We’re just over half way through the Premier League season and it’s mid-term report time for the class of 2011-12. Only a mid-term report that ignores 75% of the class and is only really mentioned to suggest there’s a theme to this week’s nonsense. Here’s a look at the remaining title contenders. And Spurs.
Despite recent setbacks, the first half of the season was a good one for Riche Rich FC. There are some storm clouds up ahead, thanks mainly to the Africa Cup of Nations and the team’s ability to hover up red cards. Roberto Mancini has had a good moan about a lack of resources, but that’s like Carlos Tevez moaning about a lack of time off. They can console themselves with the fact no-one else looks particularly dangerous and they’ve still got a couple of squads worth of players to choose from. If they can limit the damage over the next few weeks, you’d expect them to have the legs to finish the season strongly, possibly going on to prove that – yes – buying the league is well and truly possible.
Maybe the guy who plays Chensey on Coronation Street has called in sick.
Maybe Geri is running late for a Spice Girls reunion concert and the miming gets underway in a matter of minutes.
Or maybe they’re just about to start filming the final film in the Harry Potter series – Harry Potter and the Deathly Old Folks Home – and you need a more weathered-looking Ron Weasley.
Yes, that list of references to gingers is a summary of all the times when you might need to ring 84 year old Paul Scholes in an emergency. Notice how ‘you want to win the Premier League’ doesn’t feature on it. After discovering that Sir Alex Ferguson preferred a retiree and a man who hadn’t kicked a ball in anger for around 7 months to him, it was no surprise to see Darron Gibson leave Old Trafford. The worrying thing for United is that people actually noticed Gibson leaving and bringing back Scholes isn’t the worst of ideas – which tells us rather a lot about the options available to Fergie in the centre of midfield. Yes, United haven’t impressed at all this season, yet they’re still hanging around like drugs rumours around Rio Ferdinand. With Rooney and Ferguson reprising their stroppy teenager/angry parent shtick of last season, there’s a danger that one of the team’s few world class stars will sulk his way through the second half of the season. Sure, it’s obvious that they’re not especially good, but Ferguson won’t let them give up and they might well be not especially good enough all the way to defending their title.
Harry Redknapp has been jumping around for the last couple of months telling us that his team are genuine title contenders. At first we listened to him as intently as he clearly listens to his accountant, but a few weeks on, his team are still winning and still lurking around the top of the table. All sort of stats were floating around the twittersphere showing that Spurs would be champions if various criteria from the first half of the season were used to decide the champions. So what? If the league season ran from exactly the 13th of August to the 14th of August, Bolton would be champions and all that proves is they played QPR that day. The season is 38 games long for a reason – first and foremost it means the league can cream as much money as possible from their cash cow and secondly, it’s supposed to uncover the best team in the land, although last year it only succeeded in uncovering the least bad team in the land. Can Spurs defy general cynicism and actually be champions? Well, the squad looks thinner than Kiera Knightley during awards season and the second half of the season has been an optional extra for a lot of their players, but if they keep on winning, who knows?
Henry has returned from Major Sunday League for a couple of months worth of cameo appearances and pretending he didn’t behave like a jackass when agitating for a move to Barcelona all those years back. The move paid immediate dividends as a rare Henry goal that didn’t involve cheating guided Arsenal past Leeds. Whether or not he’ll be allowed play in a competition Arsene Wenger actually cares about is another matter. Whilst the Henry of much of the naughties was a player you’d want in your team every day of the week, things move on. The last time Henry played for Arsenal, tongues were wagging about a racism row involving overpaid morons courtesy of the Celebrity Big Brother house and five years on things couldn’t be more different. It’s not as if Arsenal are still trying to walk the ball into the net each and every time they want to score.
Arsenal have done very well to get their season back on track after their abysmal start, but sustaining that recovery seems to rely on two things – both of which are Robin van Persie’s legs and historically they’ve been about as robust as a Kardashian marriage. If he stays fit, a Champions League place is easily possible, but any prolonged spell on the sidelines would be worse news for Arsenal than the news Francis Jeffers is the latest former Gunner to come back to the club.
When you’re waiting with bated breath for Gary Cahill to put pen to paper to sign for your club like he’s some sort of lanky Messiah, you know all is not well. It’s not all been bad for Chelsea, just a lot of it. Petr Cech isn’t playing anything like the Cech of old, John Terry is playing like he is old and most of the strikers are playing like they want to be sold. There are some positives however and they are the signing of Juan Mata and the price of Russian oil creeping up constantly. We’ve passed the point of the season when Roman Abramovich normally opens a can of knee-jerk reaction and sacks his managers, so we can probably assume that Andre Villas-Boas is being given the time to show his overhauling of the Chelsea team is working. Success in the Champions League looks to be his saving grace, which is good news for him because it would take a run of Spurs proportions to get them back in the title race. And he’s no Harry Redknapp.
Anyway, this weekend there are matches on and they’re all so bad, none of them really stand out. Or, on a more positive note, you could also say they’re all so equally good that none of them really stand out. Arsenal are away to Swansea in a game they’re expected to win but probably won’t. They’re without several defenders due to injury, although given how some of those defenders has played this season, that may not be a bad thing. If you closed your eyes precisely from the period you opened this piece until when you scrolled down past the boring Money-Back Special bit at the top (and don’t we all?), then we’d like to remind you we’ve a fantastic Money-Back Special on the Swansea v Arsenal game. Money back on 1st Goalscorer, Last Goalscorer, Correct Score and Scorecast singles if Robin van Persie scores last. He almost certainly will (a) because he’s in the form of his life and (b) you can already hear the Sky Sports commentators pointing out it’s a Dutchman scoring a goal against another Dutchman as if it’s a freak occurrence like the lottery numbers being drawn in a way that spells 8008IES and not just something that happens quite a lot.