Nigh on a third of the way through the season I thought it a good time to assess each team’s efforts so far and their prospects for the rest of the season. Have they lived up to expectations? Are they punching above their weight or have they been a total embarrassment to their fans like Liverpool have (I am only quoting my Scouse mates on this so don’t shoot the messenger!!). What player from their past would add value to their squad? Feel free to dispute and debate my perspective on your team @milesdavislive. Now take a deep breath, count to ten and read on…
Chelsea 2-0 West Bromwich Albion
Game: A typical Chelsea home performance, dominate the opposition, get a couple of goals up then extract the Michael without straining oneself.
Report Card: Chelsea = 9/10: Have so far been the side that most expected and justifying their pre-season favouritism to win the title. The addition of Fabregas has been a major factor but equally as important has been the form of Diego Costa. He has taken to the Premier League like a duck to water and has just the right amount of mongrel to add to his predatory finishing skills. Home fans love him, away fans hate him which is always a great mix. It is hard to see where they could improve and there is no doubt the title is theirs to lose with the biggest question being can they emulate Arsenal’s Invincibles and go unbeaten for the season?
Past player to add value? Peter Osgood; someone to take over when Diego finally breaks down.
West Brom = 6/10: Not much was expected from the Baggies who were close to relegation last season and had a new manager of limited experience. Whilst they haven’t set the league on fire they have picked up the odd result to warm the hearts of their fans. Wins at Spurs and Leicester and a home draw with Man United spring to mind. Saido Berahino has been a plus for them but there has not been consistent enough support for him. Their squad is not that strong and I can see them struggling for much of the season.
Past player to add value? Bryan Robson. His drive from midfield plus his ability to score goals would be invaluable.
Everton 2-1 West Ham United
Lukaku 26 Zarate 56
Game: No matter how well they play, West Ham rarely beat Everton so the result was as expected. Had Zarate started instead of Carlton Cole result may have been different but then again, probably not.
Report Card: Everton = 6/10: Much was expected in Roberto Martinez’s second season but so far they haven’t reached any great heights. Although they have cobbled together the odd good result there has not been the same fluency we saw so often last season. Perhaps when Ross Barkley gets back to full match fitness we may see them become more consistent.
Past player to add value? Dixie Dean. Imagine what another 60 goals in a season would do for the Toffees.
West Ham = 8/10: Most Hammers fans are still struggling to cope with the rarefied atmosphere of the top six rather than their usual habitat of two inches above relegation. Most of their fortune has come about as a result of an injury to Kevin Nolan which forced Fat Sam to use more capable personnel and employ more attacking tactics. Nolan returned against Everton and was as anonymous as ever. If West Ham continue with their attacking philosophy they are a good bet for a top ten finish. If they revert to hoofball they will end up in the bottom half.
Past player to add value? Trevor Brooking. His midfield genius would provide a threat through the middle to complement their current wing play.
Leicester City 0-0 Sunderland
Game: Predictably tight tussle and not a massive surprise that there were no goals. Both sides may look back on this point and be very grateful for it come next May.
Report Card: Leicester = 6/10: After an impressive start to the season Leicester have fallen away badly. They have now gone five games without scoring a goal and the momentum they had from their Championship charge last season has well and truly fizzled out. Hard to see them climbing out of the bottom three for any great period of time and it is likely the fans will have to revel in their great win over Man United as the high point of the season.
Past player to add value? Gary Linker. Goals are their problem and no better player to take advantage of the few chances they are creating (please don’t say Emile Heskey would have done a better job.)
Sunderland = 5/10: A lower mark than Leicester because more would have been expected of them. Admittedly only a late run kept them up last year but they should have built on that and have failed to do so. To be fair they have drawn seven of their games so far but in reality rarely look like doing better. On their day they can be tough opposition but those days don’t seem to occur frequently enough. May have enough in their armoury to stay up and will be helped by fact that many other sides are equally vulnerable.
Past player to add value? Brian Clough. Only played 61 games for the Black Cats but scored 54 goals. With their current strike force blowing hot and cold he would be just what the doctor ordered.
Manchester City 2-1 Swansea City
Jovetic 19 Bony 9
Game: A fair result after a reasonably close encounter. Not the best Citeh performance ever but after recent results will be a confidence-booster. Perhaps also a sign that Yaya may have stopped his sulking.
Report Card: Manchester City = 6/10: A shadow of the side they were last season especially at home where they were especially dominant. The indifferent form of talisman Toure had not helped but he is not alone in looking out of sorts. Questions should also be asked of Manuel Pellegrini and his ability to lift his troops when things are going wrong. Europe has been a distraction that seems to have had a negative effect on their domestic form but that should end soon so no problems there. Undoubtedly top four material but it would be a major shock were they to repeat last year’s title effort.
Past player to add value? Colin Bell. Unlike the petulant Toure one could rely on Bell to turn up every week and cover every blade of grass twenty times.
Swansea City = 7/10: A bit of a roller-coaster season so far but with more ups than downs. They are still setting out to play the attractive football that was their hallmark under Michael Laudrup and have the ability to beat any side on their day. A well balanced side they also have the luxury of an in-form and re-signed Wilfried Bony. Capable of a top six finish if they can keep their act together but even on a bad day should finish top ten.
Past player to add value? Leighton James. Winger with ability to beat players and also score goals. Bony would thrive on his service.
Newcastle United 1-0 Queens Park Rangers
Game: An even contest decided by a piece of brilliance from Newcastle’s form man. Somehow the Magpies keep on winning and it was likely that momentum that got them through this one.
Report Card: Newcastle = 7/10: An amazing turn-around in results cannot quite erase the rubbish they served up in the first part of the season. Now playing with confidence and managing to grind out positive results, there is still an element of fragility about Newcastle. One gets the feeling that they are just as likely to go through another run of defeats as continue this one going. This seems to be their pattern in recent seasons. No matter what the future holds, the Geordie fans are rightfully smiling at the moment and with luck they will, like last season, have gleaned enough points to save them from the drop should the bottom fall out of their season once again.
Past player to add value? Malcolm McDonald. An uncompromising centre-forward who would be a much better option than the fragile Papiss Cisse.
QPR = 5/10: Perhaps a rather harsh mark considering not much was expected from them but it is hard to give them more. Defensively woeful at the start of the season there has been an appreciable improvement in that department since the removal of a book tour, silly hat, and twitter distracted Rio got himself banned after as well as a lift in attacking threat. The fear is that these efforts are not always producing results and if that doesn’t turn around soon then things may take a turn for the worse. The one major asset they have is Harry Redknapp’s ability to produce miracle escapes from relegations. They are likely to need that in spades.
Past player to add value? Gerry Francis. His drive and guile from the midfield and calm head is just what the R’s need.
Stoke City 1-2 Burnley
Walters 32 Ings 12, 13
Game: Another lacklustre home performance from the Potters which allowed a resurgent Burnley to notch their first away win of the season. Back to back wins now sees the Lancashire club just a point away from climbing out of the bottom three and the whole town with a spring in their step.
Report Card: Stoke City = 6/10: Stoke are a team of extremes this season and must be frustrating the hell out of their fans. They win at Citeh and Spurs yet lose at home to the likes of Burnley and Leicester. Their home form was a strength last season but for some reason they have not been able to recapture that form. Hard to pick how their season will pan out but indications are that bottom half is more likely than top.
Past player to add value? Stanley Matthews. Why on earth would you want anyone else than Sir Stanley? Played in the top flight till he was fifty and if they dug him up tomorrow would still be too good for most defences.
Burnley 6/10: Scrapping hard from the kick off, the Clarets are now starting to get results and turn their season around. The goals of Danny Ings were a huge factor in their promotion and it appears he has now settled into life at the top level. Their current confidence should ensure a good couple of weeks but the shallow nature of their squad will likely mean a fight to the finish to survive.
Past player to add value? Martin Dobson. His aggression and ability in the middle of the park would add some steel to this Burnley outfit.
Arsenal 1-2 Manchester United
Giroud 90+5 Gibbs (og) 56
Game: Once again the Gunners belly up against top opposition. Despite dominating possession and creating more chances they failed to make it count. Slightly fortunate result for United but one which will undoubtedly give their season a welcome lift.
Report Card: Arsenal = 6/10: Probably a generous mark considering they have made their worst start to a season in 32 years. Their inability to best their major rivals must be starting to grate with the Gunners faithful. As an outsider I am baffled that Wenger hasn’t been asked to move on and some fresh blood brought in but perhaps not winning titles is what they want at the Emirates. Should have enough to finish top four but they look a long way from being a title threat.
Past player to add value? Dennis Bergkamp. The ability to both create and score goals out of almost nothing. No doubt he would alleviate the pressure on Alexis Sanchez who appears to carry the responsibility for making everything happen.
Man United = 6/10: Finally in the top four but still far from the side that dominated this league for so long. Magnificent attacking talent that is not yet consistently fulfilling its potential but extremely vulnerable defensively. Being carried much of the time, as they were last season, by Wayne Rooney. No matter what you think of him as a person there is no doubt he is a magnificent footballer with a great work ethic who is back to his instinctive best. Unfortunately I can see them finishing in the top four and the fun we have had at their expense may be minimised from now on.
Past player to add value? Steve Bruce. Tough and uncompromising defender who would shore up the current leaky defence.
Crystal Palace 3-1 Liverpool
Gayle 17 Lambert 2
Game: A repeat of last year’s fixture except Liverpool forgot to be two goals clear going into the last fifteen minutes. Arguably the worst Liverpool performance in recent seasons and a major boost for Palace who had been on the slide.
Report Card: Palace = 6/10: It was always going to be a long season for Palace but they have shown that on their day they can compete with anyone. I go on about their home support but it is definitely an asset and could be enough to see them safe at the season’s end. Plenty of passion at the club and despite some poor results, they appear to be a tight unit and all pulling in the same direction. Driven by the excellence in midfield of Yannick Bolasie and sumptuous beard of Mile Jedinak the Eagles should just about have enough to survive.
Past player to add value? Ian Wright. Swap him for Marouane Chamakh and you have a top half of the table side.
Liverpool = 3/10: Probably worth a slightly higher mark but I know by putting a low one in I will get a reaction from plastic-scousers who are easily identifiable by their under-developed sense of humour. This side played the most attractive football in the Premier League last season yet are looking like a shell-shocked rabble this term. It was always going to be a tough ask to replace the freak that was Luis Suarez but Brendan Rodgers has done an awful job in that regard. He has splashed out on lots of expensive trinkets without any clue of how he was going to make them combine into a team. The eventual return of Daniel Sturridge will help but may be too late. Potentially a top four threat but not on this form.
Past player to add value? Steven Gerrard. The one that led this side so brilliantly for so long. Not the tired, lost soul currently wandering around Anfield.
Hull City 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur
Livermore 8 Kane 61
Game: A game that Hull seemed in control of until the dismissal of Gaston Ramirez. Even then they looked likely to hold on until Eriksen broke their hearts with the final whistle moments away. Another result which makes one wonder whether Spurs have sold their soul to the devil.
Report Card: Hull City = 5/10: A disappointing season so far for Hull who made some fantastic signings which indicated they would build on their solid foundation of last season. For some reason they have not yet gelled as a unit and too often are seeing results slip away from them. With all of then talent in the squad it is far too early to write them off but they need to start winning very soon or the rot will likely set in. Could be a tough six months ahead.
Past player to add value? Stuart Pearson. Top striker who would bring some consistency to the Tigers forward line.
Spurs = 6/10: Spurs fans must be disappointed that there has been no appreciable improvement in their side after the arrival of Mauricio Pochettino. He has undoubtedly been hampered by the apparent lack of cash available for transfers but nevertheless one would have expected to see a lift of some sort. Perhaps the biggest problem at White Hart Lane is Daniel Levy, as every manager seems to have the same issues. If they have any sense they will sell Soldado back to Spain and invest in someone who can score goals regularly while playing up front rather than relying on their midfield to do all the work in that department.
Past player to add value? Jimmy Greaves. One of the greatest goalscorers in the club’s history, he would instantly turn this side into a top four certainty.
Aston Villa 1-1 Southampton
Agbonlahor 29 Clyne 81
Game: Villa scrambled their way to a draw and finally scored a goal (albeit one gifted to them by the Saints defence) Southampton dominated without really making it count but will be happy with the point that keeps them flying high.
Report Card: Villa = 4/10: Were it not for Villa riding their luck in their first four games and picking up ten points, they would be rock-bottom. Two points out of a possible twentyfour and only two goals is relegation form by anyone’s standard. Some talented players in the squad but surely the owners and fans realise that Paul Lambert and Roy Keane are not the answer on the sideline. Some battling performances from certain individuals in the side but they look like a disaster about to happen and it would be a surprise if they survive. Past player to add value?
Past player to add value? Dwight Yorke. Classy striker with an eye for goal which would be a massive bonus for the current Villans as they are blind in that regard.
Southampton = 9/10: Without doubt the star performer in the Premier League classroom. Their side, decimated with players leaving likes rats from a sinking ship, it was expected that relegation would figure prominently in the Saints’ season. Instead they are sitting comfortably in second and playing some fantastic football. Ronald Koeman must take much of the credit but the players have also pitched in and created something of a phenomenon on the South coast. They may not be able to sustain their form till may but will surely be top six by the end.
Past player to add value? Matt Le Tissier. His silky skills would complement this line-up and his loyalty to the Saints would be a shining example to the rest of the side.