London - With just over half the Premier League season completed, the battle for England’s top football prize has delivered action and intrigue thus far, with the promise of a worthy climax.
The build-up to the commencement of the new season was packed with mouth-watering prospects of new managerial appointments and signings.
In their ongoing bid to become a football world power, Manchester City secured the services of former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola. The move seemed to be a masterstroke as the talented Spaniard led City to a flawless start, winning their six opening games to take top spot with a four-point lead. However, the initial burst of enthusiasm died down and the Sky Blues have now dropped to fourth position.
Signs of improvement
Over at Old Trafford, the powers-that-be also made a bold decision by bringing in former Chelsea and Real Madrid manager José Mourinho. The Portuguese made a few jaw-dropping signings, bringing in Paul Pogba for a world-record fee of £89 million (R1.478 billion), while also adding the experience of striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic to the squad.
However, Mourinho struggled to find his best team and found himself down in eighth position after 10 games. The Red Devils showed signs of improvement as the season wore on but still lie outside the top four in sixth position.
A team which have shown consistent improvement under their manager is Liverpool, who have established themselves as true title challengers under the tutelage of German Jürgen Klopp. The Reds made an impressive start to their season, losing only once in their opening 10 games and have maintained the momentum, currently sitting in second position, having lost only twice.
Moving the focus down to London, there are three teams who have kept the city’s name held high. Tottenham are one of the capital sides who have turned heads this season with some eye-catching performances, which have seen them move up to third position. Mauricio Pochettino’s charges made a slow start, drawing five of their opening 10 games, but have since put together a run which has kept them in contention for the crown.
Their north London rivals, Arsenal, showed great promise in the first few games, losing only once and keeping up with then leaders Manchester City. But Arsène Wenger’s men went through their traditional slump and have fallen outside of the top four, trailing Man City by a point.
One of the biggest surprises of the campaign has been Chelsea. The west London club were poor last season, finishing down in 10th position, which led to the sacking of Mourinho. Under the watchful eye of new manager Antonio Conte, though, the Blues have set the league ablaze recently, opening up a five-point gap at the top.
Flying under the radar early in the season, Chelsea kept themselves within touching distance of the top before going on a terrific 13-game winning streak, which only recently ended in a 2-0 defeat to Tottenham Hotspurs.
Down at the wrong end of the table, the battle for survival has been fought tooth and nail with many sides still in danger of relegation at the halfway mark. The bottom three have not changed since week nine of the season, with Hull City, Swansea City and Sunderland occupying the unenviable Premier League positions.
The Tigers kicked off in fine style with back-to-back wins in August but have since only claimed one victory.
Swansea appointed American coach Bob Bradley in an effort to inject the team with new vigour, but the move hasn’t paid off as yet, with the Swans in 19th position with four wins from 20 games resulting in Bradley’s swift departure from the club.
Meanwhile, Sunderland have recovered somewhat after their horrific start to the campaign, but still find themselves in the drop zone, a point from safety where a troubled Crystal Palace occupy 17th position.
With six teams still in the race for the title and seven more in the fight against relegation, there is still plenty for fans to look forward to in the second half of the Premier League season. – TEAMtalk Media