Out of absolutely nowhere we find ourselves ticking along into December; which means we are reaching the half way point in the football season. With Euro 2016 right around the corner I am excited and watering at the mouth in anticipation as to what is to come but for now I am looking back and reflecting on what has been a thrilling and exciting Premier League season as of yet. So in a special edition of Ryan Butler’s Sporting Lists we have a new page to add, and that is the list of the five biggest things I (like many) have noticed and obviously adding my own opinion in there to sum up the first four months of the season. So let’s crack on…
1) Tough Tottenham
Just what is Mauricio Pochettino feeding his players down at White Hart Lane this season? Cause whatever it is he needs to bottle it because managers and fans up and down the country would die for the successful formula he has seemed to develop. Amazingly we sit here with Tottenham currently the most in form team in the league. In fact in all competitions they have only been beaten three times. League wise they have tasted defeat since the opening day loss at Old Trafford. A League Cup knockout to Arsenal will taste bitter on the palette however, and that was met on the list when Tottenham succumbed to defeat in Belgium in the Europa League, losing both matches 2-1.
After going numerous games without a goal at the start of the season Harry Kane looks to have put that well and truly behind him. So far for Spurs he has fired 10 goals from 19 matches and has scored 3 in 8 appearances for England putting him in good stead (or so it may appear) for the madness that will surely be 2016 for the young man. A good second half for the season and Euro 2016 for him could see a big money transfer finally happen for the man who showed so much promise last season. But that is another topic for another day, Kane is one of many Tottenham players impressing me this season, hell I am sure they even impress Shania Twain the way they are playing this year!
I have highlighted two key trios that have typified how industrious and thrilling Spurs have been. Firstly we have the English trio of Harry Kane, Eric Dier and Dele Alli. You can’t deny that these players have been so influential in the way Tottenham have played this season; with Kane being an ever present in the league, Dier playing 13 out of 14 and Alli appearing 12 times they have proven their worth this season and have gone on to gain International recognition with Dier and Alli making the step up into the England senior team last month. The second trifecta of players comes from the tropical country of Belgium. Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweirald and Moussa Dembele have been nothing short of heroic for Spurs this year. The centre backs like Kane have been ever presents in the league this year, thus giving Tottenham a solid foundation, something they haven’t had in years. Add this to the resurgence of Dembele and you have a winning team and a team that plays to win every time they step over the white lines. I for one cannot wait to see how Tottenham fair in the remainder of the season, the way it is going the Champions League is certainly on the radar.
2) Catastrophe at Chelsea
Back in May there were nothing but celebrations at Stamford Bridge when Chelsea were crowned champions after leading for most of the season. Fast forward to present day, not a creature is stirring, not even a mouse. Stamford Bridge is quiet. Lifeless. And why? Nothing to do with the fans (although some would disagree) but its to do with the garbage that they are witnessing from the fallen champions. Just look at the table, Chelsea have only 15 points from 14 games, they sit 14th -5 points away from the top 10 and even more surprisingly have a goal difference of -6. To put it in perspective, Chelsea have let in 23 league goals this term, which is the same amount that they let in away from home across the whole of last season. And we are still three weeks from Christmas. They are a shadow of the team that swept all before them this time last year.
There are two things that Chelsea fans can be happy with this season. Firstly they look like progressing in the Champions League (the competition that they are playing their best football in) and secondly the emergence of Willian as a big time player. He has to be Chelsea’s player of the season so far, no one else can even come close. When I have watched Chelsea this year he has been the stand out player. Now whilst the mainstream media will hype up the demise of players like Eden Hazard and Diego Costa in the first few months I have to say the fuzzy haired Brazilian has been sensational, breaking free kick scoring records a long the way. He has delivered when Chelsea have needed something special on more than one occasion.
Surely though the Special One can get it right going into 2016? Surely they will be able to manage more than one win a month? Only time will tell but by the game the top 4 is looking even further and further away for the Blues.
3) Atrocious Aston Villa
The gradual decline of Aston Villa has been a horrible one to view. They went from being probably in the top three Premier League teams on FIFA 09 to just being a shambles. Now I spoke about on the puncast and on SevernSport.co.uk about how Christian Benteke would have stuck around at Aston Villa had he been apart of a team who could create chances for him. And it appears to still be the same even now. The lack of creative options that Aston Villa have is ridiculous. The departures of Benteke and Fabian Delph have played pivotal roles in the decline this year but for me it is also the fact that Villa missed out on Tom Cleverley over the summer. The ex-Man Utd man chose to join Everton instead and that has effected Villa on the pitch in more ways than they would admit.
Towards the back end of last season it did look like Tim Sherwood was getting the club back on track, getting them to the FA Cup Final and allowing the West Midlands side the freedom to go out on the pitch and express themselves. You look at the state of the club now and its laughable. You have a new manager in who has banned the players from speaking French (never a good sign anyway) and you have one of your brightest sparks who for whatever reason cannot keep himself out of trouble and now finds himself training in the under 21 squad. Villa have only one point in the last 10 league games and have only won once all season. They need a miracle as they are sinking without a trace.
4) City’s Multimillion Masterpieces
Manchester City are turning heads this season. Well were starting to before being beaten at home to Liverpool not so long ago, following a 0-0 draw with Aston Villa the week previously. But wins against Southampton and then Hull in the League Cup this midweek have shown the strength that City have at their disposal. This is down to two factors. One Raheem Sterling. Two Kevin De Bryune. The latter being particularly special this season. Both players had a lot to prove this summer when they secured big money moves to the Etihad but for different reasons. Sterling chose to depart Anfield for more money and realistically more success. Right now Manchester City are more likely to win trophies than Liverpool. They are the bigger club right now. Which as a Man Utd fan is the worst thing to have to do, pretty much picking one of these two clubs is like asking just exactly how you would wish to die. But I digress.
There was a lot of criticisms aimed at Sterling before a ball was even kicked in August but by the game he is proving his doubters wrong (myself included). He adds a new dynamic to the still impressive City side that won the Premier League two seasons ago. His inclusion has given the likes of David Silva a more free role, which is frightening as when Silva has time and space to make stuff happen you can guarantee goals. In terms of De Bryune he has been simply superb. A serious contender for signing of the season in my opinion. After being harshly binned by Chelsea he spent time at Wolfsburg rebuilding a reputation that would have been ripped apart after his Stamford Bridge nightmare. However, he has returned to the Premier League with more than a point to prove and he has been nothing more than stunning. Two buys that could win Manchester City the league this season. Simple.
5) Formidable Foxes
I couldn’t do this without even mentioning Leicester City. In quite a remarkable turn of events they find themselves second in the league and have played some very entertaining football along the way. The Tinker Man himself Claudio Ranieri is doing what he does best and that is making his side tough to break down and quick to break out. If done correctly it is nearly unplayable. The revelation of Riyad Mahrez and record breaker Jamie Vardy has been nothing but astonishing. The former being one that has seen him linked with the heights of Manchester United, Barcelona and even Paris Saint Germain. The Algerian wingers performances have been particular high points for the Foxes this season. Vardy has been nothing short of sensational for his club side. And though I am still in the Kane over Vardy for England camp (I won’t get into that though) I still believe that the achievements of Vardy this year have been one of the biggest talking points in recent years. Though I really didn’t want him to break Van Nistelrooy’s record I am just glad it wasn’t broken by anyone playing for Liverpool or Chelsea, City would have only been acceptable if it was Aguero and no one else. Anyway. It will be a record that could stand for a while and it will take some beating. Ranieri is onto a good thing at Leicester, and even though I still believe a top 4 finish is too much of a fairy tale for me I think a European place is very much up for grabs for the Foxes.
And there we have it. The five major talking points in the Premier League season so far this term. Disagree with anything or have your own talking point? Tweet us @SevernSport and let us know.