Premier League Midseason Analysis: London vs. Manchester
It isn’t exactly halfway through the season, but all of the clubs are 18 games into their 2011-12 campaign except for Everton and Tottenham (both are 17 games in) who have to make up their first round fixture due to the London Riots. One of the things I like to follow throughout the Premier League season is the unspoken (or lightly spoken) regional battle between the Premier League clubs of Greater Manchester and Greater London. With all due respect to the Midlands region and the country of Wales, the most polarizing clubs of the Premier League, save Liverpool, call one of these two regions home. I will share the numbers and dissect the region’s clubs and compare them. At the end, I will share my opinion of which side is winning the battle so far.
This battle is only being analyzed from the Premiership’s perspective not the from the perspective of European football. However, I will mention that in my opinion, London has already won that particular battle considering that both of the London’s representatives (Chelsea and Arsenal) have moved to the knockout rounds. Both of Manchester’s representatives (City and United) have been eliminated in the group stage. So let’s begin by introducing the two sides’ representatives in the Premiership. I will list their overall records and records against the clubs in Manchester. I was thinking about adding Blackburn to even out the two regional sides at five, though I know Blackburn is close to Greater Manchester but not in it. However, Blackburn doesn’t have much to offer so I elected against it.
Club (overall record; won/drawn/lost) (record vs. Manchester)
- Arsenal (10/3/5) (2/0/2)
- Chelsea (10/4/4) (2/1/1)
- Tottenham Hotspur (12/2/3) (1/0/3)
- Fulham (4/7/7) (2/1/1)
- Queens Park Rangers (4/5/9) (0/0/4)
Club (overall record; on/drawn/lost) (record vs. London)
- Manchester City (14/3/1) (3/1/1)
- Manchester United (14/3/1) (5/0/0)
- Bolton Wanderers (4/0/14) (1/0/4)
- Wigan Athletic (3/5/10) (1/1/3)
London has achieved 23 points against Manchester sides and Manchester has achieved 32 points against clubs from London. From looking at the records for Manchester, this is clear who is carrying the banner for Manchester. The teams from London are all solid and all of them can not only stay in the Premiership but finish in the top half. Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs are vying for the Champions League spots and I think still have a say in who will be the Champions this year.
I will briefly expound on each club and give my say to where they will end up.
I am an Arsenal supporter and I was back in my usual pessimistic disposition at the beginning of the season when they were floundering. However, I really think Arsene Wenger’s desperation signings especially Mikel Arteta have brought an experienced man in the center of the pitch similar to what Scott Parker has brought to Tottenham. He’s not Cesc Fabregas nor did most of the Arsenal faithful (well the sane portion) expect him to directly fill the role. He distributes the ball efficiently and effectively in essence letting Arsenal still play their style but he won’t really get on the end of things. I’m not going to say that he isn’t brilliant because in my opinion he is. However, brilliance isn’t always in the form of Messi, Ronaldo, Totti and Rooney. Mertesacker is a big man who can control the air and can be a solid defender to partner with the rock known as the “Verminator” (Thomas Vermaelen). The last thing but certainly not the least which has giving the Gunners new life. RVP. What can I say about him? 16 goals in 18 games. Nothing more needs to be said really. I predict that Arsenal will finish 3rd due to Tottenham’s eventual period of tapering off. I think Chelsea will have plenty more peaks and valleys due to the conundrum that is Fernando Torres.
Andre Villas-Boas has had to downplay the whole “Second Coming of Mourinho” for a little while but I think his biggest issue is how can he get Fernando Torres to kick into Liverpool form. They are still a bit erratic in my view but the one very bright light for Chelsea is Daniel Sturridge. If he can continue his form and Lampard doesn’t fade off his good run of form as well. They can achieve a firm hold of 4th because I think AVB may have found a offensive solution for this team.
As an Arsenal supporter, it may be quite fitting for me to go on a scathing verbal attack on a sorry excuse for a Premiership club called Tottenham Hotspur. However, I must commend Harry Redknapp despite his vice grip hold on Luka Modric. I also believe Spurs made the most important signing in the League this August by signing Scott Parker. He has been immense for them and I think he really lets Modric and Van der Vaart shine without worry considering Parker will hold the midfield for you. Another important signing was Brad Friedel. The American is an improvement over the erratic, mistake-prone Gomes. Tottenham has always been a team who would have these great runs of form then they drop into a rut usually towards the end of the season. While I don’t think they will drop into that ditch. They will drop a few points and that will give Chelsea and Arsenal the opportunity to pounce. I predict a 5th place finish for them.
Fulham doesn’t have much to offer. They do enough to maintain to middle of the pack finish and stay in the League. I do think they were on an upswing with Mark Hughes who I thought really could have made something more out of them. I do not think Martin Jol is the right man for the job but he’s there. I do think Fulham can make a top half finish if Jol finds away to incorporate Zamora and get him on form. Another key man is Clint Dempsey. He is one of the most underrated players in the Premier League and Arsenal did inquire about him but Fulham’s price was too high. Dempsey who is Fulham’s all time leading scorer in the Premier League already has 6 goals to his name and I think he can achieve a 15 goal season and secure Fulham a spot in the top half. I predict 7th place for them.
I think that they have the pieces to achieve a respectable finish as well. I do think that they need to bolster the defense in this January window. They bolstered the offensive side of things yet they still are below average in scoring. I do wonder if Neil Warnock is the answer for them. I think he deserved to manage the side in the Premier League considering he got them there but I do think that if they continue their less than ideal form. Will Warnock stay with the club let alone avoid relegation? I predict that they will stay up and finish the bottom half around 13th.
Sir Alex’s “noisy neighbors” are making plenty of noise this year especially at Old Trafford (that was a joy to watch). They score goals and concede very little. Their squad depth is quite deep with a rainbow of personalities. It’s amazing what a blank check can do for you. Silva and Yaya Toure are outstanding. Dzeko is on a good run of form. Kompany really commands the back line and Hart is as consistent as they come in goal. Mario Balotelli, why always you? I don’t know. They truly are a team, I enjoy watching. I predict the Premier League trophy to be raised by Vincent Kompany as Manchester City win the League and the city of Manchester is finally its rightful color according to my City supporting friends. That color is Blue.
Sir Alex’s side has experienced total jubilation and total dejection. The Red Devils have been excellent this season save for a couple matches. They will give City a very stiff challenge in not only the league but in the FA Cup as well. It will be fun to observe the Manchester Derby in the Etihad Stadium. I predict Man U to place 2nd and to give themselves a chance to redeem themselves in the Champions League next season.
A team who I believed was doomed from the start and they were lucky to avoid relegation last season. I do think that they were unlucky to have lost Stuart Holden again who I thought could have definitely help save the season for them. Ivan Klasnic and Chris Eagles have come good for them on the offensive end but their defense is atrocious. They have so far conceded the most goals in the Premiership with 41. I don’t see Coyle’s style of play while mildly attractive going anywhere for them. I predict that they will be relegated by finishing in their current spot of 19th and Coyle gets sacked.
The ‘Latics are a tough one to predict because I’ve been predicting them to end their one and only top flight spell for the last couple of years. I have obviously been wrong. They do have a magician at the touchline in Roberto Martinez though his job to stay in the Premiership has been made quite harder due to the departure of Charles N’Zogbia. They still have a young side who can be quite vibrant in their play. I like James McCarthy, Antolin Alcaraz, Franco Di Santo, Jordi Gomez a lot. You have a decent keeper in Al-Habsi with other serviceable players like Conor Sammon and Gary Caldwell. Hugo Rodallega is a very good player who is one of the few reasons Wigan have lasted as long as they have. I predict Wigan to stay up for one more year and finish in 17th.
While Manchester are fighting at the top and bottom of the table. I think London right now has an advantage and the teams are better collectively. In my opinion, London is winning this battle this year. I don’t put much stock into regional rivalries but it’s something interesting to think about. If I had to choose which regional team I barrack for
it would definitely be Team London. Who do you support? London, Manchester, the Midlands, even perhaps Wales (I haven’t forgotten about Swansea). Do you think it even matters? All feedback to my questions or to the article itself is appreciated.