When it comes to writing a mid-season review for the Premier League, most normal people would wait for December or January to pass, then use the past five months to predict how the rest of the season will shape up. But as we enter November, undeterred, I intend to go where punters dare and put my eggs in their baskets in lust of some good early value.
It’s fair to say that opinions at the start of the season could have been more accurate – myself arguing that Chelsea would endure a similarly subdued season to their last campaign and that Sergio Aguero would avoid getting injured within the first ten minutes of his season to put him in line for the Golden Boot. But now having had a chance to see what the teams have to offer, there is more to go on and I can write with more confidence than I did back in August.
The two people’s opinions you’ll also read are trusted sources (and Loughborough students) Jamie Rodd and David Lyon, and mine to boot. Both know football immensely well, and will offer two different perspectives on how Premier League seasons shape up. Enjoy.
Who will win the Premier League?
Jamie Rodd: Manchester United will win. Their strike force consists of two of the best strikers in the world, ‘poacher’ Hernandez in reserve, and Welbeck providing another option. This means a lot of variety going forward, and it will be hard for defences to stop them scoring when they are clicking. Also, with the creativity and options in midfield through the centre and down the wings they can score in so many different ways. The return of Darren Fletcher if he gets back to good form is key due to the fact he's the only midfielder who likes to break up the play, something that United missed last season and what perhaps gave City the edge.
At the moment United they are relying on outscoring their opponents, which is working, but they could make life much easier for themselves with a solid defence. Once Nemanja Vidic and other squad players return from injury, if United are intact with the leaders their experience and typical second half push should see them edge out Chelsea and Man City (who I believe are the only teams that will challenge).
Looking for relegation contenders, Southampton, Reading and Norwich currently top my list, with QPR just escaping again.
David Lyon: Torn for the winner – I'm starting to believe Chelsea have a real chance. The attacking options from midfield have really completed the team, creating goals from all over the place, and even in defence as Ivanovic, Cahill and Terry have proved. But I think Manchester United are too strong, and perform in the big games. Robin van Persie as a prospect for the Golden Boot is hard to oppose as he scores for fun, and receives good service at United.
The only real side I can see breaking into the top four would be Spurs, at Arsenal’s expense, but if Arsenal can start to score, and recover from this mini blip, they should have enough experience to shake off their rivals. I can’t see too many shocks happening at the moment. At this stage it’s so close it’s just a guessing game. January is huge and if Falcao makes it to Chelsea it could be enough to win them the League.
Have to say QPR, Southampton and Reading for relegation. The only other real candidates are Norwich and Wigan but they have slightly stronger squads, which is crucial for the duration of a season. QPR look a bit disjointed as a team but have better individuals, and it all hinges on whether they can become a team sooner rather than later.
Tom Williams: The idea that Manchester City have drifted in the betting is positive news for people like me who believe they’ll be dominating the Premier League for years to come, or at least until Chelsea can find enough money to lure Falcao. It was always going to be difficult for City to emulate last season’s start (P12 W11 D1 L0) and so their 11/8 price tag looked a bit sharp come start of the season, but they have flirted with 2/1 in the past few weeks, and even reached 9/4 this weekend, so look a must for accumulators paying out in May.
They are only two points off the pace, and remain the only unbeaten side in the Football League. They may have found goals difficult to come by recently, and have disappointed in the Champions League for a second successive year, but the return to form and fitness of players such as Sergio Aguero and David Silva will make them a force to be reckoned with, and I can see them going on a long run of wins near the turn of the year. City will benefit from having Vincent Kompany at the back whilst their rivals will crave the return of Nemanja Vidic. United have problems in the heart of defence but also have uncertainties with their choice of goalkeeper, something that City need not worry about.
Another advantage for City is deep in midfield. There is no one in the Premier League that performs a holding midfield role better than Yaya Toure at the moment, and with Javi Garcia, Jack Rodwell and Gareth Barry to support him this is an area in which City are strong. This is certainly where I can see United making a signing or two in the next couple years in a bid to compete with their rivals. There are questions about Darren Fletcher’s availability and with Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes not getting any younger, it falls to Tom Cleverley and perhaps Anderson to step up and represent at the moment.
Naturally I’ve been impressed with Chelsea’s start to the season, but the Manchester sides were 25 points ahead of them last season, and that is a considerable deficit to reduce.
In terms of stand-out players, Luis Suarez has begun to look like the striker who scored 81 in 110 games for Ajax, phenomenal at times. Sergio Aguero’s goal scoring record has been almost immaculate at every club he’s been to, and despite a nightmare start he may have what it takes to compete for the prize of top goal scorer. But it’s very difficult to look beyond Robin van Persie right now. Such talent doesn’t disappear over a summer and United seem to have got his role just right. He’ll arguably get better service there and already has eight from ten.
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