It occurred to me this morning that the Premier League was the only league that I had not done a breakdown for. First, there is no convenient winter break as the Premier League ramps up around Christmas. Second, there has not really been a convenient point to write this because of all the other leagues going on their winter break at the same time. However, I will do my best to give a comparable effort on a halfway point breakdown, and then react to the weekend’s matches.
Liverpool are yet to lose in the league this season, and top the table with a seven point cushion over reigning champions Manchester City. The biggest upcoming fixture in the league is the second round between those two clubs, and it could be decisive in the title race for either side as it would allow either side to either extend the lead or claw back in the chase for the title. The top 4 is rounded out by Tottenham and Chelsea with Arsenal lurking in fifth and still within striking distance for a Champions League place.
The biggest surprise of the year might be Burnley who made it into the qualifying stages for the Europa League after finishing seventh in the league a year ago. They currently languish in eighteenth and occupy the final relegation place in the league. At this point, you may be wondering why Manchester United didn’t make the cut for biggest surprise. That’s because three seems to be a magic number for José Mourinho. He has won three Premier League titles and has also not made it more than three years at any club. This was his third year, and Manchester United are playing much better under their caretaker manager. They are currently in sixth trailing Arsenal by three points.
Here’s a look at the previous matchday and a breakdown of the matches.
Brighton & Hove Albion 1-0 Everton
Breakdown: Brighton had a resurgent second half performance that paid off with a one-goal win. It also means that Everton continue to slide in the table after some early positive performances. However, Brighton walked out deserved winners and pull farther away from the relegation pack currently sitting 13 points above safety.
Fulham 1-0 Huddersfield Town
Breakdown: Fulham needed some injury time heroics to secure their winning goal, but it helps them pull back into the fight to avoid relegation. Huddersfield Town may feel a bit hard-done by the result as they were solid for most of the game, but they switched off at the end and were made to pay the price as they remain in the bottom spot.
Leicester City 0-1 Cardiff City
Breakdown: Cardiff managed to sneak a victory against Leicester who had recently felled Man City and Chelsea, but were jubilant after a wonderstrike by Victor Camarasa (watch here). Leicester missed a penalty late on, but were held in check by a resolute display from the Cardiff defense and didn’t do enough to deserve a point.
Tottenham 1-3 Wolverhampton
Breakdown: This match is beginning to look like a classic every time it occurs. Tottenham controlled proceedings for the first half, but it was the away side who would rule the second 45. Wolverhampton clawed three goals out in a fantastic second half showing, and deservedly won the match after Tottenham failed to give an adequate display.
Watford 1-1 Newcastle
Breakdown: It was a vitnage Newcastle display as the ever pragmatic Rafa Benitez had his men stoutly defending their prized goal. However, the resistance was broken with an 82nd minute equalizer from Watford who finally found the killer ball to make their statistical dominance in the match count. Benitez will rue the poor defending of his side, but a draw was a fair result for both sides.
Liverpool 5-1 Arsenal
Breakdown (the word that also describes my state after watching the match): This was a real tough one for me to watch. Would you believe me if I told you that Arsenal led in this match? It’s true, but they were thoroughly and comprehensively defeated by a far superior side at Anfield. Arsenal’s defensive fragility reared its ugly head once again, and Unai Emery will have some serious thinking to do when it comes to starting the likes of Mustafi and Lichtsteiner again. If it were up to me, both men would be sold in January for whatever we could get.
Crystal Palace 0-1 Chelsea
Breakdown: Chelsea picked up a one goal advantage shortly after halftime and never really looked in danger of surrendering their advantage. Palace did saunter forward in numbers and created a late chance, but like most of the day, they could not muster the quality to nick a goal back and steal a point at Selhurst Park.
Burnley 2-0 West Ham United
Breakdown: This fixture gave us the reverse side of two teams that had been polar opposites coming into the match. West Ham looked like an unstoppable force after only suffering defeat in one of their previous six league matches, but were deserved losers to a superior Burnley side who frustrated their every move. Burnley picked up a much needed win, and this could be the igniting spark to propel them to safety.
Southampton 1-3 Manchester City
Breakdown: Southampton looked like a team who could have stolen a point as they neared the 45th minute, but they quickly broke down on defense and shipped two goals in three minutes. The reduction to ten men was an insult to injury as Manchester City coasted in a second half where Southampton committed themselves to damage control.
Manchester United 4-1 Bournemouth
Breakdown: Manchester United continued their dominance under their caretaker manager as they once again showed the world that attacking football is possible in the red side of Manchester. They easily beat a shambolic Bournemouth team whose defense has been left on the team bus the past two matches.
The relegation scrap looks like it will continue into the final month of the season with every team having a chance to secure a Premier League stay for next season. However, the omen for Huddersfield Town will be bad as they sit bottom and face the worst chances for Premier League Survival. Fellow bottom dwellers Fulham and Burnley will be disappointed with their league positions, but they have recently won matches that boost their chances of surviving the drop at the end of the year. Southampton have turned things around of late, but should still be in danger of relegation unless they can sort out their defensive frailties. Another side hovering near the bottom is newly-promoted Cardiff City who are far from out of the woods, and a squad that looks likely for relegation.
Player of the Year: Eden Hazard
Top Goalscorer: Harry Kane
Most Clean Sheets: (anyone but Arsenal) Alisson
Liverpool (champion and Champions League qualification)
Manchester City (Champions League qualification)
Chelsea (Champions League qualification)
Tottenham (Champions League qualification)
Arsenal (Europa League qualification)
Manchester United (Europa League qualification because one of the Top 4 sides will win the FA Cup)
Leicester City (Europa League Final Qualifying Round qualification due to FA Cup result)
West Ham United
Brighton & Hove Albion
Cardiff City (relegated)
Huddersfield Town (relegated)