Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 27 November 2014

Alan Green: Favourites have flaws, so Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur should go for title

I was in no particular hurry to leave the Emirates Stadium on Saturday since I knew I’d have to stay in London overnight so as to do the commentary at Fulham on the following day.

I don’t normally sit in to listen to the ‘propaganda’ spouted at post-match press conferences. Didn’t Arsene Wenger say his players were “tired” after the midweek internationals? Obviously, his players are different from the many internationals that represent Spurs, Manchester United etc?

Anyway, I was struck by the vehemence of Harry Redknapp’s belief that his Tottenham team CAN win the title. He certainly made a compelling case pointing out how open the division is this season, the preponderance of quirky results and the seeming vulnerability of the ‘usual suspects.’

Both Chelsea and Arsenal have lost four games already, twice as many as, it used to be said, you could afford to lose and still hope to end up as champions. Even the unbeaten Manchester United are hardly in rich form. They should have been slaughtered at Villa the other weekend (Sir Alex Ferguson freely admitted that), the same Villa that lost so meekly at Blackburn on Sunday.

It does seem to be a crazy season in the Premier League and becoming all the more attractive because of the uncertainty. Imagine my experience this month seeing Spurs hammer the European Champions at White Hart Lane and then, only a few days later, being battered themselves by Bolton. Thank heavens, Owen Coyle had the sense to quickly pour scorn on the thought that his team could qualify for the Champions League. Bolton WERE fourth on Saturday evening!

It’s only a couple of weeks since Chelsea appeared to be on a relentless, unstoppable march towards retaining their title, but now it’s three defeats for them in four games and questions surround the future for Carlo Ancelotti, an acclaimed manager who led them to a ‘Double’ in his first season in charge. Even he raises doubts as to what he’s in charge of.

At first, the Italian appeared ambivalent over the departure of Ray Wilkins. Increasingly though now, it looks as if he was wholly against it. Notice how quick he was to distance himself from Wilkins’ ‘successor’ Michael Emenalo?

Someone suggested to Ancelotti that Sir Alex Ferguson would not tolerate a similar scenario at United. He countered: “If you have to compare me to Ferguson, it’s a different position.

“Ferguson has total control of the team. I have just technical direction. Full stop.” Wow, that’s some ‘full stop!’

If Roman Abramovich is interfering as much as seems to be implied then, ridiculous as it sounds, Ancelotti may be on his way out of Stamford Bridge which would be as daft as the Russian losing Jose Mourinho.

So, to return to Redknapp, he’s right: now IS the time for a team like Spurs to go for it. And, instead of Manchester City settling for getting a Champions League place, they too should aim for the bigger prize.

Particularly in the first-half, they were outstanding at Fulham, far removed from the negative, conservative lot we’d seen hitherto. Go for it!

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