SportsProf

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Sunday, February 02, 2014

On the English Premiership

A few observations:

1.  Only 6 points separate 11th and 20th places.  Translated, this means that 10 teams are in the running to get related.  Eleven, if you count Stoke City, which has 27 points.  As much fun as it will be to watch the top of the table, the true intrigue will be at the bottom.

2.  Manchester United is in serious trouble.  Okay, they have been for a while, but the return of Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney did nothing to prevent Stoke City from beating them for the first time in the Premiership and for the first time since 1984.   Seems like many squads might end streaks versus Man U this year.

3.  Some observers had noted that Arsenal couldn't make a move during the January transfer window as important as simply getting their squad healthy and getting both Lucas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain back.  Well, they'll miss Aaron Ramsey (who had gotten off to a great start) and Theo Walcott (who had played great after missing a lot of time), but they should get Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs back soon.  Atop that, they have both Podolski and Oxlade-Chamberlain, and the latter had a great game today, scoring two goals against Crystal Palace and cementing his future in the center of the field (and not on the wing).  Ox is one of the best young players out there, and he made a great difference for the Gunners today.

4.  How are Tottenham 6th in the table and have a minus one goal differential?

5.  Could it be that the top 3 will be Man City, Chelsea and Arsenal, with the others -- Liverpool, Everton, Tottenham and United vying for fourth?  The duo of Lucina Traore and Romelu Lukaku at striker for Everton should make them very tough, while Luis Suarez has played great for Liverpool (who still seems a bit challenged when compared to the teams atop the table).  You can argue that both City and Chelsea have more talent than Arsenal, but the Gunners are doing what it takes and surviving injury after injury, revealing a depth of character with many different lineups.

6.  Overlooked amidst Transfer Deadline Day deals or the lack thereof was the Euro 12.5 deal between Chelsea and Ligue 1's St. Etienne that sends 19 year-old defender Kurt Zouma to Chelsea (although he'll remain on loan at St. Etienne until year's end).  Zouma could be another stellar center back for Chelsea, and along with the likes of Lukaku (who, presumably, should get serious time at striker at Stamford Bridge next year), could help form part of the foundation of the next generation of Chelsea.

7.  Are the officials letting defenders mug offensive players in the box now?  Palace's Jedinak almost had a choke hold on Arsenal's Giroud today during a set piece, and referee didn't even whistle a foul.  What's amazing in soccer is that player's don't come up swinging after certain fouls, but they might if this type of play does not draw a card every now and then.

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