It’s the beginning of the year and we are now at the halfway mark of the current 2013/2014 Barclays Premier League (BPL) season. Times really flies. What teams have done well?
Here is the mid-season report card for the top BPL contenders.
For the 2014/2015 Mid Season BPL Report Card, please click here.
Click here for BPL Report Card for 2015/2016 Season.
Arsenal is certainly flying high at the top of the table and they have improved by leaps and bounds compared to the lows of last season, when it was feared that the Gunners might not even be able to make a Champions League position. Now there is talk going around the Emirates Stadium about a first Premier League title since 2004.
I think that manager Arsene Wenger has certainly played his cards well this season. When it looked as though it was going to be yet another disappointing season for Arsenal, his strategic summer transfer deadline-day capture of Mesut Oezil from Real Madrid completely threw Arsenal’s transfer budget out of the window and turns out that Oezil was probably one of the signings of the current BPL season. In fact, he has performed magnificently and is currently one of the Premier League’s top assisters, with seven assists since the beginning of the season. Only Wayne Rooney (nine assists) has more than Oezil up until now.
Unlike the Arsenal of old, where their defence and conceding of set pieces used to be their massive weakness, defenders Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker now have a very strong and stable partnership at the back this season and they are the main reason Arsenal have conceded only 18 goals so far – the joint fewest in the BPL. This is one of the main reasons why Arsenal have been doing so well and winning games when it matters, against the smaller teams that they are expected to beat. In the past, Arsenal used to throw away games against clubs such as Cardiff and Hull, but this season, they have not wasted points.
But Arsenal will definitely have to step up in 2014, because there are some massive games coming up, including fixtures against their main BPL title rivals and a two-legged tie against German giants Bayern Munich in the Champions League. Only time will tell if Arsenal can make it to the finishing line on top, but from their progress so far, Arsenal have definitely set the pace for the BPL contenders.
Total Points: 44
Manchester City has a perfect record at home and has completely blitzed all of their opponents by getting rugby score lines at the Etihad Stadium. Their records at home speak for themselves. In fact, City have scored 59% of their shots on goal inside the 18-yard box and they have a successful pass rate of 86.8%. It is this magnificent home form that is largely the reason for their second position in the Premier League table right now, and they are just one point behind Arsenal – the leader.
However, their away form has much to be desired and this has been largely inconsistent – thus preventing City from completely dominating the Premier League this season.
City will have to buck up and improve their away form, as like Arsenal, they have a massive Champions League game against Spanish giants Barcelona. If they do not, then expect a massacre at the Camp Nou – with City being the victims this time.
This season has marked the return of Jose Mourinho at Chelsea. Mourinho’s return promised a much more entertaining Premier League and he has duly delivered from the word go – proclaiming himself as The Happy One rather than The Special One, for a start.
In terms of games, Mourinho’s Chelsea has mostly delivered the goods too. They are lying in third in the BPL table and while they are by no means the most entertaining team to watch, their fans will be delighted that they have been systematically winning games where it matters, rather than simply scoring goals for fun. Mourinho’s systematic and no-nonsense winning strategy can be seen clearly. In their last 10 home games, the blues have been unbeaten and they have recorded a grand total of nine wins – yet have only scored an average of two goals per game.
What has let Chelsea down this season is their weakness at set pieces. In fact, Chelsea has the largest percentage (37%) of goals conceded from set pieces in the BPL this season. If they want to mount a successful title challenge, then this is one of the things that this club must improve on.
The Reds are currently occupying the last Champions League position and this is a clear improvement from their past few seasons, when they were languishing in the depths of mid-table and not able to even smell Champions League football. So manager Brendan Rogers has certainly done a good job in reviving the Reds. And he definitely has Luis Suarez to thank for Liverpool’s fine form – the striker has netted a massive 19 goals this season for the Reds and is certainly on course to winning the Golden Boot.
However, like Manchester City, Liverpool has been pretty inconsistent in their away games and has not been able to capture the results that they have desired. They have also been losing big games against fellow title rivals such as Manchester City and Chelsea, and this is not title-winning form. But their home form – plus being able to have extra rest compared to their title rivals (Liverpool are out of Europe completely and they play only one game every week) should see them getting into a Champions League position this season.
The Toffees have certainly had a very interesting story this season. Having lost long-term manager David Moyes and striker Marouane Fellaini to the Red Devils, not much was expected of Everton. But the Toffees have defied expectations and have miraculously propelled their way to being in contention of a Champions League spot.
Their success is largely due to new manager Roberto Martinez playing his cards right. He negotiated for strategic loan deals for Romelu Lukaku, Gareth Barry and Barcelona’s Gerard Deulofeu and these signings have paid dividends. Moreover, Everton have lost the least matches (only two) than any other teams this season.
Things are certainly looking up for Everton and they could even steal a Champions League position – at the expense of David Moyes new club, Manchester United, if they play their cards right.
This summer, Tottenham were offered a world-record price of more than 100 million euros for their star striker Gareth Bale. Spurs seized the cash with open arms, offloaded Bale and subsequently used the money to invest in seven new players. As a result, their squad looked formidable on paper.
But despite all of the promise and hype and premature talk of winning the Premier League title, their new signings have failed miserably. So far, despite having roughly over 17 shots at goal per game, Spurs have only converted a mere 24 of their chances and have a negative goal difference as a result. Moreover, their manager Andre Villas-Boas was even sacked last month.
However, things do appear to be looking up for Spurs of late, under new manager Tim Sherwood, as they have gone four games unbeaten, most notably a magnificent 2-1 victory at Old Trafford against the lacklustre defending champions. But it is too soon to tell whether Sherwood will completely revitalise the club or if they are simply going through a good spell at the moment, with a new manager.
From the dizzying heights of being crowded BPL champions, the Red Devils are now staring at league leader, Arsenal, from a lowly seventh position and absolutely well off the pace for the Premier League trophy.
Moyes has completely lost the plot and I am wondering whether he was actually the right man to fill Sir Alex’s shoes. Of course, it was going to be difficult for someone else to repeat the success that Sir Alex has had at United, but since he took over, Moyes has hardly improved the team at all. While other teams have strengthened their squads and bought better players, Moyes has rested on Sir Alex’s laurels and hoped fervently that it would pay off. It really seemed as though he didn’t have a clue about what he was doing. And in order to find improvements and reinforcements, he went back to his old team, Everton – for Marouane Fellaini, who has since gone from an Everton star to a lackluster and ineffective defensive midfielder at United.
While Manchester United had seemed to be on a six-game revival during the Christmas festive games, their crash against Tottenham Hotspur on New Year’s Day appears to have undone their good work and heaped on the pressure again for Moyes.
Manchester United definitely needs reinforcements, especially a creative midfielder, if they want to mount a serious title challenge. Otherwise expect to see the Red Devils out of the Champions League – and even possibly the Europa League, if they continue at the rate they are going.
More Blog Posts
- Who Will Win the BPL Season (Beginning)
- Can Arsenal Win the BPL Title 13/14?
- Reflections on 13/14 Champions League Draw
- David Moyes: What Went Wrong?