Premier League: Half-term report
Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham are put under the microscope
With the fixtures coming thick and fast over the Christmas period it is hard to believe that the 2012/13 Premier League campaign is already at the half-way mark.
By now the title candidates have revealed themselves while those in danger of the drop are already in the trenches and fighting for their lives.
Of course the usual candidates are contesting and scrapping at each end of the table but there have been a few shocks already this season.
West Brom and Swansea have been perhaps the surprise packages of the season so far while Everton have shaken free their reputation for starting slowly by competing with the likes of Tottenham and Arsenal for a top four spot.
Equally, few would have envisaged that QPR would be winless for so long after splashing the cash over the summer.
It was also a busy summer with plenty of transfer activity and managerial changes at Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham amongst others, so there was something of the unknown about how the ensuing season would unfold.
So with the start of a new year and the second half of the season on the horizon, GMF decided to take a look at how each of the big boys in the Premier League have gotten on so far. Let us know how you think your team are doing in the comment section below.
This year/last year: P18 (33pts)/ P18 (30pts)
Games won/lost: 2011/12 – W10 L5; 2012/13 – W8 L4
League position: 2011/12 – 5th; 2012/13 – 7th
Season so far (out of 10): 6
Arsenal have endured terrible starts to the last two Premier League seasons, but the comparative records show they are slightly worse off this time round.
A tumultuous summer which saw both Robin van Persie and Alex Song depart didn’t exactly set them up for a successful campaign, but the arrival of Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski and crucially Santi Cazorla appeared to be good business and covered their options.
However, it hasn’t exactly been plain sailing. A slow start, short-lived dreams of a title tilt and a recent stumble and revival tell you all you need to know about Arsene Wenger’s side. Namely, they are inconsistent.
More worryingly is that on paper they have a first XI who should be more than capable of challenging at the top, especially with the return of Jack Wilshere. The fact they have less points than this time last year and are in 7th (which is slightly warped by the fact they have played a game less than most others) has inevitably lead to questions about Wenger’s position.
So far he has just been able to dodge the bullets but make no mistake, if the second half of the season isn’t much better than the first, the knives will be out for the Frenchman.
They have conceded 6 less goals than at this time last season which shows an improvement, although their backline has been far from perfect this term.
To their advantage is the fact that there are three teams who are well clear of the rest and a host of clubs scrapping for 4th place and Champions League qualification. Although they used to be clear of this bun fight, their flaws are masked a little by the fact others around them, including rivals Tottenham, aren’t able to exploit their short comings and move clear of them in the league table.
This year/last year: P18 (34pts)/ P18 (35pts)
Games won/lost: 2011/12 – W10 L4; 2012/13 – W10 L3
League position: 2011/12 – 4th; 2012/13 – 3rd
Season so far: 6/10
What can be said about Chelsea’s start to the 2012/13? Well, rather unsurprisingly another season will come and go where they end with a different manager to the one they started with in the summer.
The decision to sack Roberto di Matteo so soon after he won the club’s first ever Champions League crown was always likely to be contentious, and we will never know now if the Italian could have arrested their league slump before his departure and challenged for the title.
What we do know is that after a sluggish start Rafa Benitez have Chelsea winning games – they’ve only lost twice in the 10 games the Spaniard has overseen – and he has helped Fernando Torres re-discover his goal scoring touch.
Unfortunately the chopping and changing means that Chelsea are 11 points off Manchester United with a game in hand – although they are by no means out of the title race they certainly have a lot of ground to make up. Their Champions League exit may well help them in that regard.
Only time will tell if owner Roman Abramovich did the right thing in sacking Di Matteo when he did, but the signs are there that he may well have done the right thing yet again. P
Be that as it may however, the money Chelsea spent over the summer and the squad they have assembled mean their start to a campaign which seemingly promised so much can only be judged as a disappointment so far.
This year/last year: P18 (45pts)/ P19 (39pts)
Games won/lost: 2011/12 – W14 L1; 2012/13 – W11 L2
League position: 2011/12 – 1st; 2012/13 – 2nd
Season so far: 7/10
The pressure is slowly building up on the defending champions after a weekend in which they fell behind seven points behind local and title rivals Manchester United.
From the summer onwards their has been something of a shadow hanging around City; Roberto Mancini cut a frustrated figure in the transfer window as he asked for Daniele de Rossi, Eden Hazard and Robin van Persie but ended up with Scott Sinclair and Jack Rodwell.
From then the Citizens have been dumped out of the Champions League with the worst points tally of any English club in the competition’s history while they have lost their much-vaunted unbeaten home record which stretched back to 2010 to Sir Alex Ferguson’s side.
There is a slightly flabby feeling to City’s squad at the moment as well; plenty of big names on big money but little in the way of end product on the pitch. Whether that is addressed in January remains to be seen but the rumour is Mancini has to sell before he can buy.
Beyond the first team the quality of City’s squad seemingly drops off a little as well, meaning they are unable to rotate as much as United which is perhaps embodied best by the inconsistent displays of David Silva, who has drifted in and out of the action so far this term.
They reduced a bigger gap later in the season last time round so all is certainly not lost, but City have a lot of work to do in order to defend the crown they won so dramatically last term.
This year/last year: P18 (45pts)/ P19 (46pts)
Games won/lost: 2011/12 – W14 L1; 2012/13 – W15 L3
League position: 2011/12 – 2nd; 2012/13 – 1st
Season so far: 8/10
This season’s Manchester United team isn’t exactly a classic one both in terms of quality and the type of performances they have been churning out.
Much has been made about how often they fall behind only to wrestle it back – only yesterday they were behind to Newcastle before a seemingly obligatory injury-time winner.
But while they now have an embarrassment of riches to call upon in attack and are sitting pretty at the top of the table, the time will come when their failings at the back will come back to haunt them.
That may well come in Europe as so far in the Premier League they have managed to keep the damage to a minimum, notable defeats against Tottenham and Everton aside. Sir Alex Ferguson has acknowledged on numerous occasions they need for his side to smarten up or face the consequences.
However while there is defensive, and indeed midfield problems at Old Trafford, the fire power they possess make them the envy of most clubs on the continent.
Robin van Persie has continued his wonderful form from last season while Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez are chipping in with vital goals, leaving Wayne Rooney to operate in a slightly deeper role.
Top going into the new year is never a bad place to be and at times United have hit their peak, but there are enough doubts in the back of the Old Trafford faithful’s minds to keep them on edge until May.
This year/last year: P17 (38pts)/ P19 (33pts)
Games won/lost: 2011/12 – W12 L3; 2012/13 – W10 L6
League position: 2011/12 – 3rd; 2012/13 – 4th
Season so far: 7/10
At this point in the season last time round, Tottenham had more points from fewer games. So the change from Harry Redknapp to Andre Villas-Boas has been a flop so far, right?
Well, in some ways perhaps (including the more entertaining brand of football that seemingly left north London along with Redknapp), but there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful at White Hart Lane, chief of which being the fact that despite key personnel being sold in the summer and a debilitating injury list, they are still in the hunt for a Champions League spot.
Luka Modric and Rafa Van der Vaart leaving in the summer ripped the creative heart out of Spurs, while injuries to Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Younes Kaboul, Scott Parker and Mousa Dembele at various stages robbed them of a lot of quality and first team players.
It is to Villas-Boas’ credit that he has been able to win games and implement a system which isn’t the one which he usually favours and without the personel (cough, Moutinho) that he would like. He is certainly proving the maxim that a team is greater than the sum of its parts right and showing his qualities as a manager.
Defensively there have been some questions asked but a couple of clean sheets in recent matches will have helped. What has certainly not helped is the fact Villas-Boas is yet to settle on a regular central defensive pairing.
The battle for a top four spot is going to be a tight one but is the minimum target for Villas-Boas – otherwise it would at face value at least sacking Redknapp seem pointless.
They currently occupy that spot but with Everton and Arsenal breathing down their necks it won’t be easy, and traditionally Tottenham haven’t coped well with pressure.
However the Portuguese coach clearly has a long-term plan and can help deliver a period of success at White Hart Lane if he is allowed to build his ‘project’. Despite that, he is not immune from criticism and possibly even the axe if he doesn’t deliver the goods this season.