The Premier League season in England is now past the midway point and the first two places look to have been settled which means the main issue over the rest of the season concerns which teams will qualify for the third and fourth Champions League places.
Manchester United are now 1/3 to win the main league in England for the 20th time in their history and the 13th time since Sir Alex Ferguson became the manager. United have a seven point lead at the top of the table and have lost just three league matches this season.
Manchester City look booked for second place as they are six points ahead of Chelsea. City have lost just two matches in the league but one of those was at home to United in the most significant match of the season to date.
The race to finish third and fourth and guarantee lucrative Champions League football next season appears to be between three teams. Fans of West Brom would claim that side are also in the mix but they have overachieved over the first part of the season.
Chelsea continue to be inconsistent despite the efforts of Rafa Benitez to organise the side and get the best out of Fernando Torres in particular. In successive league matches at home Chelsea beat Aston Villa 8-0 and then lost to Queens Park Rangers.
The Capital One Cup is generally fourth on the list of priorities for the teams who are looking to play Champions League football. However, losing to Swansea at home in the first leg of the semi-final will have done little for the confidence of a side that appear to be struggling to adapt to Benitez’s methods.
Tottenham Hotspurs are now playing some of the best football of any side in the league. The goalless draw away to Queens Park Rangers last weekend was a disappointing result but the side are now unbeaten in seven matches.
Andre Villas-Boas is now showing the managerial ability that earned him the managers job at Chelsea. There is no shame in being sacked from that position as much more qualified and experienced managers than Villas Boas have been shown the door at Chelsea.
Everton have lost just three league matches this season and only once at home. David Moyes continues to produce effective sides without the large amounts of investment on players enjoyed by other clubs.
The key to Everton’s chances of making the top four is keeping their best players during the January transfer window. Marouane Felliani in particular is a player that Moyes will be keen to keep on the books and it appears he will be staying with the club at least until the summer.
Arsenal have qualified for the Champions League for 16 years in succession but that achievement may be beyond them this season. Several of the younger players have been signed up on long term contracts but it may take some time before Arsene Wenger can build his next successful side.
The key to Arsenal’s progress over the remainder of the season is the form of Jack Wilshere, one of the best young English players in the Premier League. The manager should be building his side around Wilshere but without Champions League football next season he may be tempted to move to one of the Manchester clubs in the summer.
Back next Friday.