We are just over halfway through the season in the Premier League where things begin to shape up with a more accurate looking table. There are already surprises with the emergence of lesser clubs and the fall of the giants, here we take a look at the potential top four and why they deserve to be there.
This year so far has been one of the closest we've seen towards to battle for a European place. With only nine points separating sixth place from first and a tiny two points separating third from the title, things are really going to start heating up towards the latter stages of the season.
Adding to this is the fact year-in, year-out favourites for the title Manchester United are at the lowest point they have been at for quite some time with the stepping-down of their living legend and "Godfather" Sir Alex Ferguson.
So where else better to start than the prediction for the title itself, which for me is Manchester City - it's easy to say the new champions could be Arsenal, but City seem a lot more convincing than the Gunners.
Wenger's men, more often than not, seem to win matches quite unconvincingly with a struggle or by the odd goal, whereas Pellegrini's only look dominant in their games thanks to the lethal players they have on the pitch that you know will pull something off before the match is over. There's no prizes for guessing who this is referring to, the likes of Argentine assassin Sergio "Kun" Agüero, the powerful midfielder Yaya Touré, constant-goal threat Álvaro Negredo amongst other top quality talent.
The amount of pure class that City has seem to be far too many in number that any other club could come close to right now. Of course Pellegrini had trouble at the beginning of the season adjusting to his new club and vice versa, but after he gained control and began to understand his players the team only poured out vast amounts of goals and plain consistency.
I do say all of this, but I also think their defence is a bit light of the top quality they need all through the back four - namely center-back.
Belgian powerhouse Vincent Kompany is captain reliable when it comes to his performances and defending for his team, but it's his partner at the back I worry about. With a very out of favour Joleon Lescott, an aging and inconsistent Martín Demichaelis and a young, not-yet completely ready Matija Nastasić, I feel the difference of City winning the title and not all depends on if Kompany stays fit.
As for the Gunners it is no doubt they will finish in the top four, most probably second. A fluid, game-controlling and dynamic midfield that is arguably one of the best in the league, accompanied with a solid and reliable defence will make sure of that. Leaving the only problem up forward with the striker position.
French international Olivier Giroud has been in reasonable form this season with nine goals in the league and five assists, taking into account the vast amount of them came in the city of London. On top of the fact he should be doing better, given the quality around him and superb teamwork, he is really the only constant goal-scoring threat. Danish international Nicklas Bendtner is always included in Wenger's match-day squad and is also the only other true striker they have on a regular basis, with his infamous track record of only four league goals for Arsenal since the middle of 2010 - that is a worrying fact.
I'm sure Arsène Wenger already knows the issue here and will work well to get someone that fills that void reliably, making Arsenal's chances of winning the title next season extremely high.
The spot of third place seems to be destined to Chelsea for me for simple reasons: they are too good to drop below third with the enormous quality and squad depth they possess, but I feel City and Arsenal will stay ahead for the rest of the season.
The Blues' have a proven world-class manager in the form of José Mourinho, controlling a squad that brags the likes of Eden Hazard and Brazillian starlet Oscar. The only issues here are the fact none of their strikers hit good-form (although Eto'o seems to be finding his feet after a hat-trick against Manchester United) and they didn't have the start to their season they would have hoped for. Other than that, goals are coming from their wingers and midfielders and it seems obvious that once they've found a solution to their lack of striker goals - they'll majorly improve their chances of grasping the title.
Fourth place is going to be a very tight contest indeed. With Liverpool blossoming under Brendan Rodgers, forming a world-class and lethal partnership that is "SAS" (consisting of Luis Suárez and Daniel Sturridge) it seems they are well under way to regaining their former glory as giants of the English game and will attain that fourth spot. It's obvious that this place is most important for the Reds in their overall success to come, as if they do not get Champions League next season - it seems they may lose their one reason they are doing this well.
But you can not write off who are they up against for that slot, nearest competition being that of their Merseyside rivals Everton and Londoners Tottenham. The former have also gained a manager who is firing them to a point that they are flirting with the top four at all times and the latter passing the torch to a manager who seems to understand his team a whole lot better than his predecessor did.
After the January window closes there's no doubt this competition will heat up to a whole new level, each club tasting the nearing and inevitable end to the season hoping they have what it takes to stand amongst Europe's elite.
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