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April 1, 2014

It’s the worst phrase in the English language (unless we consider “banter-bus”), but it appears it is squeaky bum time once more in the race for the Premier League title.

It also seems that some of the City fans’ bums have already gone past the squeaking phase, despite what was a good week for the team. Chelsea imploded for the second away match in a row, so in comparison to them the week has been overwhelmingly positive. After all, which of us City fans would not have taken four points from two tough away games? I would have bitten off your hand for that and perhaps the odd extra limb too.

The reason for negativity in some quarters is of course Liverpool, the juggernaut rolling on fuelled by their history and destiny and the Kop sucking the ball in the net and all that. City can’t compete (#sarcasm). The thing is, their week has been much, much easier. They had two home games, one against a team utterly out of form near the foot of the table and one against the most shambolic team in the league right now, a team whose league position could not be more deceptive. It is no surprise that Liverpool gained on City this week, nor is it a disaster. In fact, it could have been much worse.

Liverpool fans seem to think it’s in the bag, bravely singing about winning the league without fear of superstition/jinxes/other occult occurrences derailing their bid by predicting they may win something. City fans have been rather more negative, never wanting to express the possibility of a league title via the medium of group songs. Even when City won the league, I was horrified at the Champions scarves being proudly adorned by many outside the ground prior to the QPR game. This was a level of cockiness and bravado in fans that I had not witnessed before and I will admit – I didn’t like it. As it turned out, it was their fault we almost messed it up. Liverpool fans would do well to take this on board.

But back to the run-in. The fact is that City have got through two of their really tricky four away games remaining resulting in the situation that they will go clear at the top if they win their two highly winnable games in hand at home to Sunderland and Aston Villa. The problem is that City are always playing catch-up. Some might argue it is better to have the points on the board and what’s more, Liverpool are certainly on a roll.

But for defeat at Anfield to be really disastrous there is the assumption that Liverpool are to continue winning every game until the season-end. They are capable of this, but it would mean pulling off the longest run of consecutive victories in Premier League history, fourteen in total. If they do that, then good luck to them, they deserve the title, especially as it will include defeating their two title rivals along the way. It only takes an injury to the likes of Suarez though for the whole picture to change once more.

The bookies see things rather differently to the pessimistic minority of Citizens. City are still odds-on to win the title, with Liverpool 15/8 and remarkably Chelsea can be backed at 8/1 despite the fact that yesterday afternoon they headed the table. The most important factor of all though is that you can’t predict these things, thus making this whole article redundant. No one could have envisaged that Chelsea would sandwich a 6-0 hammering of Arsenal with defeats to Aston Villa and Crystal Palace.

You can over-analyse too. At the weekend I found myself considering how Crystal Palace’s victory over Chelsea was a double bonus as it could mean they are safe from relegation by the time they play City, thus meaning they may not try as hard. Likewise, if West Ham could somehow defeat Liverpool next week. By defeating Sunderland this week ,West Ham are virtually safe from relegation and thus can play with more freedom and less pressure, which by my calculations makes them 7% more likely to defeat Liverpool. When looking at City’s fixtures though, by worrying about the “big” games like Liverpool and Everton away, there is a danger of overlooking the threat posed by the aforementioned Crystal Palace or a dangerous Southampton next week.

This race to the line was fairly predictable. It was widely acknowledged at the beginning of the season that this could be a very interesting season indeed. City and United would be title-contenders once more (ahem), Spurs had spent £100m strengthening the side after the departure of Gareth Bale, Arsenal and Chelsea would fight for the title as always, whilst Liverpool and Everton would be looking to push on and challenge for the Top Four. It hasn’t panned out quite as we all probably expected, but it has certainly been a fierce fight for the title and there will be further twists – that is guaranteed.

So in conclusion, let’s take it one game at a time, try and remain calm about something over which none of us has any influence over and enjoy the ride. Simple eh?

One Comment
  1. Graham Ward permalink

    I’ve got to admit, Howard…..I looked at the title of the article, and the date, and my initial thought was, I wonder if….. #sarcasm

    However, on reading the piece, my scepticism was misplaced.
    You’re correct, though, in your final thought. On reading your reaction to the QPR game in 2012, you might need your headache pills prior to, and during the conclusion against West Ham mind!

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