Blog


A season of Two Halves?

The Premier League's half-term report shows it to be a league of two halves, with already a seemingly insurmountable divide between those teams chasing Champions League glory and those likely to immersed in a relegation dogfight, and any attempts to predict the outcome at either end are likely to be about as accurate as a Jason Puncheon spot kick.

For probably the first time in Premier league history, the breakaway pack at the top comprises arguably the "Big Eight"" in terms of success, tradition, fanbase and financial clout: namely the two rivals from Manchester and Merseyside respectively, the London glamour club triumvirate, with plucky Newcastle tugging desperately at their shirt tails like a needy child.

Perhaps the only club missing that could possibly feel it has a claim to gatecrash that elite party might be fallen giants Leeds United, but their decade of decline into lower division obscurity has dulled the memory of their history and potential for now.

The top of the Premier League is excitingly and refreshingly tight, with Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal each occupying top spot at some point over last weekend, while Liverpool and Everton are constantly leapfrogging over each other in their quest to turn a promising first half of the season into long overdue tangible success. Manchester United still lie behind Tottenham (themselves with genuine European aspirations), and The Chosen One, although looking like a deer in the headlights at times when watching his team underachieving on the pitch, will no doubt cling onto the fact that United have overturned an 11-point deficit before at this stage (albeit not with six clubs ahead of them), and clearly any team missing the quality of Rooney and van Persie can only hope for an upturn in fortunes upon their return.

Of the twenty Premier League clubs, it would appear that only Newcastle United and Southampton are destined for that stale marriage of midtable mediocrity and meaningless games, both settled in that safe pocket of 30+ points in the bag without ever looking likely to upset the big boys above them, although both would argue that they are only a sustained good run away from muscling themselves back into the title-chasing pack.

At the other end, the tightness of the bottom half can be shown by the fact that Southampton in 9th place lie 7 points clear of Hull City in 10th, a margin that is actually larger than the meagre six points separating the Tigers from the Eagles in bottom spot, and while no doubt happy to be currently in the top half, Steve Bruce will be well aware that he is only one bad month away from slipping towards the bottom three precipice.

Never has the division between top and bottom halves been so distinct, and never has the fight to stay up been so interestingly poised, littered with teams with recent Championship experience, and indeed with more established teams that wouldn't be out of place in that division either. All the usual suspects are back in the fray again, although after their relative successes of last season, the bosses of Swansea and West Brom might be scratching their heads in befuddlement at where it all went wrong so far this campaign.
With an 11-club struggle for survival to go with a 7-team battle for Champions league glory, there are going to be thrills and spills and six-pointers galore, and just about every game (with the possible exception of Southampton v Newcastle) seems likely to have some bearing on title and/or survival hopes.

With such an exciting second half to the season in prospect, it is likely to get uncomfortably warm in some of the managerial hot seats between now and May, but it's should make great viewing for us from the stands or the comfort of our armchair.

Read More...