Dec 26, 2007

Conclusions From Boxing Day, 2007

So what did we learn from today's full slate of games in the English Premiership? Quite a bit, as a matter of fact:

1. Liverpool have no chance at the EPL crown. From what I'm reading, Liverpool's lucky win at Derby today kept Reds in the title hunt. Rubbish. This team has not played like title contenders in some time. Even last week's victory over Pompey, impressive as it was on the scoreboard, did not dazzle. Today, Rafa Benitez' men were outplayed for large stretches by a team that is effectively a mid-table Championship side. Had Reds lost or tied the game--as they should have if there were any justice in this world--Scousers everywhere would be calling for Benitez' head. As such, I expect Man. City to reclaim fourth place tomorrow and solidify that lead after Liverpool's visit this weekend.

2. Chelsea, as presently constituted, are not title contenders either. Michael Ballack and Andrey Shevchenko put on a solid show today, but they cannot replace Didier Drogba. Defensively, Blues do not inspire confidence. Sorry, but I have no faith in the Cole-Carvalho-Alex-Ferreira back four. Cech is terrible and would be sitting on the bench if Avram Grant had any experienced options to replace him with.

3. The Premiership is now a two-team race, featuring Arsenal and Man. United. Mark April 12 on your calendars, because that's when these two sides face off next--in all likelihood to settle matters.

4. Spurs have definitely, positively, 100% turned the corner. Juande Ramos' side may not make it all the way to fifth again, but they'll be solidly in Europe by season's end--assuming Dimitar Berbatov does not leave the team and remains healthy.

5. Aston Villa and Portsmouth are Euro-worthy. Martin O'Neill has Villa playing like a unit and believing in themselves. What impressed me most from today's performance at Stamford Bridge was how O'Neill's team didn't quit even when Chelsea took the lead--and the initiative--with the man advantage. Pompey frustrated Arsenal's high-octane attack and held Gunners to their first shutout all season. Along with Everton and Man. City (and now Spurs) these five teams make up the Premiership's quasi-elite (after the Big Four, though frankly I'm not sure Liverpool even belong in that category anymore).

6. Martin Jol is right about Fulham. They don't have enough weapons to survive in the Premiership. I just hope Dempsey gets picked up somewhere if and when they are relegated.

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