EPL: Essential Notes on Current Top Four
Every week I look at the current top 4 in the EPL, keeping track of how we got to where we are, and looking at the matches ahead for the clubs. Why Top 4? Simple, that is where you need to finish to have a shot at a UEFA Champions League spot next season.
Chelsea (Last Week #1 This Week #1)
Chelsea hold on to top spot by a single point after what will be a much talked about defeat to title rivals Manchester United. After going two down within 15 minutes Chelsea turned up late in the first half with a wonderful Juan Mata free kick, furthering his claim for the form player in the league right now. Two red cards to Fernando Torres and Branislav Ivanovic followed in what has been a much talked about end to the game. Some may argue the Spaniard should have been sent off for his foot into Tom Cleverley’s chest in the first half but the second yellow was clearly a bad call nonetheless.
The performance of referee Mark Clattenburg could easily be talked about all day but its best to focus on the players. Chelsea noticeably turned up to the game thirty minutes late, played off the park by a free-flowing United. Until the brilliance of Mata, Hazard and Oscar took control yet again. However, one Chelsea player that can be criticised is David Luiz. The Brazilian loves going forward, but often is found out of position which was seen during Robin Van Persie’s goal although he was unlucky to get in the way of the deflection for the first. He was also twelve or so yards out of position during the Ivanovic red card which put more pressure on the Serbian to bring down Ashley Young. With rumours circulating around the future of John Terry, Chelsea are in trouble in central defence as I don’t see David Luiz becoming defender or leader Terry once was.
Expect Chelsea to come out firing and determined after this weekend’s loss. Take a moment to feel a bit sorry for Swansea who are going to be on the receiving end of an angry yet determined Chelsea side.
My Prediction: Swansea 0 – Chelsea 3
Manchester United (Last Week #2 This Week #2)
United picked up an important and controversial three points and move one step closer to the number one spot with the 3-2 win over league leaders Chelsea. The same defensive frailties were evident with a soft second goal through Ramires scoring a header that should have been dealt with earlier in the attacking move. Again, the referee steals the spotlight away from great individual performances like Robin Van Persies, but the Dutchman can hardly complain as his team took vital points back to Old Trafford.
As lucky as some would say the Red Devils were to win, they looked their old selves going forward. The Link up play down both flanks between Rafael and Valencia while Young and Evra were equally impressive on the left showed why they play their best football playing fast and fluent football down the wings instead of the recently tested diamond formation. Although the diamond formation closed down the middle of the park against the Magpies and an impressive 3-0 win, it was refreshing to see the old United style back after a lucky escape against Braga midweek. Was also good to see Ashley Young return to the starting line – up, with Smalling and Jones nearning full fitness the backlines issues are hopefully a week closer to that much-needed change.
United will likely catch the attention again this week with Robin Van Persies old club coming to town. I don’t expect another 8-2 thrashing but based off the Gunners lacklustre performance against QPR I still think a good wins coming.
My Prediction: Manchester United 2 – Arsenal 1
Manchester City (Last Week #3 This Week #3)
The Defending champions scraped through with a 1-0 against Swansea thanks to a magic moment from Carlos Tevez. In a game with only four shots on target from City they continue to keep pace with United and Chelsea despite their growing injury list.
With Zabeleta, Richards, Garcia, Maicon, Silva and Rodwell all out injured this is a testing time for Roberto Mancini. After a defeat that all but put his side out of the Champions League, the Italian is in need of impressive results. With the quality squad at his disposal top performances and trophies are expected from here forward, and if City continues to play without that fire they had last year, Mancini could find himself out of a job. Time will tell of course, the team is full of match winners. Only problem is nobody is stepping forward of late, apart from Tevez long distance winner the champions have to find the form that lifted the trophy last year to take the top spot again.
Manchester City face a tough away trip to London to face a Hammers team that won’t give Mancini any favours. However, I expect City to rediscover their quality sooner rather than later.
My Prediction: West Ham 1 Manchester City 3
Tottenham Hotspurs (Last Week #5 This Week #4)
Everton’s hold on to fourth spot comes to an end as an improving Spurs takes their spot after a 2-1 win at Southampton. Spurs horrible run at St Mary’s finally came to an end as Gareth Bale scored his first goal since leaving in 2007. Bale showed his love for the club that gave him his first opportunity with a muted celebration once he scored which led to the three points.
Spurs have been impressive of late, but questions are raised over the selection of certain players. Jermaine Defoe is one of the in form strikers in the league so far, but Emmanuel Adebayor is becoming somewhat of a forgotten man since his permanent move. The former Arsenal man signed an expensive contract and has yet to feature prominently in Villas Boas plans. Another example is France No.1 Hugo Lloris. After his move from Lyon, he still finds himself behind the 41-year-old Brad Friedel. Although the American has rarely put a foot wrong a player of Lloris quality can only grow frustrated waiting for an opportunity where a player of his calibre would walk into many teams across Europe. It is refreshing however to see loyalty towards the existing players, especially as they continue to perform but the managers player management skills will be tested as they grow tired of watching from the bench.
I don’t expect to see Spurs run of form come to an end here, should be a comfortable win. Hopefully Adebayor gets a chance, perhaps alongside Defoe.
My Prediction: Tottenham 3 – Wigan 0