Wednesday 13 April 2011

Premier League Update

At the end of last year I wrote my half term Premier League report, looking at the season so far for all 20 clubs.

With the end of the season approaching, I thought it would be good to look back on what I wrote in December and see how my thoughts and predictions were doing.

Not exactly a shock but I did say Man Utd would claim a record breaking 19th League title - this despite being one of the most average Man U sides I've seen in years.

No team has really deserved to win the league this year, all the main contenders have serious flaws. It's been at the bottom of the table that's been fascinating with half the division finding themselves in a relegation battle.

Flawed at the top

Man Utd will deservedly win their 19th title, but only because the other main contenders have been so inadequate.

Arsenal have had their usual end of season collapse, which isn’t even a surprise and must be getting quite boring for all Gooners.

As for Chelsea, despite an improvement since Christmas they still look like a team in decline. Too many players past their peak and the transfer of Torres has so far has been a disaster. Hard to tell whether Ancelotti will still be around next season.

I did predict that Man City would finish runners up, but in some ways they’ve been the biggest disappointment.

Mancini is far too conservative for English football, the ‘team’ still play like a bunch of highly paid individuals, and its embarrassing how over reliant they are on Tevez. They’ll do well to hang onto 4th spot, but even that’s not guaranteed.

Spurs are still in the race for a Champions League spot and even though it’s unlikely, a strong finish from Liverpool could still see them scrape in.

Spurs have been so entertaining, but the excitement of Champions League football looks to have distracted them from the bread and butter of the league.

I hope they make it, although the humiliation of their performance against Real Madrid will act as a painful reminder of many of their weaknesses.

Roy Hodgson was still in charge of Liverpool when I wrote my half term report, but now it’s back to the 80’s with Kenny Dalglish returning. It’s good to see him back.

He’s galvanised the club and although there’s still a lot of work to do, they’re heading in the right direction. The signings of Suarez and Andy Carroll will prove good business in the long term.

Excitement at the bottom

Turning attentions to the bottom of the League this has been one of the most exciting relegation battles I've ever seen. There are no truly bad teams this season. For every team in the bottom half or at least the bottom 6 you can argue a strong case on why they'll either stay up or go down.

If you asked me who I think will go down, I’m going to stick my neck out and say Wigan, Blackpool, and Blackburn.

Wigan don’t score enough and although I did think Blackpool would stay up, the amount of goals they let in makes me think its back to the Championship for them. Finally I’ve gone for Blackburn but I could easily have said Wolves.

Blackburn have a tough run in and that’s why I’m going for them over Wolves. Had they stuck with Sam Allardyce they wouldn't be in this trouble.

Wolves still are in big trouble and defensively are a mess. A problem they’ve had for a few years now. With Kevin Doyle out they’ve lost their focal point in attack. He doesn’t score many, but his hard work and link up play will be missed.

Still in the bottom 3 you’ve got West Ham. They’re a funny team. One week you think they’ll stay up the next you think they’ve got no chance. I look at their team and think they’ve got good players, but mentally they're weak. They should have enough to survive though.

Moving up the table you’ve got the two Birmingham clubs. My own team Blues went through a dip after the Carling Cup win, but we’ve refocused now, and although it won’t be pretty, there’s enough grit and determination for the team to just survive.

Across the city at Villa, everyone will just be glad to see the back of this season. It wouldn’t surprise me if Gerard Houllier decided to quit. You just get the impression that he’s the wrong manager at the wrong club at the wrong time.

With the players they’ve got they should have done better, but with Ashley Young likely to leave in the Summer there’s big question marks over Villa's future direction.

Talking about managers who were at the wrong club at the wrong time, what a great job Roy Hodgson's done since joining West Brom.

I was shocked by the decision to sack Roberto Di Matteo, but the chairman Jeremy Peace seems to have made the right choice. After a while there’s nothing exciting about being a yo yo club and it was really important for West Brom that they stayed up this season. With 39 points they’re practically there.

Midtable security? Hardly

And then we have the rest. Teams like Fulham and Sunderland could still in theory go down, but they wont. Don't know what to say about Fulham. Bobby Zamora's back, and they have a ridiculous Michael Jackson statue outside the ground.

Nothing to laugh about at Sunderland. If they had 3 less points and were on 35 and not 38 you’d have to worry for them.

Terrible second half to the season. It will be interesting to see what happens there in the summer, Steve Bruce might be under a bit of pressure.

Stoke are Stoke, horrible to watch but an FA Cup Semi Final to look forward to and another mid table finish. As a Stoke fan can you ask for much more?

Newcastle have had an inconsistent but successful season after winning promotion last year. The sacking of Chris Hughton still looks daft but Alan Pardew’s come in done alright I suppose.

You just know they’ll be more drama at that club, my feeling is that Newcastle fans still aren’t convinced by Mike Ashley’s intentions.

Finally that leaves Bolton and Everton. Everton have had a funny season, looked like it was going to be season of underachievement, but again David Moyes is managing to get the very most out of the squad.

You just wonder with Everton how long Moyes can keep doing this without serious new investment. He can’t take the club any further, but he doesn’t have many other options in front of him.

How about Moyes for the Spurs job, should Harry Redknapp take over England?

Sorry any Bolton fans reading, I haven’t intentionally left you till last. But what a great season for them under Owen Coyle. Playing attractive football, in a Cup Semi Final, top half of the table, it’s good times for the club. I’ve been really impressed with the loan signing of Daniel Sturridge, good bit of business.

So there’s my almost end of season update, I don't think I've missed anyone out. I’ll be back in a few weeks to review the end of the season.

Premier League half term report Part 1

Premier League half term report: Part 2

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