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Pre Season Promo!

The new domestic football season is almost upon us, and we're celebrating by offering the remainder of 2014 for just £30! Thats equates to a huge saving of over 50% compared with the regular monthly price. Simply click HERE to take advantage of this pre season promotional offer. 

Usually £15/month, sign up today and you can get over FIVE FULL MONTHS (monthly cost of £75) of premium access to all analysis and picks, it works out at LESS THAN £6/MONTH!

The offer will expire on 16th August at 12:45 BST - the officla start of the Premier League as Manchster United host Swansea City, with both sides looking to improve on their 2013-14 Premier League Campaign. Van Gaal is now in charge at United, and many of us are expecting great things.

 

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The managerial merry-go-round - When will it stop spinning?

The sudden departure of Michael Laudrup from the helm at the Liberty Stadium after only 18 months in charge is probably sending shock waves around the Premier League, since it would seem that now no-one is safe from the chairman's axe. Yes, Swansea have not been enjoying the best of form recently, but that could go for any of the bottom half of the Premier League who are separated by only a handful of points. And now for one of the league's bright coaching lights, guiding his team to League Cup honours less than a year ago and with a tasty looking Europa Cup tie with Napoli just around the corner,  to suddenly be cast on the managerial scrapheap seems knee-jerkingly premature, bordering on the ludicrously irresponsible.


Of the bottom nine clubs, six have now parted company with their managers since the start of the season, with Rene Meulensteen probably avoiding being a seventh casualty only because Fulham are too embarrassed to sack two managers in the space of two months for not making a silk purse from a pig's ear. Dimitar Berbatov couldn't desert the sinking ship for the French Riviera quick enough, and who could really blame him?


Of the three managers in that bottom nine still in a job, probably only Steve Bruce can feel secure. Big Sam has been staring down the barrel since before Christmas, while Chris Hughton was reportedly only one timely win away from the chop just a few weeks ago. Chairmen's memories seem to be getting shorter, while their demands for instant success grow beyond the scope of patience and loyalty and common decency.


But what of the teams at the top? Poor old AVB didn't survive his first slump, if heavy defeats to Manchester City and Liverpool sandwiching a 5-game run of 4 wins and a draw can be called a slump. Every other team in the top half seems to be meeting or exceeding expectations - with the one glaring exception of course.
What, oh what is the Mata at Old Trafford??!! (did you see what I did there?). If this had been anything other then David Moyes' first season in charge, he would undoubtedly be long gone by now. He can only play the "transitional period" card for so long, although to be fair he has always spoken with refreshing honesty and hasn't made excuses for his players' deficiencies on the pitch. Of course it doesn't help that every time he looks up in the stand, he sees Sir Alex looking back at him like Banquo's ghost, his nemesis for years, and now haunting his misfortune game by tortuous game - a bit like having your dad turn up at work every day, tutting and shaking his head as you struggle over a spreadsheet and break the photocopier.


And he is now under real pressure, not only to make that coveted 4th Champions League spot, but indeed to reach Europe at all. With Liverpool, Everton and Spurs all vying for 4th as well and showing now signs of their form diminishing, the chances are that one of them could just as easily claim 5th place too, leaving Moyes' boys stranded and putting their passports away for a year. Indeed, with no hopes of domestic cup honours either, it would not be unreasonable to suggest that United's best hope of reaching Europe next year is to win the Champion League itself this season (no pressure, David).


The ramifications of United failing to reach Europe would go way beyond the immediate embarrassment and the sudden loss of expected Champions League revenue. The knock on effect would be a failure to attract the best players for next season, as well as a potential exodus of current topline players anxious to play on the biggest European stage, and not patient enough to take a year's sabbatical. 


Empires rise and empires fall, and maybe, just maybe,  there are just a few signs of crumbling dust in the Old Trafford brickwork.

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A season of Two Halves?

The Premier League's half-term report shows it to be a league of two halves, with already a seemingly insurmountable divide between those teams chasing Champions League glory and those likely to immersed in a relegation dogfight, and any attempts to predict the outcome at either end are likely to be about as accurate as a Jason Puncheon spot kick.

For probably the first time in Premier league history, the breakaway pack at the top comprises arguably the "Big Eight"" in terms of success, tradition, fanbase and financial clout: namely the two rivals from Manchester and Merseyside respectively, the London glamour club triumvirate, with plucky Newcastle tugging desperately at their shirt tails like a needy child.

Perhaps the only club missing that could possibly feel it has a claim to gatecrash that elite party might be fallen giants Leeds United, but their decade of decline into lower division obscurity has dulled the memory of their history and potential for now.

The top of the Premier League is excitingly and refreshingly tight, with Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal each occupying top spot at some point over last weekend, while Liverpool and Everton are constantly leapfrogging over each other in their quest to turn a promising first half of the season into long overdue tangible success. Manchester United still lie behind Tottenham (themselves with genuine European aspirations), and The Chosen One, although looking like a deer in the headlights at times when watching his team underachieving on the pitch, will no doubt cling onto the fact that United have overturned an 11-point deficit before at this stage (albeit not with six clubs ahead of them), and clearly any team missing the quality of Rooney and van Persie can only hope for an upturn in fortunes upon their return.

Of the twenty Premier League clubs, it would appear that only Newcastle United and Southampton are destined for that stale marriage of midtable mediocrity and meaningless games, both settled in that safe pocket of 30+ points in the bag without ever looking likely to upset the big boys above them, although both would argue that they are only a sustained good run away from muscling themselves back into the title-chasing pack.

At the other end, the tightness of the bottom half can be shown by the fact that Southampton in 9th place lie 7 points clear of Hull City in 10th, a margin that is actually larger than the meagre six points separating the Tigers from the Eagles in bottom spot, and while no doubt happy to be currently in the top half, Steve Bruce will be well aware that he is only one bad month away from slipping towards the bottom three precipice.

Never has the division between top and bottom halves been so distinct, and never has the fight to stay up been so interestingly poised, littered with teams with recent Championship experience, and indeed with more established teams that wouldn't be out of place in that division either. All the usual suspects are back in the fray again, although after their relative successes of last season, the bosses of Swansea and West Brom might be scratching their heads in befuddlement at where it all went wrong so far this campaign.
With an 11-club struggle for survival to go with a 7-team battle for Champions league glory, there are going to be thrills and spills and six-pointers galore, and just about every game (with the possible exception of Southampton v Newcastle) seems likely to have some bearing on title and/or survival hopes.

With such an exciting second half to the season in prospect, it is likely to get uncomfortably warm in some of the managerial hot seats between now and May, but it's should make great viewing for us from the stands or the comfort of our armchair.

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