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The New Premier League Order

By Chris James :  17/12/2007 :  Comments (0) :
After years of Premier League top-place finishes being about as competitive as the Monaco Grand Prix, could 2008 mark a turning point when the League Title once again becomes unpredictable? The answer is of course a resounding No: the Barclays tin pot will without doubt end up at either Highbury or Old Trafford again, most likely the latter.

The chase for the remaining Champions League places, however, promises to be a lot more interesting. Let's face it, the big 4 has always been a bit of a fallacy outside of the media. In recent years anyway, it was really the 'big' 2, the 'wholesale bought' 1 and the 'concentrating on cups so let's not worry we're 20 points off the top' 1. . Indeed, the points differences tell their own tale: 15pts between 2nd and 3rd in 07, 15 pts between 3rd and 4th in 06, 16 between 3rd and 4th in 05, 15 in 04... often almost twice the points gap that covers the next 4 or 5 teams.

These latter teams have formed a middle pool of 6 or 7 decent clubs who could beat anyone on their day but, due to a lack of that special something (often money), ended up fighting it out for Uefa crumbs falling just short of the top table (apart from one side in 05) but remaining comfortably ahead of the lower tier of makeweights, newly promoted and 'just happy to be here' relegation fodder.

After spending a few too many depressing winters in the basement group, with Moyes and Co we've battled hard and built wisely to secure a place near the very top of the middle pool of clubs alongside the likes of Spurs, Villa, Newcastle, Pompey, Blackburn and West Ham. This year, however, I'm convinced that not only do we have a great chance of winning this middle league, but that there's a real chance to change the status quo even further and stretch the 'middle league' all the way up to 3rd place.

Now not even the most contrary of fans would be able to argue that Man Utd and Arsenal are a class apart right now. As well as having the biggest money-making machinery and slickest, most settled organisational set-ups off the field, Wenger's and Fergie's teams have quality in depth and are consistently serving up the best football on the park from teams who have experience of winning.

Look below those two, however, and the divisions are far less clear. Sure, Chelsea have an expensive array of stars, but their football on the park is often far from stellar and, with AbramImrich pulling the strings and team spirit dissolving, the club looks like an accident waiting to happen. Likewise the lads across the road have a side that can indeed beat anyone on their day, possibly by 4 or 5 goals; however they can just as easily throw it away too and despite spending an absolute fortune EVERY bloody summer, Beneathus's squad still lacks in several areas and without Torres and Gerrard looks very ordinary.

Couple this with increased investment and/or better managers at the likes of Villa, West Ham and Man City plus the likes of Pompey, Blackburn and ourselves having continued to hone great sides around a solid core and suddenly the latter 2 Champions League places aren't looking so nailed down.

Granted, the table could look a lot different come January 2nd with a lot of top-half sides playing one another but, as we approach half-way, the gap between 3rd and 7th is just 4 points and already smaller than that between 2nd and 3rd and even with a 2pts gift from Battenburg, Liverpool still aren't in the top 4.

What does this mean for Everton fans? Well, from the glass half-empty viewpoint (of which I believe there may just be a few proponents here) the extra competition will obviously make it harder for us to obtain a Uefa Cup spot again (as Moyes summed up, finishing in the top 10 here is going to be as tough as finishing in the European spot previously).

On the half-full side, however, there's a very real chance of one or both of the latter CL spots being secured by teams outside the so called 'Big 4' and we've got as good a chance as anyone in the pack, considerably better if you look at form, consistency and team spirit.

So 2008, the year of a trophy and a Champions League spot at the expense of our illustrious neighbours? Then we really would be 'having a laugh!'

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