Tuesday, 4 January 2011

BPL title race; and why Chelsea may finish outside the Top 4.

Long time no write, eh? Here goes nothing.

Fig 1. Chelsea's attackers celebrates... but not for long.
To be honest, I am a Manchester United fan to the bone and I thought this season was going to be a bad one considering the bad start of the season and Chelsea to win it again. The first 10 games, Chelsea were the most feared team and won games by thrashing their opponents home & away. Drogba hitting form, Malouda's & Anelka's rejuvenated, and Kalou beginning to shine, I thought this would be THEIR season.

But now its 2011 with 21 matchdays played. Manchester United are surprisingly still unbeaten and top of the league while Chelsea's form has dipped lower than George W Bush's IQ level. What has been the reason of their downfall? Rotation policy failure.

Chelsea has the one of the best starting XI you will see in the world, but when 2-3 players are suddenly unavailable no one can fill in. When you look at Manchester United & Arsenal, they have players who can offer a lot from the bench when the starters are having an off-day. Then you see Manchester City & Tottenham Hotspur building their squad for a couple of seasons and see they both have great squads and will only improve with gametime.

In this article I will compare the starting XI and 7 substitutes of the top 5 teams (Manchester United, Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur) in the BPL standings as of January 4 2011.

Manchester United
-----------------------------------------Van der Sar-------------------------------------

Most frequent subs: Hernandez, Anderson, Scholes, Giggs, Smalling, Macheda, O'Shea

Fig 2. Park Ji-Sung and Dimitar Berbatov.
This team is a great one, especially when you still have players you can't mention in subs bench such as Valencia, Owen, Obertan, and Evans. This squad has depth but sadly not the consistency though. Fortunately Ferguson has that winning mentality installed in the team which brings his team unbeaten up until now.

Manchester United has the quality to win anything if they clicked more with each other and I'm not being biased. What will even be creepier is if Wayne Rooney rediscovers his old form.

End of season expectations: 1st


Most frequent subs: Walcott, Rosicky, Van Persie, Bendtner, Djourou, Diaby, Eboue

Fig 3. Samir Nasi hugging Cesc Fabregas.
After years in the waiting, finally Arsene Wenger's plans of breeding youngster have paid off. What's even better is they can chip-chop their squad like crazy and still form a great team. Like ManUtd, they have more players than the ones being mentioned such as the injured Vermaelen, Vela, Denilson, and Gibbs.

Based on quality, Arsenal have a great attack, nice hard-working midfield, and a competent defence. The only thing lacking in the squad maybe the Goalkeeper as Fabianski and Almunia aren't that commanding. But their weakness isn't all that "weak".

End of season expectations: a close second 2nd

Manchester City
--Boateng-----------Kompany-----------Kolo Toure-------------Zabaleta-
----------------Yaya Toure---------De Jong---------------Barry------------------

Most frequent subs: A. Johnson, Balotelli, Richards, Kolarov, Lescott, Adebayor, Vieira

Fig 4. Carlos Tevez & David Silva
I've said this before and I will say it again - Money can't buy you happiness, but we will have to see if it brings you a good football team. Manchester City and Roberto Mancini has certainly wanted to try that philosophy as City has the depth in every position. Other players such as Wright-Phillips, Bridge, and Santa Cruz could impact any team as well.

How money can change a mediocre mid-table club into a dark horse to win the title is outstanding, but Man City has sometimes never lived up to the big games which causes them to drop points to often. Unless they start playing the big games, they will only achieve Champions League qualification zone.

End of season expectations: 4th


Most frequent subs: Kalou, Zhirkov, Ramires, Bosingwa, Ferreira, Sturridge, Benayoun
Fig 5. Didier Droga & Florent Malouda

Yes, yes. This is a strong Chelsea squad. But have you seen them play lately? When Alex, Ivanovic, Lampard & Essien went missing, this team suddenly becomes another mediocre midtable club. Ferreira & Bosingwa ain't the players they were before their big injuries while Ramires haven't excelled in Lampard's absence. Besides the players mentioned as subs, basically there are only reserve players in the squad.

Their youngsters are not bad, just inexperienced and doesn't mix that well with the seniors which forces Ancelotti to rely on first-team players or dive into the market this month. Unless they buy someone with the wealth they have, they may be disappointed come the end of the season.

End of season expectations: 5th

Tottenham Hostpur
Lennon----------------------Van der Vaart---------------------------Bale

Most frequent subs: Crouch, Palacios, Pavlyuchenko, Kaboul, Keane, Corluka, Bentley
Fig 5. Rafael Van der Vaart and Gareth Bale screaming.

The squad Harry Redknapp has built in Spurs were down to great signings and awesome trust in his players. What's amazing also is the surprising depth in the squad which runs from the goal up to the strikers. They have the luxury of 6 above average centrebacks and 3 rightwings with international credentials.

Sure Redknapp hasn't rotated his side much, but when one gets injured/suspended, the backup players can stake a claim for Harry. What's amazing with Harry is he can trust players and bring the best out of them like what he did with Gareth Bale and Alan Hutton. With the talent in this team and consistency, they are the better of the dark horses in the league.

End of season expectations: 3rd

Conclusion: Consistency and how back-up players will deliver in games will determine the end result of the league. United, Arsenal, Spurs, Chelsea, and City will need their subs to deliver when their teams needs them the most and now this title race will be the most interesting to watch because virtually 5 teams are in it.

Meet me in May and see if I got my predictions right ;)