With the Premier League title race hotting up, The Courier asked students who they think has the bottle and bravery to take the crown. Can Leicester really pull off the impossible dream? Or will Arsene Wenger finally break Tottenham hearts and return the trophy to North London?
Tottenham were previously the team under-‘under the radar’ with surprise leaders Leicester, attracting much of the interest from the media and football fans. However, Pochettino has instilled a hard working ethic to a talented and well-balanced team with a young, British core leading to them being title contenders. In fact, Pochettino has been rated by old Fergie (which is high praise considering his own accomplishments) as being the best manager in the Premier League.
"Spurs have only gained more momentum"
Spurs also have strength and depth in their team. Club captain, Hugo Lloris, is safe-hands in net, proving to be a top goalkeeper. Vorm is also a very capable back-up. In defence, the young Austrian defender, Wimmer, is performing well in place of the injured Vertonghen. Vertonghen had previously provided a strong backbone for the team, alongside Alderweireld, the Belgian centre back with an unpronounceable name. The solid British quartet of Rose, Walker, Davies and Trippier all compete for the full back positions. Then in midfield the likes of Dier provide the steel in supporting the defence, while the gifted attacking players such as Eriksen, Alli and Lamela all create the chances. The young Brit, Dele Alli has excelled following his debut arguably scoring one of the best goals of the season. Last but not least, Harry the ‘Hurri-kane’ has proven himself as one of the top British strikers, banging them in left, right and centre.
With a victory against a surprisingly uninspired Man City, albeit with the referee’s help with a rather dodgy handball decision, Spurs have only gained more momentum. Important to mention is that they have won their 5 matches and only dropped 4 points out of a possible 30. Consistency, form, and a bit of good luck, are all signs of champions. There is also an increasing sense of belief instilled by Pochettino, which is only going to help them in their final push in the next 12 games of the season.
"Harry the ‘Hurri-kane’ has proven himself as one of the top British strikers, banging them in left, right and centre"
Meanwhile, Leicester have the pressure of being favourites for the title and a thin squad so injuries to either Vardy, Mahrez or Kante will probably end the Foxes’ title charge. Arsenal will no doubt crumble under the pressure in typical fashion, and end up returning to their well-worn fourth place after a season’s absence. Whereas Man City are too inconsistent, with the imminent arrival of Guardiola no doubt disrupting any momentum they previously had. The only thing potentially stopping Spurs’ charge is an injury to Kane, but otherwise Spurs are my pick to be number one by the end of the season, and to finally win their first Premier League title.
Leicester City: the chat shit, get banged brigade. In truth, their 40-point aim got turned to shit as they banged just about everyone in the league. An underdog run that just hasn’t ended; Leicester have endured with bargain signings, lost causes and bottom half of the table stalwarts. What has emerged is a team that would be 18th in the league if it was based on first xi transfer value.
As Mike Basset notes “4 4 FUCKING 2”, in a world of 3 in the middle, this is what the Foxes have lived by. An explosive counter attacking system that has constantly put teams that think they can dominate Leicester to the sword. Much credit must go to Claudio Ranieri, often lauded for not changing much since coming to the helm. Though it must be said I think they would have been much further down the league under Pearson, who at best could be described as “unstable” before the end of his tenure. Ranieri on the other hand has been the epitome of “grounded”, first aiming for 40 points and a pizza, and now remaining coy in public but as ambitious as ever with his tactics. The ‘Tinkerman’ has done away with his nickname, maintaining the most consistent line-up in the league. Then why would you? Schmeichel, Morgan and Huth, Kante and Drinkwater, Vardy and Okazaki. Work rate and quality throughout the spine, without even mentioning a revitalised Fuchs, player of the year candidate Mahrez and potential Euro 2016 call up Albrighton. That leaves the likes of Inler, Dyer and Gray on the bench. Though understated, Leicester have serious talent.
"The ‘Tinkerman’ has done away with his nickname, maintaining the most consistent line-up in the league"
The only top four team without cup commitments. The only team that are top of the league. Some may see the Arsenal defeat as their downfall, but with their previous two losses Leicester have responded like Champions. All in all, Arsenal are Arsenal, City have been abhorrent and Spurs have the curse of Europa League football. Who will stop them?
Highest goal scorer, the most wins, the fewest defeats says it all. Anyway, fairy tales always have happy endings. I for one can’t wait to see Ranieri smashed on WKD and flying the v’s at Roman.
As Arsene Wenger felt that his team could go all the way two seasons ago, he had an infamous battle with the zipper on his long jacket. To an outsider, his actions seem like a man in disagreement with his zipper, when in actuality Wenger’s zipper is indicative of the fact that he knows to keep his hopes realistic. Hence the zipper is never fully up.
Arsenal’s season thus far has been symptomatic of a fundamental problem plaguing their club for the last decade: having the ability to climb the mountain, but not having the belief that they can do so.
“The zipper is never fully up”
A forgettable January has been wiped clean from memory, as the scalp of table-topping Leicester, with the last kick of the game, shows that Arsenal might just pull it off.
Flamini and Campbell in particular have been granted an uncharacteristically long run of games, and have kept the ship steady for when those whom they replace, return. Despite Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez providing the silky skill and flashy effectiveness that’s come to be associated with the club, Arsenal’s defence has been it’s true saviour throughout the season.
If you predicted that Hector Bellerin would become the premier league’s breakout star a year ago, you would’ve drawn many laughs to your face. Half a year into the new season, and you’d be looking pretty smug. The former La Masia grad has earned rave reviews from all corners, and has been putting consistent performances to earn them. Shedding his initial hiccups, the Spaniard has come into his own, much like his national compatriot David De Gea.
"If you predicted that Hector Bellerin would become the premier league’s breakout star a year ago, you would’ve drawn many laughs to your face."
Nacho Monreal has also statistically proven himself to be the best left-back in the league. With an average of 3 interceptions and 5 assists, the Spaniard has proven to be a cornerstone of Arsenal’s success, and may well serve to define the defense for future seasons.
At the base of it all lies one of Arsenal’s most pivotal signings, Petr Cech. The former Chelsea man has added level of class and consistency that has often gone awry in Arsenal squads of the past. While his shot stopping abilities might have gone a tad rusty, his ability to communicate and organize his defense is an attribute that puts him in a league of his own.
Arsenal might yet fail at the final hurdle, but they currently exhibit the hunger and drive that is expected out of a league winning squad.
How can Manchester City win the title? Surprisingly there’s more than just blind faith that City fans can rely on. Why? Well we’ve done it before. Cast your minds back to the 8th of April, 2012. City had just lost to Arsenal 1-0 and United had gone eight points clear at the top. At the time Phil McNulty claimed that City’s already “faltering title challenge lies in tatters.” I don’t blame him either. No one thought we could claw it back.
Six matches later, including a derby victory and a heart-stopping win against QPR, City were crowned Premier League champions. Why can’t we do it again? We still have largely the same team, besides instead of Adam Johnson, Gareth Barry and Joleon Lescott, we’ve got Raheem Sterling, Fernandinho and Nicolas Otamendi.
Top-placed Leicester are currently six points ahead of City, with twelve games to go. Remember also that City were chasing an experienced United side led by the ‘genius’ that is Sir Alex Ferguson. Whereas Leicester have no Premier League winners except Robert Huth, who likes to pretend that he was a pivotal figure in the original Mourinho Chelsea team.
“Surprisingly, there’s more than just blind faith City fans can rely on. Why? Well we’ve done it before”
City can rely on Arsenal to slip up at some point. Historically Arsenal have always managed to compete with the big boys, but have struggled against the teams battling to stay in the league. As for Spurs, they’re in the Europa League, so travelling to Azerbaijan and back three times in a month is going to take its toll. Thursday night football has always ruined title bids.
So how can City win the title, and what do they need to change to be able to make the difference? Stage 1 is already complete: get Kompany fit. So long as that man is in the starting eleven, City are capable of anything. Sometimes I’m not convinced he’s mortal. I’ll look a bit stupid if he gets injured against Chelsea, but he is crucial so we have to keep him fit.
Stage 2 is also simple: shoot Yaya Touré in his kneecaps. The Ivorian has been far and away City’s worst player this season. He never used to put any effort in, but at least his legs used to work. Hopefully Pellegrini won’t have too much of a dilemma dropping him now that Kompany has returned to reclaim the captain’s armband.
Stage 3? Make up six points in twelve games. With City’s quality and history, you’d be foolish to even consider any other team clinching that coveted Premier League title.