The Fear Factor

The last two seasons have given us every reason to love the top flight game at its best. Cast your mind back a few years ago to this point in the season in 2008 or 2009 and the Premier League table would already be depicting the slow suffocation of those teams in the bottom half of the table. The top four were dominant and getting stronger, and the rest were left to lash it out amongst themselves.

And then last season the not so favourable teams started to hit back, Burnley beat Manchester United, Wigan beat Chelsea and by Christmas the top four were dropping points all over the place. By the end of the season newly promoted Birmingham had drawn at least once against each of the top sides. The top four had recorded around double the losses of the two previous seasons. 

The Cinderellas, once left with all the drudgery and dirty work, have found their glass slipper and finally showed up at the grand ball. And it’s been a night to remember ever since.

This season we’ve had more of the same, with shocks aplenty, particularly involving those teams who were already as good as relegated at the start of the season. Blackpool although now starting to falter, have been inspirational, keeping themselves clear of the relegation zone and beating Liverpool twice to boot. Wolves have beaten Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Man Utd. Sunderland have drawn or won at least once against each of the sides who currently sit in the top five of the table. This is the stuff that is made to make the bookies laugh and those who normally enjoy a bit of fantasy football want to throw in the towel.

So what has caused the turnaround? Rescued the Premier League from becoming predictable and one-sided? Charlie Adam called it just right in a radio interview recently, when he just simply said it was a lack of fear.

The form of the top four, or five, hasn’t necessarily declined (I’m taking Liverpool out of the equation here) they’re pretty much performing as well as they always have done – the difference is the lower league competition are fearing less, they’re determined to give the once untouchables a right run for their money, regardless of how many superstars make the line-up. And if this spearheads a lack of confidence and a miserable run of results for the likes of Chelsea, then so be it.

And when one does it – it’s like the kid who finally stands up to the school bully and wins – the others fancy a go. So before you know it the Wigans and West Broms of this world are drawing and winning against the big guns. 

So with a good slice of the season still to come, the relegation battle still looking like it could involve any of the teams in the lower half of the table, and some of the top teams bound to slip up as the toil of European football takes its toll, I think we can assume the top four will be offering a few more of the not so fashionable teams more than just a bite of the cherry.

Kait Borsay

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