This is really getting interesting!

This is really getting interesting!

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Wow. The Premier League, what a competition! For the first time in a long while, the title race is wide open. I can’t remember a season where any one of four or five teams could go on and become champions. It certainly makes for an awesome spectacle for the neutral observer.

At the time of writing, this was how the log looked:

1st: Manchester United on 34 points with 16 games played

2nd: Arsenal on 32 points with 17 games played

3rd: Manchester City on 32 points with 18 games played

4th: Chelsea on 31 points with 17 games played

It’s been such a rollercoaster of a season. At one stage, it seemed as if Chelsea were going to be runaway winners again. The next thing you know, there are mentions of Carlo Ancelotti getting sacked with Chelsea only claiming 4 points out of a possible 21.

Suddenly, Arsenal seems to have hit a bit of form, along with oil-funded giants Manchester City. But both teams are known to choke on the big stage and drop crucial points.

What’s that lurking in the shadows? Could it be the consistently consistent Manchester United? Undefeated in all competitions this season? Even though United had been dropping points with draws against “weaker” teams, they seem to have hit their stride at just the right moment. United are now two points clear of the chasing pack with a game in hand.

One would think that that would be game, set and match for the log leaders during a normal Premier League season. But I think we’ve all come to realise that this is no ordinary season. Even though United are doing exceptionally well given the amount of injured players they have, they are very fortunate to be in this position and one can’t help but think that their luck will soon run out. United’s victory over Arsenal wasn’t exactly convincing, and they’ve had to work hard results throughout the season. One could argue that the best teams still win even though they are playing poorly.

Arsenal is boasting plenty of young talent in their squad. Heck, their captain, Cesc Fabregas, is World Cup winner, Samir Nasri is an awesome prospect and goal poacher Marouane Chamakh always seems threatening. But being such a young side, they seem to buckle under the pressure during the big games.

Manchester City looked like serious contenders at one stage of the season, with their Captain South America – Carlos Tevez – powering them to a victory over defending champions Chelsea. And on 20 December 2010, City had the chance to go top of the log, but lost out to Everton. To make matters worse, their captain fantastic is adamant that he wants to leave the club. So, if City can replace their top-scorer with someone who can instantly slot into the position and start scoring goals, then they might still have a chance.

Writing Chelsea off would be a gigantic mistake. Even though they are sitting in fourth position, anyone who knows anything of football knows that they just need a sniff of good form and they’re back in full contention. They have a team oozing with talent and experience: Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, John Terry, Florent Malouda, Salomon Kalou, Michael Essien and the evergreen Nicolas Anelka are just the superstar names among the squad. Their less high-profile players hold the team together: Branislav Ivanovic, Alex; Petr Cech, and Ashley Cole. They all add strength and depth to this title-winning side. And once the likes of Ramires and Benayoun start finding form then their might be trouble for any title-contenders.

Even Tottenham Hotspur is still in there with a shout. Their sterling performances in the Champions League have made it clear that they are no push-overs. With players like Gareth Bale, Rafael van der Vaart and Luka Modric in your team, you have to have a chance. The only problem is that they seem to fall short against “weaker” teams. Still, they will definitely contribute to making this Premier League season one of the closest ones ever.

If I were a betting man, I would put my money on Chelsea to win it purely because they’ve got a massive squad filled with exceptional players.

Berno Pretorius

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