Given that Chelsea already have the League pretty well sewn up, the race for the title has rather faded from most fans’ consciousness; after all, what’s the point in pretending that any other side is still in it at this stage?
When this happens, when a team is so far out in front that they are champions elect, generally the focus shifts from the team at the top to the chasing pack, with the media and the pundits alike speculating and predicting the make up of the rest of the top four.
And herein lies my point. With Arsenal and City occupying the second and third positions, and seemingly on track to finish there, the race for fourth is what should be giving the punters their enjoyment; at least in the top half of the table.
Yet, strangely, following this weekend’s fixtures, it appears as if the teams vying for that fourth spot aren’t overly concerned about finishing in the Champions League positions.
This might seem odd, as clearly a Champions League place and the glamour and money that come with it are vital components of a team that wants to be considered among the very best, but there doesn’t seem to be any other explanation for the meek, muted performances on display from Man United and Liverpool this weekend.
First, Liverpool travelled to West Bromwich and toiled to an unimpressive 0-0 draw, and then United, given a great opportunity to put some daylight between themselves and their rivals, conspired to lose 3-0 to Everton.
I don’t know about you, but all of this is rather uninspiring. Both of these teams are vying for a shot in the very best club competition in the world. Both of these teams have been assembled courtesy of, frankly, sickening amounts of cash. And yet, both of these teams have the ability to churn out mediocre (and worse) performances.
What’s going on? Are Rodgers and van Gaal unable to motivate the players? Would the players just rather be on the beach? Are they just not bothered about getting into the Champions League?
Whatever the reason, the race for fourth is almost as underwhelming as it could be. It’s competitive, sure. It’s close, that’s true. But is it competent? Well, on the basis of this weekend’s fixtures, it doesn’t appear so. Could either of these sides genuinely challenge Europe’s elite? Absolutely not.
The question still remains, why not? After all, Liverpool and United spent over £100 million last summer. Did they buy the wrong players? Are the managers not the right men for the job? I’m asking these questions because I genuinely don’t know the answer. What I do know, is that these two great institutions of English football are both currently shadows of their former selves.