All Change In The Premier League?
Things are changing in the Premier League. Almost every year since its inception in 1992, we have had just two or three clubs involved seriously in the title race from Christmas onwards and one of those clubs has invariably been Manchester United.
But this time it’s different – or at least the betting market says it is different. Whereas we used to talk about the Big Two, sometimes the Big Three and more recently the Big Four, now it’s ‘The Big Six’ – Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs, Liverpool, Man City and United – six clubs, all with genuine designs on the Premiership silverware.
Coral make City favourites at 11/5, just ahead of Chelsea (11/4). Then come league leaders Arsenal (11/2), United (6/1), Liverpool (8/1) and Spurs (12/1). That’s as open as the Premier League has ever been and it might even become more open if Everton (150/1) and Southampton (500/1) can maintain their good starts to the campaign.
That new pecking order will be worrying for United fans and Coral’s 4/9 that they finish in the top four will be quite alarming – not qualifying for the Champions League is a concept most at Old Trafford will struggle to get their heads around.
And Champions League qualification will be a very big deal come the end of the season. Everyone at Manchester City (1/8 to finish in the top four), Chelsea (1/5) and Arsenal (4/9) also expects this as a minimum requirement, but then so now do Liverpool (11/10) and Spurs (11/8). You don’t need to be a mathematical genius to work out that two big clubs will be extremely disappointed.
There have been a few shock Premier League results this season, but generally speaking the table is already, just seven games in, reading more or less like we expected it to.
And that’s unfortunate for Crystal Palace because everybody’s favourites to go straight back down again after their promotion from the Championship last May are indeed battling in the basement and might soon be rock bottom of the pile if Gus Poyet effects a quick revival at Sunderland.
Palace are 1/6 to be relegated (10/11 to finish bottom), while the Black Cats are still odds-on to join then (10/11), despite their change at the helm.
Next in the list nobody wants to be on come Cardiff (2/1 to go down), Hull (9/4), Norwich (11/4), Fulham (7/2) and Stoke (4/1) and you can well imagine all of these clubs still flirting with relegation as the season reaches its climax.
Cardiff’s long and loud celebrations after their historic 3-2 victory over Man City are still ringing in the ears, but there’s much less to shout about in the Welsh capital now as off-field disputes threaten to derail all the good work. And an away fixture at Chelsea this weekend is unlikely to bring any immediate respite.