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Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Separating the men from the boys

It's that time of year again.  The business end of the season or, as some call it, "squeeky bum time".  It won't be long until teams will embrace the joy of a promotion or a league win and those teams not so lucky having the heartbreak of goal difference away from success or relegation.

Here, I am going to do a series of the ups and the downs in the four tiers of the English game.  Who's winning things and who's crying on the pitch at the end of the campaign.

I'll begin with the Premier League.


The big ongoing battle at the top has been, for a long time Manchester United v Manchester City.  Roberto Mancini's side seemed to have had the upper hand for the majority of the season, but, after the away defeat at Swansea, United capitalised and, at this moment in time are 4 points clear of their neighbours.

City's home form was the real catalyst behind their successful campaign (Recently going a whole calendar year winning EVERY home league match they played).  However, away from home they have looked rather shaky with draws against Fulham and West Brom along with defeats at Sunderland and Everton.

United on the other hand seem to have really pushed on since their 6-1 home mauling by City way back in October 2011 and, as the pundits regularly say "get better during the second half of the season".  By the looks of things, the Red Devils have the easier run in too.

Where City really did cock it up was losing Joleon Lescott and the influential skipper Vincent Kompany due to suspensions and injuries and having to call upon the mistake-prone Stefan Savic at the back, a number of his mistakes have led to opposition goals.

Savic has hasn't had the best of times
The early promise shown by Edin Dzeko seemed to have faded away a while ago and for some reason, Mancini decides that his best forward Sergio Aguero is only good enough for the bench some weeks.

United haven't looked brilliant all season but, as you normally see with Fergie's side they win any way they can, even without the presence of Nemanja Vidic for the majority of the season and relying on the not so good Jonny Evans (How he has the audacity to pick up a wage I don't know).

So, prediction time..... For me, United will be the ones celebrating yet another title success - City, and in the words of Anne Robinson on The Weakest Link, will be left with nothing apart from a runners up spot after bowing out of every other competition.

The other two spots for Champions League places next season I believe will fall to Arsenal and Spurs finishing in 3rd and 4th respectively.

The Harry Redknapp saga has come at just the wrong time for Spurs who were going great guns before the court case and the England job talk came around.  They'll still be top 4 but I reckon Arsenal will pip them to third.

Arsenal to finish third... after their dreadful start you would have been joking if you'd said that back in September time.  Their reliant Robin is obviously the main reason for their "decent" season, weighing in with 37 goals in all competitions and being involved in 67% of Arsenal's goals all season.  He seems to have got over his different range of injuries now which begs the question "Just how many goals would he have got in his Gunners career if he had stayed fit the whole time?!"

VAN THE MAN: Has had a memorable season


It's tight down there! Three of Blackburn, Bolton, QPR, Wigan and Wolves will be Championship sides next season in mine and many's opinion.

Firstly, Blackburn.  They really have come on leaps and bounds recently and, admittedly I was one of the "Kean Out Brigade" despite not even being a Rovers fan!  He's shown he's a tough nut to crack and despite the abuse and hatred coming from the Ewood Park stands he hasn't been broken and has got his team winning now which ultimately stopped the boo boys.  His purchase of 38  28 year old Yakubu in the Summer has been a real masterstroke with the big man weighing in with his fair share of goals helping his side move clear of the bottom 3.  Kean was once an idiot, but now, for me, is an absolute legend!  Blackburn will be SAFE.
Kean has turned Rovers' fortunes around
Next up are Bolton, who similarly to Blackburn began awfully but gradually Owen Coyle has turned their fortunes around.  Due to the events that happened at Whit Hart Lane last week to Fabrice Muamba, Wanderers will be focusing on his health at the moment rather than the next game but I'm sure, with the players they have they will be alright by the end of the season.

Now to who I think will finish in the bottom three; QPR, Wolves and Wigan Athletic.

I'm a huge fan of Roberto Martinez, in fact, many are huge fans of Roberto Martinez; he's just a genuine, nice guy but I feel that the time has come for them to finally, finally get relegated down to the Championship.  Over the last few years they have been very lucky at the tail end of the season - Last season saw Charles N'Zogbia almost single handedly keep them up and if it wasn't for a Hugo Rodallega goal against Stoke on the last day they would have gone down.  Playing well at the moment but I just feel there's not enough in the tank for them.  They'll battle though, that's for sure.

Next is Wolves who, for me made a wrong move in replacing Mick McCarthy as manager.  Plenty of experience in the type of situation they are in at the moment and instead of replacing him with a proven manager they appointed Terry Connor.  They just look like a demoralised team, low on confidence along with having a captain who turns up to training drunk.  Conceding goals for fun and having an in-ability to score goals doesn't bode well for the Molineux club.

Its been that type of season for Wolves under Connor (L) and McCarthy (R)
And, finally, to QPR.  It gets on my nerves when people say that a team is too good to go down... We've seen it in the past with Newcastle and West Ham getting relegated over the last two years and I fear QPR could be that type of club.  Mark Hughes hasn't had the impact that everyone was expecting and, if your team have discipline problems then it isn't the best of starts.

Bottom 3 for me:

18. QPR
19. Wigan Athletic
20. Wolves

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