The Title Race: The Four Contenders.

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The Premier League title race is the most open for years, with four teams still in with a real chance of claiming the title. Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool are all right in the title race with only a few points separating the contenders. All of them believe that they can come out on top of what is shaping up to be one of the hardest fought title races in Premier League history. Here’s my analysis of the title contenders and their key men.

Manchester City-

Man City must be the favourites to win it this year as they have the strongest and most talented squad in the league. They have three games in hand on the leaders Chelsea, which if they win all of will catapult them up to first place. Man City have struggled slightly defensively this year, with Martin Demichelis looking a real weak link in their back four. However, their fire power has more than made up for this as they have smashed in countless amounts of goals all season. Being almost unbeatable at home helps their cause too, however the same could be said about Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool. They brushed aside Hull last weekend despite going down to ten men, showing their determination to win the title this year.

Key man- Yaya Toure

City’s midfield powerhouse will be key to their title challenge in the coming weeks. He had racked up 13 goals from midfield so far this season, showing him to be one of the best midfielder’s in the division. Equally important to City’s charge will be Sergio Aguero, as if they can get him fit he has the ability to fire them to glory.

Arsenal-

Arsenal’s huge win against rivals Tottenham this weekend fired them right back into the title race. Their challenge had been fading in recent weeks but a big win last weekend means they are right back in the thick of it. Arsenal’s side looks to be a different animal to previous seasons with more fight, hunger and spirit in the squad. For the first time in many years the back four can now be relied upon too, with the central defensive partnership of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny being the cornerstone to Arsenal much improved season this time out. Lack of depth upfront is the real worry though, with Arsenal’s midfield craving a world class striker that they just don’t have. Arsenal have been the experts of brushing aside the ‘lesser’ teams this season; however, have struggled against the bigger sides with heavy defeats against title rivals Man City and Liverpool putting their title credentials into question.

Key man- Colin Lewin (Physio)

Arsenal have had horrendous luck with injuries this season, having the highest number of injuries compared to any other club in the Premier League. If the medical department can keep the players fit, whilst also getting key players such as Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere back in time to play a big part in the title race, Arsenal have every chance of coming out victorious at the end of the season.

Chelsea-

Chelsea under Jose Mourinho look a real force. Mourinho, whether you love him or hate him, is one of the top managers in the world. His tactical guile, clever mind games and outrageous statements mean that the media’s attention is all on him, meaning any criticism towards his players is deflected. The prime example of this of course being his comments about Chelsea being the ‘little horse’ in the title race, taking all the pressure of his players. The money the club spends on players means that the squad is huge and can really challenge at the top. However, the damaging defeat against Aston Villa last weekend throws their title credentials slightly into doubt, whilst the lack of fire power upfront is a real worry for Mourinho’s men.

Key manEden Hazard

The 23 year old wide man has had an outstanding season thus far notching up 13 goals and 7 assists. If he can continue his form, Chelsea have a real chance of lifting the Premier League trophy with him creating and putting away chances week in week out.

Liverpool-

Any team with the world class forward partnership of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge have a real chance of claiming the Premier League crown. The ‘SAS’ have notched up a mesmerising 43 Premier League goals between them so far, with no indication of them slowing down their form. With Captain Steven Gerrard anchoring the midfield, spraying passes all over the place from his new deeper position, Liverpool have a real chance this year. Their lack of European cup commitments this season has left them with a lot of time to recover whilst rivals have been dealing with gruelling schedules, meaning that their small squad hasn’t been exposed at all so far. A win against Man United at Old Trafford last weekend will only add to their belief that they can go all the way. However, Liverpool’s real weakness appears to be at the back, as they are prone to leaking goals. but with the ‘SAS’ upfront this isn’t an issue as they can outscore most teams.

Key man- Luis Suarez

Suarez has been sensational this season scoring 25 goals and picking up 10 assists too. His partnership with Sturridge has been the stuff of dreams for Liverpool fans, who will be delighted they managed to hold on to Suarez last summer, a player who is capable of firing them to the title.

So who will win it?

The title race is really spicing up in a fight that promises to provide one of the tightest and greatest finishes in Premier League history. This season is truly remarkable as I can’t remember the last time four teams were still in with a real chance of winning the title at this late stage of the season.

For me, Man City should come out victorious as long as they capitalise on their games in hand and get Aguero fit and firing. They ultimately have the strongest and most talented squad to pick up points in the critical latter stages of the season as well.

What is for sure is that there will be plenty of twists and turns to come in another exciting Premier League season finale.

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Make sure to leave a comment and let me know who you think (or hope!) will win the title and why, plus feel free to answer the poll below.

Arsenal’s transfer failings, the media and Mesut Ozil

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Arsenal’s January transfer window was nothing less than a disaster, with Kim Kallstrom being the only new signing arriving at the Emirates on a short term loan. This move went from underwhelming, to almost comical, as it was revealed he would be out for a month with a back injury. A late enquire for Salomon Kalou was thankfully rejected by Lille, and hopes that Julian Draxler would be joining the Gunners were dashed by Arsene Wenger who revealed early on Transfer Deadline Day that Draxler would be staying at Schalke.

With no striker arriving in January angering some Arsenal fans, it appears Arsenal are stranded with Nicklas Bendtner to provide the backup to Olivier Giroud. Giroud started the season well, but his form has faded in recent weeks, scoring only 2 goals in his last 6 Premier League appearances. It is clear for all to see that Arsenal crave a world class striker to complement the world class midfield players at their disposal, but Arsene Wenger decided to stick with the strikers in the squad to try and fire Arsenal to the title. Whether this be down to the lack of availability of world class strikers, or Arsene’s stubbornness to pay up (or perhaps faith in the players he has), whichever reason there was, it ended up with no new (fit) players at the Emirates.

Today we received the news that youngster Yaya Sanogo has returned from the injury that has seen him take part in no competitive matches for Arsenal, with his only appearance being in the Emirates Cup last summer. Sanogo is certainly not going to ride in heroically and fire Arsenal to title; however, he is another body to provide a bit of depth upfront that is desperately needed if the worst was to happen to Giroud.

After the car crash of a defeat to Liverpool at the weekend, the media have come out in force with their stories that place Arsenal in ‘turmoil’. Sanogo returned to training just in time to give Per Mertesacker a black eye, with Giroud apparently cheating on his wife in a ‘3am romp’ with another woman. That is of course, if you believe everything you read in the papers. It is very convenient that these stories have been released after a damaging defeat at Anfield, where the Gunners may as well of stayed on the team coach. The media are keen to promote Arsenal’s turmoil, with my favourite commentator (not) Michael Owen and the Match of the Day pundits licking their lips at Arsenal’s potential downfall to prove their negative predictions to be true.

One player that the media may be right in criticising recently is Mesut Ozil, who has been in worryingly poor form. With only 1 assist in his last 9 Premier League games and no goals, he has certainly gone off the boil since the very positive start to his Arsenal career. He was very poor against Liverpool at the weekend (but so was everyone in yellow) with two of his errors directly leading to goals, leading to him being substituted after an hour. There are calls for him to be dropped, but I think this might be a slight overreaction. There is no doubt that Ozil is a player that enjoys providing for others, on several occasions this season he has had the chance to shoot but chose a pass instead. Arsene Wenger said in September that Ozil’s “passing and his retention of the ball gives everyone time to move” so it could be possible that Ozil’s worth to the team is been overlooked due to the lack of fireworks he is providing at the moment. With Theo Walcott’s season ending knee injury, there is no pace around Ozil and a lack of runners in behind meaning that his trademark eye of a needle through balls cannot be used effectively. There is no doubt in my mind that Ozil will get better when he adapts properly to the pace and physicality of the English Premier League and settles properly into his new life in North London. Watch out for him next season.

I leave you with these stats from star playmakers in the Premier League: Juan Mata’s first season at Chelsea- 6 goals, 13 assists. David Silva’s first season at Man City- 4 goals, 7 assists. Mesut Ozil’s first 5 months at Arsenal- 4 goals, 8 assists. Not a bad start eh?

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Let me know what you think about Arsenal’s transfer window, the media and Mesut Ozil in the comments below!

Costa? Morata? Berbatov? Who will Arsenal sign this month?

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It’s January transfer window time again, that beautiful time of year filled with rumours sprayed across social media by the ‘ITK’s’, whilst the ‘reliable’ media link just about every player to every club. The truth is, no-one really knows for certain what will happen, which is what makes it so exciting. Hopefully there is another blockbuster finish to the window in store for us, with many top clubs still needing to bring in a player or two.

No team needs a new player more so than Arsenal, who are currently mulling over their striker dilemma. With Theo Walcott unfortunately ruled out for the season, Arsenal having been caught short in the striking department, especially now with Nicklas Bendtner out. There’s no doubt Arsenal are still short up top, so if there’s anything we can be fairly sure of in the turbulence and uncertainty of the January market, it’s that Wenger is on the hunt for a forward. Internally, the options are limited. Lukas Podolski seems to lack the movement to play as a lone striker, and with everyone else out injured (and with even Akpom loaned out), Olivier Giroud is left as the only fit and capable Arsenal striker.

Arsenal’s potential options are limited, especially in a World Cup year. There have of course been several strikers linked to the club, but the fans favourite option (and mine) seems to be Diego Costa. The 25 year old Athletico Madrid man would provide an outstanding long term option to give Giroud more competition upfront. There is no doubt about Costa’s goal scoring ability, impressively scoring 19 goals in 18 games this season in La Liga. With a reported buy-out clause of around 32 million, it seems a no brainer for the Gunners to sign the Spaniard, especially now that Wenger seems to have now found his wallet after the big money signing of Mesut Ozil last summer. However, Costa is very unlikely to want to risk leaving Athletico in a World Cup year when he is in such great form, and he has no need to, as Athletico are having a very successful season sitting 2nd in La Liga joint on points with Barcelona at the top, and an impressive 5 points above Real Madrid. He would also be cup tied for the Champions League, leading me to think that a summer move is more likely.

Alvaro Morata on loan is probably the most reported rumour around at this moment in time; however I have my doubts about how successful he would be at Arsenal on a short term basis. The loan would be for only 6 months, leaving him very little time to settle and to get used to the premier league’s physicality. The 21 year old has had limited game time at Madrid this season, making only 10 La Liga appearances scoring a mere 2 goals. However, 9 of these 10 appearances in the league have been from the bench to be fair to him. Signing him would be a definite gamble, and with a loan fee reported to be around 2 million pounds, I don’t think it’s worth the money or the risk of bringing in a raw and inexperienced forward at such a crucial point in Arsenal’s season.

From the inexperienced, to the very experienced, as the final rumour concerns Arsenal’s potential signing of 33 year old Fulham forward Dimitar Berbatov. I have mixed feelings about this one, as Berbatov has undoubted quality, but is also infamously a very lazy player. His work ethic is much lower than Giroud’s, so it is questionable if he would be able to play as a lone striker in Arsenal’s system not to mention his past history with Spurs. However, his style of play could fit in with Arsenal’s intricate build up, with his skilful flicks and ability to find space. I really think it could go either way, making signing him a risk too, but I guess you don’t win titles without taking a few risks along the way. With his 4 goals in 15 Premier League games this season, the signing of Berbatov would be very underwhelming, but his moments of brilliance could turn around crucial games.

For me, I wouldn’t mind signing Javier Hernandez from Manchester United. He’s quick and a great finisher but doesn’t get much game time at United, so it’s possible he might want to jump their sinking ship. I also haven’t even considered getting ‘The King’ Thierry Henry back on loan, which would be another interesting one!

Let me know who you think Arsenal should sign: Costa? Morata? Berbatov? Hernandez? Henry!? Or perhaps somebody else?

Originally written for: ‘SatinRowZ’- http://satinrowzblog.wordpress.com/

Christmas comes early for the press as Arsenal slip up

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Yes, it’s that time of year again, Arsenal have taken a damaging defeat. Is this the beginning of the end in regards to their season? Well, if you read the papers you would think so, with broken cannons everywhere. “Turmoil” they say, still top of the league, they don’t say.

The red-top papers are loving it. It’s as if they have been waiting for this one damaging defeat, so they can squash any thought of an Arsenal title challenge. Arsenal’s failure always makes a good news story, and the media has latched on to this, exaggerating Mertesacker and Ozil’s ‘bust up’. The Daily Mail ludicrously called it “fighting in the camp”, when in fact the two players are best friends off the pitch and were clearly just frustrated by the loss, but this reaction from the media is not at all surprising.

The fact is Arsenal are two points clear at the top of the table and in a good position heading into the Christmas period. Far from “Turmoil” as the media would suggest. Ludicrously, Match of the Day’s official twitter page (@BBCMOTD) tweeted yesterday, asking “Are Arsenal still in the title race?” They have now deleted this tweet, and rightly so, as I think it is a fair point to say that Arsenal have been the most consistent side in the Premier League this season are currently leading the title race.

Yesterday, after Liverpool’s convincing 5-0 win over Spurs (which was great viewing as an Arsenal fan), a very Liverpool biased Sky Studio (that included the current Liverpool Captain) concluded that Liverpool were title contenders. Bear in mind that this is same team that Arsenal brushed aside 2-0, just a matter of weeks ago. It’s ridiculous how Liverpool are now considered title contenders, but Arsenal are in “turmoil”, especially considering Liverpool were torn apart by Hull a fortnight ago!

Away from the doom and gloom, there were positives from the game against Manchester City at the weekend. City have conceded only 2 goals at home in the league all season, and we managed to net 3 in one game. Another positive is Theo Walcott’s return to the starting XI, adding a new dynamic to the side whilst bagging a brace too. Going forward we were strong, but there is no shying away from the obvious negatives. Missed chances ultimately cost us, as well as the multiple defensive errors leading to the bulk of Man City’s goals. The linesman didn’t help either, but ultimately Man City were worthy winners.

Arguably the biggest worry from the game itself was not the result, but the injury to Laurent Koscielny. The gash on his knee looks like something from a horror film, and could see him out for a little while. The central defensive partnership between Koscielny and Mertasacker has been a pivotal part of the season thus far, and although Thomas Vermaelen’s a very capable replacement, Mertesacker and Koscielny complement each other so well that he will be sorely missed, although it is hoped he will be fit for next week’s game.

Arsenal’s recent form has not been ideal with a draw against a very good Everton side, and of course defeats to Napoli and Manchester City, making next Mondays game against Chelsea a must win to stay top of the league and to keep the title push alive. I feel as if the game against Chelsea could be seasoning defining, which makes it the ideal time for Arsene Wenger to get his first win over a Jose Mourinho managed side.

Another defeat next week and the broken cannons will be out in force once again, so I’m desperately hoping for a positive result to avoid the media’s brutal backlash.

Christmases Commercial Cold

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The reality is that Christmas has become an abomination, a twisted side of its previous self. It has become cursed with a commercial plague, hell bent on fulfilling our materialistic greed. Christmas has caught a cold, and like for the common cold, there appears to be no cure, we can only try to treat its symptoms.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas. The plentiful food, the beautiful decorations and the countless presents are all brilliant, but this is where the problem lies, this is where a big part of Christmas has died.

Ironically, the part of Christmas that has died is a birth, as we shouldn’t forget the reason that Christmas even exists: to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. The majority of people in our society celebrate Christmas, Christian or not. Atheists celebrate Christmas, which when you consider it, is ridiculous, as we are celebrating the birth of a saviour that we do not even believe in!

However ludicrous this sounds, what is more ridiculous is how the big businesses use Christmas.

Christmas is now a commercial minefield of overspending and special offers. To the big franchises, Christmas is used as a marketing gimmick to attract customers to come and spend their life savings on gifts, that our loved ones don’t even want or need.

They no longer even try to hide it, they show no shame, as their decorations go up in OCTOBER and their Christmas adverts represent no traditions of Christmas whatsoever.These big businesses are building new and greed based ‘traditions’ of Christmas, to con the consumer into overspending, bankrupting innocent families in order to pay for the CEO’s new house in whichever exotic country he fancies.

Christmas has become a holiday in which we do everything in excess, everything we do on this day we do in greed, consuming our food, drinks or gifts, but what we don’t see is as we do so, we also consume the very foundations Christmas was built on.

Christmas is supposed to be centred around the family coming together, spending valuable time in each other’s company that some families only get once a year. However, the harsh reality is that this is no longer the case, families do still come together, but it doesn’t seem to be about the time together anymore, as this commercialised holiday is now even more gifts based than ever.

Unlike the common cold, it doesn’t appear that Christmas’s commercial cold is going away anytime soon. We must treat the symptoms early, before this seemingly innocent cold, turns into an epidemic.

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I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here… The Perfect TV Show?

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I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here is possibly the most eagerly anticipated TV show of the year. But why is this? What makes it so entertaining? I’m sure you all have your own opinions, but here’s mine…

I think most importantly, every year the celebrities in the show represent all measures of the British public, with the characters ranging from young to old, from many different professions. This gives the public the chance to relate to a character, whether that is the grumpy, middle aged man moaning every step of the way, or the one that has a phobia for just about everything!

Inevitably, there are two celebrities (at least) who are in the Jungle purely to be the eye candy of the camp, and this year they’ve gone for Amy Willerton (Miss Universe GB) and Joey Essex (from some show called TOWIE). Let’s be honest, it’s only a matter of time before some sort of love interest emerges between the two, we see it every year, the best example of course being Peter Andre and Katie Price, and just look how that turned out! Jungle love will always end up in a disaster, but that’s what we all want to see, it makes a great storyline!

For me, Ant and Dec make the show what it is, with their hilarious cut scenes, mocking the celebrities about their phobias and weaknesses. I think the reason they are such brilliant hosts of the show is down to their chemistry they show on air. Their friendship is clearly very strong, as they have a lot of banter and mock each other publicly to give a lighter, more comical side to the programme. They bring all of the best aspects of the show together, ultimately creating TV gold.

When compared to other similar shows, such as Big Brother, it is certainly head and shoulders above the rest in terms of entertainment, laughter and just creating general disgust for the audience through its infamous trials! But that disgust is what we love about it; it’s so different to any other show out there. Plus of course, we love voting to put our favourite celebrities through the awful ordeals, and to make the show even more enjoyable… it’s just hilarious watching Joey try to tell the time!

Arsenal CAN win the Premier League, and why Theo Walcott is the key

Walcott with his Arsenal teammates.
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The Premier League is wide open this season, with Pundits and Managers claiming that any of the ‘top 6′ could go on to win it. This begs the question, can Arsenal actually win the title?

If you ask the two Alan’s over at Match Of The Day, they will tell you (as they reiterate every week) that Arsenal can’t possibly win it. However, I’m going to tell you why I believe that Arsenal CAN win the Premier League title.

The cracks being shown by Arsenal’s title rivals could be an important part of Arsenals title challenge. The team with the best squad in the league, Man City, are displaying worryingly bad away form while at Chelsea, Mourinho doesn’t seem to know his best team (and lacks a striker), whilst also not starting last years Player of the Season, Juan Mata (for reasons I do not understand). Man United are also understandably showing vulnerability after Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, as David Moyes struggles to come to terms with his big new job.

But here lies, in my opinion, the key to Arsenals title challenge, the return of Theo Walcott. What Walcott brings to the Arsenal side is huge, with his pace and ability to get in behind defences being vital to push back the opposition, stretching their defence and midfield enabling Arsenal’s midfield maestros such as Ozil, Wilshere, Ramsey and Cazorla to work their magic, creating countless chances and opportunities to score from. The combination of Ozil-Walcott is something that particularly excites many Arsenal fans including myself, and how powerful this combination could be was shown earlier in the season against Sunderland before Walcott’s injury, where Ozil played some memorising through balls to Walcott, who on another day could, and probably should of bagged a brace.

Of course, I do understand why football fans are so sceptical of Arsenal’s chances, the squad is relatively small compared to the other top teams, and in recent seasons Arsenals inconsistency has been their most annoying trait. However, this year feels different, especially with this great start, the like of which Arsenal fans haven’t seen in many years, whilst the signing of Mesut Ozil has given the whole club a boost, buying a world class player instead of selling one, as has been the case in recent years!

No-one can tell who will come out on top, which is why I think Arsenal CAN, but not necessarily WILL win the title. What is for sure is that this competition bodes well for a more open and exciting title race that the Premier League has sometimes lacked in previous years.