Last year was so close to finishing with a degree of stability for Europe’s most watched league, but now with the departures of Neil Warnock (Crystal Palace), Alan Irvine (West Brom) and Alan Pardew (Newcastle to Crystal Palace), as well as the opening of the January transfer window, the drama looks set to continue to unfold in front of billions of eyes. So what can we expect from 2015? Here’s some predictions for you:
Three Horse Race
Manchester United were oddly written off by many over the course of the first two or three weeks of the season. It seemed a strange position to take at the time, and now it would seem that the majority of those claiming they’d be lucky to finish in the top four, have very quickly backtracked. Without hitting any kind of fluency or form – aside from a couple of games – United have managed to keep within firing distance of both Chelsea and Manchester City. Despite a raft of injuries, the Red Devils have managed to find themselves just nine points off the pace going into January, and while Chelsea and City do both look very strong, a couple of key injuries plus a United victory against either when they meet later this year will blow the title race wide open.
It’s always been unclear what the fans of Mike Ashley’s football team expect. It would appear from an outsider’s perspective that they expect to be challenging for titles. But then this surely can’t be the case can it? Surely just remaining comfortable in the Premier League would be enough for a club which mounted a challenge once – before Kevin Keegan effectively handed the trophy back to Sir Alex with a written apology by going into meltdown on live TV. Mike Ashley has no interest in challenging for titles, he is interested in making profit and capital so he can sit at his favourite roulette table in Leicester Square without a worry. Players are bought to be developed and sold, and that is why Alan Pardew – one of the best managers in the Premier League – felt it was time to move on.
The criticism of Pardew from the Geordies has baffled pundits for quite some time, and other than when he nutted the Hull player, it’s hard to see how he could’ve done any better with the serial underachieving over-expectant Tyneside try-hards. Still, he won’t be worried about that anymore, and will undoubtedly lead Palace to survival this year.
Gerrard Bids Au Revoir
Liverpool’s shining light has understandably faded in the last few seasons, but the terms – and more importantly the huge wage reduction – put on the table in front of Steven Gerrard were enough to make drive him away from Merseyside to the MLS. Although Gerrard is an undoubted Liverpool legend, it’s impossible to say he is the best ever. How can a player be Liverpool’s best when he hasn’t been involved in one of the 18 league titles won by the club? Seems a bit strange.
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Of course, Gerrard is now facing up to the reality that the elusive Premier League title will most likely never come for him. It could have been so different for the midfield powerhouse had he ignored the incessant death threats and followed his heart to Chelsea as a 26 year old. The deal was done as we all know, but concerns for the safety of his family led him to stay at Anfield. Good ol’ football. There is still a glimmer of hope for Steven – depending on where he wants to go. If, as with Frank Lampard, he opts for Man City-owned franchise New York, he will almost certainly have the option to sign for City “on loan” and seriously challenge for the one elusive honour he was never likely to win at Liverpool.
It wouldn’t go down well you would suspect, but then it was Liverpool who failed to respect the player who was only slightly forced into remaining so loyal to them for so many years. Lampard has come in for criticism from the Chelsea faithful for his decision to go to City. But Chelsea released him, I suspect that most players would have done as he has. And he has proved his worth by scoring some critical goals for City thus far. Gerrard would definitely have a similar impact you’d feel, and stranger things have happened in football.