As the Premier League season approaches its halfway stage, Telegraph Sport’s football writers have assessed the 20 clubs’ performances in the season so far. Is your team under-performing, over-performing – or playing to par?
Dreadful start has been followed by remarkably steady progress, leading to an unusually buoyant mood at the Emirates – particularly given the pre-season expectations. Youngest team in the league will have dips but the top four is within reach.
This has already been an tumultuous season, including the sacking of the popular Dean Smith and superb results interspersed with some poor ones, but the appointment of Steven Gerrard has revitalised Villa. There is now a tidal wave of momentum raising hopes of European qualification.
The Premier League rookies were tipped by many to go down, but they have punched well above their weight. Fast and flexible football has made them one of the league’s most watchable sides, AND Thomas Frank is one of the top flight’s most engaging managers.
A super start fuelled hopes that they might this season’s dark horses but they have fallen away badly since then, and are winless since September. A top-half finish is still a reasonable target for a team that continues to play a lovely brand of football. Once again, their finishing is letting them down.
Have spent much of the season in the bottom three despite some notable results, including holding the then-league leaders Chelsea to a draw at Stamford Bridge. The football is not as bad as their critics would suggest and their spirit is in tact, but there is a decided lack of quality and depth which could yet hurt them.
Starting the season, Chelsea would have been rated as the Premier League’s third-best team by many people and that’s exactly where they find themselves, having given up their lead at the top of the table. Still fighting on all fronts in terms of other competitions, however, and can beat anyone.
A summer of upheaval has, rather surprisingly, not caused chaos on the pitch, with Patrick Vieira’s players quickly adapting to a new style of prgressive passing football, helped by the superb performances of Chelsea loanee Connor Gallagher. Aiming upwards.
A messy start on and off the pitch. Rafael Benitez, who was always going to be a risky appointment and has gone down as well as would have been expected with the fans, is promising improvement. He needs new recruits in January and an empty treatment room, and fast.
Marcelo Bielsa is untouchable in the eyes of most Leeds fans but even some of his most ardent admirers are concerned at the club’s slump this season, particularly in defence. Bielsa’s side have been on the wrong end of some hammerings but the hope is that the return of key personnel will restore them to their levels of last season.
After two successive fifth-placed finishes, Leicester’s campaign has been underwhelming so far and plagued by defensive problems, not entirely of their own making. Injuries have undeniably hurt them but they are already out of the Europa League and Carabao Cup, so the pressure is certainly on.
Such are Liverpool’s standards under Jurgen Klopp, an exceptional performance for most clubs is par for the course for them. In any other era they would be heading for their third title in four years under the German. Manchester City’s unlimited resources may prove a familiar obstacle.
Performing as you would expect. The champions, top at Christmas, remain the team to beat after eight successive league wins. They also won their Champions League group and face Sporting Lisbon in the last 16. The only surprise was seeing them suffer an unusually early League Cup exit.
A mess so far. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked four months after being awarded a three-year contract after losing seven of his final 13 games in charge, including a 5-0 humiliation at home to Liverpool. United have reached the Champions League last 16 but Rangnick has a huge job on his hands trying to salvage the season.
Newcastle United’s squad looked short of the necessary quality to avoid a relegation battle in August and those pre-season fears have turned into a depressing reality. They have won just one game under three different managers this season and they should still have done more than that.
There has been a clear “bounce” since the arrival of Dean Smith, and Norwich – for all that they have largely been written off by the pundits – remain in touch of safety. They do, however, need to transform performances into victories quickly if they are not to slip back into the Championship.
The loss of Danny Ings’s goals was always going to place a major question mark over Southampton’s capacity to avoid a relegation battle and they are just about keeping clear of serious danger so far. Performances are generally better than results, and they have had a lot of injuries to contend with.
Par is actually a triumph for Antonio Conte, given how horribly the team had been under-performing under previous head coach Nuno Espirito Santo. This is a squad that should be challenging for the top six and Conte already has them back in that fight.
A familiar chaotic story, with the routine managerial change and decidedly up-and-down results. Barring one spectacular evisceration of Manchester United, Claudio Ranierl has not delivered the bounce Watford might have expected and they look a team facing a long, hard winter.
A superb campaign in Europe has not yet derailed their domestic push as David Moyes once again oversees a very strong campaign. Injuries could cause problems in the second half of the season but they have picked up where they left off last year, and impressively so.
Bruno Lage has introduced a new style of play which is easy on the eye and has Wolves in contention for a top-eight finish, which would be considered a fine return given last season’s struggles. The team is lacking the end product of goals – a few additions in January are essential.