The Greatest Show on Grass

Jamie Gorry

The last time a team outside of the city of Manchester besides Chelsea won the Premier League,the Boston Red Sox had not won a championship in 86 years. With just under a quarter of the season gone, this year promises to see a handful of teams fight to knock perennial powerhouses off of their throne. Arsenal and Liverpool have played better than even their biggest fans could have hoped, while Chelsea has caught fire of late under returning legend Jose Mourinho.

 Tottenham rounds out the Champions League spots with their fourth place squad struggling to score. Surprisingly, Southampton has only given up three goals this season along with Tim Howard-led Everton, which only sits four points out of first. In a sight that brings a smile to this Liverpool supporter, Manchester City and Manchester United sit in seventh and eighth place, respectively.

 Any discussion of the English Premier League this fall must start with the incredible form of Arsenal. After starting the season with a lackluster loss to Aston Villa at home, Arsenal brought in German star midfielder Mesut ?-zil and the wins have been flowing like the Thames. One of the most dominant teams in Europe before a recent Champions League loss to Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal’s fans can reasonably dream of major trophies for the first time in almost a decade.

 While dreams of championship glory abound in the heads of Liverpool fans, a top four finish and a return to the Champions League would more than suffice. The partnership of Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez has created a bonanza of goals for the team. Sturridge – acquired from Chelsea in January – is the current league leader in goals scored while Suarez is tied for second. Given that Suarez has only played in four games thus far, it is reasonable to assume he could soon see his name at the top of the list.

 London and Liverpool may be celebrating the possibilities of this young season, but the mood is starkly different in Manchester. Manchester City and Manchester United have spent the last two years in a battle for the title, with their duel going down to the last day of the season in May, 2012. Together they have won only half of their games so far this season, with both David Moyes, new coach of United, and Manuel Pellegrini, new coach of City, feeling their seats getting hotter. Both teams can take solace in the fact that they stand poised to advance to the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League.

 At the other end of the table stands Sunderland and Crystal Palace. Both squads have already replaced their managers in this young season, with Sunderland hiring Gus Poyet to replace Paolo Di Canio and Crystal Palace poised to replace recently fired Ian Holloway with  Tony Pullis. Sunderland managed a meager one point through their first eight games, but last weekend they defeated rival Newcastle, 2-1, for their first win. While their work is still cut out for them if they want to avoid relegation, the win over Newcastle could go a long way.

 With 29 games to play in a season that stretches to next May, it is time for this writer to dust off the crystal ball. Crystal Palace, a newcomer to the top flight this year, simply does not have the talent required to stay up. While Sunderland is not one of the three least talented teams in England, their horrific start to the year will doom them to relegation in what will be a close race. The “race” for the third and final relegation spot will be between three teams ending in City: Stoke, Cardiff and Norwich. Norwich City will ultimately drop to the English Championship league. 

The race for the Premier League title promises to be one for the ages, a masterpiece worthy of Shakespeare. It will come down to the final weeks, but Chelsea’s depth and experience will prove the difference in their battle against Arsenal. While Arsenal will have to settle for second place in England, a semi-final appearance in the Champions League will give their fans a great deal of hope for the future. Manchester City – simply too talented not to flourish sometime soon – will move up to third and Liverpool will claim the final Champions League spot thanks to Golden Boot winner Luis Suarez. Manchester United will be forced to play in the Europa League due to a fifth place finish, making David Moyes a rather unpopular man in his new town.

Contact Jamie Gorry at [email protected]