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Soccer

Premier League Winter Update

Nick Jehamy| January 9th, 2020

The English Premier League may be the most competitive of the top European leagues with multiple top tier clubs in play. In the last decade, we have seen four different clubs win the league title with Manchester City doing so the most with four titles including winning the Premier League the last two seasons. We may only be at the halfway mark but it seems like, barring any freakish losing streak, the top spot in the Premier League ha already been locked up. Let’s see what the table looks like and who is contending for the rest of the cup qualifying positions.

Top Five in the Table

Liverpool (1st Place, 58 Points)

After just falling short for many seasons, including a second place finish last year by only one point, it seems as if Liverpool is finally going to take the Premier League title. The reigning titleholder of the Champions League and Club World Cup did things somewhat backward, winning the big international tournaments before the domestic league title. With a 13 point lead and not losing a premier league game in the calendar year, Liverpool seems unstoppable right now.

First in goals against with only 14 allowed on the season, Liverpool has arguably the best defensive line in soccer led by Virgil van Dijk. Offensively they have two goal scorers in the double digits halfway through the season, Sadio Mane with 11 and Mohamed Salah with 10. With the addition of Takumi Minamino during the transfer window, Liverpool has just solidified their roster even more as they look towards another Champions League run.

Liverpool returns to Premier League play on January 11th against Tottenham, can they continue their undefeated streak? February 18th Liverpool then take on Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League round of 16.

Leicester City (2nd Place, 45 Points)

Since their league win in the 2015-2016 season, Leicester has fallen off finishing no better than ninth place. This year they are back in contention but with Liverpool having the year they are having it is in a fight for second place at this point.

Defensively Leicester is the only team aside from Liverpool who has given up less than 20 goals against which is quite astounding in a league that is goal scoring crazy. Top three in tackles, interceptions, and dribbles tacked/contested Leicester’s defense has been electric in holding them in a top three position in the league. That being said, their offense has been just as solid as of late. Jamie Vardy leads the league in goals scored with 17 on the season. The only worry they should have is the next two best are six and five goal scorers, and then no one else has more than three. They produce goals from players all around the pitch but Vardy definitely has the backbone to the offense, either he needs to keep up his pace or someone else is going to need to step up.

The biggest transfer rumor dealing with Leicester was the possible transfer of midfielder James Maddison. Thankfully for the club, it seems as if that will not be happening and Maddison will be staying with Leicester, a crucial offensive midfielder for them.

Leicester returns to Premier League action on January 11th when they take on Southampton.

Manchester City (3rd Place, 44 Points)

Manchester City is most likely the best Premier League club through the past decade with four league titles and no finish worse than third place. After winning back-to-back season it looks like Manchester City will have to just accept a second or third finish behind Liverpool, but they are still one of the most dangerous clubs to match against in England.

Man City leads the league offensively with a monumental 56 goals scored through 20 matches. They are the only club with over 50 goals so far this season, with only two others in the ’40s. This offensive powerhouse is led by Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero who have 11 and 10 goals respectively. Not to leave out Kevin De Bruyne who has seven goals of his own plus a league leading 12 assists. Their defense is nothing to look over but the way their offense plays the defense receives a little wiggle room most games.

With the transfer window in full swing now expect Man City’s roster to change up. With the expected departure of possibly a few pieces, the club is looking at 3-4+ signings during this time with an emphasis on some younger assets to replace some of the older players on the squad.

Manchester City will be back on January 12th against Villa. They return to Champions League action on February 26th in their first leg against Real Madrid.

Chelsea (4th Place, 36 Points)

Chelsea has won three titles this decade and has finished top five in all but two seasons. With 36 points on the season, they have a five-point lead over Manchester United for the last Champions League qualifying spot.

Chelsea’s offense is led in scoring by forward Tammy Abraham who has 12 goals on the season. What keeps this club alive though is the play from their defense and midfielders. Chelsea is second in passing percentage, tackles, and interceptions as well as first in percentage of dribblers tackled. Add these statistics to a midfield consisting of Willian, Christian Pulisic, and Jorginho just to name a few and that is why Chelsea is currently in contention once again. The club’s biggest issue here is at the goalkeeper position. Chelsea is last in the league in save percentage with one of the fewest in shots on target against. Kepa Arrizabalaga has to step up his play if the club wants to hold their number four spot or have any chance of improving on it.

Chelsea is off and running with the transfer period underway, just today there have been multiple tips of players talking to Chelsea and deals in the works, one of which is Lyon striker Moussa Dembele which the club has come to a verbal agreement with. Dembele will be a huge help to the club’s offensive play. Personally, as things stood I wasn’t too high on Chelsea going forward but with some moves made this club can possibly do more than just hold where they are now.

Chelsea goes up against Burnley on January 11th in Premier League play. Then the club takes on Bayern Munich on February 25th in the Champions League round of 16.

Manchester United (5th Place, 31 Points)

After a disappointing sixth-place finish last year, Manchester United is attempting to fight their way back into the top four and not rely on a fifth-place finish and Liverpool or Manchester City winning the Champions League to give them a Champions League bid.

Man Utd has played below standard so far this season. Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial lead the club with 12 and 7 goals respectively. No other player has more than three and only five other players even have one scored at all. In goal, David de Gea is on pace to have his second-worst season with Manchester United, only better than last season. Still a solid goalkeeper he is an asset to the club even with his diminished play but the way the offense is going they need him to be spectacular. With an injury to Paul Pogba, the club has already had bad luck with their roster but the transfer window looks like it may see an even bigger turn for the worse.

Captain Ashley Young has informed the club he will not play for them anymore as he has been trying to get transferred out for some time, with the top club in contention being Serie A leader Internazionale Milan. There have also been rumors of Pogba being transferred sometime before next season as well, two huge blows to United. It is not that United isn’t trying to bring in players but so far they have done nothing but strike out, Mario Mandzukic and Erling Haaland were two they lost out on. It seems like they have lost out on both Moussa Dembele and James Maddison as well. Can they bring in any star quality players in this transfer window?

Man Utd takes on Norwich in their first game back from winter break on January 11th. In Europa League play, Man Utd face off against Club Brugge on February 20th.

Who Else Can Contend?

Manchester United’s lead over the rest of the table is slim, can any other club slip into the top five or better yet, the top four?

Tottenham is only one point out of cup qualifying position, they are a seasoned team that knows how to get it done and is in place to strike. Their biggest issue at this point is the injury to star Harry Kane who has no timetable for return yet. Even without him they may be able to hold their place until his return, the question is when will that be, the sooner he returns the better their chances of jumping into the top five.

Wolverhampton is only in their second season up from being promoted, after a seventh-place finish last year they are a contender to push into the top five and upset some of the Premier League giants.

Arsenal may be in 10th place right now but do not count them out. They are only four points out of fifth place and are already making moves at the transfer window to bolster their roster for a second half run.

Fear of Relegation

After last season, Norwich City, Sheffield United, and Aston Villa all were promoted to the Premier League. Sheff United is currently doing the best of the three in eighth place and in contention for a top-five finish, whereas Aston Villa is just outside the bottom three and Norwich is dead last and in jeopardy.

Norwich City is sitting at the bottom of the table with 14 points in what seems to be a lost season for the club. Their defensive play just isn’t ready for the Premier League as they have given up a league-worst 41 goals on the season. It will take a miracle for them to break out of the bottom three.

Watford is in second to last place with 19 points on the season. Watford has the opposite problem of Norwich, even though they defensively haven’t been great their bigger issue is in scoring goals. With no player with more than four goals on the season, Watford is dead last in goals scored with only 17 goals through 21 games played. The club is not only having trouble scoring, but they also can’t seem to put the ball on target to even give them the chance. Watford is last in the league in percentage of shots on target at only 27.5%. Can they slip through the cracks and just edge their way out of the bottom three?

Bournemouth is in 18th place, the top of the relegation positions with 20 points so far on the season. They are not the worst in the league and possibly not even bottom three, they are a very below average club though that if the cards do not fall their way can end up being relegated after five seasons of being up in the Premier League.

Brighton, Burley FC, West Ham, and Aston Villa are all within four points of Bournemouth, with three other clubs only five points away, statistically, it is a ten-team race for the bottom three spots, realistically though I would say it is down to six clubs fighting to stay out of relegation where half of them will land by season’s end.

League Leaders

Jamie Vardy has a four goal lead on the rest of the table in goals scored with 17 in which I do not believe anyone will catch him. The rest of the top ten is rounded out by players all with goal totals of 10-13 and will definitely swap around by season’s end. Another offensive statistic that should be held on to is assists, where Kevin De Bruyne has a four assist lead as well.

Alisson leads the league in save percentage and clean sheet percentage as Liverpool has just been dominant. Leicester’s Kasper Schmeichel currently leads all goalkeepers in wins though with 14. By the end of the season, Alisson Becker will lead the league in all goalkeeper statistics as he is easily the best keeper and on the best team in the league.

Defensively Wilfred Ndidi has been astounding for Leicester City. The defender is at the top of the league in tackles, interceptions, and dribblers contested.

Predictions for the New Year

Liverpool has too big of a lead and has been too dominant over the past year for anyone to make a run at them. Liverpool will finally get their Premier League victory this century. Following Liverpool will be Manchester City in second place s they are just too strong of a team. Leicester sadly will not only fall out of second but third as well. They are a solid club but they just are not at the level as the rest of these around them and have gotten somewhat lucky to be in the place they are as of late. Chelsea will jump up to third place mainly because of their aggression during the transfer window which will bolster their roster greatly to make a run. This leaves Leicester dropping to fourth which will be where they land, still placing in a spot giving them a bid at next year’s Champions League.

Things get more interesting for fifth place. My issue predicting here is there are many unknown variables between the transfer window and injuries to big name players. I am deciding to have fun with this and go off on a limb here… The Wolves will take the final cup qualifying spot! With Manchester United losing out on the players they were hoping for and Pogba still not returning yet, as well as Tottenham having to play without Kane for a while, this is the Wolves time to make a move and sneak into fifth place.

At the bottom of the table, we have Norwich City and Watford holding on to the bottom two positions and being relegated. The final relegation spot will go to the club currently in 15th place, Burnley FC. It is a toss-up between them and three others but I believe by season’s end Burnley will just fall short.

The Premier League returns tomorrow, January 10th, with Sheffield United matched up against West Ham. 

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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images

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