There is a break in the Premier League programme for the World Cup qualifiers but some sides will be much happier with their lot than others ahead of a blank weekend in the league schedule. Arsenal and Liverpool have overachieved, there has been some good and bad for Chelsea and Manchester City but Manchester United have most concerns following the first six weeks of the season.
Everton are another side that will be pleased with how the new season is progressing. At 125/1 they would be a good bet to finish in the top three but those crafty bookies are only offering terms of two places at that price. City are still favourites to win the title but at a bigger price than at the start of the season and the most significant movers in the market are Arsenal.
Crystal Palace are seen as the most likely club to be relegated according to bookmaker’s prices and it doesn’t look too good for Sunderland. After that five teams are priced between 2/1 and 4/1 to fill the third dreaded spot so feasibly any three of seven teams could be playing Championship football next season.
In the top goalscorer market Romelu Lukaku is now 12/1, good news for followers of the Bet Enthusiast service who were advised to back the Everton loanee each way at 33/1 to score most goals in the league this season. United supporters may be interested in backing Robin Van Persie to win this market again but Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge from Liverpool are not too far behind in the betting.
Arsenal began the season by losing to Aston Villa at home, a match followed by some fans asking for the dismissal of Arsene Wenger. Arguably the most intelligent man that has ever managed a British club side refused to panic and at that stage probably knew what he had up his sleeve. Undoubtedly Mesut Ozil is one of the best midfield players in the world and all is now rosy in the Emirates garden.
Jack Wilshere is a potential future England captain so he could be the player that lifts the World Cup in Qatar in 2022, though that could actually happen in the winter of 2021. When FIFA awarded Qatar the World Cup did anyone not check the summer temperatures? That’s before we even consider the conditions amongst the construction workers on the stadia, too many of whom have lost their life.
Anyway that is a digression and the point of this thread is that the Arsenal midfield is looking so strong that Wilshere may have to accept a wide role. Ozil, Aaron Ramsey, Mikel Arteta and Santi Carzola may be ahead of him in the pecking order. The key to Arsenal’s chances of winning the Premier League for the first time since 2004 is the purchase of a proven goalscorer in the January transfer window. The arrival of Suarez or Wayne Rooney could be the most significant deal Wenger has supervised in his 17 years with the club.
A player that can guarantee 20 goals a season must now be a priority for the not so Special One at Chelsea. The ultimate designer manager, surely Jose Mourinho made a massive gaffe in allowing Lukaku to go on loan to Everton. Fernando Torres always looks fed up to me and Samuel Eto’o was a world class striker five years ago. Lukaku may be hauled back to London but the Everton supporters could win over his heart and mind if he continues to show such passion when playing for the Blues.
Across Stanley Park at Anfield Brendan Rodgers seems to be building a decent side. Liverpool are second in the table leading into the international break and have become a side that plays badly and wins rather than plays well and loses. The key decision will centre on the future of Suarez but a potential Champions League spot next season may persuade him to stay for another year, though hopefully he won’t bite off more than he can chew.
For Manchester City the form of Joe Hart is a real concern. Peter Shilton has commented recently that goalkeepers must be consistent and can afford no more than one significant mistake each season. Hart has now used up his quota for the next five years and heaven help City if another bloomer costs England a place in next year’s World Cup.
City had a blip against Cardiff City early on and more typical of their ability was the 4-1 win against United. Their travails in the Champions League continue and Bayern Munich exposed some obvious weaknesses but City won’t be playing the best side in Europe every week and look worthy favourites to win the league again.
It was always going to be challenging for United in the post Ferguson era. Defeats away to City and Liverpool though hard to take would have been factored into the business plan for the season. However, United never lost home matches to sides like West Brom when the great man was in charge. David Moyes has been given a six year contract but realistically that means three if the minimum requirement of Champions League football is not met in each of his first three years in charge.
So, Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton are in credit, Chelsea and Manchester City are breaking even and Man United are underperforming. Bearing all that in mind I’ll end this piece with a tip and that is the 2013/2014 Premier League title will be won by a team from London, Manchester or Liverpool. You heard it here first.