With all Premier League clubs 23 games in, some of the bloggers here at Soccity have taken time to review the status of each club and jot down their predictions for the rest of the season. If you’d rather see how we think the final table will look, we have crafted a predicted table at the end of this post for you. Here’s what we wrote for each club:
When the Premier League returned in all its glory for the 2017/18 season, Gunners’ fans would’ve been justified in having relatively low expectations for their team. The season before had been a massive—understating here—failure, even by Arsenal’s depleting standards. The club had failed to reach the coveted top four for the first time in the Arsene Wenger era. Speaking of, Wenger had at the end of that season signed a contract extension for a further 2 years, while Alexis and Ozil, arguably the Gunners’ two best players, hadn’t.
This was a double whammy if there ever was one. The former could have been judged tolerable by fans had the latter not happened, and vice versa. Their club was only going one way, and that was downwards.
Although the summer transfer window provided some speckle of hope in the form of (finally) a capable striker—namely Alexandre Lacazette—the overwhelming feeling of misery and frustration was visible in full at the Emirates as early as opening night.
The contract situation involving Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil has been a living nightmare for the club to deal with. There are constant murmurs of locker room issues involving the Chilean who at this stage is very likely to join Manchester City. As for Ozil, Manchester United rumours keep reappearing, but otherwise a lack of good suitors for the German World Cup winner could force him to renew with Arsenal for a couple more seasons.
Wenger certainly has a full plate of problems to deal with at the moment, and Gunners’ fans will pray and hope that he still has the right tools fix them.
The Gunners have continued their topsy-turvy form from prior seasons that has now become their new norm. A few positive results were always followed up by a shock loss, or in the case of their visit to Liverpool, an utter and total humiliation. At the midseason mark, it is almost laughable to suggest Arsenal could finish in the top four come the end of the season. That is not because they can’t—they’re not very far apart on the table—but because they simply won’t.
Mid-season MVP: Alexandre Lacazette
In a season so far full of uncertainty, there has been one positive, and that’s Alexandre Lacazette. For sure, the French forward has not had the best debut season in North London goal-scoring wise, but other than that, Arsenal fans can feed off of his vibrancy and dynamism compared to the rest of the squad. Lacazette’s inspiration can only give supporters renewed hope and belief. The goals will certainly come for the former Lyon striker, but in the short time he’s been at the Emirates, he has done the right things and put in a shift. A fan couldn’t ask for much more than that.
End of Season Prediction: 6th, 68 points
Bournemouth currently sit in 16th position, a point above the drop zone, having shed the grave weight of consecutive losses to remain unbeaten in their last three games.
It is no great secret that Eddie Howe has performed marvellously as Bournemouth manager since their maiden promotion to the top flight in 2015. That despite the burden of unpredictability that comes with a side entering their freshman year in the big time. Howe has managed to keep The Cherries’ heads firmly above water during his tenure.
This season, thus far, has been no different. It’s tough at the bottom, and inconsistency is rife and, ironically, consistent. In such a volatile environment, Bournemouth’s position, precarious though it is, is encouraging. With only four points separating them from Watford in 10th, and with 16 games left to play, anything can happen.
With the players available to Howe it’s hard to see how he could realistically be expected to do better than avoiding relegation, which seems the destination that his side is steadily progressing towards.
Callum Wilson’s return to the team has been particularly gratifying and rewarding, with the Englishman contributing six goals and an assist to his side’s performances this season. The young Scot Ryan Fraser has also been a revelation, netting four goals for the Cherries so far this term.
However, in such an unpredictable and cruel situation as that which surrounds all teams locked in the furious struggle against relegation from the Premier League, it is just as likely that Bournemouth will fall foul of lady luck as they will end up on the right side on that dreaded dotted line come May.
Mid-season MVP: Nathan Ake
Signed in the summer from Chelsea for a club record fee thought to be around £20million, Ake has built upon his successes at Watford last season with some tremendous performances this time around.
A towering centre-back, Ake has made 82 headed clearances this season, and has won a massive 65 aerial battles. More than just a hulking defender though, Ake has the ability to be versatile with the ball at his feet, coupled with an eye for an inch-perfect pass, a capability attested to by his tally of 40 accurate long balls, while his one goal this season is the icing on the cake.
Ake will be pivotal to Bournemouth’s survival, if they are indeed to survive, and he must continue to defend competently and competitively if Howe’s men are to have any hope of mixing it up with the big boys again next season.
End of season prediction: 18th, 39 points
While not quite comfortably mid-table just yet, Brighton (along with Huddersfield) are in the best shape of the recently promoted teams. Due to the absolutely dire form of Swansea and West Brom, they’re a good 7 points clear of the bottom of the table. Although only 3 points clear of the last relegation place (20 points), their second-half schedule favors them. Most of their matches with the top 6 are at home, and they could secure their spot in the Prem prior to the last of those two, their back-to-back ties with United and Liverpool to end the season.
It’s said that to succeed as a newly-promoted team, you need to have a consistent goal scorer and not be too generous at the back. Though they lack a real marksman at this stage of the season (scoring leader Glenn Murray has only hit 6 league goals), their GD is among the best of the bottom half of the table at only -10. Compare that to Stoke’s (-24) or Swansea’s (-21), and it’s easy to see the advantage Brighton could have if they stay consistent till the end of the year and any final positions wind up being decided by goal difference.
For any newly-promoted side, staying out of the relegation zone is the top priority. Brighton have done so with room to spare 22 matches into the season, and are fortunate to exist at a time where two recent Prem regulars (West Brom, Swansea) are playing awful, awful football. On other teams’ impotence alone, they should be able to avoid the drop. Their point-per-game ratio of slightly >1 isn’t hurting their cause either.
Mid-season MVP: Pascal Groß
Choosing a first half MVP by the numbers seems pretty safe, and our German friend Pascal (whose last name is far too difficult to find a character for to repeat) fits the bill. He’s second on his team’s league scoring list with 4 goals, and has also weighed in with the most assists (5). I’m no mathematician, but that means he’s been involved in over half of Brighton’s 17 goals scored so far this season. When your squad is likely to live or die by their GD, the value of that kind of contribution can’t be understated.
End of Season Prediction: 16th, 41 points
Burnley’s a team that no one really minds in the Premier League. Their biggest regional rivals are in another division, so PL opponents tend to overlook them. They play at Turf Moor—which in addition to sounding like the place your Sunday League club has its match this Sunday—holds just 21,000 people, which is second smallest in the Prem.
But any who overlook Burnley do so at their own peril. The club are fiercely supported, buy intelligently, and have one of the better British minds helming the squad in Sean Dyche. The hardworking manager led his side to a 16th place finish last year, hitting the magical 40 point mark on the last day, while scoring the least amount of goals for any team which survived.
If you were to tell a Burnley fan before this season started that at this point they would score less goals collectively than Mohamed Salah, they’d be thinking they were in relegation and not in 7th place. With two more wins, they will have eclipsed their total from last year. They are in no danger of entering the huge relegation battle, and at current standing, are closer to 6th place Arsenal. If Premier League clubs win the FA Cup and Carabao Cup, Burnley would play in the UEFA Cup next year.
The season started with a shocking 3-2 win against the previous year’s champions Chelsea, and the shock factor hasn’t really worn off. Burnley are playing focused and Dyche’s tactics have been spot on. They’ve replaced the goal scoring of Andre Gray and the defensive prowess of Michael Keane and are somehow better off than how they started.
Mid-Season MVP: James Tarkowski
When Michael Keane made his big money move to Everton, James Tarkowski, bought from Championship-side Brentford a year before, was the next man up for Burnley. He has not disappointed, to say the least. Truthfully, you could put him or centre-back partner Ben Mee in for this designation and be correct. Tarkowski gets the nod for me for coming out of nowhere to win 5 aerial duels a game and be an absolute beast at the back.
End of Season Prediction: 8th, 56 points
Even though the Blues are in and around second spot, this season feels like a transition year; the sequel to the best seller that attempts to heighten the highlights and improve on the shortcomings.
With a greater load of fixtures Chelsea coach, Antonio Conte, has been crying out for improvements across the board to increase the depth of his squad. In came a new goalkeeper, two midfielders, one defender and an expensive striker. But Chelsea didn’t hang onto many of the players that won the league last year in those positions. Diego Costa hankered after the Spanish sun once again and finally got his wishes granted, and Mourinho managed to tempt Nemanja Matic into buying a coat for the Manchester rain. With the wingback slots dying out for more quality players on both sides, the West Londoners only managed to tempt one in the form of Davide Zappacosta to cross over; the former Torino player has had to fill in on both sides due to continuing shortages.
New faces have been the pain and joy of the opening stretch for Chelsea, with Conte having to look at the tried and tested 3-4-3 and start afresh with new tactics to better suit the personnel. Morata has formed quite the dovetailing partnership alongside Eden Hazard in the new 3-5-1-1 formation, but has proved a frustrating figure in front of goal. Some games look like every header from the Spaniard will hit the net, and others (such as the recent game at the Emirates) find him missing three one on ones and looking like he forgot to tie on his shooting boots.
Tiemoue Bakayoko has split the fan base after turning in inconsistent performances, but it is expected that he will eventually find the form that once helped Monaco win the Ligue 1 last season. Chelsea still can’t offer up a solution to when key players pick up an injury, scarily wracking up goals conceded in the absence of N’Golo Kante, and Michy Batshuayi who has clearly lost favour with Antonio Conte. The Belgian is rarely played in the absence of Alvaro Morata, the manager choosing his countryman, Eden Hazard, as a false nine instead.
It isn’t all doom and gloom. Like his predecessor, Conte’s spats haven’t failed to hit the headlines—this time with David Luiz—but Chelsea have had a revelatory replacement in the form of Andreas Christensen, who has ably shoved the Brazilian out of the squad due to his form and promise. Moving slightly along the backline, Cesar Azpilicueta has become one of Chelsea’s first names on the team sheet after rarely making a mistake as one of the back three (he has played almost every minute of every game under Conte) and leads the team in assists through his telepathic crossing to Morata.
After a shock loss at the start, Chelsea have managed well in tough fixtures to keep pace for the top 3. If they can improve at striker and in the wingback/fullback positions in January, they are certain to kick on and challenge for a trophy this season.
Mid-Season MVP: Cesar Azpilicueta
This is an easy pick. There is a reason why Jose Mourinho once said he wanted 11 Azpilicuetas. He may not get the plaudits over Eden Hazard, but every game that he plays (except against Manchester City), he has maintained consistency throughout the season so far to warrant future whispers of the captaincy. Not only has he become a dependable player at the back, he is just as deadly coming forward, unleashing laser guided crosses from the “half-back” position for easy chances. He is the foundation that every Chelsea side builds upon.
End Of Season Prediction: 3rd, 76 points
There was a time, not long ago, when it seemed like Crystal Palace would never win again. Seven games into this campaign, Frank de Boer’s then side had earned no points, scored no goals and looked completely lost, despite decent investment. They hired Roy Hodgson, himself reeling after being sacked from the England job, and things weren’t immediately better. On October 21st, following a loss to Newcastle, Crystal Palace were sitting in relegation by themselves on 3 points. At midseason, they sit “relatively comfortably” in 14th and it’s to Roy Hodgson’s great credit that Palace’s turn-around has been so smooth.
Having given the rest of the league a seven week head-start, Palace are a team on the rise. Players brought in like Mamadou Sakho, Jairo Riedewald (purchased) and loanees such as Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Timothy Fosu-Mensah may have needed time to adjust to de Boer’s tactics. When he was sacked, the whole squad then needed to pivot to Roy Hodgson’s way of doing things. Considering they’ve acquired 19 points in their last 13 Premier League matches, I’d say the adjustment is complete.
Palace’s atrocious start handcuffed this team. Given their current form under Hodgson, if he had the opportunity to start the season and have the off-season to work with these players, Crystal Palace might’ve been thinking Europe this year. Instead, they’ll likely settle into the middle of the table.
Mid-Season MVP: Wilfried Zaha
At times Palace’s attacking strategy pretty much boils down to ‘Give it to Wilf and let him do stuff’. And boy does he do it. 4 goals and 1 assist does not do justice to his offensive impact this season. He’s finally rounding into the player we thought he might become when he was first turning heads at Crystal Palace before his big-money move to Manchester United.
End of Season Prediction: 10th, 46 points
The legendary presence of Sam Allardyce on the sidelines of struggling Premier League clubs has become almost a meme at this point. Often times sporting the timeless microphone to his ear, sipping on a dark fluid (possibly gravy) and seemingly stuffing pork scratchings in his coat pockets, the former England manager has finally caught his break with a side that he can really sink his teeth into.
Everton seemed to have had a push and pull between former manager, Ronald Koeman, and sporting director, Steve Walsh, as to which players deserved to be added to the squad after finally selling Romelu Lukaku for a massive fee last summer. Naturally, this confusion brought forth the signings of three expensive midfielders and no real additions in the places that they were actually needed. The first handful of months were an exercise in creative formation finangling, playing strikers on the wings and hoping that a combination of Ouamar Niasse and Dominic Calvert-Lewin would create enough goals to stay up. Now Big Sam has been hired to toughen up the Toffees and right the dodgy start to the season.
The mere presence of Allardyce in the stands seemed to reinvigorate Wayne Rooney’s hit or miss return to Everton in a standout game against West Ham. With the re-introduction of maverick player Yannick Bolassie, it seems that Everton have the capability to beat the noose that hung over their heads.
Mid-season MVP: Wayne Rooney
Wayne Rooney can often be the make or break for Everton’s season, but he can also be guilty of disappearing in games. Having dropped further back from his old days of being a striker, Manchester United and Everton have struggled to figure out how or where he was supposed to fit in the team. With the arrival of Allardyce, something has clicked with the Evertonian and consistency has started to get back into his game. From a quasi-10 position, Rooney has wracked up the most goals and has started to justify his high wages.
End of season prediction: 10th, 60 points
In their first-ever trip into the Premier League, there were some questions as to what Huddersfield’s strategy would become. They had been a dominant squad in the Championship; a group which looked to possess and play scintillating attacking football. These tactics were installed by current Manager David Wagner, who was clearly inspired by his time working at Borussia Dortmund under Jurgen Klopp. Wagner’s style has been the hallmark of this team since his appointment in 2015. But this is the Premier League, which does not take kindly to newcomers with radical tactical strategies and is known for being both punishing and unforgiving to those.
While these fears have not been completely ameliorated, Huddersfield has not abandoned their identity, and their reward is they currently sit near the top of the jumbled, 10-club mess known as the relegation fight. The club purchased intelligently this off-season, buying unknown players—like Steve Mounie—bringing in loanees—like Jonas Lossl (who belongs to Mainz 05)—and signing the likes of Aaron Mooy, who had been loaned to Huddersfield by Manchester City during their last Championship campaign. The latter having now shown himself to be well worth the money paid for him.
Huddersfield started strong, acquiring 7 of their first 9 points in the Prem, and since then have at least treaded water, so to speak. They’ve suffered bad losses—losing by 3 or greater to Leicester, Liverpool, Bournemouth, Tottenham, and Arsenal—but also have some scalps to their credit, including a home win versus Manchester United and a 4-1 road dismantling of Watford. Goal differential may hurt them in the final table if they are not careful, but this is a side unafraid to play anyone, which will help them stay in the top flight.
Mid Season MVP: Aaron Mooy
When Aaron Mooy is on his game, he looks like the player Manchester City bought. If you don’t believe me, check out his work in the Manchester United win and his strike versus Newcastle. While sometimes this offense can operate like “ketchup in a bottle,” when it is flowing strongly, it is Mooy you will find as the creative force.
End of Season Prediction: 17th, 40 points
What a roller coaster the last 3 years in the Premier League have been for Leicester City. 3 years ago, Nigel Pearson pulled off, “The Great Escape,” and helped Leicester survive their first Premier League campaign. He soon resigned after a goodwill trip to Thailand gone awry, which led to many pundits believing Leicester’s survival was short lived.
Then in their second season, Leicester shocked the world by winning the most improbable top-flight title the world’s ever seen behind a largely forgotten Claudio Ranieri. Last year Leicester had some early season struggles, flirted with relegation, sacked Ranieri, added Craig Shakespeare, and finished a relatively tame 12th in the table.
This year was similar to the previous campaign in that Leicester flirted with relegation and sacked their manager. Unlike previous years, they are playing more complete football under Claude Puel—himself sacked by Southampton earlier this season—and they now sit a comfortable 8th place. After their troubles last year, Leicester again invested like a side competing for Europe, bringing in the likes of Harry Maguire, Kelechi Iheanacho, and Adrien Silva, who just played his first game recently after having issues with his transfer from Portugal. These moves allow Leicester to play with anyone in the Premier League and make them a palatable watch.
Under Puel, Leicester have collected 22 of their 34 points and have looked a more fluid side, comfortable with playing ahead as well as they do from behind. They are still getting quality performances from cornerstone squad members such as Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy, Christian Fuchs, and Marc Albrighton, and as long as they can hold onto Mahrez, I see Leicester continuing to flourish under Puel.
Mid Season MVP: Riyad Mahrez
Two years ago he was the Premier League’s Player of the Year, and last year was seen as a disappointment in comparison. To be fair this is a player who wasn’t well known before Leicester won a title, becoming the subject of constant speculation, with his name being linked to some of the most prestigious clubs in the world. Those rumors have not stopped, but he seems to be handling that publicity, and the attention he receives on the pitch, much better. He has 7 goals and 7 assists to his name thus far and continues to be Leicester’s offensive heartbeat. Keeping him for any amount of time will be a huge coup for this club.
End of Season Prediction: 7th, 60 points
Liverpool’s season could very well prove to be a tale of two halves. Their first 20 or so matches proved they’re a dangerous, albeit defensively suspect outfit capable of torching the best of opponents. At the time of writing, their attacking quartet of Salah, Mane, Coutinho, and Firmino has combined for 38 goals in the league, helping them become the joint-third most prolific goal-scoring side in the table. Coutinho’s recent silly-money move to Barca may hurt that goal production a bit, but it’s unlikely Liverpool will struggle mightily in attack even in his absence.
The problem for manager Jurgen Klopp is that his defense hasn’t held up their end of the bargain so far this season. Though Liverpool’s record against their fellow top 6 clubs is decent—as they’ve only lost to Spurs out of that group thus far—that stat could be even better if their defense could close out matches. Against Chelsea, they led into the 85th minute before conceding an equalizer; while against Arsenal, they saw their 2-0 lead evaporate in 6 calamitous minutes and had to rely on a Firmino equalizer to salvage a 3-3 draw. Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk was brought in recently to stabilize that back four, and for the estimated £75M paid for him Klopp will expect the Dutch center half to plug those defensive holes.
If Liverpool can solve their defensive issues and keep their attack running strong, they’ll remain firmly in the hunt for top four.
Klopp has ‘Pool right where they need to be despite some truly horrific defensive displays. Had they won a few more matches, we’d be talking about them putting pressure on City in 2nd, rather than having to watch United lazily “chase” the league leaders.
Mid-season MVP: Mohamed Salah
Salah is the only choice here really, even in a team where quite a few attackers had a solid first half of the season. The Egyptian wide-forward’s wing play is must-watch stuff; his combination of blistering pace and exceptional close control has caused defenses nightmares thus far. His national team will be boosted heading into the World Cup on his form alone, a powerful endorsement of a player at the peak of his powers. If he maintains this form, he’ll not only be Liverpool’s standout MVP for the year, but also in contention for the Premier League Golden Boot and Best Player awards.
End-of-season Prediction: 5th, 68 points
Writing about Manchester City’s exploits this season is perhaps the easiest job in football at the moment.
At the time of writing, they sit at the top of the Premier League table with 62 points, with a preposterous and undoubtedly insurmountable gap of 15 points between themselves and their closest challengers Manchester United. With now just one loss to their name, and having only dropped points on three occasions (at home against Everton, away at Crystal Palace and now at Anfield), City look dead set on the title.
Pep Guardiola’s sky blues have been breaking records on both a team and an individual level this season, having obliterated the consecutive Premier League win record (rising to 18 after their 1-0 win at Newcastle), and with Sergio Aguero becoming their all-time domestic top scorer. Though the dream of an unbeaten season has now been lost, the goal of besting Chelsea’s 2004/2005 Premier League record of 95 points remains a possibility.
Guardiola has furnished and honed a team that now plays football of the most sumptuous variety, with the capability to blow away teams with elegance, style and edge. The Premier League title is as good as theirs, and, with the quality of football that they play, and the improvements that the illustrious Spaniard has made to their defence, many are unlikely to bet against City in any remaining contests or outstanding competitions.
Doubtless Guardiola will now be heavily considering Manchester City’s Champions League progress, and potential ties against the giants of Barcelona and PSG are certainly mouthwatering prospects down the road.
Mid-season MVP: Raheem Sterling
Everyone has been singing the praises of Kevin de Bruyne, David Silva and Leroy Sané, and with good reason. Players in every position on the park have performed immaculately for City this season, coalescing into a team of stars that has every right and all of the ability to take Europe by storm for years to come.
Special mention should be given to Ederson too, in whose form City seem to have found a diamond in the rough, but Raheem Sterling seems the standout player this year. Long berated for failing to live up to the £49million that City splashed out on him to take him from Liverpool in 2015, Sterling is now paying back this great sum in droves. He has scored 14 goals in 20 league games this season, as well as providing 4 assists, making him the third top scorer in the league so far. Certainly, England fans will be hoping that he can continue this stellar run into the World Cup in the summer, where he will join the similarly prolific Harry Kane up front.
End of season prediction: 1st, 100 points
When I think about the season Manchester United are having in 2017/18, the first word that pops up is: weird. In isolation, 47 points from 22 games, averaging over 2 points a game with a goal difference of 29 is perfectly fine in any league. But you wouldn’t think that is the case on paying attention to the media speculation around Jose Mourinho and his future or the lack thereof at Old Trafford in the first weeks of 2018.
A lot of time has been spent already discussing Jose Mourinho’s soundbites in the press conferences featuring the free spoken manager often going after Antonio Conte and Jurgen Klopp. Such distractions have unfortunately overshadowed some of the positives at Manchester United that have emerged or resurfaced, to be more precise, under Mourinho’s reign in the last two seasons.
First and foremost, United have been good to watch for most of the season and that is a big fat box ticked off.
The Portuguese has slowly yet surely upped the tempo and style at Manchester United, building an impressive home record (just 1 defeat at Old Trafford in 44 games). The Red Devils are much more direct and certainly much more clinical in front of goal with a conversion rate that stands at 15%; a significant improvement on the duller days of Louis van Gaal, just 2 years ago.
But there is still a lingering sense of dissatisfaction, a Mancunian chip on the shoulder that United, as a club, have always had when they had to look up instead of down on the rest of the league table.
And they do look up now, in hope and desperation, that their once inferior blue clad neighbours will slip-up in the PL title ‘race’ (for want of a better word) which they are so far ahead in as of yet. However, that should not hide the fact that Mourinho has his own side headed in the right direction built around a core of young players with futures to look forward to.
Manchester United are probably about the second or third best side in the league on paper, in terms of the quality of their starting eleven and the options available to them.
Mid-season MVP: Paul Pogba
There are two candidates for this accolade. Between Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard—who has been a revelation in the last six weeks—I would have to go with the former. Pogba is the beating heart of this side and he makes Man United tick in midfield and in the final third. With 3 goals and 7 assists so far the Frenchman is one of the four players at United to contribute to 10 or more goals at the club this year, including Romelu Lukaku, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial as well.
But Pogba is the glue, in a way Paul Scholes was for just under two decades and will prove just as crucial in the years to come.
Prediction: 2nd, 78 points
As of this writing, Newcastle United sit 13th in the Premier League table. The goal before this season started was 17th or better, so in that regard 13th looks better. However, when you consider Newcastle is currently 2 points above relegation and 9th place and 20th place are separated by 11 points, it gets a little hairy.
There’s some room in the short term to distance themselves from the drop: yes they drew at home last time versus lowly Swansea. And yes, they do play both Manchesters in the next 5, but they have the chance to earn points against Crystal Palace, and Burnley at home. The rest of their schedule doesn’t have any stretches that are particularly dreadful, so that’s certainly helpful leading into the season’s end.
There was a time Newcastle was in 6th place after a strong run of games, then they fell to 18th on the back of 8 losses in 9. With a string of holiday period successes (7 points in 12 between Christmas and New Year’s, the loss including a respectable 1-0 loss to Manchester City), Rafa Benitez is instilling a resiliency into the Newcastle side which did not exist in the top flight before his arrival.
Benitez is certainly a distinguishing factor when it comes to sifting through relegation candidates; his CV speaks for itself and his analytical mind has been on display again at Newcastle. It also helps that his current team has one of the lower goal differentials amongst those fighting in relegation. If Benitez can continue to motivate his players, and bring in bodies to fill out his squad more, my money is on the Spaniard over any manager in the relegation fight.
Purely off of their current standing in the table and their work during the end of the Christmas season (it’s tough to give anything higher for a team that lost 8 of 9 at one point in the season). They have adapted to their matchups and Rafa has generally done a good job picking his XI, but depth will be an issue for this squad.
Mid-Season MVP: Jamaal Lascelles. Has scored two big goals which resulted in 6 points by itself and absolutely looks the part as Captain and a centre-back. When Lascelles is in the lineup, Newcastle has not conceded more than twice; that’s how you keep goal differential low. If he were playing for one of the big clubs, he’d have an England cap and be rumored for a World Cup place.
End of Season Prediction: 14th, 42 points
It takes a lot to get the sack from the famously patient Coates family, but Mark Hughes got his marching orders just after the midseason break, losing against Coventry in the third round of the FA cup.
The Welshman has built a reputation of spending poorly when given the crown jewels, having signed plenty of duds in his Manchester City and QPR spells, but he was given a third try with Stoke and at first, things seemed on the up. Hired in 2013, he was sold as the antidote to Pulis-ball, and when big names started to pop up in the north, fans could feel positive about the future. But after every honeymoon period, is the inevitable slump; the former Champions League winning players strutting their stuff, were now wondering why the club wasn’t pushing on.
This season proved the culmination of this bad recruitment. Main player Marco Arnautovic traded pottery for Iron with West Ham and the once exciting signing of Jese has proved a bust. Saido Berahino has missed the train on his once burgeoning career, having never scored since pulling on the shirt last year, and this failure to balance this team from a top-heavy squad has left plenty of issues at the back.
Grade: D –
Stoke City have lost 13 of their games so far, and have the worst goal difference and most conceded to boot. On a few occasions, Hughes had been forced to field youth players and first team players out of position after suffering catastrophic shortages. To be fair, he seemed to identify this problem at the start of the season, having picked up Kevin Wimmer from Spurs, Bruno Martins Indi on a permanent from Porto, and Kurt Zouma on loan from Chelsea, but it seemed that the coach was sticking his fingers into thousands of holes in the sinking ship as his moves failed to ignite a renaissance in defending. It remains to be seen what new head man, Paul Lambert, might undertake in the current transfer window to plug the gaps, if possible.
Mid-season MVP: Xherdan Shaqiri
It seems a lot of the threat from Stoke is channeled through the stocky Swiss’s impossibly bulky left leg. From range, he is a pain to play against and when that doesn’t work, he is capable of creating a chance for the striker ahead of him (four goals a piece to Choupo-Moting, Crouch, and Diouf). Hanging on to him under the new coach will be a must.
End of Season prediction: 15th, 42 points
Southampton’s season thus far under Mauricio Pellegrino has been at best underwhelming, and at worst atrocious. Despite being equipped with a squad of more than capable internationals, such as Dusan Tadic and Wesley Hoedt, alongside exciting young players the likes of James Ward-Prowse, Manolo Gabbiadini and Nathan Redmond, Southampton find themselves sitting uncomfortably in 17th position at the time of writing.
Cohesion between experience and youthful exuberance has been severely lacking in the Saints’ campaign thus far, a discrepancy that has since been solidified by Virgil van Dijk’s world record move to Liverpool. Despite the headaches that the Dutchman has caused the St. Mary’s faithful, he was undeniably one of their best players. His loss is palpably felt, not least exemplified by Southampton’s defensive record, which marks their backline as somewhat floundering having conceded 32 goals so far this term. Though his transfer occurred only a matter of days ago, it was clear that van Dijk had moved on as far back as the summer, and his absence in the Southampton team has been supremely tangible.
Without a win in their last nine games, Southampton are in a desperate rut at present.
Though their business model now unabashedly designates them a ‘selling club’, the squad available to Pellegrino is more than capable of performing far above the standards that they are already setting for themselves.
Scoring goals has been a particular concern for the Saints, with Charlie Austin their topscorer with six, while strikers Shane Long and Manolo Gabbiadini have only a mere four goals between them.
If Southampton continue to underperform as they are, it would be unsurprising to see Pellegrino’s head newly dashed atop the spike honed specifically for that lengthy list of decapitated Premier League managers.
Mid-season MVP: Oriol Romeu
With such a poor season currently hanging over their shoulders, it is intensely difficult to select a best player from Southampton’s ranks, but Romeu has quietly gone about his business in the centre of the Saints’ midfield so far this term.
With the ball, he’s made a soaring 1,197 passes, outscoring second fiddle Steven Davis’s tally of 919 comfortably, while off it, he’s made 61 successful tackles and 36 interceptions, the highest of any Southampton player in both categories.
End of season prediction: 13th, 43 points
Thus far, it has been a dejecting season for the Swans.
Currently propping up the table in 20th position, and with only 13 goals to their name (the lowest in the league), any hope that Swansea fans had when Carlos Carvalho’s introduction led to a win away at Watford in their last game of 2017 was immediately dashed as they ushered in the new year by slumping to a 2-0 defeat to Spurs on the 2nd of January.
With games against Liverpool and Arsenal on the horizon, Carvalho, and indeed all of the Liberty Stadium faithful, were no doubt thrilled to earn a point away to Newcastle last Saturday.
In all truth, Swansea haven’t looked anything like the side that Premier League fans had been used to seeing in recent years.
No longer are Swans a titillating prospect, offering the excitement of unpredictable, flowing and energetic attacking football to rival their higher tier opponents. The loss of Gylfi Sigurdsson to Everton at the start of the season has particularly hurt Swansea, and Renato Sanches, signed to replace the tenacious attacker, has failed to impress so far this season. The reprise of Wilfried Bony, too, hasn’t yielded any positive results as yet.
Mid-season MVP: Lukasz Fabianski
The Polish stopper has managed to keep six clean sheets in 22 appearances this season, and is an enormous factor in Swansea’s altogether decent goals conceded record, which, at the time of writing, stands at 35 goals, now 3 less than Everton who sit 9th in the league.
At the break, Fabianski had made 86 saves, 35 more than Arsenal’s Petr Cech and 42 more than Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois, which speaks volumes for his contribution to the team. Without Fabianski, Swansea City might have found themselves in more of a rut than the one that they currently languish in.
End of season prediction: 19th, 30 points
It’s been a mixed bag season for Spurs so far as we move into the second half of the campaign. The excitement of an unexpected achievement in winning their Champions League group has been tempered by league form that is inconsistent at best. Spurs have failed to beat any top 6 team bar Liverpool this season, and are also making a worrying habit of dropping points against the lesser sides.
While certainly in the hunt for a 4th place finish and a coveted Champions League spot, Pochettino and his players have plenty of work to do in order to make that ambition a reality. Some of Spurs’ brighter players from last season have failed to get going in a goal-scoring sense; both Dele and Eriksen are well behind their 2016-2017 Premier League scoring pace, for example. Meanwhile, head coach Pochettino has quite a bit of work to do on the game-management front; it can be argued that his team selection and unwillingness to substitute early have cost Spurs too many winnable points already.
Spurs league position as of the first week of January wasn’t terrible, and they remain within striking distance of the top four. But they’re far from their best form at the moment, and need to recover it quickly.
Mid-season MVP(s): Kane, Son
I’ll break the rules a bit here and include two players for this section. Kane is the obvious choice; his 2017 goal-scoring record was the best in the world and he’s firmly in contention to win his third straight Premier League golden boot. But I’d be remiss not to mention Son, who has shouldered a large amount of the non-Kane scoring burden for this team. Without the two of them, we’d be fighting relegation right now, which in itself should be enough of a wake-up call to their teammates.
End of season prediction: 4th, 70 points
After a number of transition seasons under different managers, Marco Silva has given Watford a more youthful look both on the touchline and on the pitch. At one point this year, Marco Silva’s men were mixing it up with the top-6 and holding a European spot. Silva spent a decent chunk of money in the transfer market this pas summer; while moves for many, including Will Hughes, Andre Carrillo, Marvin Zeegelaar, and especially young Brazilian winger Richarlison, have been hits, Silva has also whiffed on players such as Orestis Karnezis and Andre Gray.
In more recent weeks, they’ve settled into 10th place on 26 points, after collecting 15 from their first 8 games. While their position in the table puts them closer to their expected finishing spot, it also places Watford in the top spot of the relegation battle, only 5 points above relegation. Collecting 11 points since their mid-October clash with Arsenal does not bode well, however this team has played well mostly with defensive lapses to cause for dropped points. I expect the defense to shore-up for the second half, and for this team to be closer to the one from the beginning of the year, versus the one which has existed since mid-October.
There have been times this year where Watford have looked a class above the relegation scrap they currently lead. Had they not formed the habit of throwing away leads late on, they’d be in the hunt for Europe.
Mid-season MVP: Abdoulaye Doucouré
The Frenchman has returned from his loan-spell in Spain to add power, purpose and punch to the Hornets midfield.
End of Season Prediction: 11th, 45 points
West Bromwich Albion
Let’s face it, West Brom was never expected to turn heads this season with their scintillating, aesthetically pleasing football. They have survived for 7 seasons with a simple recipe: a strong defense, and defense-first mentality, combined with opportunistic scoring when possible. So you can typically bank on them to be somewhere near the top of the defensive record ranks amongst Premiership clubs that aren’t in the top 6. WBA are most successful when they’re somewhere around middle of the pack in scoring. With Tony Pulis helming the squad, this recipe was not going to change anytime soon.
The problem? The recipe has soured. Defense is still Prem quality—currently ranked 9th in the league in defensive record—but they are only head of fellow relegation struggler Swansea City in goals scored having tallied just 16 on the season. It does not help that Tony Pulis was sacked back in November. The bigger problem? The struggles have their origins prior to this season. In their last 38 Premier League match-ups, WBA have a combined 29 points; that would be good enough for relegation in every season that West Brom has participated in since their promotion in 2010.
West Bromwich has had this problem for some time and did next to nothing to correct the issue. After buying Nacer Chadli from Tottenham last year, the only new blood that has come into the squad offensively is Jay Rodriguez (who, to his credit, is a top scorer for West Brom with 3 goals). West Brom’s biggest and flashiest acquisitions from the summer transfer window all came on defense in the forms of Ahmed Hegazi (centre-back), Kieran Gibbs (left-back, free transfer from Arsenal), and Grzegorz Krychowiak (on-loan holding midfielder from PSG). If they have any chance of salvaging this season, West Brom needs to buy fire power for their offense, which may involve selling a staple such as Jonny Evans to a top-6 side for big money.
WBA had a problem and didn’t address it; they’ve since fired Tony Pulis and hired Alan Pardew, to which this team only shows remnants of what he looks for in a squad. It may be too little too late for West Brom, who sit 2 points back of a Southampton squad that hasn’t conceded many goals, and 1 behind Stoke City side who can’t possibly concede more than they have already.
Mid-season MVP: Ahmed Hegazi
Just because he was brought in to reinforce a strength West Brom already possessed does not mean Hegazi was a poor investment. The Egyptian has played the most minutes for West Brom, has a 75% pass completion percentage, and regularly wins aerial duels. Should West Brom survive, it will be because of his consistent performances. If WBA are relegated, he will have earned a move to another Premier League club.
End of Season Prediction: 20th, 29 points
West Ham United
Since sacking Slaven Bilic, West Ham have enjoyed something of a tempered renaissance under David Moyes.
With only one loss in their last six games, and with a variety of encouraging results in the last month, including a 1-0 victory against Chelsea, draws away at Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, and the 3-0 humbling of Stoke City at the Bet365 Stadium, the Hammers have climbed to 15th place in the table, and continue to march towards safety.
However, with the expectations for European qualification that were set for WHU by both the fans and the board at the start of the season, and with the high profile signings of Javier Hernandez, Joe Hart and Pablo Zabaleta in the summer transfer window, this mid-table position is nothing short of unacceptable.
Moyes has undeniably steadied the ship, but Hammers fans cannot hope for anything more than the relative mediocrity of mid-table this season.
WHU defeated Huddersfield Town 4-1 away last weekend to remain unbeaten thus far in January. With eminently winnable ties against Bournemouth, Crystal Palace, and Brighton coming up, West Ham can continue to rebuild under Moyes. However, it remains to be seen if they can fully recover from the damage done by their early season form.
Mid-season MVP: Marko Arnautovic
Arnautovic has epitomised West Ham’s renaissance with a revival of his own, scoring four vital goals in December, and opening his account for the second half of the season with another last Saturday.
At the break his shooting accuracy stood at 41%, better than that of Raheem Sterling, and he had created a respectable 4 chances.
If West Ham are to continue improving this season, they will require their unpredictable Austrian to remain firing on all cylinders.
End of season prediction: 12th, 44 points
Predicted Final Table
|1st Place (UCL)||Manchester City||100 points|
|2nd Place (UCL)||Manchester United||78 points|
|3rd Place (UCL)||Chelsea||76 points|
|4th Place (UCL)||Tottenham Hotspur||70 points|
|5th Place (UEFA)||Liverpool||68 points|
|6th Place (Poss. UEFA)||Arsenal||68 points|
|7th Place (Poss. UEFA)||Leicester City||58 points|
|8th Place||Burnley||56 points|
|9th Place||Everton||55 points|
|10th Place||Watford||46 points|
|11th Place||Crystal Palace||45 points|
|12th Place||West Ham||44 points|
|13th Place||Southampton||43 points|
|14th Place||Newcastle United||42 points|
|15th Place||Stoke City||42 points|
|16th Place||Brighton||41 points|
|17th Place||Huddersfield||40 points|
|18th Place (Relegation)||Bournemouth||39 points|
|19th Place (Relegation)||Swansea City||30 points|
|20th Place (Relegation||West Brom||29 points|
How did we do? Were we spot on or have we made a meal of it? Let us know in the comments section.
This post was contributed to by: Jack Henry Norris (Bournemouth, Manchester City, Southampton, Swansea, West Ham), Jeff Crum (Burnley, Huddersfield, Leicester City, Newcastle United, West Brom), Mike Schmidt (Brighton, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur), Aashish Murali (Manchester United), Adam Sturrock (Chelsea, Everton, Stoke City), Mario Vontey (Arsenal), Phil Constable (Crystal Palace, Watford)