So. Much. Football. How are you guys getting any work done? Every team in the league has played at least two matches in the last eight days, with some having played three (European competitions). Solid teams are beginning to show signs of wear and tear, while elite teams are reminding those below that it takes more than just 11 great players to win the Premier League. Everton managed to claw their way out of the relegation zone thanks to a win against Chelsea, Leicester and Liverpool are sprinting away at the top, and City slipped up thanks to some masterful play by United, who are creeping up on the top four again. Arsenal have (predictably) slipped further, and are now solidly in ninth place (four-way tie for eighth place on points), Crystal Palace blew their chance to stay in the top six with a draw against lowly Watford, Newcastle have quietly made their way to the doorstep of the top ten, and Sheffield United are hanging on to their own spot in the top ten. Wolves are firmly ensconced in the top ten and are now vying for top six, a position I predict they will earn this season.
Predictions for end of season table at the almost-half-way point:
- Manchester City
- Leicester City
- Manchester United
- Crystal Palace
- Sheffield United
- Newcastle United
- Burnley FC
- Aston Villa
- West Ham
- Norwich City
Too soon for a prediction this in-depth? Maybe. But it’s important to have a benchmark to be able to look back on and compare how teams have improved or worsened from now through the end of the year. This year’s Matchweek 38 recap will include a look-back to this article! For now, let’s dive in to the past week:
All or nothing: Burnley’s last 14 matches in the Premier League have all ended in a loss or a win.
0: Chelsea have not earned a point from a losing position the entire season.
13: Aston Villa have dropped 13 points from winning positions, more than anyone else.
English boys: Tammy Abraham and Jamie Vardy lead the league in goal involvement, with 14 and 19 respectively.
8: Leicester broke their club record with their eighth straight consecutive win.
159: Klopp became the second-fastest manager to reach 100 wins, behind only Jose Mourinho in 142.
17: Brighton beat Arsenal, one of the big six clubs, for the first time away. This was their first ever win away against a big six club.
3: Crystal Palace have kept a clean sheet for the third time in a row, a first for them since 2017.
8: Sheffield United became the first Premier League side to remain unbeaten for their first eight away matches after promotion.
All of the big six dropped points in some competition this week, except for Manchester United, who won both Premier League matches and their Europa League match. While not a big six club, Leicester also took all possible points, albeit without having a European match to play. Arsenal seem to be in dire straits, losing to Brighton and then drawing with Standard Liege in the Europa League. A loss would have seen them miss the knockout rounds of the Europa League from a group with Standard Liege, Eintracht, and Vitoria. All of the managers I thought would get sacked so far have done so, with Southampton’s or West Ham’s most likely next. We will see how Carlo Ancelotti’s availability changes things in the Premier League, as a top-tier team like Arsenal may look to grab a manager of his pedigree.
In the Champions League, Lampard answered what seemed to be a looming question with a win to help propel Chelsea into the knockout rounds. Also moving forward are Tottenham, Liverpool, and City, who all (except Tottenham) finished first in their groups. Ajax shockingly fell and will not progress out of the group stages, thanks to a surprising defeat at the hands of Valencia.
Picks in bold, don’t gamble kids.
Liverpool -2.0 (-120) vs. Watford: take it. The bottom team in the league is the bottom team in the league for a reason, and vice versa.
Leicester City -2.0 (+110) vs. Norwich City: solid match for Leicester on an eight match win streak, against the 2nd worst team in the league.
Sheffield United -.5 (-120) vs. Aston Villa: this one might be risky, but I believe Sheffield can win here, especially at home.
Arsenal vs. Manchester City -1.5 (+110): Arsenal are awful. Manchester City are not. A two goal margin should be a given here, based on their performance today.