THEY are the two teams who have played the best football and been the most entertaining to watch, so it only seems right that Manchester City and Liverpool have been neck and neck at the top of the Premier League as the season’s final weekend looms.
Surely City will win the title now – it would take as big a shock as Crystal Palace’s comeback against Liverpool on Monday for West Ham to take anything from the Etihad Stadium. Even manager Manuel Pellegrini is talking about being champions, so likely is it now.
Without taking anything away from City, the only spell of Liverpool’s season I’d criticise was the final 20 minutes at Palace, when Brendan Rodgers changed his team’s shape and went for more goals, only for it to backfire spectacularly.
Yes, they lost at home to Chelsea. But had Steven Gerrard not slipped, allowing Chelsea to score, they’d probably have won that match or at least got a point that would be crucial now. Sometimes you can’t explain it – that’s why we love football.
Rodgers has been magnificent this year. Gerrard and others have predicted he will go on to become one of the greats, and that, as well as the team buying into his philosophy, is a sure sign he is close to his players.
In that respect he is like one-time mentor, Jose Mourinho, who, as much as I want him to do well because he is good for the profile of the game and for all his talented players, has been too negative at Chelsea. His strikers must take the field half-beaten after being ridiculed and asked to play a counter-attacking game that suits none of them.
For that reason, Chelsea did not deserve a trophy. City did and should end up with two, Liverpool did but will finish empty-handed – and then there is Arsenal. In some ways the Gunners have been the biggest story. Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott were in the form of their lives and took Arsenal to the top of the league, but then got injured for months; you have to say that is terrible luck.
You might blame Arsene Wenger for not signing another striker, but Mourinho couldn’t find the quality forward he wanted either and doesn’t get the same stick.
It would be some justice if Arsenal won the FA Cup final, and I hope they do, otherwise Wenger will find it difficult to silence the claims that he has lost his winning touch for good.
Finally, a word on my team of the year. One inclusion that might raise eyebrows is Palace’s Julian Speroni, but unlike some of his fellow keepers he has proved a matchwinner on a few occasions and has played a vital role in their top-flight survival.
Trevor Steven is a former England international who has played at two World Cups and two European Championships.