Forget N**rative, City Would Be Deserved Champions

It's a race not a beauty contest, but City may well finish first whilst still looking pretty sexy. Plus some things to ponder for Roy the Boy and use of the word 'effectively'...

Last Updated: 08/05/14 at 17:11 Post Comment

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Manchester City
It has been a season littered with imperfections from Manchester City. Their first-choice goalkeeper was dropped after several high-profile rickets; their captain has made individual errors for which his side have been punished, with his defensive partner initially ridiculed for his lack of pace; their most potent striker has been able to start just half of their league matches, and the forward bought in the summer has now gone 15 games without a goal. This has been anything but plain sailing.

Then again, nor has it had to be. The most intriguing aspect of this thoroughly enjoyable title race is that every team has had an obvious flaw - City's key has simply been making less mistakes than others, or perhaps having the financial muscle to put polyfilla in any cracks that appear, whether through injury or form.

Despite the preached n**rative from sections of the tabloid media insisting that Liverpool 'deserved' to win the title, such talk is cheap. Should City take at least a point against West Ham on Sunday they will win the league and deserve to do so. The league table doesn't have a little note next to Liverpool's name revealing that 'they played awfully pretty stuff' or that Chelsea had 'insufficient quality in the final third'.

The final positions are calculated by points and nothing else matters - this is a race and not than a beauty contest. In all likelihood we should be toasting a deserved championship success, Manuel Pellegrini's first outside South America and City's second in three seasons. The 'noisy neighbours' are now deafening their city rivals.

Andy Carroll
"Nothing that happens in the last four games, in terms of form, is going to affect me," promised Roy Hodgson last month. "I don't judge players on their last-minute form over two or three games."

"I'm judging them over two years. Or, in particular, if anyone new on the scene has emerged I'm judging him over several months.

"I'm not going to make decisions in the last week or two of the season, which is a notoriously bad time to judge talent."

That came as pretty damaging news for Andy Carroll. He had started only two league games before mid-March, not exactly setting pulses racing since, and Rickie Lambert, his direct rival for a World Cup place, continues to impress at the highest level. There is still a nagging suspicion that Carroll may go to Brazil, but Hodgson would be going back on his word should the Geordie Jesus meet Rio's Christ the Redeemer.

Whatever Hodgson says, a dominant display to spectacularly derail Manchester City's title bid would stick long in the mind. It may seem closer to impossible than improbable, but that might be what Carroll requires in order to get his England career back on track.

Besides, it's about time he paid Liverpool back some of that £35m fee.

Whilst any talk of a disappointing season is evidently comfortably wide of the mark, the summer mood is often largely determined by end-of-season form. Sunderland supporters may well feel more positive than Newcastle fans, despite the former certain to finish at least eight points behind the latter - it's all a question of how you finish.

It is for that reason that Brendan Rodgers will want to ensure that his side signs off in style at Anfield on Sunday. Evidently they must keep the pressure on Manchester City in case of some unfathomable cock-up, but this is more about erasing the self-doubt that Liverpool have rather handed the title to City. The focus must remain on the 'look what we did' rather than the 'look what you could have won'.

Ending the season with one point from three games would leave a taste of the bottle job in the mouth (whatever that would taste like) and so, with that in mind, Rodgers must instruct his side to attack Newcastle in the manner to which we have become accustomed.

It seems unnecessary advice given that Liverpool have rarely played in any other fashion at Anfield this season, but the last thing the manager wants is to have disappointment clouding what should be a celebration of a quite wonderful season.

Daniel Sturridge
'The Sturridge juggernaut has slowed to a middle-lane cruise in recent weeks as a combination of injury and fatigue (he's rarely played this much football and certainly never under so much pressure) has taken its toll, but he's still a shoo-in for the England squad.'

That was the opinion of your friend and mine Sarah Winterburn in her World Cup Ladder, and she's not wrong - Sturridge's deflected finish at Selhurst Park on Monday was his first goal in five matches. This is an inopportune time to go four games without a goal for the first time since his move from Chelsea.

Sturridge still has time to hit top gear again, for Newcastle are perhaps the squidgiest of soft opponents. Forget their win over a shambolic Cardiff, Newcastle's last four away games have returned no points, no goals and nine conceded. It should be a question of how many.

The ideal for England is that Sturridge scores a couple, does his dance and makes the same people frothy with anger that will be copying it at one in the morning in a bar in Dagenham when he has scored the winner against Italy. That's the idea, anyway.

Raheem Sterling
In better form than any other England player. No-one let Cheick Tiote anywhere near his bloody shins.

It seems an odd end to what has been a brilliant season. Despite a hugely impressive early-season run in the Premier League, Hull are in serious danger of finishing 17th. That's obviously a more-tha- satisfactory return on pre-season expectations, but supporters will still be disappointed by a run that has seen results tail off markedly.

One can understand Steve Bruce's players putting their eggs in a basket fashioned into the shape of the FA Cup trophy but to ease off so demonstrably is a dangerous approach. Hull have won just one game since mid-March and taken just one point since qualifying for next week's final against Arsenal.

It is extraordinarily difficult to raise your game for one isolated occasion if you have been coasting along for a few weeks, and Bruce will hope that his side can turn in a committed and professional display against Everton. It's explicable that players don't want to sustain injuries before the biggest match in some of their careers but, whilst fitness may not be a concern for Hull, form might well be.

Average Central Defenders
Without wanting everyone to suddenly start losing their sh*t, if Phil Jones is out of the World Cup (of which there is no confirmation as yet) then Chris Smalling is our first reserve central defender. It's not as if Jones himself is the next Daniel Passarella either.

With that in mind, there may be a great deal of relative mediocrity out to impress the England manager this weekend, hoping for the ultimate back-door entry (stop sniggering) to Brazil. Steven Caulker is pressing his shirt, Curtis Davies checking his flies are done up, John Stones is straightening his tie and Michael Dawson is desperately trying to avoid tripping over his shoelaces.

It isn't hugely inspiring, is it?

Jose Mourinho
It's all very well labelling Arsene Wenger a "specialist in failure", but if Wenger's team then ends the season on the same amount of points as you and beats you 1-0 on trophies, it begins to look a very foolhardy dig indeed. Loose lips may have sunk Mourinho's own ship.

Norwich City
Can we all stop saying the word 'effectively'?

Daniel Storey - Follow him on Twitter.

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s that Subbuteo's Shaun Wright-Phillips? Crikey, I thought he'd retired. Although I guess 'Only' QPR is like a retirement home.

The Earl Grey Gossip


an we release him in January?

Gerrard: I would leave Anfield


xcellent! Not sure if he is any good as a manager (never thought about it) but the 'headbutt in the technical area' and what he said to Pelligrini were just brilliant, it was as if he was trying to recreate the end of the Alan Partridge Xmas special when Alan punched a man in a wheelchair and verbally abused Tony Heirs.

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