Even before a ball was kicked on the 15th August, fans of the 20 English clubs were anticipating one of the most intriguing premier league seasons to date.
And here we are, almost half way through the 2009/2010 season and it hasn’t failed to deliver by providing us with as many talking points as we might be forgiven for expecting through the course of a whole season.
Arguably the biggest talking point to date has been the much surprising demise of Liverpool. With so much expected of Rafa’s reds before a ball was even kicked the Merseyside giants have again failed to provide Manchester United and Chelsea with an adequate challenge when it comes to mopping up the big prize.
The Reds kicked off their season with a disappointing 2-1 defeat at White Hart Lane and since then Kop fans have seen their club’s problems go from bad to worse. One win in nine league games saw the reds lose precious ground on the leading pack and with five defeats to their name already Liverpool look like facing a real battle to even finish in this season’s top four.
Liverpool’s disappointing league form came at a similar time to their horrendous champion’s league campaign. The reds were handed what many saw at the time to be a fairly simple group to get out of, with only Hungarian champions Debrecen, Fiorentina and Lyon standing in their way.
Liverpool’s opening 1-0 win over Debrecen was hardly convincing, and then came defeats to Fiorentina and Lyon respectively which was then followed by a 1-1 draw in Lyon. Despite the reds winning in Hungary they required Lyon to do them a favour in Italy which they failed to do and therefore the reds crashed out at an early stage.
In fairness to Rafa Benitez and his team they have had to put up with some rather unfavourable fortune. Key players such as Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres have not yet enjoyed a consistent run in the side, with the latter out for much of the season with a persistent groin injury.
Add to that the incredible incident that occurred during their 1-0 defeat at Sunderland where Darren Bent’s shot took a huge deflection off a beach ball thrown onto the pitch by a Liverpool fan and Rafa Benitez can be forgiven for thinking the gods are against him and his team. One of the few highlights of Liverpool’s season so far being the 2-0 victory over Manchester United at Anfield in October.
Champions Manchester United however have favoured considerably better when compared to their bitter North-West rivals. Sir Alex Ferguson’s men find themselves just two points behind Chelsea, despite some rather average performances to date.
Their opening day win over Birmingham was far from convincing and since that 1-0 win at Old Trafford, the Red Devils have struggled to overcome teams such as Stoke, Bolton and Blackburn and do not look the same force upfront since losing Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid in the summer. United though have recently enjoyed a rich vein of form, incidentally since their 2-0 defeat at the hands of Liverpool in October.
United owe much of that run in form to the performances of Wayne Rooney who appears to be enjoying the burden of leading the United line in the absence of the Portuguese winger.
United have also had a good run in the Champions League with the only setback being their 1-0 defeat to Besiktas at Old Trafford, although they were already guaranteed to progress to the knockout stages before that result.
Meanwhile further South, London giants Chelsea and Arsenal have experienced vastly different fortune up to this point.
Carlo Ancellotti’s first league game as Chelsea manager saw the blues require a last gasp Didier Drogba goal against Hull in order to make it an opening day three points.
Nicky Hunt had given Hull an away day lead at the Bridge but a double from the Ivorian including that 93rd minute cross-come-shot saw Chelsea steal the three points. Chelsea have since gone on to record some precious wins defeating Manchester United and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge and running riot at the Emirates defeating Arsene Wenger’s men 3-0 on their own turf.
Arsenal did themselves get off to the best of starts when they hammered Everton at Goodison Park 6-1 on the opening day. Before the season started many pundits expected Arsenal to be the team to drop out of the top four however they soon had pundits changing their minds with the demolition of Everton.
Wenger’s men endured a miserable week in Manchester though, in two extremely controversial contests. First at Old Trafford where Wenger’ men were enraged they hadn’t won a first half penalty before Rooney went down softly in the box, and he scored from the resulting kick.
A week later the gunners again travelled to Manchester where they were defeated 4-2 by Manchester City with Emmanuel Adebayor causing enough controversy to make even Joey Barton jealous.
Adebayor first carried out a malicious stamp on former team mate and friend Robin Van Persie before celebrating his goal against his former club in front of the Arsenal fans. Adebayor’s actions enraged Arsene Wenger who labelled his former striker a disgrace before also questioning the intentions of Mark Hughes who defended the striker’s actions.
Events at the City of Manchester would lead to further confrontations in the league cup clash between the two which involved another skirmish in the dugout and resulting in Arsene Wenger refusing to shake Mark Hughes hand after City knocked Arsenal out of the carling cup.
Meanwhile Manchester City’s season appears to have hit a stumbling block. Mark Hughes men were going well in the premier league at one stage and were for a short period just five points behind leaders Chelsea with a game in hand. The blue half of Manchester was outraged however when they were beaten in the 96th minute of an epic Manchester Derby which saw them level at 3-3 before Michael Owen’s goal was allowed to stand despite there only being four added minutes signalled.
City have since struggled for form and recorded an incredible seven league draws in a row before eventually ending that run with a 2-1 win over leaders Chelsea at home. The Eastland’s outfit now trail Chelsea by 11 points, they do however still have what could prove to be a crucial game in hand when it comes to the race for fourth place.
Elsewhere in the premier league, Harry Redknapp’s Tottenham have arguably claimed the most impressive result of the campaign to date. Spurs ran riot in their home game with Visiting Wigan Athletic with Jermain Defoe helping himself to five goals in the 9-1 demolition in North London.
Despite all recording similar results on the opening day, all three promoted sides have fared considerably differently in the premier league so far.
Alex McLeish’s Birmingham currently find themselves in 8th place and eight points above the relegation zone whilst Burnley, despite enjoying an impressive home run, have failed miserably on the road picking up a measly one point from their eight away games. Mick McCarthy’s Wolves have found points hard to come by and despite a recent 2-1 success over Gary Megson’s Bolton – also struggling to keep their place in the top tier of English football, find themselves languishing in the bottom three.
Portsmouth remain rock bottom after a number of problems both on and off the field which has seen Joe Hart replaced by former Chelsea boss Avram Grant. Despite defeating Burnley 2-0 in their most recent match, the South coast side remain four points adrift at the foot of the table.
Also struggling are Bolton Wanderers, West Ham, Hull, Everton and Wigan who have all suffered inconsistent form up to now. The race for survival promises to be the most intriguing yet with just nine points separating eighth placed Fulham from 18th placed Wolves.
We are however just under half way through this Premier League season and whatever happens there promises to be plenty more twists and turns before the premier league finale on the 9th May.