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Monday, January 11, 2010

Premier League title race shaping up

This is shaping up to be the closest Premier League title race ever. There have been tight two-way battles for the trophy before, most notably when Manchester United and Blackburn Rovers entered the final day of the 1994/95 season with the title still up for grabs, but rarely have three teams entered the home straight with excellent chances of glory.

Three points separate the top three and I'm betting there will be a similar range covering Chelsea, Arsenal and United on 9th May. Even Manchester City cannot be ruled out, especially as they face United and the Gunners in April. One way or another, City will play a major part in deciding the destination of the title.

Much has been made of the inconsistency of the top three this term, but in truth this unpredictability has been confined to away matches - Chelsea (28 points from 30 at home), United (25) and Arsenal (25) all have decent home records in common, with slip-ups against Aston Villa by United, and Chelsea by Arsenal hardly major shocks.

So the title will be won on the road and it is fair to say each of the main challengers needs to improve on their travels. The Blues have found goals hard to come by, Arsenal have been too leaky in defence and United have simply been too easy to beat (four away defeats in 11).

The easiest of these problems to fix is Arsenal's. Rumours of defensive strengthening in the transfer market persist, but Arsene Wenger knows that the temporary loss of Alex Song can be more easily overcome than the Didier Drogba-shaped hole confronting Chelsea.

United cannot be written off, but they suddenly seem to have lost their edge, revealing an uncharacteristically soft underbelly that makes a fourth title seem unlikely. The Premiership is up for grabs, but can Arsenal grasp this opportunity? If they can, their 2010 FA Cup odds would seem to suggest that a double isn't out of the question.

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