It’s the halfway point in the Barclays Premier League and like Claudio Ranieri said, it looks like nobody wants to win the league. Inconsistency has been the flavor of the season so far with no runaway leaders and with each team capable of beating the other on its day, this has to be the most open season in the history of the Premier League.
Leicester City, however, have been the story of the season so far and sit currently on 40 points from 20 games, just two behind the league leaders. However, after scoring in each of their first 17 fixtures, Leicester have failed to score in their last three encounters during the festive period and their lack of squad depth seem to be showing as the business end of the season approaches.
Though Arsenal sit atop the table with 42 points, Wenger will be the first to accept that they have been highly inconsistent throughout the course of the season, After suffering to a 3-0 defeat on the opening day of the season to Hammers, Arsenal also lost to Chelsea in the initial weeks. Powered on by Mesut Ozil’s 16 assists, Arsenal had lost only one more time in the season to West Brom before ending the year with a humiliating 4-0 loss to Southampton. Year after year, for a decade, we have been saying that Arsenal have a golden opportunity to win the title but Wenger will be desperate to make this start count, and with Alexis Sanchez returning from injury shortly, Arsenal are truly in the driver’s seat at the halfway point.
The team that may put Arsenal’s resolve to test is Manchester City. Manuel Pellegrini, well known for using an attacking approach, has had a rollercoaster of a season so far. Injuries to Aguero, Silva and Kompany at critical junctures had depleted City and they had failed to win any of their six away games after three wins in the first three. A come from behind victory at Vicarage Road was what was needed for Pellegrini, and with Everton, Palace and West Ham lined up over the next three weeks, it will be an interesting phase in the Premier League for the Citizens.
Meanwhile Spurs have silently stayed in the hunt by notching up 35 points from their 19 games. After an opening day defeat to Manchester United, Spurs have lost only one other game, and with Harry Kane returning to form after an early season dip and new boy Deli Alli impressing in midfield, Spurs really look a serious threat.
It is the crowded mid-table that makes this season of the Premier League all the more interesting! With just four points separating the 5th and 10th place teams, it is a scuffle out there where every result will have an impact on the league table.
A team that has looked really out of sorts but has managed to stay within striking range of the top four is Manchester United. Louis Van Gaal’s men have found the goals tough to come by and despite having the most clean sheets in the league, find themselves in the fifth place in the table. A win against Swansea in the 20th game week was United’s first win in eight games in all competitions. What was more refreshing was the brand of attacking football the Red Devils displayed in the second half – the brand we’ve all associated Manchester United with.
West Ham had a brilliant start to the season, managing to beat Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City on their travels. An injury to their star player, Dimiti Payet, coincided with a drop in form. But with Payet back in the squad after three months, the results have begun to come again for the Hammers as they outclassed Liverpool at home.
The Hammers sit in sixth place with 32 points, just one more than Crystal Palace, who under Pardew have exceeded all expectations with their attacking brand of football. The appointment of Jurgen Klopp hasn’t really done much to help Liverpool’s inconsistency as they continue to drop points in games they should be winning. Watford, inspired by Odion Ighalo, have notched up eight victories this season and sit level on points with Stoke City in 9th place.
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Everton, despite showing some brilliant attacking prowess, have been highly inconsistent like their Merseyside neighbours and have failed to break in the top half of the table. Chelsea are sailing in unfamiliar waters in the bottom half after a nightmarish start to the season which saw them lose nine games. However, six points from their last two games have seen the Blues steer clear of the relegation zone, and if they continue the form they’ve displayed in the last fortnight, they’ll be aiming to finish in one of the Europa League spots by the end of the season.
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Premier League rookies Bournemouth have done incredibly well to stay above the drop zone despite losing their star striker, Callum Wilson to injury, five weeks in to the season. The Cherries remain only four points above the drop zone, but the supporters will always remember this season as the one they beat Chelsea and Manchester United on consecutive weekends.
Aston Villa, who are one of the seven teams to play in every season of the Premier League, look certain to face the drop after having managed to register just one victory from their first 20 fixtures.
The appointment of Steve McLaren or Sam Allardyce doesn’t seem to have much to the fortune of the Tyneside clubs as both Newcastle and Sunderland languish in the drop zone. Sunderland have conceded 39 goals so far this season while the Magpies have let in 35 – the prime area to focus on for both these clubs if they want to be playing top flight football the next season.
2016 has only just begun, and with five months of top class action left in this topsy-turvy season, this promises to be the closest season in a longest time!