Cleat Geeks

Could this be the closest Premier League title race in years?

On September 12th, after five wins from their first five games, Manchester City were being touted as not just this season’s Premier League winners, but potentially unbeatable.

Fast forward three weeks or so and City have not only been defeated – twice – but they find themselves behind their cross-city rivals United on the Premier League table.

For those back-to-back losses – at home to West Ham and then away to Tottenham Hotspur – Manuel Pellegrini was without skipper Vincent Kompany in the heart of the defence, and his side proceeded to leak six goals in the two defeats. vk

During City’s storming start Komany scored two goals and featured in every one of their five wins, in all of which the two-time Premier League champions kept clean sheets.

But the Belgium international has been sidelined with a calf injury and City failed to keep a clean sheet since, making a slow start to their Champions League campaign and falling behind the Red Devils in the league.

United also made a losing start to their Champions League campaign, although both sides won this week to revive their hopes of reaching the knockout rounds.

Louis Van Gaal’s men have looked consistent during the first seven rounds of the Premier League to suggest that they may well lay down a serious chllenge for a first title in three years.  am

The arrival of Anthony Martial has given United a more potent threat in attack and summer signing Memphis Depay is another who injects pace and purpose into the Reds’ forward line.

Daley Blind and Chris Smalling seem to be forming an unlikely – yet highly effective – defensive partnership and the collapse of goalkeeper David De Gea’s move to Real Madrid is another bonus for Van Gaal.

Questions still linger over Old Trafford, however, such as can Martial maintain his blistering form until May? And do United have a strong enough defence to lift the trophy this campaign?

As of September 12th, City seemed to be answering any questions about their title credentials with an emphatic yes. Pundits and fans alike were purring over their performances and talking about last year’s runners up as potential unbeatables. How quickly things can change.

With that in mind,  maybe it’s worth keeping an eye on Chelsea, the reigning champions, despite their horrendous start to the new season.

It has been chaotic off the field, with club doctor Eva Carneiro leaving the club after being criticised publicly by manager Jose Mourinho. jm ec

The Londoners haven’t been fairing much better on the field either, winning just four of 11 games in all competitions this season.

Last season’s Player of the Year, Eden Hazard, looks a shadow of the player he was just a few months ago. Cesc Fabregas is another out-of-form midfielder while John Terry’s omission from defence has Blues’ fans up in arms.

Diego Costa has netted only one league goal this term and is currently serving a three-match ban for violent conduct in the win over Arsenal.

However, Chelsea’s fightback from 2-0 down to claim a point away at Newcastle last Saturday shows the players still have plenty of fight and with home games against Southampton and Aston Villa in their next two fixtures, there’s a good chance Mourinho’s men will eat into the eight point gap between themselves and Manchester United.

And then there’s Arsenal. Having beaten Chelsea to lift the Community Shield at the start of the season, and with their goalkeeper problems sorted with the arrival of Petr Cech, there was cause for much hope around the Emirates Stadium for a possible title charge.

West Ham soon extinguished that optimism with a 2-0 win on Arsenal’s home soil, and defeat to Chelsea emphasised Arsene Wenger’s poor record against the so-called big four teams. wenegr

Despite a somewhat shaky start the Gunners sit just three points adrift of leaders Manchester United, who they face at home this Sunday, in a what already looks like a huge title six-pointer.

A win for United might just underline their title credentials, while the Gunners can get themselves back on track after a miserable start to their Champions League campaign.

Meanwhile, a win this weekend for Chelsea will cut the deficit on at least one of those sides, while Man City could potentially return to top spot with victory over Newcastle.

The way the season has started suggests that this could be one of the closest title races for years.

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