At the half way point in the season, read the second part of Tommy John’s report of each Premier League club. What can we expect come what May?
Position – 3rd
Predicted position end of season – 3rd
Best player so far – David De Gea
Area for improvement – Defence
Key fact so far – Man United have played more accurate long balls (40.5) than any other side.
Much like their Manchester counterparts, Van Gaal and his men are starting to display impressive performances after a nervous start. Following an extremely lucrative summer it took time for the foreign superstars to adjust to Premier League football, but as the games have progressed, the experienced Dutchman at the helm has got his team replicating the Manchester Utd of old at times. Herrera has shown glimpses of his creative potential, Di Maria has been electrifying on the ball and Falcao of late has been demonstrating his predator like instincts around the six yard box. Furthermore, the return of Michael Carrick was much needed for the team, as his calming influence in the middle has helped cover the cracks of the United defence. In addition to this, the outstanding form of David De Gea has also spared his defences blushes on several occasions.
However, Van Gaal cannot depend on his goalkeeper to contain opponents for the rest of the season. The return of Rojo will be welcomed, but the Red Devils probably need 2 world- class centre halfs to take part in a title battle once again. They also need to keep their star attackers fit as injuries have been hampering the South Americans at Old Trafford. By doing this, Champions League football should return for the red side of Manchester.
Position – 10th
Predicted position end of season – 13th
Best player so far – Moussa Sissoko
Area for improvement – Defence
Key fact so far – Newcastle take 12% of their shots inside the 6 yard box. Only Crystal Palace attempted more.
Not many teams have been as inconsistent as Newcastle over the years. Just as the Geordies start to pick up points and perform with quality, old habits reappear, and the surrendering of 31 goals already illustrates that this season hasn’t differed from the usual trend.
The absence of Papiss Cisse through injury has been a huge blow for Pardew, and his struggle to get his fitness up has been shown through 7 of his 13 appearances coming from the substitute bench. However, the Senegalese striker is arguably the club’s best player, so his fitness levels will be paramount to the side’s success during this second half of the campaign.
In terms of star performers, Jack Colback has been a revelation, prevailing through immense scrutiny deriving from his Mackem discent. Moussa Sissoko is also a tremendous talent in the middle and one of the brightest sparks in the League, showing immense energy and power week in week out. However Tim Krul has been severely missed as Newcastle’s defence has been suspect on many occasions as well as replacement Jack Alnwick also showing naiveties in goal. More importantly, the departure of Alan Pardew may have an unprecedented effect on the club. He brought stability during his 4 year spell, and without his influence and guidance, Newcastle will probably only get worse.
Position – 16th
Predicted position end of season – 15th
Best player so far – Charlie Austin
Area for improvement – Defence/away record
Key fact so far – Charlie Austin has scored 55% of QPR’s goals, with only one outside of the box.
It’s about time that QPR have started to show their worth in the top flight. It may have taken time for Redknapp, but after several dressing room riffs and poor performances from high status players, he’s finally found a balance which looks likely to keep his team afloat.
Charlie Austin has been one of the stand – out players, surprising a lot by continuing his prolific record in front of goal to the Premier League. His impact has probably been the most profitable for any team, as other opponents around the bottom half are desperate for an out and out goal scorer. Fer and Barton in the middle have also offered a robust spine at Loftus Road, something they have been lacking for a while.
However, QPR have conceded the most goals this season – a clear worry. Furthermore, with a serious injury to Austin, Redknapp’s men may crumble into the red zone again. The London side need to acclimatise away from home to pick up points urgently, as the balance does not seem to be there. They also suffer from a lack of pace at the back, which is often dismantled against quick attacking play. Redknapp may look to address this, but he is adept enough to compensate and keep Rangers in the league next year.
Position – 4th
Predicted position end of season– 8th
Best player so far – Graziano Pelle
Area for improvement – Central Midfield/A Leader
Key fact so far – Southampton make the most tackles (24.1) per game. Nathanial Clyne tops the individual chart with 5 per game.
Many tipped the Saints for relegation this season after the departures of Lallana, Lambert and Shaw. Therefore, it’s a testament to Ronald Koeman as to how outstanding his side have been this season. The summer signings of Tadic, Mane and Pelle have been incredible after being plucked from obscurity, and full backs Bertrand and Clyne have been amongst the best in the league. Most impressively, they seem to have found a flexible blend of football which can be adapted against any form of opposition. They can out-pass an Arsenal side well known for their possession play, and they can out battle a Hammers side away from home to win 3-1. Koeman has to be credited with this tactical know-how, and they are well worthy of their current position.
However it will be tough for them to maintain their rich vain of form. The Saints have conceded the least amount of goals this season, but experience is key if they wish to maintain this. Fonte has been an incredible performer thus far, and there is little technical reasoning behind why they may slump. However mentally, there are other teams around the top 4 who need it, whilst Southampton do not need it yet. Their desire may decline as the season progresses, while sides around them will change gear and perform when it matters, which is why the Saints are likely to drop off the pace.
Position – 11th
Predicted Position end of season – 10th
Best Player so far – Mame Diouf
Area for improvement – Pace in defence
Key fact so far – Stoke still win the most aerial duels (27.3) per game and are third in the most tackle charts.
Much has been said about Allardyce and Koeman being the stand out managers so far, but one who has been overlooked is definitely Mark Hughes and his Stoke outfit. The Welshman has often been criticized about his managerial expertise over the years, but it seems he’s found his element at the Brittania, combining intricate play and direct football to create a refreshing style of play for Stoke fans. Mame Diouf and Peter Crouch have proven to be a real hand full for opposing defences, and Shawcross is in the form of his life, remaining the catalyst for Stoke’s magnificent defence record. Furthermore, the acquisition of Bojan signals the intent of the Potters to not only remain a Premier League side, but to challenge for greater things in the near future.
Unusually, Stoke’s away record has been greater than their home form this year, which can easily be amended to make it a memorable season for Hughes’ men. However, when the Stoke defence face intricate players of high quality they tend to suffer. If they can invest in a quicker centre half to compliment Shawcross, European football should be their next target.
Position – 14th
Predicted position end of season – 12th
Best player so far – Adam Johnson/Lee Cattermole
Area for improvement – Centre forward
Key fact so far – Only Southampton (24.1) make more tackles than Sunderland (22) per game.
Much like Mark Hughes, the managerial expertise of Gus Poyet has somewhat gone unnoticed. With minimal resources to experiment with, the Uruguayan has made the most of the players available to him to triumph in the big games.
The Black Cat’s have lost only 6 matches so far, with Lee Cattermole being a catalyst in nullifying opposing attacks and proving critics wrong with his adept technical displays and controlled temperament. This has made life for the experienced O’Shea and Brown slightly easier at the back, even though the conceding of 30 goals isn’t a statistic to boast. However many teams around Sunderland’s position have lost more goals, helping the North East outfit to take advantage of poor performances around them.
Furthermore, Adam Johnson has been a thorn in many defences this year as he’s been starting to recapture his glittering form of old. However the Mackems have been without a prolific goal scorer for too long. Steven Fletcher was once Sunderland’s answer, but the struggle to keep him fit lately has laid the burden on Jozy Altidore, who’s outstanding performances in the Eredivisie have not been replicated in England. This has led to Poyet’s side winning only 3 games, and with 11 draws to their name, an out and out goalscorer would have undoubtedly rocketed the Mackems up the table.
Sebastian Larsson’s performances are also key, and when Fletcher regains full fitness, this partnership should help Sunderland flourish towards the tail end of the campaign.
Position – 9th
Predicted position end of season – 11th
Best Player so far – Wilfried Bony/ Gylfi Sigurdsson
Area for improvement – Defensive Midfield
Key fact so far – 24 of Swansea’s 25 goals have included a goal or an assist from Bony or Sigurdsson.
The departure of Michu led to many believing that the Swan’s glamorous stint in the Premier League may end sooner rather than lately, but the acquisitions of Bony and Sigurdsson have been nothing short of priceless. Likened to Drogba, the Ivorian powerhouse spearheading Monk’s attack has been outstanding. His overall game has been phenomenal, showing great strength, pace, skill and finishing throughout the first half.
Furthermore, Bony has Sigurdsson to thank in particular for his 9 goals so far. The creativity of the Icelandic technician is second only to Fabregras in the assist charts, but the 5 goals from the Swan’s midfielder puts him in many people’s team of the season thus far.
Williams and Fabianski have also been tremendous in keeping opponents at bay. The ex Arsenal shot stopper has finally found his feet at the Liberty, and with 8 clean sheets to his name, the no nonsense Welshman can also claim some of the plaudits for this impressive figure too.
However, Swansea’s second half may prove harder. Losing Bony to the African Cup of Nations will be pivotal to their attack, and potentially losing him full time to a big club will almost definitely cause a dry up of goals. Furthermore, Swansea lack a powerful, energetic midfielder to steady the centre of the pitch when things go wrong. Without this, Swansea may struggle to stay in the top half of the table.
Position – 5th
Predicted position end of season – 6th
Best player so far – Harry Kane
Area for improvement – A world class purchase
Key fact so far – Tottenham win the fewest aerial duels per game.
After Pochettino’s successful spell at Southampton, sceptics questioned the Argentinean’s capabilities of reproducing this at a bigger club. However this season has slowly but surely turned out to be a successful first half for the North London side.
The acquisitions bought from the Bale money failed to deliver last season, but the start of a new campaign has invigorated the likes of Chadli and Lamela to show signs of their immeasurable potential. Furthermore, Harry Kane has been a revelation this year, proving that Levy does not need to splash any cash to find game changing talent. His movement and composure is not that of a 20 year old, furthermore re-emphasising why Hodgson should be diverting his attentions to this youngster.
However Spurs have leaked 27 goals so far and scored only 29, both not overly impressive statistics. They have been fairly dependable thus far, but a world class player is necessary if they want to be in the top 4, and Spurs lack a player in the mould of Hazard, Aguero, Sanchez or Di Maria. This is why Spurs may miss out again this year.
Position – 17th
Predicted Position – 17th
Best player so far – Saido Berahino
Area for improvement – Midfield creativity
Key fact so far – The Baggies have the fewest dribble attempts in the League. Despite this, only Manchester City are dispossessed more frequently.
Players will come and go this January transfer window, but the incoming of Pulis to the Hawthorns may just be the most invaluable of all incomings. His time at Crystal Palace and Stoke were all extremely successful, making it hard to envisage any Tony Pulis team failing to survive.
Moreover, the goals of Berahino have been imperative for the Albion in keeping their heads above the relegation zone so far. Along with Harry Kane and Charlie Austin, Berahino has been the stand out English newcomer to the Premier League, and the Baggies have much to thank him for, even if performances have slumped recently.
Jonas Olsson has also been a stalwart for this West Bromwich team over the years, and his influence has been important in restricting sides to 29 league goals against them (better than many of their relegation rivals).
However, there is little ingenuity in Baggies midfield. Berahino has been surviving off scraps to score his goals, and although Sessegnon has shown flair on occasions, his inconsistency should lead to Pulis looking for further creativity in the midfield.
However it is in either boxes where games are won and lost, and Pulis’ ability to galvanise his squad and make them work as a unit will help them retain their Premier League status for another year.
Position – 7th
Predicted position end of season – 9th
Best player so far – Aaron Cresswell
Area for improvement – Centre Half (if Winston Reid is sold)
Key fact so far – Sakho has 8 league goals but has also lost possession via a poor touch more than any other player.
The turn around at Upton Park has been nothing short of sensational, and Allardyce deserves the credit for this. Blighted by critics throughout his managerial career, Big Sam has proved that his direct approach to the game works. Furthermore, even when his teams play passing football, Allardyce still can’t shake off the negativity constantly surrounding him.
There have been many stand out performers for the Hammers during the first half of the season, but the full back pairing of Carl Jenkinson and Aaron Cresswell have been outstanding, displaying more than competent displays in defence and crossing balls into the always lurking Sakho and Carroll.
As mentioned, Sakho has been one of the biggest surprise packages in the league. His pace, power and precision in front of goal has been irreplaceable for West Ham, and whether he’s been complimented by the aerial domination of Carroll or the mesmerising feet of Valencia, Allardyce has a great range of options to tinker with. Alex Song has also been a rock in the Hammer’s midfield, making it hard to believe that perhaps bigger clubs didn’t come in for Catalan baller.
However with the imposing transfer window comes the likelihood that Winston Reid will be moved on. His performances have been brilliant, and Allardyce will certainly be looking for a replacement, especially as goals could dry up with the loss of Sakho to the African Cup of Nations. This factor, as well as a lack of experience, will probably lead to West Ham running out of steam as the season progresses.
If you missed Part One of our Half Time Report, then read it here: http://exepose.com/premier-league-half-time-review-part-1/bookmark me