Manchester City are in prime position to land the Premier League title after they defeated Aston Villa 4-0 last night at The Etihad. A single point at home to West Ham on Sunday will suffice.
Pellegrini’s men looked down and out after the 3-2 loss to Liverpool at Anfield, however the title was again in City’s hands a fortnight later as Chelsea defeated The Reds 2-0.
It’s been a strange old season at the top of the league with top spot changing hands a record breaking 25 times. Yaya Toure and co will do everything in their power on Sunday to make sure that figure remains the same.
Man City have been the most balanced side in the league this year, deadly in attack while also holding their own defensively. They currently hold the best attacking record domestically with 100 goals, while Chelsea are the only team to have conceded less.
They have looked average at times this season and are far from invincible, however it looks like the overall balance of the team and sheer strength and depth of their squad will be enough to see them over the line. Yaya Toure has also had a massive part to play, he has been outstanding this season bagging 20 goals, the big Ivorian is without doubt one of the best central midfielders in world football.
Where have the other three title contenders gone wrong?
The Gooners have not had a bad season and had led the way for a large part of the campaign. However, they have been crippled by injuries, losing Ramsey and Walcott in particular was a major setback. They also lack strength and physicality in the team, you feel that they would benefit greatly if they could sign a proper midfield enforcer.
Wenger is partly to blame for the way that the final third of the season has panned out, the Frenchman will not change his philosophy in order to grind out results against the stronger sides in the league.
He did sacrifice beautiful football in order to claim victory over Dortmund in the Champions League group stages. Wenger could have set his team up similarly for trips away to Liverpool, Chelsea and City. The amount of injuries to key players could possibly have played a part in team selection for these Premier League away days, however, you feel that Wenger would have set up the same way had he been able to pick from a full squad.
His blatant refusal to adapt Arsenal’s tactics for certain games may well lead to Wenger’s dismissal at some point. This would be quite disappointing to see, as the Premier League’s longest serving active manager has achieved so much. Keeping Arsenal competitive, and qualifying for the Champions League season after season, while also operating on a tight budget in order to secure a better future for his club. Wenger has sacrificed personal glory and trophies in order to keep the club above water financially, following the construction of the Emirates.
Arsenal can break the trophy drought against Hull in the FA Cup final which will take some of the pressure off of the players and manager going into the next campaign. If Wenger can sign a few strong, experienced midfielders in order to give the North Londoner’s a more physical presence in the big games then they will have every chance of mounting a credible title challenge next season.
Last season Chelsea failed to qualify from the group stages of the Champions League and finished third in the league, but were just 3 points ahead of 5th placed Spurs. This season they were title contenders up until last night, and were one game away from The Champions League final.
Say what you want about Mourinho’s tactics but he has massively improved The Blues this season. The fact is, The West Londoner’s have been labelled an anti-football side as a result of one month of all out defensive football. They did not set up in this way for the majority of the season, especially at The Bridge where they defeated Arsenal, Liverpool, Man City, Spurs and Everton scoring 15 goals in the process.
It is fair to say that the team aren’t as fluid as they were last year when Juan Mata was pulling the strings in midfield, but they are much more solid defensively and have conceded the least goals in the league. The first thing on Mourinho’s mind must have been to improve the back line, as the team was a shambles defensively throughout the last campaign.
Chelsea’s biggest shortcoming has been the lack of a consistent striker, the three at the club this season have scored just 18 goals between them. Just four more than Romelu Lukaku who was loaned to Everton at the beginning of the season.
It was surprising to see Lukaku loaned out this season as he had been a monster up front for during his loan stint at West Brom. He seems like a Mourinho type player as well, he has pace, strength and is a tireless worker. The young Belgian striker could well have had an impact at The Bridge this season.
Chelsea don’t need much more than a top quality striker next season, and will likely have two should they recall Lukaku and sign Diego Costa from Atletico Madrid. Other than that they are pretty solid. Holding on to Oscar and Hazard is also a must.
The Reds have exceeded everyone’s expectations this season. They may still be crowned Premier League Champions but it looks highly unlikely at this stage.
Liverpool began to show massive improvement in the second half of last season and carried that form into this campaign.
Rodger’s free scoring men have been breathtaking this season, attacking with style and intensity. The team have been relentless going forward and have killed off many a game in the first 45 minutes.
You can’t overlook the likes of Sturridge, Gerrard, Henderson and Sterling as they have all been immense, however Suarez has been unstoppable, at times carrying the team.
The Uruguayan attacker has scored 31 Premier League goals and assisted 21 despite missing the first 6 league games. It is not just Suarez’s stats that are impressive, he has also been the hardest working Liverpool player this season. Constantly pressing defenders and attempting to unsettle them at any opportunity. You feel that The Reds would not have mounted any kind of a title challenge if it was not for the controversial strikers’ contribution to the team.
The problem this season for the Anfield club has been their defence. They have conceded 49 goals in the league, no side has ever won the Premier League with such a weak defence. There has been no team balance, The Reds are constantly focusing on attack.
Rodgers, like Wenger needs to realise that you cannot play one style of football in every game. The Palace game in particular showed us that the ex-Swansea manager still has a lot to learn. He had criticised Mourinho for negative tactics at Anfield, claiming that it is easy to set up to defend, yet it is ironic that Rodgers himself could not hold on to a 3-0 lead at Selhurst Park, when there was so much at stake.
Next season will be difficult for Liverpool, they will find that many teams will set up similarly to Chelsea did at Anfield. They will need to adapt to this. Their dealings in the transfer market will also be key if they want to improve for the next campaign. They will need to bolster their defence, and also look to add some quality squad players as they will be competing on four fronts.