Manchester clubs struggle as balance of power shifts back to London

Premier League Trophy

Of the last 7 Premier League campaigns, Manchester United have won 6 and Manchester City 1. Chelsea, London sole representative winner of the title during the period, last picked up the trophy 4 years ago. Arsenal haven't won the Premier League for 10 years, and Tottenham have never finished higher than 4th (twice).

The Premier League table looks very different this morning, however, with Arsenal looking down from the top, with fellow London clubs Tottenham and Chelsea in 2nd and 3rd place respectively.

1 point behind Chelsea in 5th place is Manchester City, with Manchester United, enjoying a torrid start to the season, way back in 12th place with 7 points from 6 games.

The League table, they say, doesn't lie. And although it's very early in the season, the momentum is surely with the London clubs, with Arsenal and Tottenham in particular playing attractive football and earning plaudits and points with their style of play. And it's interesting to note that of the 5 clubs mentioned in this article, the two teams currently at the top of the Premier League are the two which didn't change manager this season.

Here's our quick assessment of the big City battle to date:


For the first time in a few seasons, Arsenal are out of the gates early. And that's ominous for any club attempting to overhaul them. Ozil has settled in well, Ramsey just can't stop scoring goals and Flamini has proved to be a rock in midfield.

Once again, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has confounded his critics, but he will need to buy 2/3 players in the January transfer window if Arsenal are to be genuine title contenders this year. Overall, however, an excellent and encouraging start to the season. Real reason for optimism.

Tottenham Hotspur

Who needs Gareth Bale ? In fact, Tottenham's ability to bring in 7 quality players (with more to come in January if required) from the Real Madrid money, probably means that the sale of the Welshman to the Spanish club was the best thing to have happened.

Tottenham's performances this season have been impressive in all competitions - with just one loss (against Arsenal at the Emirates by the odd goal). Solid at the back (Tottenham has conceded just two goals from 10 competitive matches this season), a tight attacking midfield (Paulinho scoring 3 goals so far), and a strike force which has helped score 21 goals (Defoe scoring for fun in Europe (6) and summer signing Soldado (4) very impressive in the Premier League.

Tottenham has begun each season in recent years with the aim of qualifying for the Champions League. This season is different. With a squad that already has two decent players for each team slot, an impressive Chairman and strong management set-up, this could be Tottenham's year. The top-four is a given now - but many feel that there won't be too many clubs that finish ahead of Tottenham in the Premier League this season.


The jury is still out on Chelsea - as it is on manager Jose Mourihno. There's no real sign of the old magic, the squad continues to age, and fans and critics fail to understand what Mourihno has against Juan Mata and David Luiz.

Inconsistent in the Premier League and losing in Europe to Basel earlier this month, the pressure is on at Chelsea to perform, but it already feels like a powder keg waiting to explode. Unfortunately, it is Mourihno who is making the headlines (his spat with AVB and the slagging off of Tottenham's Jan Vertonghen Saturday).

In truth, the headlines should be about the team. The fact they aren't is worrying, as clearly a top 4 finish is nowhere near good enough for Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.

Manchester City

Is Manchester City truly any better off without Roberto Mancini ? Sure, new manager Manuel Pellegrini seems to get on better with the players, got off to a good start in Europe, and thrashed Manchester United last weekend, but his team remains inconsistent. And their away form in the Premier League is dismal - dropping points at Stoke, and losing at Cardiff and Aston Villa Saturday.

Manchester City have an excellent squad, and in Vincent Kompany one of the best players in the world, but the club will need to up its game if it is to be genuine title contenders this season. Win nothing, and Pellegrini could end up out the door.

Manchester United

Now where do you start with Manchester United ?

Former United legend Dwight Yorke said Saturday, after Manchester United's defeat by West Brom at Old Trafford, that more was expected from manager David Moyes, who inherited a team from former manager Sir Alex Ferguson that won the Premier League by 11 points last season.

That is to miss the point, however. All Manchester United's major rivals strengthened their squads significantly during the transfer window, while Manchester United failed to deliver on many of their targets. Moyes said Saturday that the club needed 5 or 6 world class players to compete at the top level (is there more than 1 - RVP - in the current squad ?), so United have to do better in January in bringing in fresh talent. In a nutshell, the older players are beginning to look their age, while the youngsters have yet to come of age in footballing terms.

Manchester United will need to make a big statement in the January transfer window, or this season will end up a major disappointment.

In summary, on the evidence so far this season, the balance of Premier League power appears to be moving from Manchester back to London. While both Manchester United and Manchester City wrestle with their demons, and Chelsea are digging in, both Tottenham and Arsenal look to be the teams to beat.

image: © edwin.11

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