The EPL Mid-Season Review

Soccer

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We are officially over halfway into the 2017-18 season of the English Premier League, and it’s safe to say that we have had one of the most exciting seasons in recent history. The title chase may be dead and buried, however the remaining European football spots are very much up for grabs, with six teams having a realistic chance of securing a spot in Europe next season.

That isn’t the only battle with plenty to play for though, with only three points separating twelfth-placed Brighton from the relegation zone. There are sixteen weeks left in the Premier League, so here we will go over every team in the top flight of English football and their performances to date. It is not as cut and dry as some pundits may suggest, it is the Premier League after all.

Manchester City – 1st – 62 points

Where do you start with the boys in blue from Manchester? They are close to being one of the best teams to ever have competed in a season of top flight football in England, if not the best. Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling, and Gabriel Jesus have been lethal in front of the goal. In addition, Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, and Leroy Sane are the top three in terms of assists in the league. Overall, Ederson and his back line have eleven clean sheets. The only blip on what has been a near-flawless season was a draw away at Crystal Palace.

City has not lost a game in their last thirty Premier League appearances (last loss vs Chelsea, 5th April 2017). If that doesn’t prove how elite the boys in blue are, then who knows what will. City will win the league, end of story.

Manchester United – 2nd – 47 points

It is absolute daylight between City and United at the top of the table, but it’s not because United has played poorly. Depending on the season, 47 points would often see a team at the top of the league. Don’t let their placement fool you though, as the Red Devils have had their issues on the pitch. They lost to Huddersfield, drew against Stoke and Southampton, and couldn’t find a way to beat Burnley at home, despite having close to three-quarters of the games possession.

Romelu Lukaku is starting to struggle on the field, however the likes of Rashford and Lingard have ensured the goals do not dry up. David De Gea has been the league’s best between the sticks, and United’s defense has been solid. They just need a huge slice of luck to try and reel back their rivals.

Chelsea – 3rd – 46 points

When Chelsea loses, they do it in style. They lost at home to Burnley, gave Crystal Palace their first win, got dropped by Manchester City, and lost to West Ham, despite having two-thirds of possession. On the other hand, when Chelsea wins, they do it in style as well. Alvaro Morata has been quiet in the last month or so, but the likes of Hazard and Alonso have stepped up. Cesar Azpilicueta has been superb on the flank of Chelsea’s defense, and Courtois has been fantastic when called upon between the sticks. As long as Chelsea stops dropping silly points, they should be able to hold onto a Champion League spot.

Liverpool – 4th  – 44 points

You can’t really say this is a surprise package, but there is one spot in particular that you know Liverpool is strong at, and one in which they need to go and spend money for. Liverpool currently has the second-most goals scored in the league, so no worries there. The goalkeeper position is something else though.

Simon Mignolet can have some games that are on par with Manuel Neuer, while others correlate to a keeper in the fourth division of English football. His backup in Karius isn’t any better. If Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp can go out and find a goalkeeper that will help out more than these two, Liverpool will be very hard to knock out of a Champion League spot. They have a perfect test in their next match with Manchester City at home.

Tottenham – 5th – 41 points

As per the usual programming, Tottenham were still on holidays when the season started in August. Harry Kane was goalless until September, but hasn’t that changed? He now has the most goals in the league, with eighteen. Wembley doesn’t seem to be as much of a death bell as some fans thought, although their home record has to improve in order to get into the Champion League hunt.

They have the striking power to do it, and a pretty solid goalkeeper between the sticks, but Tottenham just needs to start making sure that they seal games against the lower-ranked teams. They haven’t performed poorly by any stretch of the imagination, with their losses coming against top-seven teams. The draws against the likes of West Brom and West Ham aren’t exactly helping their case though.

Arsenal – 6th – 39 points

Realistically, Arsenal is the last of the teams in contention for the European spots, but weirder things have happened (Leicester winning the league, anyone?). It’s been an interesting season for the Gunners, who have been through more “Wenger Out” calls over the last twelve months than the bottom three have wins. They were in a great position seven games ago, but five draws from the last seven matches didn’t help.

The Gunners are still in a very comfortable position, only two points out of the European spots, and with a decent run potential in the immediate future. They have four very winnable games before they play the North London Derby against Tottenham. Tottenham still has to play Manchester United and Liverpool prior to the derby.

The Gunners need to win each of those four games (Everton, Southampton, Swansea and Crystal Palace) in order to put some serious pressure on the top four. If they do that, we have a juicy last fifteen games.

Burnley – 7th – 34 points

It has been one of the best halves of a season by Burnley since I have known them as being a part of the Premier League. At the start of the season, people would have laughed if I had told them that Burnley would be a hop, skip and a jump away from the European spots.

The last five games haven’t been too nice for the team at Turf Moor, only securing three out the last fifteen possible points. In saying that, they have had to play Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham in that run. You will see Burnley continue to quietly stick with the top six, and they have done well for themselves this year. In order to get one of those elusive European football spots, they will need to start taking wins against those above them. Should they not, the FA Cup is their only hope.

Leicester City – 8th – 30 points

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Jamie Vardy celebrates against Arsenal – Leicester Mercury

It is really hard to get a grasp on the Leicester City season, or the team in general since the miraculous 2015/16 Premier League season. They have been up and down more than a yo-yo, with a pretty abysmal first eight rounds to thank for that. The last five games haven’t been much better either, with only four points taken out of a possible fifteen. You just can’t pick them at the moment, especially with their best player apparently leaving.

Riyad Mahrez is rumored to be leaving the Foxes and getting a juicy pay raise at Liverpool, who need to replace Coutinho after his monster move to Barcelona FC. Not only does that break up the dynamic duo of Mahrez and Vardy, but it leaves a massive hole on the flank of the Leicester attack. We also can not ignore the fact that Arsenal have been interested for quite a while now. Putting it bluntly, if Mahrez leaves, Leicester struggle to stay up next season.

Everton – 9th – 27 points

It really is the tale of two quarters for Everton’s first part of the season. The first half of the season was absolute trash, with only eight points taken out of the first ten games. The next ten games were a lot better, with only the one loss as Sam Allardyce transformed their season. Wayne Rooney decided to find some form as of late, with his hat trick against West Ham by far the highlight of the season so far.

The last two games haven’t gone the way of Everton, with an upset loss to Bournemouth and a loss at home to Manchester United. The signing of Cenk Tosun should help relieve Rooney from some of the pressure of scoring, with Calvert-Lewin being able to help out when he is on the park. Everton should be able to do enough from here on out to finish comfortably away from relegation, but this season is definitely one to forget come August.

Watford – 10th – 25 points

You see the position that Watford is in and it would not be the worst thing to think that they are in an ‘okay’ position halfway through the season. Unfortunately for the Hornets, this really could not be further from the truth. Just like Everton, it really has been a tale of two quarters for Watford. However, unlike Everton, they have done it in reverse.

The first half of the season was fantastic. Watford had only the one loss, an absolute drubbing against Manchester City at home. The rest of the first eight games were great, with no other losses and a win against Arsenal being the highlight. From the ninth matchday on-wards, Watford have gone down the drain. In the last fourteen games, they have gained ten points. Only two other teams have a worse record over that time period. Richarlison has been great, as has Doucoure, but the rest of the team needs to step up. If this trend keeps going, Watford won’t have a manager at the end of the season, nor will they have a Premier League season to look forward to.

Huddersfield Town – 11th – 24 points

“We were top of the league, say we were top of the league”. That was the chant coming out of week one when Huddersfield shocked a good amount of fans by winning at home against Crystal Palace. Huddersfield were in the European spots after three games. There was so much promise coming from the cheapest squad in the Premier League. They beat Manchester United! However, despite that win, there has been so much inconsistency coming out of Huddersfield.

They took it to Manchester City. They beat Manchester United. They’ve smashed Watford away from home, drawn twice against Burnley, and had a run of four straight games without a loss recently. They’ve also been smashed by Arsenal, lost by four to Bournemouth and Tottenham, as well as got punished by Liverpool, Chelsea and Leicester just last week.

They are by no means “safe,” sitting just four points above the relegation battle. Some of their best players are starting to get tired. Aaron Mooy played over fifty games in 2017, and playing the fully allotted time in a good majority of those games. 26 of those games were from the middle of August until the New Year. That’s just one example. Huddersfield need more depth, or they are in trouble.

Brighton and Hove Albion – 12th – 23 points

This is when it starts to get a little dicey with the relegation battle. Everyone from Brighton down are within one game of being in the drop zone, which makes every single match a do or die fixture from here on out. Brighton have made two outstanding signings, in Pascal Gross and Mat Ryan.

Gross has been pivotal for Brighton in the midfield, controlling and creating a bunch of chances for the likes of Glenn Murray to capitalize on. Mat Ryan has made blunders, but he has also played some fantastic games to keep Brighton in it. Those saves do not really matter though, when you have only one win in the last eleven starts. Brighton were the team out of the newly promoted Championship teams that were expected to struggle. Whilst they haven’t struggled immensely in the Premier League, they need to snap that daft stretch of games and start putting goals in the back of the net if they want to keep their status in the top flight of English football.

Newcastle United – 13th – 22 points

If you had to describe Newcastle’s season by using a song title, it would be Katy Perry’s “Hot n Cold”. Newcastle got off to a flying start under Rafa Benitez, with fourteen points in their first nine games to have them battling early on for the European spots. Just wait though, as Mike Ashley decided to announce that he would sell the club and whilst the fans loved it, the club suffered on the field.

Newcastle didn’t win for nine straight games. The sale of the club was being pulled through the press ringer and fans were getting absolutely sick of it. Funnily enough though, as someone decided that they would pull the money out and buy the club, the results started to improve. Newcastle have seven points in their last four games. The one loss? 1-0 to Manchester City. Now I am not saying that there is a coincidence, but two plus two does equal four. Newcastle have the passion and the players, they just need the support. The minute they get that, as well as a head of the club who is not a tyrant, we will see Newcastle shoot up the table.

Crystal Palace – 14th – 22 points

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Roy Hodgson with a Crystal Palace scarf after being appointed as manager – Daily Mail

This is the most confusing team of the 2017/18 season so far, without a shadow of a doubt. In the first eleven games of the season, Crystal Palace only won a single game against Chelsea. They had four points and four goals to their name. They should have been relegated there and then. In the eleven games since, Crystal Palace have only lost once (3-2 to Arsenal in a fantastic spectacle). Palace even took a point against Manchester City, one of only two teams to do that this season.

Roy Hodgson has been superb at Palace considering the start that they had. Their best win, taking away the upset against Chelsea, has to be winning 3-0 away at Leicester in what was the best performance that Palace has put on a football field since Sam Allardyce left the club. If we see the Palace that we see now, they will stay up. If we see that Palace from the start of the season, they are gone.

West Ham United – 15th – 22 points

At the very start of the season, West Ham were seen as a mid-table team that might pull off an upset or two against the top four clubs. After a month and a bit, they were seen as a team that would be playing Championship football in twelve months. As of right now, we do not know what to expect. They’ve only lost one game in their last seven, including a win against Chelsea and a draw against Tottenham. Prior to that, the Hammers had not won in eight straight games.

The signing of Chicharito was seen as huge, coming off a great season at Bayer Leverkusen. He has failed to fire on his return to the Premier League though, being used as a substitute, if he is lucky. The Hammers are still in the midst of a relegation battle, and an away trip to Huddersfield is really a six point game. Win, and you not only jump away from the table, but you jump your opponents. Lose, and you are still deep in the grips of a battle to survive. It has become a do or die scenario from here on out.

AFC Bournemouth – 16th  – 21 points

Bournemouth have realistically been seen as “perennial strugglers” since they were promoted for the 2015/16 season. They managed to have a solid second season last year, finishing ninth but they are back to the struggling roots now. Four losses on the trot to start the season did not help their cause one bit, and one win in their last ten have not helped the Cherries in trying to hold onto their Premier League status.

There is most certainly a lot of potential in the Bournemouth squad, with the likes of Callum Wilson and Josh King playing solid football. Add on the likes of Arter Boruc and Asmir Begovic in goals, as well as experienced players like Junior Stanislas and Charlie Daniels, and you have a decent squad that is capable of a mid-table finish. They just need to get it right before it becomes too late.

Southampton – 17th – 20 points

You have Fraser Forster in goals, Charlie Austin up front, and yet you can not win a game to save yourself. That is what Southampton are struggling with at the moment. With only four wins in the season so far, Southampton are going to have to dig deep and claw their way up the table if they want to have another season in the Premier League.

There is no doubt that they are able to have a fantastic team on the pitch. They have the talent, and we know this because they have been finishing in the top half of the league for the last few years. Unfortunately for Southampton fans, it seems like a few players have lost the drive on the pitch. That needs to change. If it doesn’t, well I don’t need to tell you what might happen. The only saving grace is that Southampton have a world-class goalkeeper which keeps them in the running. They need to toughen up, or get shoved out.

Stoke City – 18th – 20 points

I would not have expected at the start of the year to see Stoke City in the relegation zone as we moved into 2018. Mark Hughes was not doing his job as a manager of this football club and he was given the sack. If the board want Stoke too have another bout of rainy Tuesday night games in the Premier League, they need to go on a signing spree, and fast. There is not much else to say. The defense is not up to par, they can’t score, and they now do not have a manager. Stoke are screwed.

West Bromwich Albion – 19th – 16 points

One manager gone, another manager in. Alan Pardew is also not doing the job here at West Bromwich, with the Baggies not winning a game since matchday two. We have now finished matchday twenty-two. Almost half of the points that West Brom have gained this season came in the first two weeks of the Premier League. West Brom need to see Pardew off, find someone else that isn’t in the managerial roundabout and bring in fresh blood to the squad. If that doesn’t happen, West Bromwich won’t have a Premier League badge next year.

Swansea City – 20th place – 16 points

Four wins. That is the first issue here. The second issue is that it seems like no one at the club knows how to score on a regular basis. Tammy Abraham has the lead in the goal scoring ranks for the Swans with four goals. That is pretty worrisome. The third highest goalscorer at the moment for the Swans is Wilfred Bony with two. This was a guy on the books with Manchester City not that long ago. If your third highest goalscorer is only scoring two goals in twenty-two games, you have issues.

Since Carlos Carvahal has come in, Swansea have played better football. They still have a long way to go. They need someone to step up and take charge on the pitch, because I am still waiting for that to happen. You have to feel for Lukasz Fabianski, who is an underrated goalkeeper in a pretty dismal team this season. It would not surprise anyone if he moved onto bigger and better things at the end of the season. As for Swansea, they will move on to the Championship and languish there for a few years before coming back in 2021/22.  You can take that to the bank and cash in the cheque.

 

 

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