The 2013/14 Premier League season has seen four teams top the title for long periods at different stages of the campaign, but none have been able to cement their place there, writes Liam Jones.
After witnessing that unbearable last 12 minutes (17 including added time) of football on Monday night, I have started to think that nobody wants to actually win the Premier League this season.
Four teams have all occupied long periods of time at the top of the table, with none really being overly convincing. Many people believe that, at the end of the season, the team on top of the pile deserves to win the acclaimed trophy, no matter what happened during the season. Over 38 games, the team that accumulates the most points is generally accepted as being worthy of winning the title each season. But does anyone really deserve to win it this year? Let’s have a look at the candidates.
Spent 128 days on top (almost half of the days in the season), and were at one stage five points clear and looking like actually mounting their first serious challenge in six years – yes, they now have the temerity to suggest we’ve “bottled it”.
A mixture of injuries, inconsistent performances from star players and big-game capitulation meant that, by the end of February, Arsenal were pretty much written off in the race. After panic signing Mesut Ozil after realizing that they weren’t getting their hands on a certain Uruguayan, many thought this may be the year they had a serious challenge, especially considering their early season form. In typical Arsenal style, however, they fell away just as their three challengers were building up a head of steam.
An extremely strong squad, missing possibly just one top class striker, and the supposed ‘Special One’ in charge, I don’t think you’d have found many people who didn’t think that Chelsea were going to challenge this season.
In fact, it could be argued that Chelsea have under achieved, after effectively losing their almost-certain grip on the title after extremely poor results against Crystal Palace, Aston Villa and Sunderland.
Like Arsenal, they were almost running away with the title, and then, after persistently being ruled out of the title by their manager, they’ve finally started to believe what he said and fallen away.
However, after their victory last week, they possibly had a vital say in the conclusion of this season’s Premier League, bringing to a halt the steamrolling run of the next challengers.
The outsiders at the start of the season, written off by almost everyone – including the majority of Liverpool fans – we have emerged to be the surprise package of the season, and most neutrals preferred winner.
Prior to the Chelsea defeat, it didn’t seem like anyone could stop our winning run, and we were going to win the title at a canter. However, we looked like a team that ran out of ideas last week, and despite a good first 78 minutes against Crystal Palace, the way we collapsed was definitely not one of a team with title credentials.
How many teams that have won the Premier League have lost a 3-goal lead against anyone? The shambles that was our defense at the end of Monday’s game, as highlighted by Jamie Carragher on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football, shows that maybe this year just came a bit too soon for us and our squad.
Finally we have the title favourites, both at the start of the season and at the moment. Probably the strongest squad in the league, packed full of world class international talent, there was no doubt that this team was going to be challenging for the title right to the end of the season.
However, even when they seemed to be the team with the best chance of winning it in the end, they faltered with the defeat to Liverpool and the draw to Sunderland. They now do again look almost certain to keep the trophy in Manchester, but who knows whether they will be able to handle the expectancy now that they are outright favourites?
They were less than convincing against Everton, and like we’ve seen so many times this season, the team with the best chance of winning the league tends to find a way to bring the others back into it again.
City might just have became favourites late enough to ensure they do win their second Premier League trophy.
All four teams have shown this season that they struggle to handle the pressure of being the team out in front in the title race.
Compare this to past league winning teams, and you see the difference. This season, Liverpool, Chelsea and Man City have all taken 10 points from their last 5 games. Last season, Man United won 7 in a row before all but securing their title, and the season before Man City won 6 out of their last 6.
In 2009/10 Chelsea won 7 of their last 8 and second placed Man United won their last 4 to keep the pressure on the boys in blue. And let us not forget the 2008/09 season where we accumulated 31 out of 33 points at the back end of the season and United achieved 25 out of 27 at the back end of the season.
This shows that consistently, to win the league you need to finish the season strongly, and no team this season really has. Is it a lack of genuine title experience now that Alex Ferguson has gone? Can players not handle the pressure of winning a title? Or is it just simply that the teams don’t want it enough?
No team is putting themselves out there and stamping their authority on the Premier League consistently this season, and that is why any team that does go on to win it this season is, in my opinion at least, just the best of a bad bunch.