FOOTBALL OPINION: 'A look back at the Premier League season so far'
With the Premier League taking a back seat to the FA Cup this weekend, it’s time for the customary mid-season review.
From Manchester United’s brilliant form and the constant drama at Chelsea to the scarcely believable sacking of managers, this campaign’s had it all - and we’re only half-way through!
Here’s a look back at the highs and lows of the season so far and my take on how the rest of the year will pan out...
BEST SIGNING - Of course Robin Van Persie’s been immense for United (more on him later), but apart from the deadly Dutchman I can’t go past Swansea striker Michu. The Spaniard has come from nowhere to score 13 goals in 21 games and you have to wonder why none of the big clubs snapped him up. He’s just so comfortable in front of goal and for a fee of only $3million - what a bargain!
BIGGEST FLOP - There’s still time for the goal-shy Spaniard to prove me wrong but it looks as though the defending champion will retain his title after another poor start to the season. With Didier Drogba gone I expected the Torres to take ownership of the striking role at Chelsea, but he continues to be a shadow of the player he was at Liverpool. They say form is temporary and class is permanent, but that clearly doesn’t apply to Torres.
BIGGEST SURPRISE - Not much shocks me in football anymore but Roberto Di Matteo’s sacking as Chelsea boss was a bolt from the blue. I just don’t understand chairmen sometimes. The man had just won the FA Cup and Champions League - the trophy owner Roman Abramovich so desperately wanted - and they go and fire him barely a quarter of the way into the following season. It’s no wonder Pep Guardiola chose Bayern Munich.
MOST LIKELY TO GO DOWN - I’ve stated earlier that I believe Harry Redknapp will steer QPR to safety and I’m sticking to my word...for now. As for those who won’t be so lucky, Reading and Wigan are certainties to be relegated and after the shock sacking of manager Nigel Adkins I wouldn’t be surprised if Southampton joins them. Adkins had earned the Saints double promotion in successive years and had them five points clear of the drop zone only to be giving his marching orders. What was the board thinking?
MOST LIKELY FOR THE TITLE - I know I shouldn’t be, but I’m slightly surprised United are five points clear at the top. With the size of the squad they possess I thought City would be the team to beat, but it’s obvious the title is now the Reds’ to lose. And while football is a team game, that is very much down to the arrival of Van Persie.
In the way Eric Cantona did when he landed at Old Trafford in 1992, ‘RVP’ has raised the game of the players around him. He’s also changed the dynamics of the side - United have struggled at the back at times, but they’ve scored so many goals it hasn’t been the issue it could have been. Roll on title No.20...
BANTAMS BREATHE LIFE INTO LEAGUE CUP
I cannot say enough about Bradford’s giant-killing run into the League Cup final. On Tuesday night they became the first fourth-tier club in 51 years to get to that stage with their 4-3 aggregate win over Aston Villa. But it also got me thinking whether Premier League clubs are taking this competition as seriously as they should be.
I understand the elite sides opt to field weaker teams as they focus on the Champions League, but at the end of the day it’s still a trophy inthe cabinet. Arsenal, for example, are crying out for some silverware - they haven’t won any in almost eight years - yet they continue to take the League Cup for granted. And it’s not just them, as managers all across the top-flight prioritise a few places on the table over a shot at Wembley.
This can only be to the detriment of the players and supporters. Nothing can beat cheering your team on in a cup final at Wembley, and when players retire it’s trophies they like to count - not how many times they finished fourth. But it’s their loss and the Bantams’ gain and good luck to them.