Premier League Mid Season Review – Part 2

by Bob Smith

With the Premier League season more than well and truly underway, it is time to have a look at each club and how they’re doing and where they’re on (or off!) course to finish.

Liverpool

You never know what to expect when you watch Liverpool this season, and so far it hasn’t been great. A lot of money has been spent on that team and they have overpaid for a number of players in my opinion. They have suffered very much so from not being consistent enough. They had a slow start to the season and have slowly been moving up since then but they should still be higher than they are with the squad that they possess.

Brendan Rodgers has come in and tried to get Liverpool playing some nice passing football but Liverpool have struggled to adapt until the festive period where they seem to have finally got the hang and kicked into gear picking up some impressive results. After their good 3-0 win against Sunderland they are in 8th place at the time of writing and they seem to be getting stronger as time goes on. They have relied rather heavily on Luis Suarez’s goals this season and will be looking to bring in another forward to partner him in attack in January. Brendan Rodgers seems to have finally got them playing and they look to have gotten into their stride recently.Liverpool’s main problem by far has been their consistency and their poor home form at the beginning of the season didn’t help either. They have had quite a poor start to the season in general in which they have been so unpredictable.

In conclusion, Liverpool seem to be over the worst of their problems and playing well, they finished 2012 and started 2013 strongly and I think if they bring in a quality strike partner for Suarez then they can finish in 6 or 7th. I think the Champions League is a bit too much to ask yet but perhaps next year.

Manchester City

City have been distinctly average this season so far, they have failed to perform anywhere near as well as they did for large parts last season. In my opinion, City are lucky to only be 7 points behind leaders United and other teams seem to be catching them now. They have had quite a lot of fortune this season and have managed to score late goals to win games in which they haven’t played well.

Aguero was injured for a while and they sorely missed him, this did however ease Mancini’s selection dilemma as he no doubt struggles to pick from Aguero, Tevez, Dzeko and Ballotelli.I think City’s main problem has been the form of their midfielders, Yaya Toure has not been anywhere near as good as he was in the latter part of last season. David Silva has improved in recent weeks but for most of this season he has been rather uninspiring. Silva makes City tick with his weaving runs and defence-unlocking passes. Toure is also badly missed when he doesn’t play well as he normally dominates midfield and has that rare ability to carry the ball forward effectively to start attacks. Toure will be again missed in January due to the African Cup of Nations tournament too.

City are solid defensively in my opinion and have no problems in that region but going forward they look much less threatening than they used to. They have been struggling to break teams down and similarly to Chelsea, I feel they could do with working on a plan B for when it gets tough. This has never been more evident than in their 0-0 draw with West Ham earlier on in the season when it just wasn’t working for them so they provided little threat.

In conclusion, I think City will be United’s closest challengers for the title this season and 7 points is by no means insurmountable. They do however need a huge improvement from the first half of the season if they are to do so.

Manchester United

United have had a good start to the season and sit very comfortably at the top of the table with a 7 point lead at the time of writing. Their performances do no reflect this as they have conceded a huge amount of goals this season. They have gone behind on numerous occasions   so far and have had to come back strongly to win games and grind out results.I think Sir Alex Ferguson will be concerned with how many goals his team has conceded early on in games. One thing that he can feel good about is how his team have come back to overturn losing positions on so many occasions. They have got quality throughout their team but I feel they could do with a quality central defender. Vidic is getting a little old and is injury prone these days whilst I feel Ferdinand is on the decline and isn’t good enough for the team anymore. Evans is turning into a great defender and improving year on year but Smalling is a weak link when he plays in my opinion.

United started 2013 well with a comprehensive victory against Wigan and will look to build on that with a derby win over Liverpool. If they can keep going as they are and keep other teams at arms length while they stay at the top grinding out results then I think they can easily go on to win the league.

In conclusion, I think United will win the league this year if they tighten up their defence and stop conceding goals early on in games. They have made it hard for themselves so far this season and still remain at the top of the league so when they really start playing they should be comfortable.

Newcastle United

Newcastle have had a disastrous first half of their season so far. At the time of writing, they are languishing down in 15th place, a mere 2 points above the relegation zone. This season has been so different from their last campaign it’s almost laughable as they have plummeted from Champions League contenders to relegation candidates if they don’t sort it out! In my opinion, apart from Demba Ba, none of their best players from last season have shone anywhere near as much as they did last season. This was evident in the fact that Ba got an offer from Chelsea which he took with open arms as he probably felt Newcastle were sinking and wanted to abandon ship.

Newcastle have very recently been rocked by the request of their captain Fabriccio Collocini who said he would like to return to his native Argentina. It just gets worse for the tyneside club as they get dumped out the FA Cup by a championship team and lose their captain. It is difficult to sum up why Newcastle have been so much worse than they were last season, it just hasn’t happened for them. With Alan Pardrew being on an 8 year contract at the club they would do best if they stuck with him through this sticky patch as they really are in a bit of trouble at the moment.

In conclusion, I feel that Newcastle desperately need to hang on to captain Collocini. Don’t forget this is the man likened to the great Bobby Moore by Alan Pardrew and he is about the only person who can hold them together at the moment. They should use the Ba money to either replace him if needs be or to buy a partner for him at the back.

Norwich City

Norwich have had an even more astonishing 2nd season back than last season so far, in my opinion. You see these clubs do really well in one season but sometimes ‘second season syndrome’ can set in. This is supposedly where a team fails to emulate its new found success of the previous season. Some suggest that this is down to teams cracking their game plan, I would tend to agree with this to some extent. Norwich have stayed clear of this though and went on an incredible unbeaten run earlier on before losing respectively to Man City in a 7 goal thriller.

Norwich sit in 12th at the time of writing and I’m quite sure they would be happy if that was where they ended up finishing at the end of the season, consolidation would surely be a priority. Chris Hughton has come in and made them a difficult team to beat and they have claimed a few famous scalps at Carrow Road. They have been doing well with relatively little assistance from their once talisman Grant Holt who has only contributed 4 goals so far, if they can get him firing then they could certainly look upwards in terms of the table. John Ruddy has been injured for a large part of this season and considering he was on the verge of the England squad, he is definitely a big miss for them and they will be looking forward to his return.

Wes Hoolahan has been particularly influential for them this season. The crafty playmaker was the only positive in a loss to West Ham recently and he provided their only threat at times. He played inbetween the lines, finding pockets of space. He also ran at players, taking advantage of the space he found and carried the ball well up the pitch for the team. Strangely he was taken off by Hughton in that game and he understandably didn’t looked too please, implying there was no injury. I think he is a great little player and they should use him to his full potential if they want to finish higher than 12.

In conclusion, I think Norwich have had a great season so far and if they continue to do this well then they can easily climb the table. They are definitely not relegation candidates and should be looking up rather than over their collective shoulders at the deathly drop zone.

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