Premier League half-time report

If 2015/16 was the season to rip up the form book, then this season has been all about hurriedly finding the pieces and sticking them back together again. Whilst there’s been a few surprising results, we hardly have Swansea at the top and Arsenal struggling at the bottom. So it’s nice to be back to normal. If you’re a Chelsea fan that is.

 

Arsenal
It’s same old same old at The Emirates isn’t it? They look threatening, but come Christmas time there’s always the classic Arsenal slump. Successive losses after leading against Everton and Man City have meant the Gunners have slipped to 3rd. It’s not bad, but Arsenal are fighting to win the league, not finish 3rd. Ozil has been anonymous, and although Walcott and Sanchez have been scintillating, Arsene Wenger needs the whole squad to work together. If this wasn’t the Gunners’ umpteenth season in a row where they look set to fall short, they’d be pushing for a 9 or 10. 7/10

Bournemouth
A lot of people wrote the Cherries off last year, but they comfortably survived and look to do the same this year. Eddie Howe is still the peoples’ manager, and it’s difficult to dislike Bournemouth unless you’re a Liverpool fan. That epic 4-3 win was game of the season so far, and although they’ve yet to hit a rich vein of form, 2017 is set to be another solid year. 7/10

 

Burnley
There’s one problem with Burnley, one quite big problem. Goals. It seems rich saying this after they pummelled Sunderland, but on the whole it’s true. The promoted side can consider 2016 successful since they are hardly scrapping for survival (yet). But until the goals start coming in, the Clarets shouldn’t be too happy just yet. Sean Dyche is a competent manager and knows what he has to do, so it’d be surprising to find Burnley back in the Championship next season. 6/10

Chelsea
Both Manchester clubs and Chelsea won their first three games this season. Who would fall first? Chelsea then drew with Swansea and lost convincingly to Liverpool and Arsenal, raising the question of whether Conte was the right man at Stamford Bridge. Cue six consecutive clean sheets and thirteen consecutive wins. Diego Costa is starting to carve out his Chelsea legend, and they’d need an almighty cockup to lose this lead. 10/10

 
Crystal Palace
For a club with Wilfried Zaha, Christian Benteke and Yohan Cabaye on their books, 17th is unacceptable. Palace have acquired 27 points in the whole of 2016, a shoddy return finally costing Alan Pardew his job. Under Pardew the Eagles were free-scoring, but more often than not managed to somehow concede more (see Swansea City 5 – 4 Crystal Palace). Six successive losses in October and November was the low point, but under the disgraced Sam Allardyce, surely things will only go up? 1/10

Everton
“Eh, it was good, but not great,” can sum up most of Everton’s performances this year. Lukaku and co. have been hit and miss, and they’ve subsequently stuttered, failing to rack up consecutive wins since September. For a team who should be trying to elbow themselves into the European spots, the Toffees currently lie twelve points off Manchester City in 5th. But truth be told, is their squad worthy of being higher than 7th? It’s a difficult case to argue such. 6/10

 
Hull City
After beating the champions and Swansea in their first two games using just thirteen players, many fans thought Hull could do a Leicester. Well maybe a few did. But it’s all come crashing down, as the quality of their squad has fallen short on numerous occasions. A 6-1 crushing defeat to Bournemouth and falling 3-0 to Sunderland were the most damaging, and they’ve struggled to give any indication that 2017 will be any better. 1/10

Leicester City
Leicester City in 16th doesn’t seem too abnormal, if you take the belief that their squad wasn’t actually good enough to win the title last year. But they were, and they did. The title has reluctantly raised expectations amongst fans, and now boos can be heard at the King Power stadium if you listen carefully. Apart from the ruthless 4-2 victory against Man City, there’s been no reflection of last year’s triumphs. New signings Musa and Slimani haven’t clicked, they’ve missed the powerhouse Kante, and their epic Champions League form has no doubt drained energy. Do we rate this based on last year’s performance, or on the quality of their squad on paper? Unfortunately, it’s the former. 2/10

 
Liverpool
Jurgen Klopp’s first full season in charge at Anfield was always going to be make or break. Thankfully to spice up the title fight, it’s been a success. Despite Sturridge’s brittle bones, their plethora of offensive midfielders has overwhelmed many teams. Coutinho, Firmino, Lallana and Mane have all taken it in turns to be golden boy, but Liverpool still baffle sometimes. Their two losses this year against Burnley and Bournemouth were unexpected to say the least. This year could see another Gerrard-esque slip. 9/10

Manchester City
When they’ve been brilliant, the pundits can’t get enough of them. When they’ve slipped up, every klaxon and alarm has been triggered simultaneously. Some have been justified. For example, the Hart-replacement surgery hasn’t made a big difference. But to question every ounce of Guardiola’s tactical nouse after losing to runaway leaders Chelsea is a little harsh. It’s been far from perfect, but they’re still close enough to remain title challengers. 7/10

 
Manchester United
As difficult as this is to say, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been sensational. He’s proved the doubters (especially me) wrong by banging in twelve goals, putting the rest of the squad to shame. His brilliance though has glossed over the fact that others have underperformed, namely Paul Pogba. Thankfully Mourinho has turned Phil Jones into a good defender, and United currently lie 6th, just outside the European spots. They’re still reeling from Ferguson’s legacy, but they’re on the up. 6/10

Middlesbrough
Middlesbrough are similar in a few ways to fellow promoted club Burnley. There’s a worrying lack of goals, and they’re teetering on the brink of falling into a relegation scrap. For Boro to win, they’re usually reliant on Spaniard Alvaro Negredo, who has actually only netted in three separate games. Recently they’ve narrowly lost to Burnley and Man United, two losses which will no doubt hurt spirit more than anything, considering the nature of these defeats. But compared to other teams, Boro are rarely being rolled over. 5/10

 
Southampton
I’m lumping Southampton in the same bracket as Everton for underachieving. After a few years of overachieving, there are now expectations on the south coast. They’ve lost poorly to Hull and Crystal Palace, and have averaged a pitiful one goal a game. Some question Claude Puel’s ability, but with a revolving door of managers at St. Mary’s recently, it’s no surprise that Southampton are struggling a little for stability. 5/10

Stoke City
Mark Hughes’ Potters are pretty much following on from last year’s exploits. A poor start again led to worries that this might be the end of Stoke’s Premiership tenure, but stellar performances from Joe Allen and Jon Walters have resulted in decent wins. That said, Arnautovic, Shaqiri and new boy Bony have been mere shadows. They’ll survive comfortably, but it’s set to be another year of purgatory at the Bet365 Stadium. 5/10

 
Sunderland
Their first win was a long time coming, and after their 2-1 triumph at Bournemouth there’s been signs of improvement. But ultimately, they might not come quick enough. Some are sceptical about David Moyes’ future, which is unfair considering he needs time to shape his squad. Jermain Defoe and Jordan Pickford have saved the Black Cats on a number of occasions, but there’s only so much they can do. If January recruitment is good, expect some more wins. 2/10

Swansea City
Where has it all gone wrong for the Premier League’s shining light? Once a perfect model of how to be a sustainable top-flight club, now in crisis. The epic comeback against Palace could’ve been a turning point, but it simply wasn’t. The new owners’ first big decision was hiring American Bob Bradley, and firing him was admittance that they got it wrong. 5-0 to Tottenham. 4-1 to West Ham. They’re the whipping boys. After Ashley Williams’ sale to Everton, they’ve lacked leadership. They’ll go down, and struggle to come back up. 0/10

 
Tottenham Hotspur
Spurs’ issue right now is that everyone else is performing much better than they did last year, so success for them would be finishing in the top four. After lukewarm starts, England prodigies Harry Kane and Dele Alli are finally linking up again, with Watford bearing the worst of this brunt. They’ve been defensively solid, and seem perfect under Pochettino. Despite being the last team to taste defeat this season, most of the results were disappointing draws. But it looks like they’ve clicked at the right time. 8/10

Watford
It’s really refreshing to see Watford thriving in the Premier League. Last year they were overwhelmingly reliant on Deeney and Ighalo, but this year the whole squad are chipping in with the goals. Flores’ exit as manager was questionable, but Walter Mazzarri has proved his doubters wrong. The 3-1 humbling of Mourinho’s United showed that Watford mean business, but they’ve also been obliterated by Liverpool and Tottenham. It’s very tight in the mid-table, but it’ll be surprising to see the Hornets dragged into trouble. 7/10

West Brom
West Brom usually annoy me for how inconspicuous they are. They’ll plod along anonymously for a year, then finish 14th. But now – whisper it – they’re good. And Berahino doesn’t even play. Somehow Tony Pulis has turned the Baggies into an exciting prospect, capable of pushing Chelsea and Arsenal to the wire, and also demolishing Burnley and Swansea. West Brom are 8th. Eighth. 10/10

 
West Ham
It was a fairytale wasn’t it? An incredible 7th place finish, and then the move into a huge stadium to help turn the Hammers into a titan of English football. The only issue was that they stopped playing well. Dimitri Payet has suffered from the dreaded sophomore slump, and others have quite simply capitulated. But things are on the up. After an embarrassing stuffing at home to rivals Arsenal, the Hammers went four games unbeaten, including three straight wins. Things are on the up, but it’s not all rainbows in London just yet. 4/10

Written by Michael

Obsessive fan at heart, football blogger, David Brent quote enthusiast and father of one.

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