Jamie Farquharson examines the nail-biting countdown to the season’s finale.
As the month of March fades away into the memory and has now dissolved into April the utilization of words such as finale, conclusion and culmination have become commonplace in the media and among the millions of fans worldwide as we arrive at the current juncture and business end of the Premier League season.
The 11th of May could be a date with destiny for one of the top 4, but which team will history speak of in years to come? That particular Sunday is the final curtain call of this majestic Premier League season, game 38 sees Chelsea travel to Wales for an encounter against Cardiff, Arsenal head to East Anglia for a bout with Norwich, while both Liverpool and Manchester City enjoy the benefit of home advantage against Newcastle and West Ham retrospectively. What’s for certain is the fact that, by 4.45 pm the world will be introduced to the newly crowned champions of English football.
The story of the previous 32 games has routinely demonstrated that the race for pole position could go right down to the wire. The 2013/14 season has arguably been defined as the most exciting yet and has strengthened the opinion of many, that England is home to the finest league in world football. Recent evidence that substantiates this claim can be drawn from subsequent Saturday fixtures whereby Chelsea all but ended Arsenals title ambitions as they demolished the Gunners by 6 goals to 0 at Stamford Bridge, only to then fall 1-0 the following weekend when they made the short trip to relegation threatened Crystal Palace.
Manchester City have also fallen to ‘lesser’ opposition during the course of the season, surrendering against two teams that currently occupy the bottom three. Both Sunderland and Cardiff have each extracted 3 points from the boys in blue, results such as these only demonstrate the strength of the Premier League, this is one of the many reasons that the worlds top footballers ply their trade here.
When the season finally draws to a close however which stars will be the key faces on the winners podium? In the past figures such as Thierry Henry, Alan Shearer, Eric Cantona and Didier Drogba have all thrust their names into the spotlight and hoisted the Premiership trophy aloft with pride.
Perhaps this time around it will be man dressed in red in the form of a wizardry winger such as Raheem Sterling? Maybe a silky midfield maestro like Mezut Ozil? Or will it be a player sporting a blue shirt? The seasoned and skilful Frank Lampard or the reliable and vigorous Vincent Kompany.
Let us examine the contenders. In an attacking sense it is Liverpool who are firing on all cylinders during the current campaign, they have outscored their 3 rivals with 88 goals from 32 games. The front line pairing of Suarez and Sturridge have combined with devastating results to form a crucial component of the Merseysiders rise to the summit. There are two fixtures however that will play a large part in determining any possible success they may enjoy come May 11th. Liverpool have lost 3 out of 4 against the top sides this season, albeit in away fixtures. This month they host both Manchester City and Chelsea at Anfield, following these fixtures we may have a clearer indication of where the title is heading.
Arsenal have endured an interesting Premiership season which has promised much at points, however injuries to key players have left their squad depleted and threadbare and it is here at the business end of proceedings where the Gunners appear to have run out of steam. It appears they are relatively dead and buried in the title race after enduring a nightmare week, current form has seen Arsenal extract just 8 points from an available 18. The familiar chase for fourth spot appears a more likely prospect as they look nervously over their shoulders rather than above, Everton’s significant progress seems to be a cause for concern.
There is a massive game coming up at Goodison Park on Sunday where both Everton and Arsenal come head to head, a match which could have a large impact on deciding the fate of both sides. Anybody who has followed this seasons proceedings will be well aware of its unpredictability. If things go Arsenals way this weekend they could finish Sunday four points behind Liverpool and be back in the race for the title.
Over in West London Chelsea have faltered slightly suffering two defeats in their last 6 league games away to Aston Villa and Crystal Palace, both by a solitary goal without reply. If it is to go down to the wire then goal difference could become crucial. Aside from the emphatic 6-0 victory against Arsenal, Chelsea have not been as fluent in dispatching opposition in the manner that Liverpool and Manchester City have routinely demonstrated. On average Chelsea score 1.94 goals per game, when leaders Liverpool for example hit the back of the net 2.75 times per game. Will Chelsea’s lack of attacking prowess up top cost them in the long run?
The Stamford Bridge outfit have however become the only team thus far to claim 2 wins against Manchester City, what’s even more impressive is the fact that Chelsea possess the unique accolade of attaining points from a trip to the City of Manchester Stadium, City have won every other one of their home games. Jose Mouriniho has experience of winning titles all over Europe; it is his tactical prowess that could yet work in Chelsea’s favour during the run in.
Moving back up to the Northwest to examine Manchester City’s credentials it seems that on paper they are in a very promising position, although they currently languish 4 points behind leaders Liverpool, they have 2 games in hand, win those and they go 2 points clear at the summit. City have won 93% of their home games this season, 5 of their last 8 fixtures are at home. Next up is the visit of a Southampton side who have impressed this season, the saints currently occupy 8th position and will be full of confidence following their 4-0 destruction of Newcastle at Saint Marys. You have to travel back nearly 10 years to the date however to record a Southampton away victory here.
Determining the prospective champions is certainly a daunting task; this season certainly has an ability to throw up a surprise or two. With 8 wins out of 8 Steven Gerrard and co are certainly making a strong case over at Anfield, at the time of writing they are sitting pretty at the head of the table while complimented by a rich vein of form.
After Chelsea’s demise at Selhurst Park last Saturday, Jose Mourinho declared his side now out of contention for the title race, but is this just a smoke screen to take the pressure off his side? And with so many twists and turns surely to come it is difficult to foresee what could happen next.
The red half of North London will be quietly hoping for some slip ups above them, but if they are to take any sort of advantage then surely maximum points from hereon in are imperative.
Manchester City are a team who have been many peoples favourites for most of the season, the strength in depth they possess could see them over the line if they can take the advantage of winning their games in hand.
A red-letter day will be indelibly inscribed into the history of one side that can last the distance, but will the crown remain in the North West, or make a return to London? Stay tuned as the season edges ever closer to its epic climax.