A title race too close to call

by Ben McAleer

Saturday, March 19th, 2011

Three points for Manchester United along with one for Arsenal has seen United open a five point gap over their title rivals following today’s fixtures. Yet, despite the Red Devils leading the pack, Arsenal still have a game in hand over them. It makes for interesting reading and must be a forecaster’s headache to predict who will win the Premiership this season.

On a day that saw Sir Alex Ferguson begin a five game touchline ban, a single Dimitar Berbatov strike in the dying embers of the game between United and Bolton was enough for the league leaders to capitalise on a point gained rather than two lost for Arsenal following their 2-2 draw with relegation flirters West Brom. Yet, how will this affect both teams in their quest for glory?

Naturally, with the five point lead, United hold the upper hand over Arsenal. The beautiful football may not be there but the effective match winning is available for all to see. The know how in this position should see them over the finish line in 1st place. Yet, the Premiership isn’t the sole concern of United with an FA Cup semi-final and Champions League quarter-final slowly approaching on the horizon. The injuries are beginning to mount up for Ferguson’s team and with Jonny Evans picking up a 76th minute red card in today’s 1-0 win, the United team are about to be pushed to the limit.

As for Arsenal, they showed excellent character against West Brom from 2-0 down in what has proven to be a tough period for the Gunners. Waving goodbye to the Carling Cup, FA Cup and Champions League, and with it the chances for an unprecedented quadruple, has begun to psychologically take its toll on Arsenal. Performing below the usual high standards they are renowned for has seen them fall behind United, albeit, not completely. Their game in hand over the pace setters along with a potential title decider at The Emirates at the end of April could turn things in Arsenal’s favour but they have got to banish the demons that has seen their form slip since the Carling Cup final.

As demoralising as it was to exit the FA Cup and Champions League in such a short space of time, the same exits could prove to be a blessing in disguise for Arsenal. As I previously mentioned, following the international break, United have games coming thick and fast which will hinder their already depleting squad. These extra games could give Arsenal the chance to capitalise on any downturn in form that may occur in the United camp.

Finally, I feel it is still too early to rule Chelsea out of the reckoning. They may have stumbled at the midway point but should they pick up three points tomorrow afternoon against Manchester City, it will see them nine points behind United with a game in hand and a trip to Old Trafford still to come.

As for Manchester City, I feel that, even if they pick up a win tomorrow, it may be a little too late for United’s rivals. With the millions upon millions and their disposal, they will find themselves closer to the top next season and maybe even win it but I am of the opinion their time to mount a serious challenge this season is, unfortunately for them, over.

Either way, it is difficult to predict who will be crowned Premier League champions this year. United have the experience in the same situation but have a tough run-in while Arsenal need to overcome the recent psychological blow in order to re-mount their challenge for glory. At this point, I would say United will probably go on to lift the trophy but to rule Arsenal and, to an extent, Chelsea out at this stage could prove a wild, at best, gamble. The business end of this season really is turning out to be, as Ferguson would put it, Squeaky Bum Time.

Follow Ben on Twitter @BenMcAleer1

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  • John

    You do realise Arsenal’s game in hand is away at Tottenham? They still have to go to Stoke, Blackpool, Bolton and have got Liverpool to go to theres. Not an easy run in at all. Chelsea are out of it. What makes you think they’ll get anything at Old Trafford? Look at United’s home record. Chelsea were lucky to beat United, their strikers are horribly off form. I believe United will win by at least 5 points

  • stan

    Arsenal haven;t got a hope in hell with those 3 clowns in the defence and in goal. A good keeper will earn you team at least 5 extra points a season, Arsenal have keepers that will lose you at 5 to 10. Do the math Mr Wenger.

    Also, there’s no point showing character when you’re 2-0 down away to West Brom. Character is scrapping a 1-0 victory a dogged Bolton side with 10 men. That’s the difference

  • Charlie George

    It’s uniteds all the way. Arsenal might have conceded less than united but it’s the way they concede them, both goals against west brom were Sunday league standard.

    Well beat Blackburn, united will draw at west ham then it’s back on

  • http://DexysDen Charles Perrin

    In my heart of hearts, it is United’s to lose and as you quite clearly point out they have the know-how of winning the league and Fergie breeds a winning mentality which is hard to match.

    City could well mount a challenge next season providing they make the odd addition here or there and just don’t rely on Carlos Tevez to carry the burden of scoring the goals.

    Whatever happens, this has been a title race to remember and will look forward to the summer when they show a re-run on Sky Sports of Premier League Years!

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