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The Premier League is at it again, causing shocks and drama that enhance its reputation as the most exciting league in the world. No-one would have predicted the madness that has occurred over the last 6 months, so here’s my review of the stand out moments.
The Not-So-Special One
Where else can you start other than at the fall of the champions? At the start of the season, I tried my luck putting a bet on a prediction of the final premier league table, to win £50 million. Ridiculous. I put Chelsea top. Utterly ridiculous.
From day one of the season, Chelsea looked shaky and weak. Hazard’s been out of form, Terry has shown his age, and Costa’s been more interested in fighting than scoring. Add this to the infamous incident involving the popular club doctor Eva Carneiro, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster for Mr Mourinho.
But just how much of a disaster it’s been was not predictable. Losses to inferior sides Crystal Palace, Bournemouth, Southampton, Stoke and West Ham caused the unthinkable. Mourinho, once again, sacked in his third season, with the poisoned chalice of the Chelsea job handed once again to Guus Hiddink.
If at the start of the season someone said Chelsea won’t qualify for the Champions League, you’d have disagreed. If they’d have said that Chelsea would be in a relegation battle, you’d have laughed at them. But this is the beauty of the Barclays Premier League.
Jamie Vardy’s Having a Party
Chelsea’s fall lead to the possibility of a new team entering the title race. Man United? Liverpool? Potentially Tottenham? No. Enter Leicester City.
Despite the sacking of Nigel Pearson in the summer, Leicester have continued their momentum, and, replicated the amazing form that got them out danger so incredibly last season. After Pearson’s sacking, I had them down as finishing 18th this season. However, Claudio Ranieri has done a great job in instilling confidence in the team, allowing them to approach games without fear, which has led to title-worthy form.
Huge congratulations must go to Jamie Vardy, who is entitled to have a great party after becoming the first ever Premier League player to score in 11 consecutive matches. A remarkable achievement for any player, especially one who was playing non-league football just four seasons ago.
Vardy, and the stylish £300,000 signing Riyad Mahrez have rightly stole the headlines this season, but Leicester’s overall style has been highly impressive.
If they can keep the squad intact over the January transfer window, then the dream of Champions League football at the King Power could easily become a reality next season.
Another shocking story of the season has unfolded at Villa Park. Over the last few seasons, Villa have struggled, but have never really been in serious danger of relegation. At this current point, I don’t think they are in danger of relegation. They’ve gone beyond that.
It’s been a catalogue of disasters for Villa from the backroom through to the pitch. A club up for sale, coupled with the failure to replace the players that were lost, have led to a real lack of quality. This all leads to one thing, relegation.
The damage was done in the summer for Villa. Losing Ron Vlaar, Fabian Delph and Christian Benteke would hit any side. Sherwood, just like Brendan Rodgers of Liverpool, replaced big losses with the bulking out of their squad. None of those who arrived at Villa have been good enough, and their defending at times this season has been shambolic.
Sherwood was sacked, leaving unknown Remi Garde with the momumental task of achieving survival, however not even Bear Grylls would be able to ensure Premier League survival for Villa.
It’s time for Villa, just like their ‘golden boy’ Jack Grealish, to pull their socks up as this once big club is in serious danger of joining forgotten side Nottingham Forest, a fellow previous European Cup winner, stranded in the footballing abyss.
Adapting to Premier League Life
Usually, for a newly promoted side, the Premier League can be a daunting task. Tell that to Watford. Despite the arrival of 15 new faces and a new manager, the Hornets are buzzing.
Quique Flores has been a throwback this season, playing a disciplined 4-4-2, led by the charismatic strike force of Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney. Watford have registered victories over established Premier League sides Stoke and West Ham, however the stand out result is the 3-0 hammering of Liverpool, which has led to some claiming that not only will this side survive, they can even push for the Europa League.
Bournemouth: a small south coast side a causing a big wave in the Premier League. Although they sit just four points above the drop zone, this side has already registered back to back victories over Man United and Chelsea. Some of the football they’ve played this season has given Eddie Howe, whose reputation continues to grow, strong belief that this side can continue their remarkable rise up the footballing ladder.
The third promoted side were Norwich, led by the unknown Alex Neil. Despite their struggles in the transfer window and distinct lack of out and out quality, the spirit and desire shown by Norwich has seen them position themselves six points clear of danger, by beating the sides around them in the table, which is the most essential thing to do to achieve survival. Norwich’s stand out feature this season has been their ability to play on the break, helping them achieve a heroic win at Old Trafford.
There is a strong possibility that this season could be the first since 2012 where all three promoted sides have stayed up.
Those, for me, were the stand out moments of the first six months of the season. Other honourable mentions must go to Newcastle, who despite their fans’ claims, continue to show the world why they aren’t a big club and could well join Villa in the Championship next season. Similarly, Swansea city have proved that no-one has a divine right to stay in the premier league. Louis Van Gaal lives to fight another day despite fans calling for his head, and Liverpool attempt to steal the headlines with what looks like an astute appointment in Jürgen Klopp.
Once again the Premier League’s magic makes it impossible to predict, and I, like any others, am contemplating throwing my betting slip in the bin.