Most observers of the Premier League this season will tell you that it is a three-way tussle for the league title. Sir Alex Ferguson has already said that in the final months of the season he expects it to be a straight race between United and Chelsea but most believe that this years champions will be one of Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal, and they are probably correct. However a few weeks ago, the same people that would say it is a three-horse race will have been equally sure that it was a two-horse race. After Arsenal were chastened by Chelsea at the Emirates, they were ruled out of the running by most commentators yet they have reduced the deficit again and are now just 4 points behind league leaders Chelsea with a game in hand. So if Arsenal have hauled themselves back into the title race in such a short space of time, is it wise to rule out any other club doing the same?
The fact is, no side has yet made a convincing case to be crowned champions. Chelsea started strongly and are still the best bet; but with their African players away, and a goalkeeper who is at best unconvincing, they have their weaknesses. United are strong enough to blow away most of the smaller teams but their midfield lacks the quality to match their title rivals and they are continuing to struggle with defensive injuries. Arsenal are in good form, but without van Persie they are lightweight in attack and are always in danger of being outmuscled.
Tottenham are not really talked about as title contenders, they have no pedigree. But they are only 8 points behind Chelsea and while this is a sizeable advantage, it is certainly not insurmountable. They are a strong side with a clear game-plan; if Defoe and Lennon continue to play well, they will continue to accumulate points at an impressive rate. Despite having an ever-changing back four, they are quite strong defensively and are fully capable of going on a long unbeaten run that would move them closer to Chelsea, unlikely as it may seem.
More of a threat than Spurs, are Manchester City; under Mancini they are building momentum and confidence is increasing. The players have all upped their work-rate for the new manager and Carlos Tevez is finally beginning to show why City spent all that money on him. They are already in possession of a competitive squad and Mancini will make additions this month that will only make them stronger. They have a run of fixtures coming up that they will enjoy; City are likely to go on a strong run in the coming months and a possible success in the Carling Cup could spur them on to greater things. Mancini has not ruled out the title this season and with City 10 points behind with a game in hand, it is easy to see why. They are a long shot, no doubt; but they rarely lose and are a growing force.
In all likelihood, the title will go to one of the usual suspects; Spurs and City haven’t even finished in the top 4 in recent seasons so it seems silly to talk about title challenges. But this season has been unlike any other in the recent history of the Premier League. Any of the ‘Big Four’ are liable to lose on any given weekend and this unpredictability may just open the door for another side. It is highly unlikely, but should not be ruled out.