Sport Editor Jack Pethick evaluates the Premiership season thus far, explaining how it is arguably the closest season for many a year.
Many pundits mark Christmas time as a defining moment in the Premier League. Certainly there can be no question as to why, as history has shown, those clubs who are in the top four at Christmas usually go on to compete with each other as to who will secure the top spot. Yet arguably this season is perhaps providing somewhat of complication to this tested theory. Certainly, in terms of Chelsea there can be no doubts.
The blues currently sit six points clear at the top of the premiership, still yet to be beaten. Many pundits have virtually crowned Chelsea as champions already and even backed Mourinho and his team to do the impossible of winning the treble (the Premiership, FA Cup and the Champions League) they look that good, in fact, some bookies have even paid out already for them to win the league.
Certainly then, Chelsea are virtually guaranteed a top-four spot. Their squad is arguably the most well balanced and complete squad in the premiership. The back-five of Courtouis, Ivanovic, Terry, Cahill and Azpilicueta are undoubtedly the best in the premiership, supported by perhaps the most talented holding midfielder in the world currently in Nemaja Matic. This defensive foundation allows the midfield four of Eden Hazard, Oscar, Cesc Fabregas and Willian to express themselves and provide assists for the clinical and goal-hungry forward that is Diego Costa. I haven’t even mentioned the fact that Peter Cech, Felipe Luis, Andre Schurrle, Mohamed Salah, Ramires and Loic Remy are all sat on Chelsea’s bench.
Yet as for the teams who will make up the rest of that top four, it is a somewhat difficult prediction to make. After all, there may be a difference of six points between Chelsea and Manchester City for first and second place, but between fourth placed Manchester United and sixteenth placed Aston Villa there is a difference of just nine. Apart from Chelsea, it is perhaps true that no one can categorically say that any other team has looked definitively strong in the season thus far.
Manchester City find themselves constantly sweating over the fitness of Sergio Aguero this season- whose goals have carried them to the position they are. In addition, Southampton have looked strong throughout the campaign but arguably had a rude awakening with their 3-0 loss to Manchester City last week, and it is not looking like it’s going to get any easier with Arsenal, Manchester United, Everton and Chelsea all to come in December.
Essentially, Manchester United have struggled massively defensively this season, with it seeming as if the defence is made up of whichever defenders they have available on the day. Likewise Arsenal have had their usual ‘yo-yo’ season, where at times they look good against those towards the bottom of the table but when they play the big-teams their usual weaknesses are exposed, as has been the case for the last seven seasons or so.
For the neutral this makes this current Premier League season one of the exciting it has been for many a year, with many struggling to remember a season where it has been this close right throughout the division.
It really is the old cliché this season of ‘anyone can beat anyone on their day’. Just look at the results from the most recent weekend: you had Sunderland who lost 8-0 to Southampton just over a month ago, going on to draw 0-0 with Chelsea who have been scoring goals for fun in recent weeks.
Furthermore, the weekend before last (the 23rd November) saw Crystal Palace- who were one of the favourites to go down this year after the resignation of their manager Tony Pulis in August- beat one of the pre-season favorites Liverpool 3-1. The Premiership this year truly is wide-open, and it would be a brave man to call who will finish where this season. It may be nearly Christmas, but who knows what will happen, nothing is set in stone yet.