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Why The Mid-Table Battles Are More Exciting Than The Title Challenge


It is every football lover’s dream to witness a close finish to a season. Nothing beats the excitement of uncertainty and unpredictability when it comes to football teams vying for places in the points table and it also creates a sense of competition that in its intangible way can unite scores of fans across the world. Generally, La Liga matches are believed to be more passionate but the ones who love the English Premier League, feel like the Spanish league isn’t competitive enough.

The Premier League did have a couple of seasons where uncertainty shrouded the winner’s name until the very end but over the last two campaigns, it has been a little too clear. For example, last season, Chelsea were the runaway winners by a mile and this time, Manchester City looked like the winners from day one. Although this time the gap is a lot more, Antonio Conte’s men were in a similar position to Guardiola’s last term and everybody had a fair idea of who was going to win.

Even if a club does not establish itself as winners at the very top, rarely do we ever get a sense of nail-biting and gut-wrenching emotions while witnessing title challenges in the Premier League. At least by the time the season hits the halfway mark, we all have an idea of who is likely to win and more often than not, that team ends up winning. And even then, it ends up being a big team that has won the league title in recent times. Chelsea and Manchester City have both won the titles in the 2014-15 and 2013-14 seasons respectively and they are doing it again. Barring Leicester City’s miraculous win in the 2015-16 season, we have not had any sort of competition when it comes to deciding the winner.

It was only back in the 1994-95 season that Blackburn Rovers won the Premier League title but after that, the Foxes were the first team outside the top six to win the league. Since my allegiance lies with a top-six club, I’m not necessarily complaining but it is human nature to seek competition in the sport. Hence, off-late, the mid-table battle seems to be a lot more intriguing than the question of who will win the league.

Unless another Leicester City-esque miracle awaits us next season, another top six club will dance its way to the title and this is something that is likely to continue. However, the battle for the mid-table spots is something that only keeps intensifying as time goes on.

When the new season started, newly-promoted sides Burnley, Brighton, Huddersfield Town and Newcastle United were all expected to be favourites for relegation. And yet, we were all in for a surprise when the Clarets subjected defending champions Chelsea to a shock defeat on the opening day. That seemingly set the tone for the rest of the season in terms of the smaller sides.

Since then, all these clubs have been in spectacular form and even managed to stun some of the big boys in the Premier League. Even Watford, to that extent, have been quite impressive. In fact, Burnley and Watford had even broken into the top six momentarily. The Clarets can still hope for a top six finish, considering they are just 4 points behind 6th-placed Arsenal. Watford are currently in 10th spot and it is a bit of shock since they were also being touted as contenders for the top six.

Meanwhile, the remarkable comeback made by the likes of Leicester City and Everton are truly commendable. Both clubs got rid of their managers and appointed Claude Puel and Sam Allardyce respectively. Although there were a lot of doubts surrounding the capabilities of these managers, the Foxes and the Toffees have managed to climb out of relegation danger and are now sitting comfortably in the top ten. This was, again, unexpected since Newcastle and Huddersfield were doing so impressively that many people assumed they would solidify themselves in the top ten.

However, Huddersfield are not too far away. Currently gracing the 11th spot, David Wagner’s men are just 1 point behind 10th-placed Watford. They cannot afford to get too comfortable since 12th-placed Brighton are exactly a  point behind them as well. Thus, the upcoming clashes will once again change the course of the clubs in this area.
Stoke City and Southampton have to very careful to avoid relegation while Newcastle United and Crystal Palace are slowly climbing their way out of the trouble.

Now, Rafa Benitez brought his team close to the top six but then something went amiss and they started dropping points severely. Lately, their performance chart showed a much-needed upward curve and a hard-fought away win at Stoke City can prove crucial in the relegation battle.

Palace, on the other hand, were bottom of the table for a good majority of the season but then new manager Roy Hodgson managed to bring them out of danger. That said, they are still just 2 points above the danger zone and it will be interesting to see how far they can go. Bournemouth might be occupying the 15th spot now but they have the quality to turn it around in the 2nd half of the season. Besides them, West Brom and Swansea City continue to be relegation-threatened but considering the roller-coasting nature of the league, it might be too soon to say that they are likely to get relegated.

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