Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Kerrzy’s Notebook: Off to the Races

Things are heating up in England as the race for the Premier League title takes a few sudden turns and gets much more interesting…

If you haven’t been paying attention, here’s the Coles Notes version of what’s been going on: The current leaders, to a Man, are coming Untied at the wrong time, the second place Gunners have a shot but no ammo and the defending champions, once singing the Blues, are now playing their way back into the conversation as the season winds down!

On Monday, Chelsea beat Blackpool 3-1 thanks to a double from Frank Lampard and while it wasn’t their best outing of the season, it certainly wasn’t their worst and it earned them a huge three points. With the win, the Blues move to within nine points of league leaders Manchester United as they try to mount a late charge and repeat as EPL champs.

Nine points is a long way to come back, but it’s worth noting that Chelsea have a game in hand and also have a say in United dropping at least three more points when the two sides meet again on May 7th at Old Trafford.

A tough month of February for the Red Devils is the reason we’re even having this conversation right now though: the team has lost three of five since Wolverhampton beat them 2-1 on February 5th, including defeats at Stamford Bridge and Anfield in back-to-back weeks. They aren’t just losing games right now either – skipper Nemanja Vidic was sent off against Chelsea, which left the team inexperienced at the back against Liverpool the following weekend. On Sunday, they lost winger Nani to an ugly challenge from Jamie Carragher and he’s now likely out for a month!

What does Sir Alex think about all of this? Your guess is as good as mine, since he and his players aren't speaking to the media at the moment!

That brings us to Arsenal, the other main player in this title race.

Twice in the last month the Gunners have had a chance to really stick it to United when they’ve dropped points and both times they’ve only managed a draw. The weekend that Man U lost to Wolves, Arsenal blew a 4-0 halftime lead in a 4-4 tie with Newcastle and this past weekend they only managed a single point at home to Sunderland!

Lacking that “killer instinct,” Arsenal remains three points back of the leaders with a game in hand. Like Chelsea, they too have one more meeting with United before the season is over (as well as a trip to Old Trafford for an FA Cup quarter-final next weekend).

So who will it be?

The beauty of this title race is that there are many scenarios that could play out here: Chelsea could benefit from a few more dropped points and make that improbable run to glory, Arsenal could get serious and start taking advantage of the opportunities presented to them, Manchester City could string together a few wins and end up in the top spot…or, United could hold on and claim a 19th league trophy…

It would be a great story if Chelsea were able to battle back and repeat as champions after that brutal midseason slump, but I’m not sure I would put my money on it happening. In order for them to pull it off, they’d have to beat Man City, Spurs and Man United, without dropping any (or many) points in their other remaining games. They’ve been so streaky this season that I can’t see it happening!

That said, after losing to Chelsea and Liverpool in the past two weeks United are looking draw-able, if not beatable at the moment!

That first week of May will be crucial one way or another – Man U/Arsenal at Emirates Stadium on the first day of the month and then Man U/Chelsea at Old Trafford the following Saturday. The title could be won or lost right there!

Loyalties aside, what do you think will happen as the season winds down?

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