Is the title race over, or has it only just begun?

By Robert Hicks

premier league

To some it’s already a formality — a blue formality. But as history has told us, anything can happen.

“I’ve been saying all along that it’s not a two horse race – it can change so quickly,” says Manchester United defender, Gary Neville.

He goes on: “It’s always been the case that all teams can beat another in England. I believe the Premier League is getting stronger, with teams like Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa spending a lot of money.”

Neville’s word may be true, but things aren’t looking great for Chelsea’s rivals at the moment.

Manchester United, who have already lost five games so far this year, look a shivering shambles on the pitch – they only lost a total of four games throughout the whole of last season.

At present, they have a make-shift defence, no goalkeeper, and are without seven first team players – when you’re struggling to defend against Bobby Zamora, you know you’re in trouble!

Then there’s Arsenal, who are currently six points behind the top spot with a game in hand, and although they seem to have hit a good patch of form, you just know they’ll mess it up come the end of the season.

Tottenham are, well, Tottenham – moments of magic followed by moments of garbage.

And as for Liverpool, they’re struggling to keep in the top half of the table, let alone pushing for the title.

So based on that ‘scientific’ analysis you would think that Chelsea can relax over the festive period, put their feet up and wait for the league winner’s medals to be stamped, posted, and sent on their way to the Stamford Bridge front door.

And if you believe that, you’ll believe anything. You would be a fool to write off the title so soon. It’s not over yet, not by a long way.

In what is no doubt the tightest Premier League campaign ever, throwing up a whole mixture of different results, you’d have to be a pretty good clairvoyant to predict who’ll be lifting the title come next May. What with freak wins, dramatic losses and nail biting draws, you simply can’t call it yet.

And it’s not just at the top where things are tight.

It was only last week that Wolves were drowning in the bottom three. But with a convincing win against Burnley at the weekend, they have catapulted up to 12th.

2008 FA Cup winners, Portsmouth, who are sitting at the foot of the Premier League have had new owners come and go and new managers pop in and out. Many Pompey fans believed Championship football was inevitable. Then just when you start writing them off, they go and beat Liverpool 2-0.

We also have Everton, who at the beginning of the season were real contenders for that elusive fourth spot. But instead are now currently lying in sixteenth with a watchful eye on the bottom four rather than the top four.

Then there’s Fulham. Unbeaten in five premier league matches, seven including Europe, are sitting nicely in the top half of the table. Could they make a genuine attempt for Champions League football, why not?

Okay, that may seem a tad optimistic, but it was only last weekend that the Cottagers humiliated Man Utd, casting them aside 3 – 0. Who would have thought that at the beginning of the season?

Whatever you believe, there is no question that this has been one of the most exciting first halves of the season for a long, long time.

If someone were to ask all Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Man Utd fans whether, if they could, walk away with the title right now. How many would say yes? How many would say they would like to win the title by 20 points?

Yes everyone wants to win, but surely the thrill of winning is due to the journey it has taken you to get there; the ups, the downs, the high, the lows and the twists and the turns.

That’s why football is such a great sport. That’s why you can’t call what’s going to happen yet. And that’s why the Premier League is by far, without doubt, the best league in the world.

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