Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Race For Fourth (Or Third?) — 6 games to go.

Whilst many people have talked about the unpredictability of this season, there have been some elements that have been painfully too familiar.

United cantering to another title, despite being written off as "not that good" and "past it" — a mistake people have been making for years — and unfortunately, players such as Bryan Riggs and Paul "I got there as soon as I could" Scholes are still able to have an impact, despite their combined age of 104.

Arsenal playing the best short-pass-tippy-tap-tippy-tap-olé-olé football this side of Barcelona (and Brisbane Roar), but finding ways to throw away points that even Manchester City haven't thought of yet. It's amazing they're still anywhere near the title race, considering they've thrown away a four goal lead at Newcastle, conceded a 102nd minute equaliser against Liverpool, and lead by two goals in both fixtures against Tottenham, only for the games to finish 2-3 and 3-3 respectively.

And as for City... after spending more on new players this year than the entire GDP of Kiribati, we find ourselves in the exact same quagmire that we did last season — a battle for fourth place with Spurs, including a ding-dong winner-takes-all home play-off in the final days of the campaign.

Using a bit of statistical analysis and plain old guesswork, we've tried to predict how the season will turn out.

4. Manchester City
Games played: 32
Goal difference: +20
Recent form: 2 wins, 1 draw, and 3 losses. 7 points from the last 18.
Points: 56

Upcoming Fixtures:
A Blackburn (16th)
H West Ham United (19th)
A Everton (7th)
H Tottenham (5th)
FA Cup Final: Stoke City
H Stoke City (13th)
A Bolton (8th)

Predicted points total: 66 (10 more)
Trying to be as realistic/conservative as possible, Manchester City should pick up at least ten points from the final six fixtures.

Winning the next two matches would mean that City would be in the box seat for qualification to the Champions League. However, Blackburn and West Ham are both in danger of relegation — and of course, matches against relegation threatened teams are notoriously tough at this stage of the season. And West Ham have the same results as City over the last six matches (2-1-3 for seven points), so they're not to be taken lightly. Having said that, with the Blues on a high from their recent FA Cup semi final win, these two teams should present little danger for City.

The games against Everton and Tottenham however, may present a problem. Both are teams that we City struggled to beat in recent seasons — we've lost four on the trot at home against both clubs. There is also a short turn-around between the two games to consider (the Everton game is on Saturday, the Spurs game just two clear days later on the Tuesday), which means that Mancini may be forced to rest key players like David Silva and Nigel de Jong ahead of the clash against Tottenham. City may only take one point from these two fixtures — if any.

The game against Stoke, just three days after the FA Cup final against the same opponents is an interesting prospect. Especially when a Manchester City win could inversely help Stoke qualify for the Europa League by virtue of being the Cup runners-up and the winner (City) qualifying for the Champions League.

Conservatively, we've predicted that City will only win one of the last two fixtures — a win against Stoke and a defeat at Bolton (most likely on the back of goals to Daniel Sturridge and Martin Petrov). Even so, City should manage enough points to sneak ahead of Spurs, even with a defeat at the Reebok.

There's still a slight chance that City can even overhaul Arsenal and claim third place. The Gunners have drawn five of the last six games, with the only winning coming against the hapless Blackpool. But ultimately, success in the FA Cup, and reaching the fourth and final Champions League qualification spot should be the main focus for the team and the fans.

And I'm sure we'd all take that if offered.

5. Tottenham Hotspur
Games played: 32
Goal difference: +8 (12 worse off than City)
Recent form: 1 win, 4 draws, and 1 loss. 7 points from the last 18.
Points: 54 (two behind City)

Upcoming Fixtures:
H West Bromich Albion (11th)
A Chelsea (2nd)
H Blackpool (18th)
A Manchester City (4th)
A Liverpool (6th)
H Birmingham City (15th)

Predicted points total: 65 (11 more)
For the second consecutive season, an away match against Manchester City will be key in deciding fourth place — and we know what happened last time. But wins against West Brom, Blackpool, and Birmingham, with draws at City and Liverpool, should see Tottenham fall one point short.

1 comment:

  1. I am expecting some of our best performances for the season to turn up at the end of the season. We saw a taste of it at the FA Cup final and we are for sure better off than last season.

    Mancho fielded a lot of players that did not want him at the club at this time last season but the case is different now. Bellamy, Ireland, Adebayor, Onouha and others made it clear of their dislike of Mancini. The case is different now. These players are getting to believe his method and see that he is not full of crap.

    His system is working and get ready to see a fight like no other this season.



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