If the Premier League was a film, at this point I would be hastily scanning the back of the DVD case to determine if I had in fact seen this one before. What promised to be the classic romp reworked with zany new characters is quickly becoming a bit familiar. I refer to of course the recent slump of Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur coinciding with the resurgence of their local rivals. Both Manchester United and Arsenal deserve plaudits for showing signs of taking control of their respective scenarios that their supporters would certainly struggle to live down. For the neutral however, it’s hard not to be a bit disappointed.
The much bemoaned “top 4” had a shake up about two seasons ago and it looked for a while like the mould would be broken on a whole new scale this time round. With United sitting on top of the league albeit by a single point and Arsenal enjoying a rich vein of form, City and Spurs need to compose themselves quickly or miss the biggest opportunity to topple their bitter rivals they may get for a long time. Whatever happens between now and the end of the season Man Utd and Arsenal won’t tolerate being demoted to second best in their cities and will pull out all the stops in pre-season to ensure that they’re not. Nothing sums it up better than the fact that not only has Arsene Wenger actually spent some money but spent it on someone people have actually heard of! Lucas Podolski. However, there are still ten games left and positives for both sides. It is fair to say Tottenham have just come off the back of three very difficult fixtures rather than concluding that ‘Arry’s newspaper inches are the cause of any decline and Man City still have the Manchester derby to contest at home (as well as having an OK squad…)
Whilst the Premier League title race reaches boiling point, a slightly more lukewarm battle of wits is taking place on the continent. Both Manchester clubs are also contesting the Europa League but despite their early pledges to treat the competition with respect one can’t help but feel their attention is elsewhere. You can’t really blame them; it’s like contesting an intense game of chess only to be told that you and your opponent have to keep stopping to play Cribbage. However, the Europa League does offer some silverware; which, last time I checked was the ultimate point of partaking in sport. It has always baffled me why some English sides seek to get knocked out of the competition in order to concentrate on re-qualifying for it next season. Surely any trophy is worth having in your club’s cabinet (except of course, the Inter-Toto Cup, that really was the sculpted metal embodiment of a plate of manure with discarded dirty plasters in it) It is probably fair to say the tournament is a bit of a long winded affair and you can find a handy visual guide to everyone’s least favourite competition in this week’s Football Coffee Break below…
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