Premier League: Title race heats up after unpredictable twist
Consistency has taken a beating amongst top teams in the Premier League with the 2015-16 season promising that anything is possible. With Gameweek 16 coming up this weekend, the race amongst the teams in top four is expected to see further changes.
Scenes in England are similar to that of Italy's Serie A as the football world is expecting a spicy season with twists and turns. The 2011-12 season had seen the title being decided on the last day after Manchester City edged their town rivals by goal-difference in an enthralling end to one of the most dazzling moments in Premier League history.
This term the situation provides even a more fascinating journey with any of the top six teams staking their claim for the title. For a side like Leicester City who won promotion and battled relegation last term, lead the table after some breathtaking brand of football. Also defending champions Chelsea's distant 14th position adds to the entertainment so far.
Inconsistency have hit the big guns whose inability to get a winning run has allowed so much drama to be unfolded. But as teams seek desparate measures to gain positivity, it is a fabulous ride for the fans to witness this unpredictability so far and it promises to continue in similar fashion unless a side takes the initiative.
With the hectic festive period on its way, teams know this period is the most crucial phase as matches come thick and fast with very little time to reflect upon.
Let's look at the rat race (top four) for the title as Premier League nears the half-way phase in this season.
Leicester City: Claudio Ranieri's side have started in a similar fashion from the way they had left off last season after striking off one of the greatest escapes from relegation. Positivity in the Foxes camp is at large and their new manager has been a voice of assurity and exciting brand of football.
Jamie Vardy's rise as the new sensation along with Riyad Mahrez's brilliance, has seen Leicester ghost out teams with their fast, direct and on the break counter attacking football. Vardy and Mahrez's collective (24) goals this season boasts of a partnership that has threatened to take shine out of the big guns.
The way Leicester has been playing so far will surprise nobody if they go on to win the title. Raneiri's vision has some knitted magic in it and for the moment Leicester look unstoppable. Their tricky time will start in the festive period and whether they will be genuine contenders could be seen from there on.
Arsenal: Arsene Wenger would have been heartbroken after managing to pick just two points last month and failing to take the impetus. Yet Arsenal see themselves in second position after a 3-1 victory last weekend which seemed to breathe some life in the side.
With a long list of injured players, Wenger will be nervy given the hectic festive schedule on its way and further casualties will threaten their advances. Mesut Ozil has been in one of the best spells in his career and that has contributed largely to Arsenal's position. Defensively the side is still a bit vulnerable and looks short in midfield too.
Wenger may be tempted to go for signings in the January transfer window to bolster his squad and emerge as serious contenders. The season has been a start stop for Wenger with inconsistent results. Arsenal played some of the best football this term after a 5-3 win against Leicester and a 3-0 victory over Manchester United that tempted fans to believe it is their year. Arsenal will hope their two successive FA Cup wins will serve as a tonic for EPL too.
Manchester City: The noisy neighbours of Manchester United looked to run away with the honours this season after a fantastic start, that saw them register five victories on the trot. But their loss to West Ham United in early September, made a way for their form to deteriorate.
City's mixed bag of results saw them lose the venom they had threatened to kill teams with. Manuel Pellegrini's side has also faced the brunt of two heavy losses against Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool respectively so far to highlight they are vulnerable to high pressing and counter attack.
Their manager has cited injuries as a reason for their unpredictability, but a club that of City's size with hefty investments and world class players have been below par and outplayed in certain games with the 0-2 loss against Stoke being a perfect example. New entrants Kevin de Bruyne and Raheem Sterling have been stupendous, but it will depend a lot on an injury prone Sergio Aguero to see the Citizens come out as title winners.
Manchester United: Louis van Gaal whose team was criticised last term for defensive woes amidst injuries and bad form, should be lauded for rectifying that concern. United have been solid at the back and has shipped in the fewest goals so far this term. With injuries having started to take a toll this time too, Gaal's reliance on youth has been a positive approach.
United look a team that is in transition and needs time to get back amongst the top in Europe. Despite heavy investments, Gaal has a squad with thin options upfront. His prosaic and possession based play has drawn criticism from most quarters given the club's lack of goals and creativity. A host of 0-0 draws too says about a safety approach.
United have seen five draws being played already in the campaign and Gaal needs his troops to get galvanized in order to mount a challenge against the predecessors in the table. Chris Smalling has been a rock at the back as David de Gea continues to excel in goal. United's lack of finishing chances have seen them stutter at times and they need to sort that out quickly.
Tuesday's loss in the Champions League saw the side get eliminated from the Group Stages and their defence was exposed which allowed Wolfsburg to score at will. LVG is in added pressure now and the loss may just be the turning point for his side to come good domestically.
Apart from the top four, EPL's youngest fielded side Tottenham Hotspur who are unbeaten since 14 games are also in the mix. Mauricio Pochettino's side have looked strong and fearsome so far and their youthful mix has been a mark of positivity.
Jurgen Klopp meanwhile has embarked a new spirit in Liverpool after joining the club and flashes of Borussia Dortmund is being witnessed in the rejuvenated Reds. Klopp will be itching to get his team on a consistent run after a surprise loss against Newcastle United see them six points adrift from the Manchester giants.
Premier League has lightened up with mid-table teams being able to spark surprising results against the giants. Festive period would give an indication how the rat race folds from here as Leicester hope to do the unthinkable this term.