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FA Premier League Half Season Review 2011/12

An exciting and pulsating start to proceedings has graced the first half of the Premier League season. We’ve had extraordinary games, huge ongoing controversies, and the ever present antics of our dear friend “Mario Balotelli”. Love him or hate him, either way there’s no way you can question his persistent enthusiasm to make the headlines.

To note some significant achievements; a formidable Manchester City side have revealed themselves in shining colours playing attractive Football, winning the odd game by a huge margin, most notably beating Manchester United in their emphatic 6-1 triumph. It seems Roberto Mancini has implemented a philosophy based on freedom, where license has been given for players to express themselves; this is in complete contrast to previous seasons, where the primary focus was to prevent goals, rather than score them.

Success is few and far between in Football, especially when you’re Newcastle United with a demanding following. It’s safe to say the job Alan Pardew has done has been commendable on all accounts, installing a grit and winning mentality that has served them well at the start of the season.

It would be completely unfair to discount Spurs, the vibrancy and creativity within their squad makes them a frightening prospect to play against. Boasting the likes of Bale and Van Der Vaart, it would be careless to write their title chances off full stop. I always remembered Spurs to be one of the most frustrating teams, inconsistency being their forte. However, this season they’ve turned that round as of yet, winning matches consistently.

A final mention goes out to the newly promoted sides; the prospect of Premiership Football creates a characteristic of exuberance and excitement  within a squad, this has been very noticeable within the 3 teams, all playing an attacking and fearless brand of football based on pacey and intra-cute passing. However, the gradual demise of QPR in the last month raises the question as to whether their destiny lies with Championship Football next season.

Arsenal: After a very tricky start to the season, a sizeable contingent amongst the Arsenal fans were calling for Wenger’s head, they’ve certainly turned their fortunes around since then, with the new additions starting to bed in well. A difficult season always beckoned for Arsenal, not least with the losses of Fabregas and Nasri, but that in abundance with Jack Wilshere out for the best part of the season. I believe Arsenal have done a decent job in the circumstances they find themselves in. However, injury to Van Persie could compound a painful season for the Gunners. If Arsenal fans believe they have a shot at the title, big summer signings are a must, I can’t help but think Wenger’s thoughts aren’t consumed with possible targets in mind.

Where they’ll finish: 5th

Overachieve: 4th

Underachieve: 7th

Aston Villa: The appointment of Alex Mcleish into the hot seat had Villa fans cursing at the board, the “unthinkable” Giving the job to the Ex Birmingham City manager. For me, Villa have lost their sparkle, if they want to push on and become a top 4 side then keeping hold of their best assets is paramount. I can’t help but think an ordinary, unspectacular season awaits for Villa. A string of poor results could pose the exit door for Mcleish, I believe this to be unlikely though.

Where they’ll finish: 9th

Overachieve: 7th

Underachieve: 13th

Blackburn Rovers: All seems gloomy at Ewood Park, even in spite of the majestic victory against Manchester United. A special bond seems to have been formed between Steve Kean and the Venky’s, causing huge complications and unrest amongst the supporters. Ultimately, is Steve Kean the right man to guide Blackburn away from the dreaded relegation zone? Based on results you would probably say a clear and concise “No”. In fairness to Kean, he has been challenged with a mass of Defensive injuries this season. I can’t help but commend his perseverance in spite of all the abuse he’s received. But radical changes need to be made, starting in January; a new fresh energy needs to formulate to turn around fortunes. If that means Kean out, then so be it. A new CB, CM, and CF’s services should be attained in January to amend events on the pitch.

Where they’ll finish: 20th

Overachieve: 17th

Bolton Wanderers: Likewise to Blackburn, a doom and gloom feeling seems ever-present at the Reebok Stadium, when we consider the extent of their abysmal home form, there’s no surprise they find themselves where they are. Their attacking threat seems nonexistent this year, and this is a major worry. On a brighter note, the sale of Gary Cahill should generate the essential funds to build on the squad in January. I would put strong odds on an end of season revival providing they keep hold of Owen Coyle, his managerial ability is right up there, so I’m surprised at how proceedings have developed.

Where they’ll finish: 19th

Overachieve: 14th

Chelsea: Villas Boas emitted a cool and composed air to the start of his Chelsea appointment; however, with generally unsatisfactory results it’s fair to say a couple of Boas’s feathers have been ruffled. Whenever seeming consistency beckons, a poor run of form follows to compound the evident frustration written over Chelsea fans faces. If Mr Fernando Torres can find his diminished shooting boots then a rejuvenated Chelsea side can formulate, this seems very unlikely though, Torres can’t find a goal from anywhere (Must be feeling the painful effects of a £50,000,000 price tag).

Where they’ll finish: 4rd

Underachieve: 5th

Everton: Everton’s season has carried many resemblances to that of Aston Villa’s, a quiet and low profile turn of events sees them in a regular 9th place. Some January additions would go a long way to bolstering an already solid set of players; with a flourish of welcome momentum they could make a late Europa League surge. It would be very handy if Tim Cahill stepped up and filled those shooting/heading boots, as he’s currently on a prolonged goal drought in the Premier League.

Where they’ll finish: 7th

Underachieve: 11th

Fulham: Another side who have kept a low profile this season, currently sitting in a potentially awkward 14th place. They’ve had a smattering of great performances, speckled with some really poor performances. Keeping hold of Bobby Zamora in January is vital; his ability to hold up the ball in modern day Football is invaluable in any side. On the condition that Craven Cottage stays a fortress for them, Fulham should be fine, without the dreaded risk of relegation.

Where they’ll finish: 10th

Underachieve: 16th

Overachieve: 9th

Liverpool: Liverpool’s intent in pre-season was clear, ambition is a word which immediately springs to mind; a host of new additions graced their presence to the Liverpool changing room; with a Champions League spot the primary ambition in mind. On first evidence it seems as though this is a side gelling quite well, they’ve shown flashes of brilliance, yet their start to the season has been very predictable, a miserly 6th place concluded 2011. The 8 game absence of Suarez should be counteracted by the return of the mercurial Steven Gerrard. If both players were together in this 8 game period then a realistic push for 4th spot could be possible. However, I deem this to be unlikely, but it should be interesting to see how the back-end of their season takes hold.

Where they’ll finish: 6th

Underachieve: 7th

Overachieve: 5th

Manchester City: Start the New Year level on points with Manchester United, a two horse race seems on the cards. A month ago I would have said City would win the league comfortably, they’ve shown some off-colour performances in recent times. For that reason, it makes me question their  mental toughness and capacity to win the league. They haven’t been there, done that. That will work as a big disadvantage, giving United the chance to capitalise and prevail.

Where they’ll finish: 2nd

Manchester United: What could be considered an unsatisfactory start to the season; they’ve had their fair share of problems, particularly on the injury front. But the depth within the squad is unquestionable; Sir Alex has an unrivalled reputation to pull out performances when they’re most needed. The winning mentality is reinforced throughout the spine of the club, those writing off United’s title credentials should maybe think twice.  Manchester City’s underbelly isn’t as bold as first appeared.

Where they’ll finish: 1st

Underachieve: 2nd

Newcastle United: A hugely successful start to the season, but prolonging such good form will prove an enormous challenge. Looking at the team on paper, I believe they’ve over achieved to a big extent, hence, extra credit should go to Alan Pardew’s current services.

Where they’ll finish: 11th

Overachieve: 8th

Underachieve: 13th

Norwich City: A side oozing with confidence carried over from an incredible end of Championship run, just take a look at the amount of points they’ve rescued in stoppage time over the last 2 seasons, it’s been quite astonishing; indicating the signs of a well organised, never die attitude instilled by Paul Lambert, he’s done an admirable job during his reign. They’ll have to be weary of the “promoted second half season syndrome”. What Blackpool fell victim to last season.

Where they’ll finish: 14th

Overachieve: 11th

Underachieve: 18th

QPR: After winning the Championship last season, they’ve brought in many welcome additions, recruiting players of high calibre (Wright-Phillips, Barton etc). On paper they have a decent looking Premier League side, with a leaky and unconvincing back line dampening what could be a side with huge potential. Of the promoted sides QPR have surprisingly looked the weakest as of yet, with a worrying run of form very obvious this December, the Premier League hangover may be an awkward eventuality for QPR, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they slipped into an unwelcome abyss of darkness in the near future.

Where they’ll finish: 18th

Overachieve: 15th

Stoke City: A Premier League side very much established, after one successful season, I believed it would slip away, but they’ve continued to perform solidly, finishing with a mid-table finish every year (12th, 11th, and 13th). Much of this dawns down to the fortress that the Brittania has made itself, a frightening and daunting place to travel to, where the opposition can be promised a huge physical slog and effort dealing with all the customary throw ins and set pieces.

Where they’ll finish: 12th

Overachieve: 9th

Underachieve: 14th

Sunderland: A new era dawns at Sunderland, the appointment of Martin O’Neill only gives ground for optimism, O’Neill brings an energy and excitement to wherever he goes, given the time, this Sunderland side can develop into a Europa League challenging team every season. The immediate impact O’Neill has made gives me the impression they’ll be able to sustain a good run of form into the New Year and beyond. A surge for a Europa League spot this season isn’t unrealistic whatsoever.

Where they’ll finish: 8th

Underachieve: 15th

Swansea City: The side promoted via the play-offs, tipped to fall at the first hurdle, right now, that doesn’t seem likely. A great mix and balance exudes through the Swansea team; a side with measured composure on the ball, intertwined with the flair of Dyer and Sinclair on the flanks. Brendan Rogers has built a good side fit for Premier League purpose. However, a run of consecutive defeats could spell big danger and sink them quickly, it will be interesting to see what this side is made of, because I believe they will go on a difficult run at the back end of the season.

Where they’ll finish: 13th

Underachieve: 18th

Spurs: If consistency prevails, the possibilities are endless for Spurs, if they can replicate the form demonstrated in the first half of the season, then a Champions League spot looks absolutely inevitable. My gut instinct tells me a great season beckons for Spurs; a shot at third place above Chelsea is a realistic eventuality.

Where they’ll finish: 3rd

Underachieve: 5th

West Brom: A squad which lacks any real fire power and penetration, but have gone about their business quietly in every sense, the assured management of Roy Hodgson looks to have them in a stable position, pulling out some positive victories every now and then. Keeping Odemwingie in sharp form will be vital in ensuring momentum stays at an adequate level. As with many sides in the Premier League, a poor run of form could pose real relegation fears, Hodgson should have the experience and management credentials to keep their heads above the water if poor form does take hold.

Where they’ll finish: 15th

Over achieve: 12th

Underachieve: 18th

Wigan Athletic: Unpredictable, volatile  are some of the words which represent Wigan perfectly. It’s fair to say they’ve done modestly so far, enough signs evident to suggest they can stave off relegation, but a poor run could seal their fate this season. A couple of experienced loan signings could be a solution to implement some mental stubbornness and resurgence amongst the ranks. It’s very hard to predict how the rest of the season will pan out for Wigan; nothing can ever be completely assured with them.

Where they’ll finish: 17th

Overachieve: 14th

Underachieve: 20th

Wolverhampton Wanderers: It’s fair to say Mick Mccarthy has done a commendable job at Wolves, he’s seemingly abolished the up a down cycle between the Championship and Premiership, whether he can build on this remains in question, they continue to float dangerously above the relegation zone in every moment of every season so far. An influx of money seems like the best way Wolves can build on what they’ve achieved so far. Otherwise I feel a relegation scrap could become the norm, eventually sealing their fate.

Where they’ll finish 15th

Underachieve: 19th

Surprise packages: Newcastle, Norwich, Swansea

Player of the season so far: Robin Van Persie

Big disappointment: Fernando Torres

Predicted Table Finish:

1. Manchester United

2. Manchester City

3. Tottenham Hotspur

4. Chelsea

5. Arsenal

6. Liverpool

7. Everton

8. Sunderland

9. Aston Villa

10. Fulham

11. Newcastle

12:

13. Swansea City

14. Norwich City

15. West Brom

16. Wolves

17. Wigan

18. QPR

19. Bolton

20. Blackburn

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