The English Premier League will get to the half-way point by the end of tomorrow’s fixtures and things are still very tight at the top and there is very little margin for error. The way teams are switching positions with every round of games confirms this as the most exciting title race in living memory and pundits are finding it very difficult to make correct predictions as to how it will go.
After three indifferent results that saw their seven-point lead whittled down to zero last weekend, the Arsenal go into the last round of games for the first half of the season back in the lead with a one-point lead over pre-season favourites Manchester City. Second favourites Chelsea are in tow a further point down while my Liverpool, who led the pile on goal difference on Christmas, have been pushed to fourth position.
We have seen two top-of-the table clashes this week of different quality. Monday night’s London derby between the Gunners and Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea was as dull a game as you would see at the top with both sides seemingly more interested in not losing than claiming full points. The home side, which should have been expected to seize the initiative, did not have an attempt on target until the hour mark.
It is very rare for me to doze off through a match of high stakes like the tie at the Emirates but I struggled to remain awake on Monday night such was the dour nature of the tie. You could understand Chelsea because they were the away side and for Mourinho style counts for nothing as the end justifies the means, but for Arsene Wenger’s men to show so little ambition until very late in the game, it was surprising.
Which is why the Boxing Day fixture between my Liverpool and Manchester City is being billed as the best match of the season so far by many pundits. Two big teams fighting at the top end of the table and both were showing a lot of attacking intent. Only three goals were scored in the end but both teams will feel they did enough to notch a few more. It was, in my view, a good advert for the beautiful game.
Many commentators said in the previews that this would be the game that would show where the Reds really are as contenders for the title. Most of them now agree that even in defeat, Brendan Rodgers’ men showed that they will have a huge say in the destiny of the title. City captain Vincent Kompany even told the world that the encounter was their toughest home match this season.
As a Liverpool fan, my hope for the season was to return to the top four and I would be happy if we were where we are in May. What gives me hope is that there are still some key players to return from injury, there is talk of more reinforcements when the transfer windows opens on Wednesday and, more importantly, we have played most of the big guns away so far.
So, the team goes to Stamford Bridge tomorrow full of confidence and whatever the result, this promises to be the season when Kop return to the big time. It would be incredible for a team that finished seventh last season to think about winning the title but credit to Rodgers and his charges that they can make fans dream of a highly improbable title fight. To me that would simply be a bonus.