It’s approximately a quarter of the way through the season (already!?) and I thought I’d look at how everyone in the Premier League has started. There have been plenty of surprises, just nine games in, and I thought it would be interesting to compare my pre-season predictions with reality. I wasn’t sure when I made them whether I’d want to revisit them in the future but I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find I wasn’t as far off (overall!) as I’d feared.
In this post I’ll be running through the current league standings and provide my thoughts on the performances of the clubs at this early stage. There is a lot of football still to be played but that doesn’t take anything away from the outstanding starts Southampton and West Ham have made, two sides I expected to struggle this season.
I’ve included the difference in brackets between current position (30/10/2014) and my predictions (15/08/2014) just to provide an easy indication as to who I feel has over or underachieved. For instance Southampton are currently 2nd, I predicted them to finish 14th so there is a difference of +12 league places. Hopefully it isn’t too confusing! I’ve also added links to several season previews for extra laughs.
1st (+0): Chelsea – I don’t think it has come as a surprise to anyone that Chelsea are the early pacesetters, with summer signings Fabregas and Diego Costa showing their qualities consistently every match, providing the finishing touches to a Chelsea team whose only weakness was scoring enough goals last season.
2nd (+12): Southampton – Southampton have come as a huge shock. I expected the Saints to have difficulties after exits of several key players, with the replacements struggling to fill their boots yet I couldn’t have been more wrong. They look even stronger this season. One thing worth noting however is they are yet to beat a side in a position similar to themselves.
3rd (-1): Manchester City – City have had a tough fixture list to start the season but it’s been the “easy” games that have caused unexpected point losses, with Stoke triumphing at the Etihad and West Ham’s 2-1 victory at Upton Park. There are positives however with a not disastrous six point gap to make up and they are unbeaten against fellow title contenders.
4th (+11): West Ham United – West Ham have proven all the critics wrong so far, making myself look especially silly for remarking “I wouldn’t want to be a West Ham fan this year.” Oops. The new signings all look a perfect fit for the Premier League. Andy Carroll will struggle to play with Valencia and Sakho doing so well. I’m still amazed they’ve got Alex Song.
5th (-2): Arsenal – Arsenal have been far too inconsistent so far to justify being called a title contender. There have however already been injuries to Giroud, Ozil, Ramsey, Debuchy, Koscielny and Arteta this season… have I left anyone out? It’s actually quite staggering. Alexis Sanchez is beginning to seriously impress, I just have to wonder when his injury will come!
6th (+2): Swansea City – The Swans are my dark horse for this season so it’s nice to see them up at 6th. Sigurdsson has been a joy to watch and Bony has started scoring again after a slow start. They have just come out of a bad spell of 2 points from 15 which has seen them drop slightly but I think they will be a lot more consistent as the season progresses.
7th (-3): Liverpool – It was always going to be tough for Liverpool this season after losing Suarez, and having Sturridge out has also really shown. Can Liverpool finish in the top 4? I’m taking positives from that 3-0 beating of Tottenham at White Hart Lane which Balotelli and Sturridge combined well in. There are plenty of signings still to find their feet.
8th (-2): Manchester United – There was a great deal of optimism at the start of the season that was quickly piped down after the opening day defeat. It is obvious that this United team still has problems that need to be resolved fast if van Gaal wants to be back in Europe. I predicted a 6th place finish and despite the numerous outrageous signings, I’m sticking with it.
9th (-2): Everton – The Toffee’s suffered a poor start but are currently on a two match winning run in the league. I expect Martinez to take advantage of a relatively easy November with three of the four games certainly winnable. The Europa League will add that extra bit of tiredness this season but they do have a real chance in that competition if they keep up their form.
10th (+2): Hull City – Hull are doing slightly better than I expected, I did have my doubts about Steve Bruce’s transfer business but overall it looks like his gambles have paid off. Unfortunately on the opening day £7m signing Robert Snodgrass suffered a 6 month injury, and a concern may be that just nine games in there have already been five draws.
11th (-6): Tottenham Hotspur – It’s all been rather up and down so far. The 2-1 shock home defeat against Newcastle last game raises some serious questions. It’s far too early to draw any significant conclusions with just 3 points separating 5th and 12th but Tottenham need improvement nonetheless. I stand by my comment that they need a new striker.
12th (-3): Stoke City – I think Stoke’s issue this season has been scoring goals, they’ve only 8 scored but do possess a solid defence with 10 conceded. Bojan who I claimed to be one of the signings of the season hasn’t really got off to the best start but it was small transfer fee anyway. Stoke do look to be improving in recent matches after just one win in the opening five.
13th (+6): West Bromwich Albion – West Brom have had an impressive start and I think it’s fair to credit a certain Berahino as a key factor for this. He’s the third top scorer in the league with seven goals and it must surely only be a matter of time before his full England début. West Brom do have a tough November which could see the club drop down the league table.
14th (-4): Newcastle United – It’s been a strange start for Newcastle. The Toon had a dreadful run of 4 points (all draws) from a total of 21 points, sitting in the relegation zone with huge calls from the fans for Pardew to leave. And yet with back to back wins Newcastle’s pressure appears to have eased. I’m still left feeling 10th is now out of the question.
15th (+5): Aston Villa – Villa have achieved the exact opposite to Newcastle. They’ve had an incredible start with away wins at Stoke and Liverpool but since that victory at Anfield are on a five match losing run. In fairness of those five matches Villa did have to play in consecutive matches Arsenal, Chelsea, Man City and Everton but that doesn’t change the numbers.
16th (+0): Crystal Palace – I expected there to be issues at Palace, at the very least in the beginning, after the surprise departure of Tony Pulis right before the season started. Indeed it took five games before the first recorded league win, with Warnock arriving in time for that crazy 3-3 draw against Newcastle. I still think Palace will be safe.
17th (-4): Leicester City – After a fantastic start, topped off with that fabulous 5-3 win over United, it’s been rather downhill from then. The Foxes need to get another win quick and West Brom at home this Saturday should be the perfect opportunity. Ulloa got his Leicester career off to a sensational start but as he stopped scoring, Leicester stopped getting points.
18th (-7): Sunderland – Sunderland’s start has almost been the biggest surprise of them all for me. Yes my ambitions weren’t that high for the Black Cats but I wasn’t expecting such a poor display. The 8-0 defeat to Southampton will take some healing, and perhaps it’s time for a defensive reshuffle with Wes Brown and John O’Shea past their prime.
19th (-2): Queens Park Rangers – QPR have conceded the highest number of goals along with the most defeats with 6. Two stats you could really do without! Redknapp has tried numerous combinations at the back to stabilize the defence but so far has been unsuccessful. A positive is that Austin already has four goals to his name but does he have too much responsibility?
20th (-2): Burnley – The Championship trio have all had difficult starts to life in the Premier League but Burnley have had the biggest trouble. The Clarets are still winless despite three successive clean sheets including a promising display against Manchester United. November will offer a perfect opportunity to get that first win with home games against Hull and Villa.
Biggest Overachievers: (+12) Southampton, (+11) West Ham, (+6) West Brom
Biggest Underachievers: (-7) Sunderland, (-6) Tottenham, (-4) Newcastle
It was a bit difficult to work out how to present this, please let me know if you have any suggestions! I plan to do one for each quarter of the season, with the next review therefore around the New Year. I hope this is interesting, I appreciate any feedback.
What are your thoughts on the Premier League so far?