Well, there aren’t really any yet – but it seems an apt title considering the long, as in season-long absence of the writing crew here at Total Football. But, rest assured that we’ve picked back up our pencils and put them back down, considering we use computers.
Shitty jokes aside, let’s talk about football.
Perhaps the biggest stories of late are coming out of the English Premier League – surprise, surprise. With five teams in it [United, City, Arsenal, Spurs, and Chelsea] at this important point of the season, the gap is growing between them and the rest of the pack.
Let’s start at the top: United. This season has been the consistency that United has become known for. Not rotating rosters, not following the growing trend of spending a small nation’s GDP on a single player that barely produces, grows tired of the fans and leaves for greener (read: foreign, continental) pasture. But, remaining the starting XI that has given birth to Sir Alex’s identity.
With the youth of Javier Hernandez, a great catalyst was given to the scoring form of United – and has sealed victory several times this season, most recently at West Brom.
Up next, the big spenders – proving only that money doesn’t buy happiness. Arguably, with their game-in-hand, the game this Wednesday against Arsenal in London will be pivotal in each team’s title race. With a loss, City could become easy prey to be overtaken by Tottenham.
Dominating the news around the team, is not only the security of Roberto Mancini’s post, but also of the morale of his team. With other managers on the chopping block – which I feel certain Julian will cover in his next post – Mancini’s trouble has fallen near silent in the press as his team has moved higher and higher in the table. However, with a loss Wednesday, he – and his scarf – could be back in the forefront, and under scrutiny.
Next in the table, Arsene Wenger and the gunners. Season after season the claims have been made that it’s Arsenal’s year. However, with a drought stretching back to the FA Cup in 2005 with Arsenal beating United on penalties – the claims have lost their impact.
With the pitch and bench both filled with talent, it’s no shock that the gunners brushed off their soft stereotype that’s developed this season and have begun to take the identity of a team that can play all 90 minutes, again.
With the return of Aaron Ramsey from injury, and a spell at Nottingham Forest, Arsenal will have another viable threat form their midfield adding to the excitement of seeing what the young Welshman can do for the remainder of this season.
However, results like the one against Wigan last week provide more fuel for critics that Arsenal are a team that can’t defend, and can’t tough it out. With proving tests coming this week against Manchester City, and perhaps the biggest test of the season coming in February against Barcelona, only time will tell if Arsenal have what it takes to secure top place come May.
Trailing Arsenal are their North London rivals, Tottenham. Sitting just three points behind the gunners, Spurs could overtake provided a loss by Arsenal to City and a win against Everton. However, stirring the speculation is the possibility of David Beckham joining the London club on loan – as Harry Redknapp has expressed his desire for the former EPL legend to join the team for the remainder of the season. More to come on this, I’m sure, from Jon Ballenger.
Personally, I’d be fond to see the return of Beckham to English football, just not at the club down the road. However, with the interjection of Beckham to a side who’s undoubtedly made the best purchase already this season with Rafael van der Vaart, coupled with the attacking presence of Gareth Bale – this winter could prove to be very entertaining domestically, and abroad for Spurs fans.
As far as the widening gap is concerned, it ends with Chelsea. Starting the season off at a blistering pace, the title holders dropped off in recent months, and boss Carlo Ancelotti has been added to the list for managers who could lose their job this January.
Losing recently to Arsenal, the Blues gave the gunners their first big four win in the league since Liverpool last season.
Falling off the pace, the Blues could be facing “Liverpool” circumstances if things aren’t fixed. Soon.