Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Premiership - Mid Season Report Card

The New Year has brought up the half way stage in proceedings and it is time to take stock of how the teams have performed so far versus their expectations and ability.

Manchester City 'A'
Superb first half of the season from the men in light blue. A couple of recent defeats have been offset by poor results from their neighbours and nearest challengers. The real test is still to come in the spring and it will be key to see how Mancini controls a combustible dressing room when the pressure starts to tell. Yaya Toure will be a big loss during the African Nations Cup.

ManYoo 'B+'
As usual, Ferguson has confounded his critics with an excellent points tally so far. Doubts remain about De Gea and they look woefully short in central midfield. Despite this they remain many people's pick for the title with many feeling that having Sir Alex at the helm rather than Mancini might be the tipping point.

Spurs 'A'
Tremendous first half of the season from 'Arry's men impressing all with their attacking verve. In Van Der Vaart, Bale, Modric and Adebayor they have genuine quality but it remains to be seen whether they can last the distance for the Champions League spots. Full marks so far however.

Chelsea 'D'
A truly awful start to AVB's reign as he wrestles with an ageing dressing room full of powerful characters that don't wish to be ousted. The manager must find a way to assert himself definitively with the players and he must resolve his issue regarding his lack of trust in a Torres who had just started to look more like his old self. The transfer window will be key as it would rejuvenate the club as well as possibly showing that Abramovich retains faith in his young coach. A big improvement is required.

Arsenal 'C-'
More accurately the first ten games would be classed as an 'E' with a 'B' thereafter. Arsenal's shortcomings have been well documented and whilst the defence seems to be taking on a more robust look the same problems remain. An over reliance on Van Persie is also highly dangerous given his injury record. January reinforcements would be welcome but probably unlikely.

Liverpool 'C'
Dalglish's mastery of the media is unquestionable but his team is still mediocre. Despite appalling seasons from Chelsea and Arsenal so far they remain sixth with little hope of a title challenge in the coming seasons. The Suarez issue has stopped the media from focusing on the lack of ability in the side and the fact that the other new recruits, Adam, Carroll, Downing and Henderson are not of sufficient calibre for a team with Champions League aspirations. With the resources of the clubs above them, it looks hard to see where Liverpool go from here.

Newcastle 'B+'
Excellent start to the season which has since tailed off as injuries have bitten through a paper thin squad. Pardew and his French speaking cohorts have confounded expectations of a relegation battle however and they should be congratulated on some fine results. The only way is down from here however.

Stoke City 'B'
It might sound odd to have Stoke in eighth place yet only award them a 'B' yet such is the excellence of the side that Pulis has built and the consistency of results they have achieved that this is where they should expect to be. They will remain a handful for most teams that they play this season.

Norwich City 'A'
Points are the name of the game and so far a return of 25 is a superb one for the Carrow Road men. Paul Lambert looks to be a coach of genuine quality and 15 points only should be required to ensure another year's stay in the top flight.

Sunderland 'D'
Fortunately for Sunderland, the Dunce that 'D' stood for has been removed with the motivator supreme Martin O'Neill now instilled at the helm. Their recent results have been superb and there is reason for optimism going forwards for the fans on Wearside.

Everton 'C'
It is easy to be too harsh on Moyes given the size of his squad but the deja vu at Goodison is tangible with yet another mediocre first half to the season. There must be something in Moyes' methods, be it pre season or something else that sees such Jekyll and Hyde form every season from Everton. Should their usual post Christmas form kick in they should enjoy a decent finish, if it does not they may be looking over their shoulders.

Swansea City 'B'
The Welsh side have won many friends so far with their brave showings in the Premiership. Whilst twelfth place looks excellent on paper they are only two wins above the drop zone so they must build on what they have achieved so far. They should be able to confound pre season predictions and stay up however.

Aston Villa 'C'
It was always going to be a tough job for Alex McLeish and so it is proving with a mediocre side and much false expectation. Mid table is their lot in life.

Fulham 'C'
Martin Jol has had a topsy turvy time at the Cottage and he badly needs to fix his relationship with Bobby Zamora if the West London side are not to get sucked into relegation trouble.

West Brom 'C'
Expectation probably became way too elevated given their excellent end to last season. The Baggies are in their usual place in the lower half of the table and they will have to work hard again to stay up. Should have enough quality to do so however.

Wolves 'D'
Some good transfer activity in the Summer and with a good goalscoring threat, there was much reason for optimism at Molineux but they have had a truly awful run of form after a promising start. Mick McCarthy's ability at the highest level is again in question and one must wonder how much patience the fans will continue to have.

QPR 'C-'
There was much optimism around Loftus Road after Tony Fernandes' takeover and the arrival of some good players on deadline day. There is however one simple problem with QPR and that is their manager. Warnock, for all his bluster cannot hide the fact that he is simply not good enough to manage at the top level. Will be touch and go whether they can stay up if he remains in charge.

Wigan 'C'
Like with Moyes, it is tough to be too harsh on Martinez and with no money invested it was always going to be an uphill battle. Martinez remains likeable but his tactics for instance in the game with Arsenal were naive at best. Hard to see them surviving this time around.

Blackburn Rovers 'D'
Rovers have the players to stay in this division and if somehow the crowd at Ewood could back off from the open hatred towards the manager and owners, the team has a good chance of staying up as they are capable of some excellent results. Steve Kean's position seems untenable long term and with owners with no apparent idea how to fix things one must worry for the clubs's future. They are able to get out of his position however.

Bolton Wanderers 'E'
Where has it all gone wrong for the men from the Reebok? Reliant on loan players previously, they have not been able to replicate their form from last season and they have been in a free fall since their hammering in the FA Cup Semi Final. Cahill should have been sold in the Summer for double what they will get now with the money reinvested. Doomed to be playing in the Championship next season where Coyle will have to rebuild his reputation.