By Martin Hearnden
11 games to go
QPR are doomed, let’s get that out there straight away. Despite the “Harry factor” being touted by one and all, they have been going down for some time now. In fact you could trace it back to their pathetic capitulation in the last few seconds of last season; I will get over it in time. Their owners then went out and spent crazy money on a bunch of players that would pretty much confirm their struggles – Zamora, Ji-Sung Park, Boswinga, Wright-Phillips et al – and presto, relegation battle. 11 games to go, 20 points needed, it is not going to happen, they are a proper shambles.
Likeable Reading with their likeable Manager is going the same way. Simply not good enough, they seem to start every game 2-0 down and try and play their way out of it. Laudable but also doomed. You could make a pretty good case for dropping the bottom 6 out of the division but there are hardly Premiership quality sides desperate to get out of the Championship, maybe, just maybe, Cardiff but no one else. Here is a thought, drop 5 out, one up and a much more compact, competitive and manageable Premiership. No more complaints about too many games. Villa may just drag their sorry selves out of the bottom 3, Wigan are past masters of that art, the Saints are still well in the frame. Someone else will get dragged into the scrap, maybe the Hammers, maybe Norwich, maybe Sunderland, actually Sunderland are a very good shout.
The middle is the middle in every sense of the word. Full of sides whose sole ambition is to stay in the Premiership like the very ordinary kids who cannot hang with the cool guys but do not belong with the dross at the bottom. You get the feeling that the likes of Stoke and Fulham (I like Fulham), will be occupying the same spots in 5 years’ time, and still wondering why they did not pay one of the cup competitions (Swansea anyone?) greater attention. Not so much a lack of ambition as no ambition at all.
Swansea and West Brom have surprised this season and we can only hope they continue their progress, they both play football but cementing their places in the top half of the table will be difficult. Swansea has been rewarded with the first trophy of the season and their first ever. Several other clubs could well pay attention to the attention the Swans paid to the League Cup.
OK, to the top, where we should have started. I confess a conflict of interest in regard to the side currently top by 12 points. Let us just say not bad for a team derided for being a poor imitation of their predecessors. RVP may still qualify as the signing of the season but this is no one man team. The determination to wrest back the title after the events of the last day last season is manifest. Love him or loath him, there is not much middle ground, but no one has ever navigated their way round the top division like Alex Ferguson. Far too soon to change the ribbons on the trophy but United are well and truly in pole position.
Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal have all had poor seasons. The Champions simply have not kicked on, a fact Mancini has blamed on their lack of investment in the off season. Maybe so, but with your squad sunshine you should still be threatening. With all their resources Chelsea has left themselves with an extremely thin squad, a situation exacerbated by the continued managerial farce at the club. After being jilted by Pep, who knows who rocks up their next season? No doubt armed with a cast iron “exit clause” in the contract anf financial security for life. They are a club in dire need of a major overhaul; it will take a few seasons. The spine of Cech, Terry, Lampard, Drogba soon will be no more than a distant memory.
Arsene Wegner for the chop? Unthinkable only a few seasons ago but really, what a mess they have got themselves into. So many good players now plying their trade elsewhere and lightweights (by Arsenal standards) in their place. They make a profit but “so what” scream the fans as they risk dropping out of the top 4 altogether. Adding to the sense of frustration is the rise of Spurs under the new age direction of AVB. He took half a season to bed in but really has the team playing now, helped no end by having the best player in the league in his side. Nowhere near as fragile as previous Tottenham sides and with a cutting edge, the Champions League beckons. Whisper it but they could push very hard for second.
Another candidate for buy of the season? Dembele.
Not really squeaky bum time yet but the clock is ticking.
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