Lads – great analysis in the blog comments here. This is when blogs work the best – not name-calling, but pointing out errors and adding layers of analysis to the original.

    Gaffer – Sign “JM” on an Arsenal correspondent!

  7. Chris, I have to tell you, there’s no shame in dropping points at home to Aston Villa and at West Ham (when a big club comes to Upton Park, West Ham comes out to play). I wouldn’t even go as far as to call it “dropping point”, but Liverpool drew way too many games at Anfield against poor teams, and that was their downfall.

  8. Agree. Both of those 2 are much better than the rest. Much more depth, better managers (Arsene still top stuff) and better experience.

    I think Liverpool can finish 6th or so.

  9. I really think that Arsenal were hard done by last year — mostly by the media. They were written off to start the year, praised through the roof when they exceeded the media’s expectations and then slagged when they faltered down the stretch due to a combination of injuries and the lack of experienced quality on the bench. It was really a telling picture of how the mainstream media operate.

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