English Football

League tables rarely lie, even at the halfway stage

Shoot's legendary leagu leaders...what we did before computers...

Shoot’s legendary league ladders…what we did before computers…

Arsenal went into 2014 on top of the Premier, and that’s a good sign if recent history is a pointer to how the table might look at the end of the season.

While many people have already written Manchester United off, don’t be surprised if David Moyes’ side still has a big say in the destination of that that rather ugly trophy.

But Arsene Wenger can smile. Over the past four seasons, the halfway stage leader has won the title. In 2012-13, United were seven point clear of Manchester City, in 2011-12, City were ahead on goal difference, in 2010-11 it was in reverse, and in 2009-10, Chelsea were five ahead of United. So, with Arsenal one ahead of City on New Year’s Eve, Gunners’ fans can be optimistic. City will surely remind them of the scoreline when they recently met to make sure nobody gets too comfortable at the Emirates.

Can United come from behind to win the Premier? It’s not likely, but in 1997-98, Arsenal went into the New Year in sixth place and 12 points behind United, and ended up winning the “double”. So it can be done!

In more recent times, though, champions don’t lose many games. In the past 10 years, eventual champions have gone into the turnaround with no more than three defeats, and invariably with less than that. United have lost five games, but this may be the most open campaign in years – City have already lost four and Arsenal and Chelsea have fallen three times.

New Year leaders have come in all shapes and sizes since the launch of the Premier. Take that first season of 1992-93 – Norwich City were top on New Year’s Day and in 2000-01, the top five included Sunderland, Leicester and Ipswich. Aston Villa were top on January 1 1999, the year that United won everything.

Arsenal are top, but they are only shading it at the moment. The swagger they took them to the top has been tested in recent weeks and the leadership will change with one result. It’s not like in 1960-61, for example, when Tottenham were 10 points in front (16 in the new money) or 1973-74 when Leeds had an eight point advantage over Liverpool (11 with three points for a win), or even 1987-88 when Liverpool were 10 ahead of Nottingham Forest.

Game of the People expects Manchester United to claim a top four place this season. They’re only three points off at the moment, and with games against Tottenham, Swansea and Cardiff coming up at Old Trafford and a trip to Chelsea, we believe that by the end of January, they may even be knocking on the door of the title race again. They will put pressure on the others, but Game of the People predicts a two-way battle for the top spot – Arsenal and City. But Jose Mourinho may have something to say about that…

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