Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Premier League regressing to the mean

It’s taken 14 rounds this season, but it finally seems like the big teams have found some semblance of form in the Premier League. Chelsea have been leagues ahead of the competition, while Arsenal, City, United and Liverpool have stuttered. Yet, combining the results of the weekend and midweek fixtures makes satisfactory reading for the traditional powers. Other than the quartet, West Ham were the only other team to gain maximum points from the two rounds. The David’s Gold and Sullivan might talk about their Hammers fighting for a Champions League place. It would be no surprise though, if like Southampton, they soon hit a bumpy patch to derail their impressive start.

Ronald Koeman’s Saints were beginning to look like serious contenders for a top four spot before the weekend. After a rather sobering defeat at home to City, Southampton suffered another - albeit unlucky - defeat to Arsenal. As impressive as Southampton’s form has been, its hard to base a genuine challenge for a Champions League spot without managing to beat any of the top seven.

Meanwhile, the Champions who were in crisis only a week ago, have turned around things since their fortuitious win over Bayern Munich in the Champions League. City gained only one point on their travels to the south coast and Wearside last season. In getting maximum points while scoring seven goals this time around, they have made a strong declaration of intent.

United won two consecutive games at home - the first a routine 3-0 over an atrocious Hull side, followed by a nerve-wracking 2-1 against Stoke. One may still think the Red Devil’s defence is there for the taking. Yet, it’s undeniable that despite several limitations Louis Van Gaal has got his team pulling in the same direction. They are far from title challengers, but the winning mentality sprinkled with a bit of stardust should ensure United remain a cut above the rest for the remainder of the season.

The same analysis applies to Arsenal after successive 1-0 wins against West Bromwich Albion and Southampton. The Gunners were inept for all intents and purposes, but you can always sneak a positive result when you have the creative talents of Alexis Sanchez. If it wasn’t for the Chilean’s efforts, Arsenal’s season could well have been in tatters. In stead, Arsenal remain on course to continue their successful stagnancy by winning the ‘Wenger Trophy’ by finishing fourth.

Liverpool, who have made the art of defending an allergy under Brendan Rodgers, somehow managed two consecutive wins. There were a succession of defensive blunders against Stoke and Leicester with Simon Mignolet and Martin Skrtel doing their best Laurel and Hardy act. Thanks to the defensive nous of Lucas Leiva, they at least managed to grind out wins without swashbuckling football.

City’s commanding performances give faint hope of a possible title race. The success of the other big three clubs this past week, without playing anywhere close to their best level, suggests the Premier League is regressing to the mean.

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