We are into the halfway stage of the 2015-16 Premier League. Arsenal, Leicester City, Manchester City and Tottenham are in top 4 while Newcastle, Sunderland and Aston Villa are relegation zone.
Defending Champion Chelsea are in 14th position. Some teams’ performance are beyond expectation, some teams are underperforming. Some teams changed their managers to change fortune. The brief review of the teams are described below:
Arsenal are now leading the table with 39 points ahead of Leicester in goal difference. They started the season badly with a home loss against West Ham. But they bounced back and played well. They had a disappointing outing against fellow London club Chelsea where they lost 2-0. Beside that, they had lost only to West Brom. They were hammered by Southampton 4-0 on Boxing Day. Their main source of attack is Mesut Ozil. He has provided 16 assists this season for Arsenal.
They are one of the leading favourites chosen by the experts to lift the trophy. But their main concern is injury. Leading players have injured in important times. Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey, Alexis Sanchez, Francis Coquelin and Danny Welbeck are all missed several games due to injury. Some of them will be absent during almost the whole season. It is the big problem for Arsene Wenger. But, still they are one of favourites to win the trophy.
Leicester is the surprise package of this season’s Premier League. They are tied on points with Arsenal but second on goal difference. Actually they started this calendar year brilliantly. A valiant effort last season saved their relegation. This season they started exactly where they had finished the previous season. Claudio Ranieri replaced Nigel Pearson before the start of the season.
They started the season best possible way by beating Sunderland 4-2. From there, their dream run extended game by game. They only stumbled once up to gameweek 17 when they were defeated 5-2 by Arsenal. In gameweek 17, their extra-ordinary run was halted by Liverpool. They proved many doubters wrong. It was mainly for two men, Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez.
They scored 28 goals in this Premier League between themselves. More importantly, Vardy broke the record of Nistelrooy when he put the ball into the net in 11 consecutive games. Only in last two matches, the foxes failed to score. They enjoyed their run by leading the table for a couple of gameweeks. Now the question is how long they can prolong their dream run. They don’t quite have a commendable squad depth and a busy schedule of fixtures is coming. If they cope well and boost their squad in winter transfer window, the King Power stadium visitors can enjoy European Football next season.
Manchester City are the Bookie’s favourites to win the league. They are now third in the table three points behind the top two. They have a very high budget team making expectations very high. They spent lot of money to buy Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne, Nicholas Otamendi, Fabian Delph.
They started their season perfectly. They won their first 5 matches without conceding any goal. Then they slipped. They lost to West Ham 2-1 at home and then against Tottenham 4-1 in London. After that they recorded two big wins against Newcastle and Bournemouth scoring 11 in those two matches. From then the inconsistent form is continuing. They drew scoreless against bottom team Aston Villa. They lost 4-1 against Liverpool at home. They won against Southampton, Swansea and Sunderland but lost to Stoke and Arsenal.
So, their inconsistent form prevents them to build a solid momentum. Vincent Kompany’s absence has been the main reason behind the inconsistency. Except the match against Leicester, they couldn’t keep a clean sheet when the big Belgian did not start. Sergio Aguero, also, had recurrent injury problems and failed to produce his best. Nevertheless, they have the firepower to challenge Arsenal to regain the top spot .
Mauricio Pocchettino built a brilliant team this season. They are now sitting fourth, just four points from the top. Defenders, Midfielders, Forward and goalkeepers all performed well to give a nice balance to the team. They have a strong bench as well.
The north Londoners started the season with a 1-0 own goal defeat against Manchester united. Since then, they lost only one match, it was against Newcastle. They are not the most favourite but they are tipped to be serious contenders this season. The center back pair Vertonghen and Alderweireld is giving them stability. Dele Ali has been a real watch-out this season. Kane has started scoring to prove that he is not some one season wonder. But, few unwanted draws, sometimes, pulled them back in their journey. Still, they are very much in title picture.
Manchester United boss Luis Van Gaal is in deep trouble. They are now 6th with 30 points. Their decent run was overshadowed by the way they were playing. They do not concede too much goals, as well as, are unable to create something upfront. Star Players like Rooney, Mata, Depay are under-performing. Manchester United have now played eight competitive games without a win. So, under-pressure Van Gaal have a challenge to change this situation.
Liverpool are now 7th with 30 points. The team did not perform well under Brendan Rodgers, so charismatic Jurgen Klopp replaced him. Under Klopp, Liverpool responded well but are still lacking consistency. They face tough battle to break defensive-minded teams. He has to face a long list of injury also. The supporters are hoping to do well under him in coming days. But they need some spark upfront to perform regularly well.
Chelsea, the defending champions, are now 14th with 20 points only. They have recorded only one win in every month. All the big stars like Hazard, Oscar, Costa, Fabregas, Pedro are underperforming significantly except Willian. This disappointment led Hiddink replacing Mourinho as the Chelsea boss. They drew two matches under the Dutchman but played better. Chelsea supporters are dreaming to go as high as possible under new manager to rescue their season.
Elsewhere, Crystal Palace and Watford have a dream run too. They got overshadowed by Leicester’s impeccable display. But Palace, under Alan Pardew, is playing wonderful football and beat some of the so called top teams. They have a solid midfield and defence. They are now 5th with 31 points.
Watford are also doing well, and they sit at ninth – two points behind Palace. Watford are mainly depending on their lethal striking pair of Ighalo and Deeney. West Ham started the season brilliantly. They beat Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City away. But since the departure of Payet due to injury, they struggled to find form.
Stoke City’s season started poorly. But they are regaining the form week by week. Now the combination of Aurnatovic, Bojan and Shaqiri, backed by a solid defence, is the key for Mark Hughes. Everton and Southampton are two very inconsistent teams. They both have good squads but did not perform too well.
West Brom and Norwich are trying to stay up of the relegation zone. Bournemouth, after a disappointing start, showed some glimpses of form and Swansea, under caretaker manager Alan Curtis, are battling to find the right direction. Newcastle United and Sunderland started poorly but both have won some matches lately. They are still in relegation zone. Finally, Aston Villa are in severe trouble. Since winning the first match, they could not taste victory and now need some miracles to survive.
This is a very unpredictable season so far. Favourites got beaten by underdogs more than often leading to the perception that currently, this division has no undisputed favourites.. So, it is very hard to predict who will lift the silverware. Arsenal have good chance to do that if they cope with their increasing injury concern. Manchester City and Tottenham will give them a strong fight.
Manchester United, Liverpool, Everton, Leicester and Crystal Palace will fight for the final European spots. Defending champion Chelsea have an uphill task under new manager to script a comeback. They may find their luck to jump into European places as the table looks very tight. Aston Villa are very likely to go down as of now. Sunderland are not in a great place, too. But they always produce some magic towards the end of the season. Swansea, Newcastle, Norwich should perform better to stay in the top flight. Still half of the season is remaining. Plenty of surprise and drama are waiting for us. We will get all the answers on 15th of May 2016. We have to wait until then.
Photo by edwin.11