In one of the most exciting title races in recent years, three teams lead the way in terms of goals and excitement. All three had high scoring wins this past weekend in an effort to keep their chances of success alive. Chelsea drew first blood with an impressive 6-0 win over Arsenal at Stamford Bridge. Not exactly the way Arsene Wenger had hoped to have spent the anniversary of his 1,000th game in charge of Arsenal but his team were simply blown away by Jose Mourinho’s men. The Portuguese coach had poked the fire weeks early by suggesting that Wenger only knew how to lose, given his recent dry spell without a trophy. That kicked the preverbal wheels off of Arsenal’s title charge, which was all part of Mourinho’s master plan to begin with persumably. Saturday’s defeat all but confirmed that Arsenal’s only hopes of a trophy this year would come in the FA Cup, which is unless something catastrophic happens to Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool.
Manchester City’s reply to Chelsea throwing down the gauntlet at the Bridge was to hand out a drubbing of their own, albeit one less with five. Fulham put up a brave fight but were powerless to stop Yaya Toure from adding more weight to the claim of being one of the best midfielders in the world, with a stunning hat trick. His third demonstrated the gulf between the two sides, as he carefully picked the ball up some 25 yards out and effortlessly curled it past David Stockdale in goal. A Fernandinho strike and a tap in by defender Martin Demichelis wrapped up the game and took City’s goals for tally to 76 for the season. The current Premiership winning goals tally sits at 103, scored by Chelsea in the 2009-2010 season so City still have 27 goals to find in their remaining 10 games. Not unrealistic given that they are averaging 3.68 goals a game. With Sergio Aguero still to come back to full fitness and Edin Dzeko hitting form, their goal scoring exploits look likely to continue for some time.
One team not to be out shot by City is this year’s surprise team, Liverpool. Firstly, an apology. This blog was critical in the past of Brendan Rodgers and his team especially Daniel Sturridge who were feared would never become a double digits striker in his career. As we sit and eat humble pie, Sturridge has impressed his critics with his fine displays during the course of this season and his lethal partnership with bad boy Luiz Suarez which has proven to be the catalyst behind Liverpool’s revival. Never truly considered a title contender in the past ten years, Rodgers has instilled a belief in his squad that says simply why not. Saturday’s thrilling performance against relegation threatened Cardiff, where they twice came from behind before eventually to win by 6 goals to 3, confirmed that they should not be discounted as a title hopeful. It was their sixth win in a row, the first time that they have done so since 2008. In that year, Liverpool finished behind Manchester United in the title race, three points ahead of Chelsea. Now sitting in 2nd place in the league (City are in 3rd with 2 games in hand), Liverpool are hot on Chelsea’s coat tails, four points behind with a game in hand. The new SOS strike force of Suarez and Sturridge (the previous being Blackburn’s Shearer and Sutton) have scored a combined total of 47 goals so far and Liverpool now lead the team goal scoring charts with 83. Few would bet against them from competing with Chelsea, not only for the title but for their goals record as well.
Early pretenders Arsenal and Tottenham have simply come to the boil too soon and now are slipping quickly. Arsenal’s biggest problem has been containing the current top three in the matches they have played against them this season. Remarkably Arsenal have conceded half of their 34 goals against in only three away matches – December’s 6-3 defeat to Manchester City, February’s 5-1 loss to Liverpool and Saturday’s 6-0 thrashing at the hands of Chelsea. At home, they did managed to pip Liverpool by 2-0 plus held Chelsea to a draw so Saturday’s visit to the Emirates by Manchester City will give Wenger a chance to complete a unique trio of redemption results but will it be enough to kick start their title push once more? Arsenal have not been as prolific as the three other challengers, with 53 goals scored in the league to date (an average of 2 per game). Main striker Olivier Giroud has lead the way with 12 goals but lack of support or another recognised striker has hindered Arsenal’s overall push.
Spurs on the other hand appear to have found their main striker, months after casting him aside. Sherwood’s reintroduction of Emmanuel Adebayor has been a masterstroke with the Togolese hitman scoring eight times in the league since Sherwood took over from the flapping AVB. Tottenham managed to sneak the win on Sunday against Southampton but any dreams of a title push died long ago, along with the team’s confidence. Sherwood has guided the way well but it won’t be enough for Spurs to challenge or for him unfortunately to keep his job come the end of the season. Already Southampton’s Mauricio Pochettino and Dutchman Louis Van Gaal have been installed as favourites for the job well before the seat has been vacated by Sherwood. As for current Champions, Manchester United, well we all know the story there. Moyes is focusing on winning the Champions League, knowing that the title is well out of reach. With Bayern Munich is his way howevere, it might not be that simple to do, so focusing on 5th place may be the better option. Either way it’s been a failure of a season for United and its new head coach who has much to do in the summer, if he is still around that is.
The title will be decided in the next few weeks with clashes such as Manchester City vs Liverpool, Arsenal vs Manchester City and Liverpool vs Chelsea all having a key bearing on where the cup ends up come May 11th. All three teams have the firepower to keep on going all the way until the finish with Chelsea’s 2009 goal scoring record firmly under threat.