Premier League 2016/17 Mid Season Review

So we’re exactly halfway through the 2016/17 Premier League season – 19 games played and 19 to go. A good time to review the campaign so far then – who’s overachieved, who’s underachieved and who finds themselves somewhere in between?

The Overachievers

Where better to start than at the top. With the arrivals of Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola in the summer, the appointment of Antonio Conte at Chelsea was perhaps a little quieter than it otherwise would have been. And when September saw defeats to Liverpool and Arsenal follow a draw against Swansea, Chelsea’s fans weren’t making much noise either. Their team’s response, however, has been emphatic. A run of 12 league wins has been achieved by combining a tight defence (the cliche of an Italian manager) and the form, in particular, of their two best attacking players – Eden Hazard and the rejuvenated Diego Costa. With no European fixtures to contend with and a healthy 6 point lead, they’ve got themselves into a very strong position going into the second half of the season.

It was a different story with Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp – many predicted they would push on in their second season under the charismatic German’s leadership. However, there were question marks over whether they could perform consistently and tighten up at the back. They still seem prone to the occasional shaky defensive display (see the last 20 minutes at Bournemouth) but the system and style of play they have settled into has been largely effective and undeniably entertaining. Sadio Mane has turned out to be a fantastic signing and despite spells on the sidelines for a number of key players, they have delivered a level of consistency that sees them deservedly sitting 2nd in the table.

A special mention to West Brom and Bournemouth who have earned themselves a place in the top half of the table. ‘The Baggies‘ have managed to consistently pick up points home and away, occasional breaking free from the Tony Pulis defensive mould we’ve got so used too, while ‘The Cherries‘ have picked up good results while continuing to deliver Eddie Howe’s brand of entertaining football.

The Underachievers

It’s easy to say with hindsight but Leicester were always going to have a tough time following up the fairytale of last season. The loss of N’Golo Kante has been massive and they’ve struggled to match the solidarity in defence that their title success was built on and their potency in attack, with the form of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez disappointing.

If an award was to be given for the worst season so far it would have to go to Swansea. Lying bottom of the table and having sacked two managers,’The Swans are really struggling. Their new manager (when appointed) will have little time to make an impact if they are to survive relegation.

Another team to have changed manager is Crystal Palace after a very disappointing calendar year of results under Alan Pardew. It would take a brave man, however, to bet on them being relegated with ‘Big Sam‘ now in charge, his first job in football again since his dramatic exist as England manager last year.

The Rest

The top 6 have pulled away to create their own mini league. In a year of surprises (Leicester City, ‘Brexit‘ and Donald Trump) Arsenal appear to again be just short of a genuine title challenge, sitting 3rd in the table. Admittedly, a few weeks ago things were looking a lot better and there is still time for it to swing back in their favour.

Tottenham (4th), Man City (5th) and Man Utd (6th) may all like to be a position or two higher but they will all feel that is still achievable. The two Manchester clubs have been a little patchy under their new big name managers but we can expect them to push on in the new year. Tottenham have particularly impressed me, although it’s perhaps unsurprising with the lack of activity in the summer that their well drilled and settled team have produced such consistent performances week in week out.

Outside the top 6, the table is extremely tight with just 11 points separating 7th to 17th. This means positions are likely to change quickly and often over the coming weeks and months. The positions of the remaining teams (I’ve not mentioned) do not surprise me at this stage – some will hope to cement a top half or mid table finish, while others will be happy as long as they remain in the division come the end of May:

Southampton (9th), Burnley (11th), West Ham (12th), Stoke (14th), Middlesbrough (16th), Sunderland (18th), Hull (19th).

hatsrnshop

Gareth Southgate announced as England manager

It has been coming for a few weeks now and today we have the confirmation that former England player Gareth Southgate will be the new manager after a fairly impressive “trial shift” in recent weeks. Southgate has been in charge on an interim basis since the scandal that lead to Sam Allardyce stepping down in September and has won two games including a 3-0 over Scotland and a 2-0 win over Malta.

A panel of five interviewed the former England U-21’s Coach last week and it has been decided that he will be the man to take the England team forward. The team crashed out of Euro 2016 earlier this year in embarrassing circumstances under Roy Hodgson, something discussed in the Talk and Beans podcast a few months back.

The new Manager will be looking to take the team to the 2018 World Cup Finals and have significantly more success than his predecessors and is thought to have signed a four year deal which according to the Guardian will earn him between £1.5m and £2m a year.

Gareth Southgate has said that he is “extremely proud to be appointed England manager” . The new Manager also explained how he enjoyed working with the players over the previous four games and gave insight into his hopes going forward by stating “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with the players over these past four games and I think there’s huge potential. I’m determined to give everything I have to give the country a team that they’re proud of and one that they’re going to enjoy watching play and develop. For me, the hard work starts now”.

It will be interesting to see how this new regime will be, we just hope he doesn’t get England to a Shootout and fancy stepping up for a penalty himself.

southgatepenalty

Sam Allardyce officially steps down as England manager

After just 67 days the England national football team is without a manager again. Sam Allardyce had been appointed after Roy Hodgson stepped down after England’s embarrassing exit in Euro 2016.

The job started so well for ‘Big Sam‘, who won his first and now only ever game in charge with a 1-0 over Slovakia in the World Cup Qualifiers.

Although, Allardyce won’t be best remembered for his 100% record but more so for the dramatic reasons behind his exit. The veteran manager was caught out by reporters of The Daily Telegraph who were posing as businessmen, after Sam offered them advice on how to “get around” transfer rules. The newspaper have since said the following about their investigation “We began looking into corruption in English football last year after receiving information about specific managers, officials and agents – before Allardyce was appointed England manager”. Negative comments were also recorded from the meeting that were aimed at the man that Allardyce had replaced, Roy Hodgson as well as Prince William and Prince Harry.

Sam Allardyce offered to step down as England manager to the Football Association, who have since publically called his actions “inappropriate”. The FA have now got the task of replacing him and therefore possibly sticking with whoever was the second choice for the job before they appointed Sam. It’s an interesting time for football in general, with corruption at FIFA making headlines over recent years and investigations like these to see how corrupted the sport is in this country is also as far as transfers and business dealings.

The now unemployed manager was asked by reporters wether or not this would be his last management job in football, to which Sam replied “Who knows? We’ll wait and see.”