The Premier League Half Way Report

If you’re familiar with my previous Premier League update (links here, here and here), unlikely, but it was worth a shot, you will know of my complete contempt for the Premiership’s overarching ethos of greed is good, the condescending way it treats its fans, and for the way social media, through its perpetual prism of short termism, has warped the way we consume and (over) react to football and football results.

Still, underneath that ugly facade football is still football, and this year’s Premier League, at both ends, looks to be the tightest in years. At this point it’s nigh on impossible to decipher who’ll win the league, who’ll win that fourth place, ‘lots of revenue, good job’ trophy and who’ll be relegated.

What is becoming clearer is which team belongs in each category. Well, in my opinion, anyway.

This update will be sleeker and to the point – don’t look so relieved! As ever my preseason predictions will be on display for you to mock viciously, as well as my revised prediction and my previously revised prediction at the quarter way point review, just to show you how fair weather and hypocritical I am. It’s behaviour reminiscent of a good portion of Tottenham’s twitter followers after an embarrassingly heavy defeat.

The Relegation Candidates (the more the merrier edition):

SUNDERLAND

Current League Position: 20th

Pre-season Prediction: 15th

Quarter Way Point Prediction: 18th

Revised Prediction: 20th

Things haven’t significantly improved since Poyet’s arrival, as they’ve only picked up thirteen points from the fifteen games he’s been in charge. This is better than the historically catastrophic form they showed under Di Canio, but it’s still relegation form nonetheless.

Which leads me to believe they were doomed, regardless of who they appointed. This squad is a ghastly mixture of the executers of Martin O’Neill’s worst tactical paradigms and Di Canio’s insipid megalomania.

They need signings, lots of them, starting in defence – where they are terrible – the worst in the division. Getting someone better than the incompetent liability that is Lee Cattermole to operate as the midfield pivot would be good too. It’s no surprise that Sunderland are bottom when Seb Larsson and Cattermole are running the midfield, both are woeful players. Poyet could help himself and Sunderland by binning them now, and he does have alternatives.

It’s a shame for Sunderland fans of course, but Ellis Short gets what he deserves for hiring dull mediocres like Martin O’Neill and nutters like Di Canio and giving them carte blanche to waste millions. Di Canio brought in fourteen new players this summer. Short then sacks Di Canio after five games and with the transfer window shut. Not a particularly clever sequence of events. Like all ill-advised or inept chairmen you suspect he’s searching for a solution that probably isn’t there and never was.

That they’re not completely out of the race for survival is a miracle, expecting another miracle, actually surviving, is something else entirely.

CRYSTAL PALACE

Current League Position: 18th

Pre-season Prediction: 20th

Quarter Way Point Prediction: 20th

Revised Prediction: 19th

Yes, they hired Tony ‘fucking’ Pulis, and yes they’re still absolutely fucking woeful. Would never have guessed.

As you can see they’re not the only borderline incompetent side propping up this absolutely mediocre division. Given their paucity of talent (and money) they should be bottom, that they aren’t speaks volumes – and, to clarify, not in a good way about them. Maybe they’ll even survive?

And if they do, will I change my mind about Pulis? Will I fuck.

WEST HAM UNITED

Current League Position: 19th

Pre-season Prediction: 11th

Quarter Way Point Prediction: 11th

Revised Prediction: 18th

At the time of writing West Ham sit in nineteenth place, having been knocked out of the FA cup by Nottingham Forest, losing 5-0, and the league cup, losing the first leg of the semi-final 6-0 to Manchester City. Sam Allardyce decided to play a weakened side in the FA Cup game. Why? To prioritise, I suppose, but when you’re struggling the last thing you need is to effectively concede defeat. It certainly worked out well.

Will Allardyce survive by the time I publish this rubbish? Just know this – he’ll be sacked minutes after I do. Of course he will be.

If he does survive, as a West Ham fan rightly pointed out on Twitter ‘if Big Sam truly is the master of PL survival, let’s see it, as he has put us there’.

And he’s put West Ham there by building a functional side without enough flair, creativity or goals in it. A past his meridian Joe Cole isn’t enough. Downing is average. I like Matt Jarvis, he’s a decent winger, but he doesn’t score many, and given West Ham are playing Maiga up front just now, it renders his crosses useless.

This is another side that needs goals, fast. Maybe Colin Wanker was right? Ravel Morrison can’t return soon enough. It doesn’t help that one of their top scorers is Kevin Nolan, and that he got himself sent off twice over the Christmas period for two petulant swipes at opponents. Is Andy Carroll the answer? He would provide a reference point for Big Sam ball, but his strike rate over the last four seasons isn’t impressive – a goal every 254 minutes.

West Ham need something to change, and if that means sacking Allardyce and taking a chance on a lunatic like Di Canio, or a chancer like trader ‘Arry and bringing in six or seven on loan, then so be it. They’re so boring it’s demoralising.

Case in point – bringing in the awful Roger Johnson on loan seemed like a cry for help, but at this rate the only ones crying will be West Ham fans in May.

NORWICH CITY

Current League Position: 15th

Pre-season Prediction: 17th

Quarter Way Point Prediction: 17th

Revised Prediction: 17th

Essentially harmless, except to themselves when the goals start to dry up. Perhaps I should give Chris Hughton and his ‘Colin Wanker fink’ more credit, yes they’re poor defensively, but so are a lot of other sides. Hughton decided to prioritise the attack, bringing in LeRoy Fer, Ricky Van Wolfswinkel and Gary Hooper in the summer. They’ve combined to score more than half of Norwich’s goals so far. So credit where credit’s due. That’s worked, sort of, they’re fifteenth, three points above the relegation places.

Improving the defence in January, joint second worst for goals conceded, would ensure survival.

Even if they don’t I won’t change my mind, they’ll survive, but by default.

CARDIFF CITY

Current League Position: 17th

Pre-season Prediction: 18th

Quarter Way Point Prediction: 15th

Revised Prediction: 16th

To quote Sam Beckett (no, not the shitty existentialist Sam Beckett, the one from Quantum Leap) – ‘Oh boy’. Vincent Tan looks like a preposterous local gangster attempting to gain respectability and financial legality by buying a Premier League football club. Now, where have we seen that before? As a wannabe tyrannical sort he’s a strange cross between the Kim Jong-Il puppet in ‘Team America: World Police’ and the micro-dicked triad bloke out of that crappy Hangover movie. He’s fantastic, unless he owns your club.

Shamelessly pissing about with the club’s colours is one thing, and even then they only swapped the away kit and home kits over. But the treatment of MacKay was cringeworthy to watch, as a Liverpool fan it reminded me of how Rafa Benitez was appallingly treated by Hicks and Gillett when they were in charge. This was worse, as Tan was brazen in his contempt for MacKay. He made no attempt to hide it, offering him the demeaning choice of being sacked or resigning. Which, in isolation, was completely stupid, why on earth would MacKay eschew a payoff when he knows you want to sack him?

The nightmare scenario was seeing Tan hire someone as equally contemptuous and clueless as he is – Roy Hodgson, perhaps? It might be time to revise how bad an owner you and I believe Mike Ashley to be. Fittingly both Tan and Ashley wear replica shirts at their clubs games, we haven’t seen Tan graduating to downing a pint in one yet, but there’s time. Oh yes.

The devil in me wanted Tan to take over as manager, and you suspect he really wanted to. Rubber necking only holds its appeal for a short period of time before your skin starts to crawl and you feel grubby for allowing your fascination to wallow in petty scahdenfreude. Still, it was mildly disappointing when he went for a completely rational choice in Ole Solskjaer.

Cardiff will need to score more goals to ensure survival. Colin Wanker agrees, again. In truth they could do with Solakjaer getting his boots on. Even now I’d bet he’s better than all of their strikers.

I think they’ll survive, but will that make up for the volatility and embarrassment of the Vincent Tan experience?

FULHAM

Current League Position: 16th

Pre-season Prediction: 13th

Quarter Way Point Prediction: 12th

Revised Prediction: 15th

We’ll see if this managerial change was justified. I suspect it will be. What we can say is that this team was regressing under Martin Jol, whether that was permanent we’ll never find out. This was easily the poorest side to visit Anfield this season. No effort, no organisation, absolutely no hope of getting points.

I’m looking forward to finding out if Rene Meulensteen’s highly rated abilities as a coach will translate into management. At least, at least he’s not another one of those dull retreads from the managerial merry-go-round. So credit to Fulham for that. They did however get one of these mediocres to be the club’s Technical Director. Don’t worry Fulham fans, Meulensteen has the guiding influence of Alan Curbishley to help him (translation, the new owner of Fulham is winging it big time). Anyway, let’s not knock it, the early results suggest improvement, they’ve picked up eight points from their last six games. If that carries on they’ll survive easily.

Once again I’m going to repent in my hatred of everything Colin Wanker and state that this is a side with ‘lots of dat dem goals innit’. Potentially, of course. I’m sticking with Berbatov, who’s clearly the best striker at any of the clubs in this section. It really is that simple, and class should win out.

Even if they survive you wonder what the future holds for Fulham, it’s one of the oldest squads in the league, and will the investment be there for Meulensteen and Curbishley to find good young talent? Nowadays it costs, and Fulham have been treading water on aging castoffs and Bosmans for too long now, ultimately there’ll only be one outcome if that philosophy/restriction doesn’t change.

ASTON VILLA

Current League Position: 11th

Pre-season Prediction: 14th

Quarter Way Point Prediction: 14th

Revised Prediction: 14th

As I wrote here, what I expected to happen next season without Benteke (after he’d left) is actually happening now. In possession this is one of the least creative sides in the division. This an awful, predictable, functional, unambitious cowardly counter attacking side (they do that badly too), who, you guessed it, was recently managed by Martin O’Neill. They’ve been floundering ever since, fancy that? Their best forward ball is to Benteke’s chest. They’re basically a marginally better version of West Ham, because they still have Benteke.

At the risk of repeating myself, like everyone else in this section, they’re a woeful side who may not be woeful enough to be relegated.

That there are so many of these clubs, who are two or three injuries or mindless decisions by mediocres (managers or chairmen) away from a precipitous drop down the league, just emphasises the preposterousness of the still used proclamation that the Premier League is the best and most popular league in the world. It is the most popular, but not because it’s the best, that’s because people have no taste whatsoever. Marketing catchphrases, now based entirely on the legacy of the beginning of the TV football boom, will only go so far before people finally get bored, and they will with this ‘product’, because I am. I can’t bring myself to watch any of the games between most of these clubs. Nobody wants to watch an inferior ‘product’ :rolleyes.

This brings my solution into play – contraction. Yes, I’m banging that drum again.

Fans want to see Arsenal play Manchester City, or Liverpool play Manchester United, or decent footballing sides like Swansea take on an Everton or Spurs. What people don’t want to watch is Stoke City play Aston Villa. That’s agony. So is betting on any of these games between these crappy sides.

There are ways of cutting the number of teams in the league without cutting the number of games. Why not get creative? Have a fourteen team league, which plays each other home and away (26 games). After those 26 games the top seven plays each other home and away (12 games) to decide the European places, while the bottom seven battle it out to decide which two will get relegated. That means more big games, and crucially no reduction in games, which is essential for gambling purposes and the cuntish greed is good ethos which underpins this league and its many dependent millionaires and billionaires.

Needless to say I’d favour a system of this sort, because the chances are high it would rid us of this current eyesore incarnation of Aston Villa.

HULL CITY

Current League Position: 10th

Pre-season Prediction: 20th

Quarter Way Point Prediction: 19th

Revised Prediction: 13th

Another abomination of a side who have benefitted due to the Premier League’s steady decline in talent level over the past decade. This isn’t a Premier League calibre squad, unless you want to revise your expectations downwards? Thought not.

I’m calling it now, they’ll survive this season (too many points on the board), then be relegated next season.

Will Steve Bruce be around to see (oversee?) the end of that relegation campaign? Of course he won’t, don’t be daft.

WEST BROMWICH ALBION

Current League Position: 14th

Pre-season Prediction: 10th

Quarter Way Point Prediction: 10th

Revised Prediction: 12th

The other of the two sides whose season has fallen off a cliff, and who have decided changing the manager is the answer.

West Brom’s form over the last calendar year, only seven wins, did for Steve Clarke, a big reason for that, other than the usual chairman impatience was their awful defence. There are two ways to look at this, either Clarke, who has a good reputation as a defensive coach, was vastly overachieving during the first half of last season, considering what he had to work with, or he was underachieving during the last twelve months. That Gareth McAuley and Jonas Olsson were primarily involved leads me to suspect the former. Will the chairman take some of the flack for refusing to sanction funds so they could be improved upon? If there’s any criticism to be made of Clarke, it’s that he didn’t utilise the loan market.

Personally I think they overachieved last season and it’s skewed expectations this season, which, when they weren’t met, lead to a bit of panic. Their goal difference -4 suggests they’ve been slightly unlucky, as have Swansea for that matter. I thought West Brom had learned from sacking Roberto Di Matteo for Roy Hodgson. In the short term the board could claim it worked as they survived, but where did it take the club in the long term?

This squad has enough to stay up. They certainly will if the new boss favours Saido Berahino and Matej Vydra (Scrabble score – 26) over shitty Shane Long and the poor man’s Emile Heskey (translation – Victor Anichibe).

So if you’re counting, that’s nine teams with a genuine shot at relegation. That’s almost half the bloody league!

The Premier League, truly the best league in the world.

Midtable mediocrity:

STOKE CITY

Current League Position: 12th

Pre-season Prediction: 16th

Quarter Way Point Prediction: 16th

Revised Prediction: 11th

Meh. Whatever.

SWANSEA CITY

Current League Position: 13th

Pre-season Prediction: 7th

Quarter Way Point Prediction: 9th

Revised Prediction: 10th

Clearly the squad isn’t strong enough to cope on two fronts, especially without Michu.

Shevley and Bony have been good additions, with Bony now scoring, but if Swansea are going to move up a level they need several more quality additons. I watched their FA cup game against Manchester United and I’d never heard of a couple of the subs they brought on. Maybe this is my ignorance driven by a lack of interest in Swansea City, or maybe they’re just irrelevant squad players. I’m sticking with my initial impression, that it wasn’t a good sign for Swansea’s ability to advance in Europe and maintain a top half finish in the league.

There’s not a whole lot to add here, other than them being the club who could end the David Moyes era (technically it would be true, but it’s not really long enough to be considered an era in my book) at Manchester United. They booted them out of the FA cup, and if they beat them in the league this coming weekend, that could see the end of Moyes.

At least they’d be able to say it was them instead of Cardiff. Which would sum up their season so far.

Europa League Scramblers:

SOUTHAMPTON

Current League Position: 9th

Pre-season Prediction: 9th

Quarter Way Point Prediction: 7th

Revised Prediction: 9th

Reality has perhaps bitten now. Organisation can only carry you so far. Eventually you need talent, and Southampton don’t quite have enough yet to challenge as they’d like.

When it comes to mid sized clubs who are attempting to be ambitious and build a side, they always have a small window in which to progress at a rate quick enough which sees them add talent without losing what they do have. The vultures will inevitably hover for Luke Shaw, Clyne, Rodriguez and Lallana, they are already in truth. It would be nice to see Southampton stand firm, when too often we see smaller clubs capitulate all too easily when one the big clubs, all of them owned by Oligarchs and stock markets racketeers, come calling, thinking it’s Super Market sweep, while they rush in Dale Winton fashion, in a Dale Winton suit, with Dale Winton spray on tan, to the check-out and put it on the plastic.

Sadly though money talks, and players think it’s their god given right to play Champions League football rather than helping their club earn it, even if the side they’re likely joining has little chance of winning it.

NEWCASTLE UNITED

Current League Position: 8th

Pre-season Prediction: 12th

Quarter Way Point Prediction: 13th

Revised Prediction: 8th

I’ll stand by what I previously said about Joe Kinnear, Mike Ashley and Alan Pardew, as none of them were responsible for assembling this squad.

I will give credit to Pardew for getting Newcastle into European contention. He may be the epitome of a middle manager, a lucky barrow boy, but if you can’t be good, be lucky.

I think they’ll fall just short of a top six finish, regardless of whether they’re able to retain Yohan Cabaye or not. Keeping Loic Remy beyond this season would be a good bit of business.

It’s eminently possible that Newcastle are the defacto yo-yo club within the Premier League. It’s a developing phenomenon, only in my own mind, but still. One year they challenge for European places, the next they’re a fringe relegation contender. Never a dull moment for Newcastle United. Oh and at last count there’s still seven years left on that contract. What’s Mike Ashley doing right now? Down the pub? Oh look, Joe Kinnear’s with him and he’s just fallen off the bar stool, Mike Ashley’s just pissed himself laughing. Buuuuuurrrrrrpppppp. Lock up your horses.

Fourth Place Contenders:

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR

Current League Position: 6th

Pre-season Prediction: 6th

Quarter Way Point Prediction: 6th

Revised Prediction: 7th

The accusations are plentiful. The best one so far, to quote (loosely paraphrase to be more accurate) the brilliant Charlie Brooker – Tim Sherwood is like a dog at the controls of a Helicopter. In fact that’s harsh on the dog. A Lab would do a much better job of preparing any Spurs side for a game by the virtue of not being able to communicate ideas of any sort.

Sherwood’s decision to go 4-4-2 and ‘get at’ the opposition and have his team ‘funnelling’ up and down the pitch has had mixed results so far. Against midtable or David Moyes managed sides it’ll probably produce good results, against better sides it’ll be exposed. Which puts them in exactly the same position they were in under Andre Villas-Boas, albeit in a more exciting guise, which Spurs fans expect, or some such condescending, clichéd drivel.

Could they finish top four? Possible, but that means you think Tim Sherwood is a better manager than Brendan Rodgers or Roberto Martinez. Also they simply don’t score enough. Yes, their goal difference is skewed by the heavy defeats to Man City (6-0) and Liverpool (5-0) but winning games by one goal (nine so far) leaves little margin for error. It could carry on of course, it has over half a season, why not another half? They’ve been incredibly fortunate so far and it still doesn’t see them sitting in fourth place.

On a more serious note this is a bit of a mess punctuated by Erik Lamela’s ostracisation to the tune of £30m – he’s been made available for transfer allegedly, an embarrassing waste of talent and likely money as his value has cratered – Franco Baldini’s departure and Daniel Levy’s selective impatience. He’s very patient when it comes to negotiating large outgoing transfers – Berbatov, Modric and Bale to name three. Never mind that each of those transfers hurt Spurs’ ability to compete the following season, but, yeah, loadsa money! When will people stop kissing Levy’s ring, calling him a master negotiator and focus on the abundant evidence that he’s a bad chairman who knows nothing about football?

EVERTON

Current League Position: 5th

Pre-season Prediction: 8th

Quarter Way Point Prediction: 8th

Revised Prediction: 6th

I’m not one for individual awards, but Bobby Martinez has to be the manager of the year thus far. For the first time since the eighties Everton play football that’s worth watching. He duped Middling Moyes into paying £27m for an afroed lemon. He then signed the solid and quite frankly superior James McCarthy, got the best out of Barkley’s considerable talents, where Moyes (again) could not. Getting Deulofeu and Lukaku on loan were inspired moves, though in Lukaku’s case that was aided by Chelsea being completely daft.

The same long term question remains however, what happens next season? Lukaku won’t be back, Chelsea are daft, but not that daft. Deulofeu probably has a future as a Barca squad player. Can Everton resist the inevitable overtures for Barkley? For Barkley’s sake let’s hope so. This isn’t a young squad, perhaps cashing in on Baines wouldn’t be a bad idea – you know Disco Dave wants him and is desperate – thus alleviating the pressure to sell Barkley, at least in the short term. However, with Billy-Boy still in charge, money on the table will dictate.

But those questions can wait as Evertonians should enjoy challenging (and they’ll qualify) for a European place while being managed by an actual manager. And why not? They’ve waited through a decade of suffering.

MANCHESTER UNITED

Current League Position: 7th

Pre-season Prediction: 3rd

Quarter Way Point Prediction: 5th

Revised Prediction: 5th

It seems like an age ago, but remember, this team won the league last season. They’re the defending league champions. It’s hard to say whether this is the worst title defence in recent times, but it’s one of them.

Now that the January window is open, will Moyes finally have a proper go at fixing the midfield? Will he be allowed to? Will he still be in charge before the end of the month? I tried my best not to laugh, honest. His failure in the summer transfer market looms large. Yes, United have other problems, he (Moyes) and his inability to inspire or evolve his tactical concepts to suit the club and players he has being one of them. Irrespective of that bigger issue the lack of quality in midfield is an area of immediate concern that could be rectified with the right signing(s), the constant by-passing of it on the other hand…

Talk of signing Koke from Atletico (and for the last time it’s Atletico without a fucking H) Madrid seems like pie in the sky given his exorbitant release fee clause and Atletico’s (again no H) status as a contender at home and in Europe. Getting Ander Herrera from Athletic (Not Athletico) Bilbao would be more realistic. United know what they’ll need to pay. Now, now, don’t snigger. Is he the solution for United? I don’t know, what I do know is that United need something better than Tom Cleverley and Fellaini. Is it any surprise that United’s best run of league results coincided with Fellaini being out injured? That’s £50m United have spent on Fellaini and Anderson while Paul Pogba and Ravel Morrison were allowed to leave for next to nothing. Eventually poor decisions accumulate and hurt you.

Things are hard for Moyes. They’ve lost four of their last six home games with discouragingly meek displays. The fans are starting to turn. He and United could do without their brains being filled with unfounded perceptions that always arrive when new managers at big clubs start to struggle. Van Persie reportedly isn’t happy with the training methods and is appropriately out injured. Rooney who’s easily been United’s best player this season, has a contract that’s running down, is allegedly only playing for a new one and will go to whoever the highest bidder is. Even if these things aren’t true poor results often provide a breeding ground for speculation to alter perception. To loosely quote Alan Bennett – once you’re in the grip of ideology, that’s it, as ideology tends to drive out thought.

These are petty distractions Moyes could do without. In truth this side could still finish in fourth and win the League cup. Which, considering the start, would be an acceptable season. The question is whether privately Moyes, and his players, believe this is possible, given how mediocre they’ve been this season. There are rumblings that the players are unconvinced by Moyes and his methods. What we do know is that United have had less possession of the ball in midfield compared to last season. In today’s game, even in the Premier League, most of the game is played in the middle third, especially with more teams adopting three man midfields. United are by-passing this area too often and are using too much of the ball out wide on the half way line. Even sans Michael Carrick United’s midfield is still vastly superior compared with most others, and the quickest route to goal is through the middle, on the deck, of course. So why aren’t they doing that?

Long term I have no idea how this will play out – well, I tell a lie, it’ll involve Moyes being sacked at some point. In the short term will it cost United ‘their’ place in the top four?

There’s a decent chance of that I’d say. The good news is that one season outside of the Champions League wouldn’t be fatal, providing Moyes is binned. Perhaps they’ll look to Everton for their next manager again? They should (sorry Evertonians) and no, I won’t be so cruel to suggest that Moyes returns to Goodison, you’ve experienced what it’s like to have a proper manager so you’ll want another.

The Glazer sons, or as I like to call them, the Three Stooges, would, I’m sure, like to avoid a scenario where they have weigh the pain of giving a whopping payoff to Moyes (and his backroom team) against the potential cost of allowing him remain and possibly cement their decline. Their stock market value has already taken a serious hit, and that’s only after six months. With each defeat the Glazers are paying closer attention to this, no doubt. A look up the M62 should tell them of how quickly things can slide, speaking of which…

Title Contenders (but I’m still not convinced):

LIVERPOOL

Current League Position: 4th

Pre-season Prediction: 5th

Quarter Way Point Prediction: 4th

Revised Prediction: 4th

Liverpool are outsiders for the title in the sense that they lack the depth of Chelsea and Manchester City and of Arsenal’s abundance of inventive midfield options. But they do have the league’s best player, clearly, unequivocally, debate over. Is that enough for them to win the league? Probably not, but given the three teams ahead of them aren’t significantly better, we can’t rule it out. Keeping their main men fit will be the key. Getting Coutinho, Suarez and Sturridge on the pitch together in the second half of the season for more than the 138 minutes they were able to play together in the first half of the season would help. Aside from a trip to Old Trafford (hardly a daunting prospect at the moment) they also play all of the other top sides at home in the second half of the season, which again is no guarantee of anything, but it is an advantage.

It would help Rodgers and Liverpool if he was able to select a settled backline. With Agger, Sakho and Enrique all missing at various points this season it’s been chop and change. Liverpool’s defensive record isn’t bad, but there’s scope for improvement here, thankfully defence, particularly central defence, is the one area where Liverpool have depth.

If everyone’s fully fit it would be nice to see the ordinary Martin Skrtel dumped in favour of an Agger and Sakho pairing. Only one problem, they’re both left footed, and what’s not been tried before cannot be tried at Liverpool post 1991, according to the many spineless unimaginative twats who sadly follow the club. Is Brendan one of them? His penchant for ambition gives me hope that he won’t capitulate to misnomers and or the fear of the unproven and unknown.

There is of course the January market, which Liverpool should utilise. The squad could use another central midfielder, winger and striker for the run in. Getting them may not dramatically improve their chances, but it would help.

I think we’re better than Spurs, United and Everton but not quite as good as those above. So I’ll put us here for now, with the caveat that if Suarez and Sturridge continue as they have done…well, I can dream. After the last six years it’s good to be relevant again.

Title Contenders (more convinced, but not happy about that fact):

ARSENAL

Current League Position: 1st

Pre-season Prediction: 4th

Quarter Way Point Prediction: 3rd

Revised Prediction: 3rd

The main concern here is squad depth, and lingering like one of your Uncle’s stoic static stale Sunday (hey alliteration) post roast dinner farts is the knowledge that in recent years their season has imploded at the worst possible time. Until they stop doing that the spectre of collapse will hang over them.

I do have more confidence in this season’s Arsenal side, though for no discernable reason. Call it a hunch?

What they don’t lack is creative skillful midfield players, in fact you could make the case they’ve got too many of them. Too often this season we’ve seen Wilshere, Ozil, Rosicky or Ramsey shoehorned into other roles to which they aren’t suited.

Walcott being out long term has seen them slip down to third here as he’s one of the few midfielders/strikers they have who likes to run in behind. Variety is the spice of life and all that.

The Diego Costa rumours abound but I don’t expect Wenger to make a major signing in January. I can just picture him lying back in a recliner, exhausted, defeated almost, after the Ozil deal was completed, before longingly looking at the 18 year old malt sitting on the sideboard, and summoning all the will not to have a large glass, which would be appropriate behaviour given his spendthrift ethos.

Given Walcott’s done for the season, Giroud is also out with a niggle, Podloski’s just coming back and Bendtner is Bendtner there should be a striker arriving. If only they hadn’t pissed around when trying to sign Gonzalo Higuain there might be clear daylight between them and the rest. It’s enough, no doubt, to make Wenger look longingly at full bottles of Whiskey.

CHELSEA

Current League Position: 3rd

Pre-season Prediction: 2nd

Quarter Way Point Prediction: 1st

Revised Prediction: 2nd

Yes I know I picked them to win the league, but I’ve changed my mind, and here’s why:

It’s become clear that Manchester City are better than them in central midfield and they’re certainly better up front. They’re just better full stop.

Why did Chelsea go into the season with Torres and Eto’o (both clearly past their best), and Demba Ba’s shaky knee, while allowing Lukaku to leave on loan? Lukaku’s got more league goals this season than Chelsea’s strikers combined. Can anyone even attempt a justification for this?

It’s just as well, alongside Arsenal, they have the best group (Bundle? Bunch?) of attacking midfielders in the league. Juan Mata can’t even get a game, though he really should, as he’s better than Willan and Andre Schurrle.

Thanks to Oscar and Eden Hazard (‘triffic player, as ‘Arry would say) this won’t hurt Chelsea though, what’s hurting is their mediocre strike force and the insufferable one being forced to mix and match Frank Lampard (35 and it’s starting to show) an almost finished Michael Essien, with the ordinary John Obi Mikel, and two players in David Luiz and Ramires who aren’t, never have been and never will be central midfielders.

I don’t know if Nemanja Matic is as good as his asking price indicates, but if he is Chelsea shouldn’t hesitate to stump up the cash. Just look at the difference Fernandinho has made to City.

I’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating, it’s just as well Chelsea can rely on Abramovich’s misappropriated billions given how stupid and indecisive they can be. Their stupidity in last summer’s transfer market and the difficulties they face in rectifying it in January are likely to cost them the league title. This amuses me for some reason.

The Favourite:

MANCHESTER CITY

Current League Position: 2nd

Pre-season Prediction: 1st

Quarter Way Point Prediction: 2nd

Revised Prediction: 1st

Nothing emphasises how weak as piss I am. Always stick with your pick, go with your gut, gamble, then lose, obviously. Anyway, I digress…

Just over half the season gone and they’re fast approaching the same number of goals they scored last year: 57, that’s 11 more than the second highest scorers Liverpool.

They’ve also qualified for the knockout phase of the European Cup for the first time.

Their third best striker – Edin Dzeko, would start for any of the other top sides in the Premier League other than Liverpool and United. Stevan Jovetic – remember him? – has barely played and they haven’t missed/needed him. Jovetic (if fit, of course) would start for both Arsenal and Chelsea, for example.

I’d love to be able to retract my assertion than Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo were in the second tier of Spanish players. Technically that’s still true, though the Spanish second raters are better than practically everyone else’s best. They’ve been fantastic signings for City, with Negredo settling quickly and taking over the mantle with Aguero being out injured. Navas is a clear up grade on the bog average James Milner.

Oh yeah, they’ve got Sergio Aguero still to come back too, he’s been out for the past month and is still the second highest goalscorer in the league.

The best, or rather most important, change has been the arrival of Fernandinho. Yaya Toure really isn’t a sitting central midfielder these days, and City have been searching for one in recent times and at great cost. Jack Rodwell and Javi Garcia cost the best part of £30m and will probably be axed soon. It just goes to show money isn’t everything, until you realise City paid £35m for Fernandinho. So it only took £100m (including the fee for Yaya Toure) to get the midfield sorted. A pittance.

With Navas, Jovetic, Negredo and Fernandinho now successfully integrated into the quality squad they’d already assembled; Nasri, Aguero, David Silva, Yaya Toure, Zabaleta and Edin Dzeko and it’s no wonder they’ve looked fantastic recently.

I expect this to continue, as they’ve hit their stride – unbeaten in their last fourteen. It’ll be Manuel Pellegrini’s first title, which will please the fanboi’s who have fawned for years over a man who has won nothing since arriving in Europe.

So that’s it, Manchester City will win the Premier League this season, I’ll do a three quarter review in March time, where no doubt I’ll have changed my mind again. You’ve been warned.

About Wichita Lineman Was A Song I Once Heard

Wichita Lineman Was A Song I Once Heard. 'Mediocre blogger and a piously boring and unfunny writer'. Enthusiastic purveyor of the KLF sheep.
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One Response to The Premier League Half Way Report

  1. Pingback: The Premier League Quarterly Report – The Final Furlong | Wichita Lineman Was A Song I Once Heard

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