Joe Strange - Chelsea prosper as rivals freeze
Published: 11 Jan 2010 - 07:35:21
A few weeks ago I discussed what an unpredictable and exciting season we were witnessing in the Premier League.
And even though the big freeze decimated the majority of football fixtures up and down the country, the couple of top flight games which did take place continued the trend in spectacular fashion.
Only two games survived the arctic weather this week, Manchester United's trip to in-form Birmingham City and Arsenal's home clash with struggling Everton.
Both the visitors were looking to heap the pressure on top of the table Chelsea, whose trip to Hull City was one of many games called off because of treacherous conditions outside the stadium.
Few people would have predicted what a good weekend it would turn out to be for Carlo Ancelotti and his stuck-at-home squad.
On paper the two title challengers should have come away from Saturday's games with maximum points - in reality they both managed to salvage vital draws which could easily have been defeats on another day.
United's trip to St Andrews was always going to be tough, particularly with their ongoing defensive injury crisis.
Alex McLeish's side have been on a fantastic run of late, going 12 unbeaten before the weekend clash with the current champions.
They have a settled side, a great mixture of youth and experience and a real desire to not only stay up but to push on as much as possible.
But despite all this Sir Alex Ferguson's men should really have had more than enough about them to see off the challenge of a side promoted to the Premier League this season.
The game itself was a scrappy affair, with United relying on a Scott Dann own goal to rescue a point after Cameron Jerome's opener.
Fergie was given his now customary six minutes of injury time, but even that wasn't enough for the Reds to grab a much-needed three points that would have seen them jump above Chelsea to the top of the table.
With a game in hand on their two title rivals, people have been starting to discuss Arsenal as genuine title challengers.
And to most Arsenal fans and the pundits on Sky's Saturday Soccer Special at least, their home game with Everton was a virtually guaranteed three points.
After all, the Gunners smashed their visitors 6-1 in the opening day fixture at Goodison Park - surely this game would serve up a similar result? Think again.
Arsene Wenger's men have often been criticised for being outfought in certain games and this was a prime example.
David Moyes's team also played some great football during the 90 minutes and were very unlucky not to come away with the win, the Reds scoring a 92nd-minute deflected equaliser to steal a fortunate point.
Despite both United and Arsenal coming from behind, both sides will no doubt be feeling that they've dropped two points rather than gaining one.
Fans might be loving this season's topsy-turvy title race but those at Stamford Bridge will have undoubtedly been left happy after watching Saturday's games unfold.
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- A product of Brighton University's prolific youth system, Joe Strange has boundless energy and the enviable ability to cover every blade of grass in his Monday blog. Joe has written for a variety of football websites and fanzines and is also a regular contributor to golf.co.uk. Despite being born and raised in Kent, 'Stranger' is a diehard Everton fan and counts his team's penalty shoot-out victory against Manchester United last season as his most memorable football moment. Follow Joe on Twitter @joe_strange.
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