With all 20 teams in the Premier League having played the same number of games (21) it seems like a good time to assess how things stand for each club as the season heads into its second half. Things are delicately poised at the top this season with only 2 points separating the top 3 and four additional teams battling for the final Champions League spot. Things are even tighter at the bottom, with just 6 points separating the 11th from 20th.
Here’s my thoughts on the top half of the table:
Arsenal (1st, 48 points)
It’s hard to believe how Arsenal’s season has gone after their embarrassing opening day defeat to Aston Villa, but since then, things have turned around. The signing of Mezut Ozil from Real Madrid undoubtedly breathed life to in a stagnating squad and provided the quality of delivery that was lacking previously. This new cutting edge coupled with the vastly improved Olivier Giroud up front has allowed Arsenal to mount a serious title challenge. Despite injuries to key players Alex Oxlade-Chamberlian and Theo Walcott they have managed to continue their good form thanks to the turnaround in Aaron Ramsey’s fortunes. The Welshman just couldn’t stop scoring in October and November and at the moment there is no reason why Arsenal can maintain their title challenge right to the end.
Best Player so far: Aaron Ramsey
Manchester City (2nd, 47 points)
It’s been a season of two halves so far for Manuel Pellegrini’s star studded squad – 10 wins from 10 at home but just 17 points from 11 games on the road. The destruction of Tottenham and United at home has been offset by damning defeats away to Cardiff, Aston Villa and Sunderland. The pure amount of goals scored by this City side has been staggering, the early season form shown by Aguero was struck down by injury, but Negredo has taken up the baton superbly in the last month. Yaya Touré has also continued to marauds his way around the Etihad and dominates games physically and technically.
Best Player so far: Yaya Touré
Chelsea (3rd, 46 points)
When Mourinho returned to Stamford Bridge everybody expected fireworks and drama all season long, but in fact he’s come in and done exactly what he did before. He’s made Chelsea hard to beat and has gone largely under the radar in reaching 3rd place – just 2 points of the top. Chelsea have conceded just 19 goals so far this season and their defensive solidity is due to a settled back four of Terry, Ivanovic, Cole and Cahill. John Terry, in particular seems to have put the recent controversies behind him and has started every premier league game so far this seasons for the Blues. Mourinho’s tactic of shutting up shop against the big boys and then cashing in against the rest has paid dividends so far – but will it be the same come May?
Best Player so far: John Terry
Liverpool (4th, 42 points)
Brendan Rogers’ project appears to be coming together, he has pleaded for patience time and time again and the fans finally seem to be getting their reward. A sustained title challenge appears to be beyond them after an inconsistent December but finishing in a champions league spot can be seen as progress after the last three seasons. Liverpool’s frontline has been lead immaculately by Luis Suarez; the Uruguayan star has scored 22 goals in just 16 league games this season after serving the remainder of his 10-game ban. In combination with Daniel Sturridge, Suarez has almost single-handedly dragged Liverpool up the table. Simon Mignolet has also enjoyed a good four months after signing from Sunderland and has been quietly consistent during the campaign so far.
Best Player so far: Luis Suarez
Everton (5th, 41 points)
After David Moyes’ departure many had expected Everton to slip back into mid table obscurity, but in fact Moyes leaving has allowed the Toffees to play a more attacking brand of football and this has been masterminded by Roberto Martinez. The summer signings of Barry, Lukaku and McCarthy were inspired decisions and all three have won games for Everton this season. Alongside Chelsea and Arsenal, Everton have the best defensive record in the league this season and that is down to the continuing brilliance of Baines, Jagielka and Distin. But the emergence of new talents Ross Barkely and Seasmus Coleman will be particularly pleasing for Martinez and offers hope for the future should Everton have real ambitions of Champions League football.
Best Player so far: Gareth Barry
Tottenham (6th, 40 points)
It’s amazing how Tottenham’s season has been viewed as a disaster and Liverpool’s as a title challenge, yet just 2 points separates the sides after 21 games. In truth, it is the manner of the defeats which has caused the most anger, 6-0 to Man City and 5-0 to Liverpool being particular low points and ultimately costing Andre Villas-Boas his job. Tim Sherwood appears to have steadied the ship and his first job should be settling on a consistent first XI and trimming the bloated squad.
Best Player so far: Paulinho
Manchester United (7th, 37 points)
Undoubtedly a disappointing season so far for United, 7th place and 11 points off leaders Arsenal is not what David Moyes would want heading into a tough trip to Stamford Bridge. The failure of Fellaini alongside an inexperienced and lightweight midfield has made United extremely vulnerable this season. Usually so resolute at home, they have suffered defeats to West Brom, Everton and Newcastle at Old Trafford and Moyes needs to sort this out before United can mount a serious challenge for a champions league place.
Best Player so far: Wayne Rooney
Newcastle (8th, 33 points)
A roller-coaster campaign for the magpies so far this season, humbled by Man City on the opening weekend before going on a run of 1 defeat in 9 games. They’ve struggled so far in the new year with three straight defeats but manager Alan Pardew will still be pleased to see his side in 8th at this stage of the season. Loic Remy appears to finally be fulfilling the promise he showed in France before his struggles at QPR and this, alongside the good form of Yohan Cabaye, could help Newcastle sustain their position as leaders of the ‘chasing pack’
Best Player so far: Loic Remy
Southampton (9th, 30 points)
A season very similar to Newcastle in that they have struggled to replicate form shown in October and November but still find themselves in a great position at the halfway stage. Their production of England players Jay Rodriguez, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert is testament to their good form and style of play this season. Manger Mauricio Pochettino has reaffirmed his commitment to the Saints after the departure of chief executive Nicola Cortese and this is good news for the fans as by all accounts many of Southampton’s star players are extremely loyal to the Argentinian.
Best Player so far: Adam Lallana
Hull (10th, 23 points)
The first of the clubs that are looking down the table rather than up. Although 10th sounds like a great start to their first season back in the premier league, Hull sit just 5 points above the relegation zone. Steve Bruce’s summer signings from Tottenham, Jake Livermore and Tom Huddlestone have anchored the midfield well and their defence has been sturdy enough. However goals have been a real problem and it will be interesting to see if new signings Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long can brings some goals to the Kassam and pull Hull clear of the relegation dogfight.
Best Player so far: Tom Huddlestone