Philippe Auclair’s thoughts on the title run-in

Joe Cole celebrates putting Chelsea 1-0 up at Manchester United

Journalist Philippe Auclair, author of the Cantona biography, has kindly agreed to lend us his thoughts on the title run-in…

You’ve got to say that Chelsea (argh) are in the driving seat, particularly with Cole and Essien being fit again for the crucial game at Anfield on 1 May. That’s a huge boost for them, as you can’t really see them dropping points before that. Ancelotti must be admired for the way he’s made some very tough decisions since the 1-1 at Blackburn – bringing Deco and Joe Cole back in, leaving Drogba on the bench, for example. I know there’s the trip to Tottenham before then (for which Lennon could be fit), but Spurs are sooo flaky when the pressure is on, and can Corluka handle Malouda? Or Bassong Drogba, who will play in that game? Don’t think so. One of the many reasons why I believe that Liverpool will still manage to get 4th place, by the way. The others are just not strong enough.

As to United and Arsenal, we’ll have the answer very soon. Ewood Park and the Lane are not nice places to digest a nasty experience in the ECL, even if a failure to take 3 points from Allardyce would be a huge surprise for Sir Alex. Arsenal are so short of players – a joke, really. But, provided they gather some momentum on Wednesday, I wouldn’t be surprised if they won all of their remaining games: they’ve become a gritty side, with Bendtner a revelation over the last few months. Should they fail to win at the Lane (where they’ve drawn so often in recent years), that’ll be curtains. But I still fancy them to annoy the bookies until the end.

Like you I’m sure, I’m hugely frustrated by United’s performances this season, and by the very poor form of players who should be true leaders of the side: Carrick (technically so) and Park (in every respect) in particular. They’ll be crucial against City, who remain a very unbalanced side who do not play for their manager, but for themselves (not such a hindrance in Bellamy’s and Tevez’s case). United desperately need a true playmaker other than Giggs. Who’s going to step up? It’s fine to be a great impact side, with Valencia pounding the flanks, but when Berbatov has to play in a lone striker position, you must have someone he can combine with in the middle. Berba would be scoring for fun is he had a Fabregas or an Arteta behind him, I’m convinced of it. The current 4-3-2-1 just doesn’t suit him at all. An answer must be found right now. If it is, United still has a – faint – chance.

So I’m afraid I’ve got to go for Chelsea. Only just.

His biography Cantona – The Rebel Who Would Be King was the joint winner of the National Sporting Club’s ‘Football Book of the Year’ award in March 2010.

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