First published in Racing & Football Outlook December 27, 2011-January 2, 2012
We might not yet be quite at the halfway stage in this season’s
Premier League but that’s no reason not to take a whistle-stop tour
through the significant parts of the division to assess what’s changed
since August, and, more importantly, the significance and meaning of
those changes when it comes to determining the outcomes of the various
It’s important to be able to relate the change that inevitably occurs
at every club to the topic at hand.
The best illustration of what I mean comes when we look at a team like
Liverpool. Since Kenny Dalglish returned as manager the trend has been
upward for the Anfield side and that improvement has carried over into
However, while they might be improving as a team, they aren’t
necessarily moving any closer to actually winning the league – and
let’s not forget that some people were actually talking in those terms
back in the summer.
This is all to do with relativism and, put simply, if the clubs above
Liverpool are improving at a faster rate (and most are), then
regardless of any good work Dalglish is doing, the net result is that
the club is standing still at best, or, at worse, going backwards.
Even without recourse to the Outlook Index ratings the fact that
Liverpool are still drawing with the likes of Wigan and losing to
Fulham speaks volumes about the second coming of King Kenny.
The same is also true of Arsenal. Despite ‘returning to form’ in the
past month or so, for me it’s the same old story with Arsenal and
their now traditional battle with consistency.
As I’ve written time and again, nobody would deny Arsenal’s class on
their day but their problem is an inability to sustain a challenge
over an entire campaign. This season has been no different except that
they started on a downer rather than ending on one as they usually do.
The net result is the same, however, whatever order the fluctuations
in their form come in.
Interesting as it is to talk about the also-rans and the fascinating
battle for places in next season’s Champions League, I’m more
interested in trying to decipher the situation at the top of the table
where the two Manchester sides are slugging it out.
It’s clear now that there’s little between the two sides and the
difference that does exist goes back to that weird autumnal Sunday
afternoon at Old Trafford where we saw one of the year’s most
entertainingly bewildering results in City’s 1-6 victory over United.
It’s been obvious since the start of the season that City have been
the more progressive of the two sides, but even with United having
lost players through injury and illness and being a more diminished
side than that of the past two seasons, they’re still well placed in
the battle for first place and well set for the new year.
My forecasts started the season with United as big winners and, while
that conceptual advantage has diminished over the first five months,
they still head my forecasts, albeit with less than a one-point lead
After their 3-0 win over Stoke last week, Roberto Mancini said that 90
points would win the league for City – I think he’s right, and the
same can obviously be said for any of the contenders.
My current forecasts show that 90 points is going to be a stretch as
things stand and the chance of any side, City or not, getting 90 or
more points by the season end is just over 30 per cent. Taking that
one stage further, the average forecasted winning total for this year
is 87.7 points.
The value at this stage lies with backing United, and if you had them
from the start, I would recommend hanging in there.