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Has the EPL become a one-horse race?

Last updated on: March 1, 2013 17:42 IST

Has the EPL become a one-horse race?

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With three-quarters of the English Premier League season over, Pritesh Mistry sees Manchester United cantering to a record 20th crown.

With Manchester City's dramatic last day finish to the Premier league last year, I think most people had expected them to show the same kind of character of champions.

Last season, Manchester City displayed an unmatched desire to win the League for which they got rewarded as well. However, this season, they dropped points when no one really expected them to.

Roberto Mancini has had his fair share of problems on and off the pitch, and his team selection with players like Mario Balotelli, which has had an impact on their game.

City's strength is their defence, but their attack has relied too much on individual brilliance. Yaya Toure, Silva and Aguero are players who really have made a difference most times they have played and can easily be categorized as different class.


Image: Yaya Toure of Manchester City
Photographs: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
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Van Persie has been instrumental in Man Utd's rise

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The red half of Manchester seems racing away with an almost certain record 20th Premier League title.

The surprising part has been that unlike their previous Premier League triumphs, United have not been anywhere near their defensive best.

The difference is the amount of goals they have been able to score with Robin Van Persie in the spot light.

I do not believe that one player irrespective of his worth can win you a 38 game competition. The orchestrators in midfield, the full-backs, wingers and the goalkeeper deserve every bit of credit for their success so far.

We have seen a fantastic blend of youth and experience in this team with players showing great consistency, but Sir Alex has got his starting eleven right nine out of ten times and that's what separates United from the rest of the teams.


Image: Robin Van Persie
Photographs: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
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Fourth spot wide open

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The race for the vital Champions League place is a roller coaster as Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs are fighting it out. All the three London clubs have had completely different seasons so far and for so many different reasons.

Arsenal have struggled to be at or near fourth place for more than one reason. With the departure of yet another key player in Robin Van Persie, a lot of questions have been asked about the club's management and their lack of ambition.

Arsene Wenger, as good as he has been in making Arsenal invincible all those years ago, can barely justify his team's performances this season.

A lack of goals combined with inconsistent defending has left Arsenal in a questionable spot at the moment. If there is a change for the better in the mindset of the players or any form of inspiration, it has to come now, else Arsenal is staring at something worse next season.


Image: Santi Cazorla
Photographs: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
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Benitez has not been able to justify his appointment

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After big money signings of Oscar and Eden Hazard in the summer, Roman Abramovich's Chelsea were looking solid at the start of the season as Roberto Di Matteo guided them to seven wins out of eight.

This joy was short lived as Roberto Di Matteo was sacked for a winless streak of six games and Champions League elimination much to the shock of the football fraternity.

His immediate replacement Rafa Benitez has not been able to justify his appointment yet. Chelsea's recurring managerial changes have seen them deliver only half good seasons in the past few years.

All of this is down to how much time a manager is given at the football club to deliver, which, in my opinion, is way too less at Chelsea for a top four side.


Image: Oscar and Eden Hazard
Photographs: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
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Villas Boas had a lot to prove for his own reputation

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After the turbulent summer Spurs had with the sacking of successful manager Harry Redknapp, replacement Andre Villas Boas had a lot to prove for his own reputation and sacking at Chelsea.

So far, Spurs have been complete opportunists. However, in recent seasons, Spurs have been in similar positions and given their spot away more than easily.

With key departures in Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart, all the pressure was on new signings and key players to prove a point.

It goes without saying that Gareth Bale is a marvel this season and has won Spurs games which they would not have come close to winning.

Spurs are now within touching distance of fourth place, but the question remains can they keep the spark on and push themselves across the finish line.


Image: Andre Villas Boas and Gareth Bale
Photographs: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
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Swansea surprise, delight and inspire

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When Brendan Rodgers left Swansea for Liverpool, many believed that Swansea would not be able to cope up with Premier League quality.

However, the appointment of Michael Laudrup has put Swansea in dreamland eighth spot and ensured that the Swans tasted silverware this season in form of the Capital One cup.

I mention 'delight' because of the quality of football Swansea have demonstrated this season, which clearly should inspire any newly-promoted side.

New signing Michu's top flight form has won so many hearts and games for the Swans, especially against teams who sit higher up the table.

If there is any team in the league that deserves 10 out of 10 so far, with the limitation in resources taken into account, it has to be Swansea.

They could well be on their way to qualify for Europa next season. All they need to do is maintain their run of form for the remainder of the season.


Image: Miguel Michu
Photographs: Ben Hoskins/Getty Images
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Bottom three spots as uncertain as fourth

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The bottom three spots are as uncertain as the fourth spot is at the moment, with Wigan, Aston Villa, Reading, Southampton and QPR struggling to stay out of the pit.

QPR chairman Tony Fernandes put an end to Mark Hughes's reign at Loftus road, turning to Harry Redknapp to revive QPR. Uncharacteristically, Harry has struggled to make any impact after his appointment, as they remain bottom of the table.

Paul Lambert's appointment at Villa Park was tipped by many to be successful. However, Villa started their season in poor form, with just one win in their first 13 games.

Aston Villa are in as much danger as any of the sides fighting for relegation and with the way they have been playing hardly anyone would rule out a possibility of them being relegated.



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Reading started their season with promise

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Reading started their season with promise as new signings Pavel Pogrebnyak, Chris Gunter and Danny Guthrie gave them a good start. But after that early promise they struggled to grab points and continued to slip into the relegation zone.

Wigan Athletic has played some very good football this season, dominating possession and creating chances. However, the concern is, results have not reflected performances. They are close to relegation rivals Southampton as Roberto Martinez faces a tough task to avoid the drop this season.

Southampton has been in the news for their managerial changes and a roller coaster season.

The shock sacking of Nigel Adkins just after the Saints looked to get back on track following the shaky start to their Premier League season forced all Saints fans to point fingers at the club chairman.

It looks difficult, but not impossible, for Southampton boss Mauricio Roberto Pochettino to just about avoid the drop.



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Mid-table mediocrity and over achievement

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David Moyes made some shrewd signings in Kevin Mirallas and Steven Pienaar. However, there were some question marks raised about the slow start Everton made to the season.

Slowly, but steadily, Everton picked up pace and now look to be challenging for the fourth spot as well.

Liverpool have clearly underperformed over the course of the season. The way their season begun, it was almost as if they would not see the top half of the table at all.

However, they have crawled back into the top half with some key wins. One can argue that they have been unlucky to not take maximum points out of the big games they played against Man City, Man United and Everton.

Fulham had to cope with departures of two key players in Dembele and Dempsey which proved to be quite a task at the beginning of the season.

They just could not hold winning positions against the likes of Sunderland, Reading and Southampton.

Stoke, Norwich, Fulham, Newcastle, West Ham and Sunderland are all within three points of each other, battling it out for finishing either in the top half of the table or the beginning of the bottom half.

Overall, apart from the title being decided early, it would be fair to say that the Premier League has lived up to its reputation of being the most exciting league in the world, with almost all positions undecided and far from certain.


Image: Luis Suarez
Photographs: Stu Forster/Getty Images
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