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Monday, December 23, 2013

Amazing Year in English Premier League

So many teams are vying for the top spot.  And the perennial bellwether, the New York Yankees of soccer, Manchester United is at the bottom of the top ten!

Manchester City are the sluggers, great offensive firepower, just clocking the opposition now and perhaps -- with all their talent and money -- the team to beat.

Liverpool has emerged from the shadows, so to speak, of the top four and are pounding people.  With Lionel Messi injured, striker Luis Suarez, he of the sometimes questionable temperament, is vying for the honor of the best player in the world.  Great motor and a goal-scoring machine.

Arsenal has made the Champions League sixteen years and running despite not having won a cup of any kind since 2004, when it went undefeated and had its "Invincibles" squad.  Mentor Arsenne Wenger has perpetually tried to keep the team (relatively) young and has them playing at a good pace.  That said, the Gunners have stumbled as of late, owing to a hectic schedule and a lack of the depth that others have.

Chelsea is another big money team, and they have talent to burn.  They are a bit thin at striker, and they haven't made up their minds as to what to do with their midfield.  From this vantage point, they aren't deploying their talent nearly as well as more and less talented teams have been doing.

Everton is also playing at a high level, owing to some veterans (Jagielka, Pienaar, Mirallas), some youngsters (Barkley, Coleman) and some key loanees (Lukaku, Delofeu).  They are playing at a very high-level and are now in fourth place going into this afternoon's/evening's Arsenal/Chelsea match.

You also cannot count out Manchester United, which has been playing better of late despite losing striker Robin van Persie to injury, not having the best depth, and adjusting to life without legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson.  David Moyes cannot be as bad a manager as some are saying, for he did a clever job building Everton despite a pronounced lack of resources at Goodison Park.

Then there are Newcastle, with a French accent, and Tottenham, Arsenal's arch-rival in North London. The former have been playing a good brand of soccer, and the latter parlayed the loss of all-world player Gareth Bale into the signing of five pretty good players.  The problem at White Hart Lane, as it were, is getting everyone to adjust to one another -- and fast.  That lack of adjustment cost manager Andres Villas-Boas his position.

And, there are others, too . . . Stoke City, now at the bottom of the top 10, and Swansea, which is on the borderline of the top 10.  All this, of course, makes for a great season in the Premiership.

Yes, I am a stalwart Arsenal rooter, but I see City's talent rising and Liverpool's magic (even currently without legend Steven Gerrard), although I find the former vulnerable to a good, mistake-free team, especially on the back line and the latter subject to some implosion should things start not to go well and Suarez's losing his temper (which probably is inevitable).  I am not sure Everton can survive a dry spell and injuries, and the loaned players will ultimately revert back to their clubs, with Chelsea probably already ruing the second consecutive year loaning of Lukaku.

So, my predictions:

1.  Manchester City.
2.  Arsenal (particularly if they pick up a striker in January to complement Olivier Giroud)
3.  Liverpool
4.  Chelsea
5.  Manchester United (yes, they shall rise)
6.  Everton

That's it for now, perhaps some wishful thinking on my part, but there are many teams jumbled with between 28 and 36 points after 17 games (about 40% of the season), and the excitement should continue to build.


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