As we reach the business end of the season with just 10 games to go, the English Premier League is about to witness one of its tightest finishes ever in the history of the competition. The top four teams will be awarded a place in next season’s much coveted UEFA Champions League, Europe’s holy grail of soccer. Out of the total twenty teams, there are currently seven battling it out for the top four, and four fighting to be crowned champions come May 2014. Seven teams, four spots, one winner. Let’s analyze each of the top four teams so far:
Chelsea: A team in transition who have finished 14 and 25 points behind the leaders in the last two seasons respectively, are currently 4 points clear at the top of the table. They have the league’s best defensive record with the central defensive pair of Gary Cahill and Captain John Terry conceding just 22 goals all season and just three since the start of the year. At the start of the season, there was talk that manager Jose Mourinho’s return to the club would itself be worth 10 points. With game changing tactics from the “special one,” it’s indeed looking more likely to be the case.
What’s stopping them? A lack of an in-form striker and over reliance on star player Eden Hazard. Chelsea strikers’ inconsistent form in front of goal means they have lost vital points against teams they were expected to win against. They have also been unable to close out games due to their poor conversion rate. Another worry for Chelsea is their over reliance on in-form player Eden Hazard to score and create goals. Apart from Hazard, Chelsea’s other two attacking midfielders Oscar and Willian have not been able to create and score as much.
Liverpool: Haven’t won the domestic league in 24 years, are currently four points behind leaders Chelsea in second position. They have had a tremendous season so far playing expansive, entertaining football as their deadly duo of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge do not seem to be slowing down. The league’s top two strikers with 24 and 18 goals respectively have combined to score 42 goals together, just one less than Manchester United have managed all season. The top four newbies haven’t finished in the top four for the past five years and have certainly taken everyone by surprise gate crashing the party at the top of the table.
What’s stopping them? Lack of squad depth and a weak defence. Their open, attacking style of football means they have leaked in most goals among the top four. For all manager Brendan Rodger’s brilliance, it looks as if they have adopted a “we will score more than you” attitude towards their game. Not only does goals win you matches, a strong defence does too. And with just 10 games to go, they cannot afford to lose any of their starting 11 to injuries as they have a seriously thin squad who are over dependent on Suarez and Sturridge to score and create goals. To compete at the top, it’s common for a team to have at least two or three top quality players in each position, which Liverpool do not have at the moment.
Arsenal: Major under achievers who finally look like a team worthy of being crowned champions come May 2014 after eight years of trophy drought. They now sit third on the table after having been top for quite a long time. Their record signing in Mesut Ozil and the return of Mathieu Flamini have made Arsenal believe again and the new signings have certainly pushed the level of games in their teammates with Aaron Ramsey being one of their best players of the season. It’s natural to believe Ozil has been the reason for Arsenal’s change in form for all the quality he brings but on closer inspection, it’s actually the domino effect Arsenal are benefitting from the signing of a quality player like Ozil who seems to have influenced his team mates to perform better.
What’s stopping them? Difficult fixture list, a lack of a quality second striker, and record signing Mesut Ozil’s inability to influence in big games. Olivier Giroud is their main striker whom they cannot afford to lose to injury as games come in thick and fast. Arsenal also ought to be worried about the dip in form of the £42m man Mesut Ozil who has struggled to find his feet in his first year in England despite an excellent start to the season. He has not been able to influence in big games so far and Arsenal are now taking the hit for expecting too much of him too soon.
Manchester City: Everyone’s favourite to win the league, have been absolutely ruthless, tearing teams apart showing zero mercy on the way. They currently have the best goal difference of 42 whilst recording the second highest goals scored for at 69 just four behind Liverpool who have played two games more than City. Even if they do finish level on points with their closest rival, they are more likely to win the league thanks to their healthy goal difference. City have only last weekend won the Capital One cup and could now go on to win the treble with the FA cup and the Premier League still very much in their hands.
What’s stopping them? Apart from a poor away form, there is not much else stopping City. Goalkeeper Joe Hart needs to be on top of his game and cannot afford to let his early season dip in form to resurface. Otherwise vital points could be lost. They sit just 6 points behind the leaders having played 2 games fewer than everyone else. The two game advantage means the title is theirs to lose.
It’s also important to note that there is just four points separating the top four teams if Manchester City’s two game advantage is accounted for. So, will the champion be decided on the last day of the season? Sound off your thoughts in the comments below.
Photo credits: premierleague.com
About the contributor: VR has a passion for sports, technology and astronomy and can often be found either at the field playing soccer or at the astronomical observatory exploring the vast beautiful universe. You can find him on twitter @veroncfc23