The Seasonal Break continues to throw up odd results and continues to add clouds to serious predictions as to the outcome of the Premier League this season.
Another uncharacteristic late concession saw United surrender two points at Birmingham and last night the Ashburton Assassins did likewise at mighty Wigan Athletic.
Despite City climbing to the top of the mountain for a while on Tuesday, it was widely expected that United would regain the summit by close of business that day. And so it proved. But I have to say that although I didn't see any of the match, (not quite an Arsene Wenger quote but not far off)when I heard that they were leading 1-0 I didn't really expect Birmingham to score. They have hardly scored all season playing football similar to that played by City under Stuart Pearce.
What it does show though is the value of points in the bank over games in hand.
Arsenal must have expected to win at the DW, despite Wenger dropping eight players. Wigan seemed to put in the inspired performance that sometimes happens when opposing managers think they can field a weakened team and still get a result.
Mancini got it right against Villa, Wenger didn't against Wigan.
And it may well decisions like this that influence the outcome of the Premier League this season.
Ferguson has proved a little bit more proficient at rotation than Wenger. His team has not really fired as well as he would expect but they are still unbeaten, top of the league with two games in hand. Ancelotti looks to be a bit overwhelmed with his lack of resources and the loss of Wilkins to the extent that his season has fallen to bits.
A month ago City fans may have thought, that with the 'big guns' all due to play to each other and hopefully share points, any wins City could muster could redress the balance which in effect it has. But now Chelsea are in a similar position. They have six winnable matches on the trot whilst we have to take on Arsenal and Spurs. They will be hoping nobody gets the three points whilst they do.
So as each month goes by a new set of what-ifs come into play and it is the Ferguson-type mentality, being properly adopted and applied by Mancini that will carry teams towards May with their plans either still in motion or indeed in tatters.
Wenger has identified his problems but does not expect to apply any form of quick-fixing. This means either that he thinks the team that he has got is capable of winning the League, or he hasn't seen the player he thinks can cement that at a price he wants to pay.
Ferguson rarely buys anything spectacular in January (Vidic and Evra apart in recent years) and on the basis that he has got to the half-way stage unbeaten, must fancy his team's chances in the second half of the season, when they usually put their foot on the gas. Ancelotti looks a bit shell-shocked and if he cannot persuade Abramowich to divvy up for a new player or two, might well promote the idea of following Wilkins as his plan B.
Redknapp continues to look for value and is creating a team that Chelsea, as with Liverpool last season, cannot ignore. Their brand of swift, wide, attacking football, it pains me to say is often wonderful to watch and it is achived without any real stars. People like Van der Vaart and Modric go quietly about their business and Bale has become this season's 'must have'. They do have weaknesses at the back and I'm not sure about Gomez in the nets.
At Eastlands you might say that Mancini is starting to get a bit giddy when he talks about Dzeko being the player who could push us on to the title. What Macnini has seen is nobody breaking out from the pack. He is also fortunate enough to have a squad that can play in the Europa League (at least until the business end, if we are still in it) and a squad that can play in the Premier League.
The teams still in the Champions League, all of which will want to go for it have thinner squads and could reach some sort of 'wall' as the marathon that is the Premier League goes into the last furlong, especially when United and Chelsea play each other twice in quick succession.
So you can see Mancini's reasoning and if City can pick up against the big teams as they appear, then the end of the season could cause some nervousness in Milton Keynes, Epsom and Bridgwater, not to mention a football stadium just outside Manchester.
As we saw Spurs take Liverpool's top four berth last season we could be about to see another of the accredited 'big four' destined for the periphery. Who do you think it will be?
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