Posted 30th November 2009
Last weekend was the one when the Premier League title race was narrowed down to two contenders. There might be nearly two thirds of the season still to go, but Chelsea's dismantling of Arsenal, combined with Manchester United's victory at Portsmouth, means the champions will be one of these two clubs.
This has been the case for the last five seasons and the reasons for their recent dominance were evident at the weekend. Their own strength is well-known, but the defensive fragility that continues to plague Arsenal, cruelly exposed by the Blues, makes them incapable of challenging for the title.
Liverpool, the other regular member of the so-called ‘big four', managed a derby win at Everton, but this is hardly evidence of a revival; for every win against a major rival there is a defeat against lesser profile teams. Don't rule out a Reds defeat at Blackburn Rovers next weekend.
Chelsea hold a five-point advantage over the Red Devils, a seemingly significant gap considering their strength in depth and wealth of in-form players. However, United generally thrive in the winter months and the season run-in, so this title race could be one of the Premier League's closest.
Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur showed why they are Champions League qualifiers-elect and not title-challengers. Both clubs have talent in all areas but revealed in their 1-1 draw they do not have the killer instinct to win big matches.
They could well both finish in the top five, as Liverpool need to improve drastically and Manchester City, beaten only once all season but the division's draw specialists, need to find a way of knitting their big-money signings into a cohesive team.
As always we are left talking about the deficiencies of other teams; only Chelsea and United have the necessary attributes to last the distance.