The new year is two days away, and the English Premier League season is as out of control as I’ve ever seen it at this point before. As I sit in my room listening to American Football’s self-titled for the 100,000th time, I’m trying to make sense of it all, as I sink into a deep depression.
Chelsea. The apple of my eye. Pride of London. Champions. They’re now in 5th place, and a loss to Bolton away from 6th place [the game will be played later today]. They’ve become the story of the season, again, for the wrong reasons. The past couple of months have been hard as a Chelsea supporter. Injuries, tactical miscalculations, and defensive mistakes have left Chelsea with little hope of repeating as champions of England. At this point, I’m more worried about the future of the club internally. With Arnesen leaving, Wilkins gone, and the possibility of Ancelotti being removed as manager increasing daily, the future of the club’s youth development, ability to acquire proper talent, and long-term success are in peril. I might be looking too far into the future, and sounding the alarm too quickly, but this is how it begins. Before you know it, you wake up in a Russian whorehouse, looking for Shevchenko’s phone number to see if he wants to get the old band together. Times might not get that desperate, but it can happen.
Carlo on the sideline has looked more a distressed door-to-door salesman than a Dolce & Gabbana-clad, world-class manager. Instead of continuing as the team that won their first five league matches by an aggregate score of 100 to -13, Chelsea have had the worst run of form in the last 8 games than any other team in the league and the worst run from the club in a decade. The biggest sin committed by Chelsea is not having wrapped up the title race by the end of November and therefore creating no need to play the rest of the season. Awful.
The team that just embarrassed Chelsea, Arsenal, look like they finally believe in themselves. Less importantly, it seems like those outside of the Arsenal camp are beginning to believe in the young Arsenal squad Wenger has put together. There are no more excuses. This Arsenal team can win the title. Despite having dropped points to much lesser, more physical squads, over the course of the season, the Gunners definitely have what it takes to win it this season.
Their only obstacle is Sir Alex Ferguson. If Manchester United win the title, it’s another example of why Ferguson could be considered the greatest manager in the modern era. Injuries, out of form players, sex scandals, contract negotiations, threats, and Darren Fletcher, have all threatened to tear apart United’s title hopes. SAF has steered the ship, and with two games in hand, they are poised to make that late-season push to secure the championship. They haven’t lost a game for the love of God.
On the other side of Manchester, City have put themselves in second place, and Mancini looks like he might actually be getting something out of a squad overflowing with quality but lacking chemistry. Balotelli is definitely proving his worth with his goal total thus far. Hopefully, his temper won’t get the best of him. Tevez is staying, and Dzeko is on his way from Wolfsburg. Manchester City have great players all over the pitch, and it’s just a matter of time before it all starts clicking. Manchester City will round out the new big four soon enough.
Back in London, Tottenham have inserted themselves into the top four once again. Tottenham’s success might be another story of managerial success. Redknapp has wheeled and dealt himself a wonderful squad from back to front. Unsurprisingly, Van der Vaart is playing like we all thought he was capable of playing. I didn’t think it would work out because, well, it’s fucking Spurs. Again, I was wrong. Bale is having a great Champions League campaign. His form in the Premiership, although relatively not as wonderful as on the continent, has provided extra bite to the Tottenham attack on the left side which compliments Lennon’s work on the right very well. Also, shout out to Alan Hutton who I think does wonderful work at right back, but doesn’t get the credit he deserves.
I think one of the most compelling, and most likely to blow up all crazy-like, stories of the season is the descent of Everton, Villa, Fulham, and the ascension of squads like Bolton and Sunderland. Moyes, Houllier, and Hughes are all trying to pick up the pieces, as Owen Coyle and Steve Bruce have their teams picking up points and places on the table instead.
Personally, Bolton have been the biggest surprise this season, outside of Chelsea’s fall from grace. Elmander is finally playing well. Stuart Holden is making a case for his inclusion into the starting center midfield on the American national team. Petrov and Davies are having the seasons of their lives. Gary Cahill’s management of the backline is exquisite. It’s tough to tell when or if it’ll all go wrong, but I certainly hope it doesn’t. There might be a little nationalist pride involved, but I want Holden to succeed.
Sunderland’s success has to be attributed to their wonderful frontline, specifically Asamoah Gyan. Sunderland might be in danger of relegation if it weren’t for the goals produced by their forwards. In the back, they are stout, but goals get you points. There is much to be desired in the midfield, and eventually, I think this will catch up to them. It’s likely they won’t be playing European football next year, but with results like the win at Stamford Bridge, I could be very wrong. Coupled with Fulham, Everton, and Villa’s inconsistencies, they could find themselves in Belgrade or Kiev soon.
Finally, the three promoted sides are all outside of the relegation zone at this point of the season. West Brom is playing great under the direction of Roberto Di Matteo. At home they are playing great, attacking football. They beat Arsenal earlier this season. Blackpool have been doing the same under the charismatic Ian Holloway and are in the top ten. The Tangerines are probably my favorite team in the Premiership right now, and it has nothing to do with their home and third away kits. They play like they have nothing to lose, and they don’t. Everyone wrote them off as one-and-dones, but that won’t be the case this season. Mr. Holloway has the players believing and playing with confidence. Newcastle have been the most wildly inconsistent team with both huge victories and losses to their name. Nolan and Carroll are playing great, and even Ameobi has netted a few this season (wut?!). Although the back line is questionable, Newcastle will definitely be staying up this season.
Anyway, this hastily written rant has dragged on too much. I can’t wait for the second half of the season. I know Chelsea will bounce back, and I’m also certain that it won’t be enough for a top two finish. There’s still that glimmer of hope, but it might as well have died in the Emirates on Monday. I’ll try to keep you all up with my thoughts on the league as the season progresses. That might be one resolution I might be able to keep.