In 2008 after Eduardo’s horrific injury, Arsenal’s season started on a downward spiral. Then, like now, they had title aspirations and were on the verge of achieving something great. How they react to losing Aaron Ramsey to an equally horrific injury will show just how much they’ve grown in two years. If they pull together and “Do it for Aaron” they could be propelled to a surprise title win. Despite being dismantled by both United and Chelsea recently, their run-in is the easiest. Could this be the year that Arsenal realise their potential?
Key Games: Birmingham (away) Tottenham (away) Man City (home)
Key Player: Cesc Fabregas: It’s all resting on his shoulders right now. With all the talk of a summer move to Barcelona could this be the perfect way to sign off as Arsenal captain?
Fatigue will be the major issue for Martin O Neill’s men as they battle for fourth spot. With a small squad and virtually the same starting eleven all year long Villa must be close to running on empty. The addition of Richard Dunne, James Collins and Steven Warnock to the Villa line-up has reaped dividends but will it be enough to prevent them from stumbling towards the finish line this season like they did last season?
Key Games: Chelsea (away) Everton (home) Man city (home)
Key Player: Gabriel Agbonlahor: Villa have struggled for goals all season and while Gabby has popped up with some important goals he’ll need to score a few more before the season is over.
Birmingham can hardly believe how well this season has gone for them. Forty points by the end of February is beyond even their wildest dreams. Five points off Aston Villa in the fight for fourth place too is an amazing achievement for Brum. European football might just be out of their reach this season but with a strong foundation to build from who knows what next season might bring?
Key Games: Everton (home) Man City (away) Aston Villa (away)
Key Player: Joe Hart: the on loan goalkeeper might just have played his way into Fabio Capello’s thinking for his world cup squad in the summer because no one has performed better than Hart this season.
Like him or not, Sam Allardyce has done another remarkable job at Blackburn – they surely are only a couple more wins away from achieving safety for another season. His style of football may not be pleasing on the eye but if it keeps Blackburn in the Premier League then the Blackburn fans will be happy. And his spat with Rafa Benitez is just downright hilarious.
Key Games: Birmingham (home) Burnley (away) Portsmouth (away)
Key Players: Nikola Kalinic: The Croatian is the only Blackburn player scorings goals and while they still seem to find enough goals from different parts of the field to get by, their top scorer needs to score more than the seven he’s scored in all competitions.
Since the appointment of Owen Coyle, things haven’t changed for Bolton. With Just two wins since his arrival they are two points above the relegation zone and things don’t get any easier for Wanderers whose next three games against relegation rivals West Ham, Sunderland and Wigan could determine their fate this season. Failure to gain significant points from these set of games could result in Owen Coyle returning to the Championship.
Key Games: West Ham (away) Sunderland (away) Wigan (home)
Key Player: Kevin Davies: Bolton’s colossus is their game plan. Coyle has tried to change the style of play but everything still runs through Davies. He has ten assists this season which proves just how important he is to Bolton’s survival.
Although they are only one point from safety things look bleak for Burnley. Mid-season Owen Coyle left for Bolton and took Burnley’s home form with him and Saturday’s defeat by Portsmouth is further proof that something drastic has to happen if they are going to avoid the drop.
Key Games: Wolves (home) Wigan (away) Blackburn (home)
Key Player: Brian Jensen: The big Dane is going to need to be in exceptional form from here on in. Burnley are going to have to scrap and scrape for everything they can and they’ll need the beast on top form to give them any chance of survival.
Have Chelsea’s off-field antics affected their on field performances? Who can say for sure but what is certain is that Chelsea are struggling just at the minute. Terry’s woes are well documented but in midfield where Chelsea are usually so strong things aren’t going well. Joe Cole has failed to find his true form, Deco has vanished off the face of the earth, the only thing of note that Ballack has done recently is get a silly red card against City. The loss of Michael Essien might cost Chelsea the title. Frank Lampard continues to score goals but Chelsea are now heavily reliant on Didier Drogba.
Key Games: Aston Villa (home) Man Utd (away) Liverpool (away)
Key Player: John Terry: If Chelsea’s inspirational captain can find his inspirational form and lift his team again, Chelsea should win the title but an increasingly dodgy looking Terry and defensive unit might just let United or Arsenal in.
Everton must be wishing that the season started in January and not August. Decimated by injuries the Toffees began the season in terrible form and for a while looked like they were going to be sucked into a relegation battle. But with their injury list getting shorter and shorter their form has gotten better and better with back to back home wins against Chelsea and Man Utd showing the potential they have. A strong finish might get them Europa League football again next season.
Key Games: Man City (away) Aston Villa (away) Fulham (home)
Key Player: Steven Pienaar: Everton will undoubtedly miss Marouane Fellaini, so there will be more pressure on the Everton midfield in which Pienaar has been starring this season. Some eye-catching goals and performances have led to rumours of Arsenal being interested in the creative South African.
Roy Hodgson continues to work minor miracles at Craven Cottage. On a shoestring budget, he’s taken Fulham from the brink of relegation to the quarter finals of the Europa League in two seasons. A phenomenal job and with safety assured this season as well and in the later stages of the FA Cup it’s another job well done. But with their focus turned to both cup competitions one wonders how much attention they will give to their league form from now till the end of the season.
Key Games: Man City (home) Liverpool (away) Everton (away)
Key Player: Brede Hangeland: Fulham, especially at home, have become a very tough organized unit and at its centre is the giant Hangeland. Since his arrival at Fulham things have steadily improved.