'Tis the season to be jolly, deck the halls with lots of ... parity?

Abracadabra, hocus pocus! - Shaun Botterill

Fa la la la la la la la la; two points from the top; fa la la la la la la la la.

Parity is a bit of a dirty word, ain't it?  The battle cry of the NFL, it can be easily used to both extoll the virtues of an ultra-competitive league that is exciting every day and every minute of the season and to denigrate the overall quality of a given league to be simply full of mediocre teams all vying to be the least mediocre by the end of the season; sometimes all in the same breath, even.

Whichever worldview you prescribe to however doesn't change the fact that this year's Premier League is the most competitive in recent memory.  I only looked at the last decade, but it wouldn't surprise me if it this season proved to be the closest title race since the introduction of three points for a win.

Here's how the Premier League top five shaped up after seventeen matchdays in each of the last ten seasons.  Blue numbers mean one (1) game in-hand; yellow numbers mean two (2) games in-hand; "top" refers to the team in first place after Matchday 17 (mid-to-late December, ahead of Christmas, with their point totals shown under "first"), while "winner" refers to the eventual champions of that season.

Topfiveparity_medium

Look how close it all this this year!  It's beyond ridiculous.  Last season, Manchester City trailed Manchester United by six points at this time; this season, a six point gap to the leaders would put you in sixth and out of any European contention.  Everton in fifth trail Liverpool in first by only two points after 17 matches - that gap is smaller than the gap from first to second in five of the last ten seasons!  Yes, the leaders' point totals are essentially the lowest after 17 played in the last decade, but that's just another symptom of parity.

The old adage used to be that home wins coupled with away draws were the key to consistent success - a strategy that lost some of its efficacy once wins were worth three rather than just two points.  However, in a title race this close, we might do well to heed such advice once again.

"We came to win, we wanted to win but it was very important not to lose, because if we did we are five points behind the leader. With a point we are two behind the two leaders and that is a completely different picture. We tried to win but we are not unhappy with the point."

-José Mourinho; source: Chelsea FC

Two matches shy of the official halfway point of the season, it's already apparent that Mourinho was right all along.  This is not the same Premier League on which he ran roughshod with Chelsea in 2004 and 2005.  There's simply far too much talent on far too many teams.

That we're only two points off the pace with a squad that is a season short of being "phenomenal" is a good thing.  The referee is about to blow his whistle for halftime on the 2013-14 season and we're basically at 0-0 with all of our title rivals.  It's all to play for.

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