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Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Things we Learned from the Weekend Football (December 10-12)

I haven't done one of these for a while due to being away and the busy nature of working at the same time as keeping this blog going.

It was another interesting weekend in the Premier League when the title race was reignited, while the teams at the bottom are all jockeying for position and trying their best to avoid the cursed 'bottom of the table at Christmas' position.

The next few weeks are full of football with this being the quietest week we will see until the middle of January. Below are a few thoughts from the weekend football that has just passed:

1) Manchester City are still the right favourites for the Premier League title: The win for Chelsea has at least put a little bit of interest back in the Premier League title race after it had looked like Manchester City were going to run away with the lead.

While they will be disappointed with the defeat at Stamford Bridge, it did take a bit of luck for the home side to grab the win when City were not awarded what looked like a clear penalty while leading the game 0-1.

It will be interesting to see how they react to this defeat, but their next set of fixtures are not the most taxing in my opinion as they face Arsenal (H), Stoke City (H), West Brom (A) and Sunderland (A)... It is entirely possible that their lead at the top of the table is extended after those games.

2) Phil Jones has all the makings of a Centre Midfielder... For now at least: I said when United signed Phil Jones that I expected him to make more appearances as a Centre Midfielder than a Centre Defender- partly that was down to the two centre halves United had and partly because of what I had seen from his time at Blackburn Rovers.

Jones has the drive and box-to-box ability that gives him different abilities than the midfielders at Old Trafford, while I have not been as convinced as the pundits about his performances at centre back.

I find Jones is very much like David Luiz in the fact he comes out with the ball and can find himself in very poor positions positionally when playing at the back.

I expect Jones will be able to learn his trade at the back under the tutelage of some of the players at United, but for now I would keep him in positions like centre midfield and right back where his drive and stamina can be a real strength for the team.

3) Liverpool need to find more goals if they are to finish in the top 4: Liverpool earned a 1-0 win over QPR at the weekend and remain 5 points off the pace set by the sides in the top 4. However, the lack of goals in the side has to be a worry considering they have scored just 18 goals in 15 League games this season.

The Reds have really struggled at home, failing to score more than 1 goal since a win over Wolves at the end of September and they are in need of bringing in another striker who can finish off the number of chances they are creating.

Luis Suarez is a real handful up front, but he could be facing a long suspension if a couple of charges brought by the FA find him guilty, while the Uruguay striker only scored his first goal in 8 games at the weekend.

Andy Carroll has really struggled to justify the ridiculous fee paid for him and I think the likes of Craig Bellamy and Dirk Kuyt are not likely to get the number of goals required for this team to finish higher than the 6th they managed last season.

4) Robin Van Persie is the best striker in the Premier League: The Dutchman has been in fine form this entire calender year, and he has really improved by adding the simple goals to the great ones he was known for scoring.

His strike at the weekend was absolutely sublime and was deserving of winning any game, but I think Arsenal are going to find it tough to keep hold of him this Summer.

Van Persie is 28 and will surely be wanting to win the big trophies now as his career starts coming towards its conclusion. He has not extended his contract and the rumour is that he has already agreed in principle to sign for Manchester City.

5) Bolton Wanderers are in big trouble: Bolton Wanderers have found themselves in a tough position as we move into a crucial period of the season and they are 5 points behind Wolves in the final relegation spot.

A disappointing 1-2 loss at home to Aston Villa at the weekend has begun to increase the pressure on Owen Coyle who has never replaced the loss of Daniel Sturridge and Johann Elmander who left in the Summer.

I think all Trotters fans out there will know a lot more about their future position as a Premier League club as 2012 ticks around- the team face Fulham (A), Blackburn (A), Newcastle (H) and Wolves (H) in the coming two weeks and anything less than 6 points could spell a lot of trouble for the side.

6) The Championship remains a tough Division to predict: You can see why managers and fans always talk about how tough it is to move out of this Division which remains one where any team can beat any other on any given day.

It is telling that there are only 15 points between 6th placed Leeds and 22nd placed Nottingham Forest while any team that gains a couple of wins in a row or loses a couple of games in a row can move a team up and down the table.

It is no surprise that almost every season a team bursts through the pack to make it in to the Play Offs and can cause a surprise or two when they get there.

The only thing that seems certain in this League so far is that Coventry City, a Premier League team up until 2001, are going to have a long season trying to survive from their current position of 13 points from 21 games, leaving them 7 points from the safety zone.

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