No fans, the most congested fixture list ever and one of the closest title races seen in recent years. As the season has reached just over the halfway mark (ignoring Aston Villa with their postponements and games in hand) this article is going to look at the season so far. Which teams are in contention, the top 4 race, the relegation battle and the surprises along the way.
Table courtesy of BBC Sport
THE TITLE RACE AND THE TOP 4
With how unpredictable the season has been so far you could include up to five teams looking at challenging for the league, with a case being even being made for Everton, who find themselves with one or two games in hand over the top five.
At the top, Manchester United have surprised many this season. With many calling for Ole Gunnar Solskjær to be sacked early in the season after a dismal start saw them in the bottom half of the table, United found themselves outside the top 4 after 12 games. Defeats to Crystal Palace on the opening day and a heavy 6-1 defeat to Tottenham at Old Trafford made for grim viewing for the red devils, fast forward from matchday 12 to now United find themselves just a point off top, after noisy neighbours Manchester City won their game in hand at West Brom. Many a fan would have laughed, even United fans, if you’d have said Solskjær and co would’ve been battling it out for the title.
United’s biggest rivals Manchester City are still looking like the team to beat. It’s been almost surprising how quiet City are going about their business in the league, with five straight wins and the best form in the league, City find themselves top at the halfway point. Perhaps the reason why City have been less spoken about is the surprise of defending champions Liverpool, no win in the last five for Liverpool sees them in 4th facing a huge match against 5th place Spurs this coming week. Missing Van Dijk and Joe Gomez due to serious injuries and an ever injured Joel Matip has seen Liverpool struggle defensively but perhaps more of a worry is their lack of goals from their famous attack. After humiliating Crystal Palace 7-0 at Selhurst Park, Liverpool have scored just once in the five games after, that coming in a 1-1 versus relegation contender West Brom. It would be foolish to think Klopp and his Liverpool side are out of the title race, with both Van Dijk and Joe Gomez hoping to feature again this season, but will it come too late?
Van Dijk is a huge loss for Liverpool
Another team quietly having an impressive season is Leicester, just three points behind top of the league and four points ahead of 5th place Liverpool. Rodgers and Leicester are proving to be a serious contender for the league. With one of the best and most well-balanced midfields in ball-winner Ndidi , deep playmaker Tielemans and forward-thinking Maddison; ever reliable Jamie Vardy leading the line with a combination of youth and experience in all other areas, Evans and Fofana in defence or Harvey Barnes and Mark Albrighton out wide for example; Brendan Rodgers is showing what an excellent coach he is and has his Foxes firing on all cylinders this season it seems.
Perhaps not in the title race, but certainly in the top 4 race are Jose’s Tottenham and Ancelotti’s Everton. Mourinho’s men face Liverpool this week and have a game in hand over Liverpool, which with positive results in both would put them in a serious position for top 4 and perhaps set their heights higher, but I’m going to keep it short on Tottenham as a full piece is coming soon! Everton were high flyers at the start of the season, with superstar James Rodriguez taking to the Premier League like a duck to water and smart signings Allan from Napoli and Doucoure from Watford adding a bite to midfield, results have fallen off for Everton who finds themselves in 7th but with two games in hand over rivals Liverpool they could leapfrog them and fire themselves into the top 4.
With the way the season is shaping up and the unpredictable nature of this season, the top 4 race could include anyone in the top half! Fingers crossed the second half of the season is as exciting and crazy as the first.
Surprisingly the bottom of the table seems more straightforward than the top. Sheffield United after such an impressive Premier League debut have found themselves probably where many thought they would last season, rooted to the bottom with just five points after their opening 19 games. The Blades and Wilder look nailed on to be relegated but if the unthinkable happens, this is the season of the unthinkable, it will be the greatest escape of all time in the Premier League.
Can Chris Wilder perform a miracle?
Elsewhere things are slightly more interesting with West Brom and Fulham occupying the other two relegation spots, both sides have picked up some impressive results recently, Sam Allardyce picking up 3 points against reigning champions Liverpool and Fulham an impressive point away at Tottenham. Impressive performances from both will have Brighton, Newcastle and Burnley all looking over their shoulders.
Perhaps the most fearful of the three mentioned above is Newcastle, with a toxic owner and clueless manager, Newcastle are winless in 9 and have failed to score in their last 7 in all competitions. Even if they were to sack Steve Bruce it looks like a poisoned chalice at the Toon and favourite to take over being Mark Hughes will hardly fill the Newcastle faithful with any hope.
SURPRISES OF THE SEASON
For good and bad this season has been as chaotic as ever and of course, that throws up surprises along the way.
One positive this season has been the flying Aston Villa, fighting for top 4, playing great football, beating Liverpool 7-2 and local lad Jack Grealish being one of the best players in the league, there won’t be a happier man in Birmingham than Dean Smith. With some brilliant transfers which include, Ollie Watkins, Ross Barkely and Emiliano Martinez, the Villains have proven to many that on their day they can compete with the very best.
Jack Grealish has been one of the standout players this season
Perhaps the biggest surprise this season is super spenders Chelsea, after a summer that saw them spend 72 million on Kai Havertz, 47 million on Timo Werner and 45 million on Ben Chilwell, along with Edouard Mendy, Hakim Ziyech and the free transfer of veteran Thiago Silva. With many tipping Chelsea to be one of the favourites for the league after their summer things have not transpired for the Blues. Chelsea find themselves in 10th, 12 points from league leaders Manchester City. With no cohesion and lack of identity in their play, coincided with misfiring Timo Werner and a very underwhelming Havertz, Chelsea have not lived up to expectations this season at all, which has seen club legend Frank Lampard relieved of his role as manager after just 18 months. This is perhaps unsurprising for a cutthroat club like Chelsea, but the nature of the sacking after a FA Cup victory against Luton and it being a beloved Chelsea hero will sting particularly hard for the Chelsea faithful.
The season so far has given drama, excitement and surprises in droves, hopefully the rest of the season can continue in the same fashion!