Our soccer scribe recaps what's happened in the Premier League this season.
With the English Premier League approaching the halfway mark, it’s always good to revise what is, what was and what will be. It’s been yet another roller-coaster ride but I guess that’s why most call it the ‘best league in world football’.
Leicester City’s Downward Spiral
The Foxes have surprised the footballing world yet again. Claudio Ranieri’s men are on a downward spiral that looks never ending. Leicester did extremely well to hold on to the likes of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez but were unable to keep their rock in the middle of the park, N’golo Kante. And the French defensive midfielder isn’t just proving what a loss he was for Leicester but is now showing how valuable he is to Chelsea, who seem to be cruising at the summit. Whispers of relegation have begun and at 14/1, they’re definitely worth a punt to be the first ever Premier League team to win the title and suffer relegation the following season.
Antonio Conte has come in and revived Chelsea, rejuvenating the Blue beast we all know them to be. The Londoners are in full force, bulldozing team after team as they climbed to the top of the EPL standings after making a slow start to the campaign. Many would say it’s down to pantomime villain himself, Diego Costa, as well as Chelsea new defensive anchor in the heart of their midfield – N’golo Kante – but it all comes down to the tactical genius of Conte and some outstanding football from a team that look an unstoppable force at present.
Liverpool’s high-intensity, attacking brand of football brought on by Jurgen Klopp, is taking the Reds to greater heights. It’s always a pleasure watching Liverpool – attack after attack is what you can expect but at times it leaves their backline vulnerable and exposed. Chelsea’s organized and solid defensive unit is one of the key reasons for their success this campaign and if the Reds are to stand any chance of catching them, they will need to match the standards set by the Blues backline, while maintaining the attacking prowess they have shown.
Same Old Arsenal
I hate to be the one to admit it, but Arsenal continue to reside in Groundhog Day. Season after season, high hopes surface in the opening stages for Gunners supporters like myself. But as the campaign pushes forward, injuries, inconsistency and complacency kick in, leaving the die-hard Arsenal faithful in disbelief. Arsene Wenger, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez are all in the latter stages of their contracts, whether they sign another deal with the club remains unknown. For Wenger, it will be a case of how well he does with the team this season, but personally, I think it’s time for a change! I do have faith in Ozil and Sanchez signing new contracts – it’s just a matter of time and money. But my verdict on Arsenal and the 2016/17 season is straightforward – a top four finish at best.
The Manchester Mediocrity
Manchester City have been good, don’t get me wrong, I just expected more from them. With Pep Guardiola at the helm, I’m sure most would have expected the Spanish tactician to dominate the way he did at former powerhouses Barcelona and Bayern Munich. But obviously, you have to take into account that Barca and Bayern were already accustomed to the tiki-taka style of football, while they possess much more quality at their disposal. Nonetheless, Pep is slowly working his magic and in a season or two he will have the Citizens running, gunning and passing the way he expects his team to do so.
I’m embarrassed to say, at the start of the season, I backed Jose Mourinho to return the glory days back to Manchester United with a title-winning campaign in his maiden season in the hot seat. With the players brought in, strengthening the spine of team, as well as ‘the Special One’s’ managerial skills, I predicted greatness from the Red Devils. But instead, Man United have failed to produce the goods and are simply lacking a certain winning formula which it seems only the great Sir Alex Ferguson could request from a team such as this one.
Written by Aaron Crowie for @Hollywoodbets