By Ryan Fleming
It’s been a while since I thought a handful of teams were actually capable of pushing by the often-fortuitous Manchester United or the pesky Chelsea to reach the top of the English Premier League. This season it all seems to be rather perplexing. The Red Devils are currently in the top spot, but with Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea and the loose-spending Manchester City all struggling to maintain momentum through any part of the season, the league’s title might just go to the team that screws up the least.
Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere told The Guardian that he believes United can be caught and his club can surpass them. I’ll go along with the youngster’s statement. After watching countless United games and being absolutely unimpressed with almost all of them, one has to wonder why the Red Devils are in first place to begin with.
Yes, they lead the league in goals scored and are second in goals allowed, but if not aided by the timely, yet completely random out burst of Dimitar Berbatov’s five-goal effort at the hands of Blackburn back on Nov. 27th, the Red Devils would be back closer to the rest of the league. Their performance as of late is of a mind-changing manner. Despite going 2-0-1 in their last three games, United have seemed rather lethargic and have made a rarity of awe-inspiring wins – often playing down to their competition.
It isn’t that all the blame for United’s latest run of mediocrity should be placed squarely on their shoulders – Birmingham played them tough, scoring a late equalizer.
What United have to keep in mind, but not rely on, is the past. Historically this is about the time of year when the Red Devils seemingly wake-up and the Gunners start to stumble. That’s a positive for United, seeing that one of the clubs most likely to catch them provides a little gap in the second half.
For Arsene Wenger’s Gunners, the second half has often been a trying time. If the remarks of young Wilshere don’t want just be another line spoken in the soccer world that gets laughed at then it’s time to start buckling down now. The gunners constantly flub chances, especially last week against Manchester City where they hit the wood work twice. Now you might say that I’m being a bit harsh, but when you’re facing off against one of the teams you’re bound to compete against for the top spot come May, chances need to be cashed in on.
Will Manchester be caught? Maybe. Will Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester City or even Chelsea do it? Maybe. Right now, no one has showed that they can. And for a United side that can often seem just as lethargic, they’ll ride into the second half with confidence on their shoulders.
Ryan Fleming can be reached at Ryan.Fleming@thesoccerguysonline.com.