Premiership offers City fans crumbs of comfort

It's enough to give a girl writer's block: a few drops of water (ok - deluge!) on an already soggy pitch, no game and therefore nothing to get your teeth stuck into let alone have a bit of a moan about.

It's enough to give a girl writer's block: a few drops of water (ok - deluge!) on an already soggy pitch, no game and therefore nothing to get your teeth stuck into let alone have a bit of a moan about.

Oh well, I promised no more on the topic of the January sales and some nice little purchases (especially as there's no news about any imminent signings as I write) so how about a brief look at that which we all still dream about - the Premiership.

Is it my imagination or are there a few more teams this season that come into the 'relatively weak' category than when we were last among the elite? For most of 2004-5 there seemed to be our good selves, West Brom, Crystal Palace, Southampton and Portsmouth hovering around the trapdoor. This season Watford (they look doomed already), Charlton, West Ham, Wigan, Sheffield United, Fulham, Villa, Manchester City, Newcastle, Middlesbrough and Blackburn can hardly look below themselves and feel much comfort.

All of which leaves me wondering if the financial gulf between the top handful and the rest is beginning to show up in a more extreme fashion than in previous seasons.

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Most of the above clubs of course will have the funds and sufficient quality to spare their blushes in the end but it does seem that more and more are being dragged into the scrap to avoid the drop as 'the few' at the pinnacle dominate proceedings to an ever-greater extent.

And then there's the battle for that hideous but much-prized Premiership trophy. At least this year it has become a bit more interesting than the processions we have become used to in recent years.

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Manchester United had the ideal opportunity to pull nine points clear once more this past weekend as Chelsea were forced into playing a right back and midfielder as their centre halves and succumbed to Liverpool at Anfield despite having the lion's share of possession.

Just over 27 hours later one Thierry Henry hit the winning goal at the Emirates Stadium to sink United 2-1 after the latter had taken the lead through Wayne Rooney in the first half. On such small events seasons are turned, and if Chelsea go on to claw back the six points (seven in reality because of goal difference) they need to overtake United I am certain Blues supporters will look back and say a small 'thank you' to the Frenchman, even if it may stick just a little bit in the odd throat.

As to who will actually win the title, well it could depend on more than a few factors. United will have to keep their key players injury free so that they don't have to 'do a Chelsea' and put the likes of Paul Scholes and Gary Neville in at centre half.

They will also have to make sure they get at least something from their key games at Anfield and Stamford Bridge and not succumb to any other sides below them due as a result of complacency, being in any sort of comfort zone, lack of respect etc. With Sir Alex at the helm they shouldn't lack the required professionalism, but you never know, as we can all testify when the Canaries best them 2-0 in 2005.

Chelsea however must get their key players back fast and up their level of performance so that they have momentum going into the rest of their campaign.

Considering they have been below par for much of the season, have relied heavily on one man (Drogba) for their goals and have apparently been distracted by various internal wrangles, it is almost a miracle that they are not further below United and virtually out of the race already.

Liverpool and Arsenal are currently hovering in third and fourth but are probably just a bit too far behind to mount a challenge on the top two spots, unless United stage a dramatic collapse of Fred Dibnah chimney proportions, and I just can't see that happening.

So I think it's between the top two for the title, and for those who keep an eye on the Premiership it's a blessing that there's something to keep us interested or to dream about when we cast our eyes down to the nether regions of the Championship table and that ensuing relegation scrap.

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