As the Premier League and other top competitions take a break, we all have time to look more closely at the events which have shaped the season so far.
Which teams have faired well and which have underperformed? Well, we know which group Liverpool and Sheffield United sit in, but today I’m running the rule over the five teams I really think should do better.
The pre-season Premier League 2020 betting odds here at SBOTOP pitched the Sky Blues as favourites to make it three league titles in a row. So to find themselves a massive 25 points behind Liverpool with 10 games remaining amounts to a catastrophic failure.
Having beaten Liverpool to win the Community Shield, Pep Guardiola’s side started the season with a 0-5 victory at West Ham.
But it all started to go wrong when they lost 3-2 to relegation fodder Norwich City despite having 25 shots. They reacted by slaughtering Watford 8-0, but soon enough lost another game, this time to Wolves after dominating for 80 minutes. That defeat put too much distance between them and the rampant Liverpool, and the Champions League and domestic cups became City’s focus.
When he arrived at the Emirates in December, Mikel Arteta inherited a team with bags of talent but very few if any leadership qualities. They had recruited David Luiz at centre-back, but his flamboyance is no substitute for fighting spirit. And while they have superb attacking players in the shape of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, the Gunners have a soft centre.
Having graced the Champions League for two decades under Arsene Wenger, Arsenal currently sit in ninth, and only a point above the bottom half of the table.
Arteta is getting things moving and has a win ratio of 50 per cent since his arrival, but there is a long way to go.
West Ham United
Most neutrals expected big-spending West Ham to be pushing for a Europa League spot this season after the marquee signings of Pablo Fornals and Sebastien Haller. But they are in an almighty relegation scrap, 16th in the suspended Premier League table and outside the relegation zone on goal difference alone.
The Hammers have been making the Premier League 2020 news for all the wrong reasons. As well as stinking on the pitch, their colourful owners always have an eye for a chance, and vice-chairman Karren Brady recently announced that the only fair thing to do would be to declare the 2019/20 season null and void. Well there you go…the Hammers, now led by the returning David Moyes, are clearly not up for the fight.
I’d ask the likes of 18th-placed Bournemouth if cancelling the league is “the only fair thing to do”!
Eddie Howe’s Cherries must wonder why they are also in the relegation mix. Bournemouth has a squad dripping with quality from goal-keeper Aaron Ramsdale and defender Nathan Ake through to a creative group which includes Callum Wilson, David Brooks, Dominic Solanke and Josh King.
Sure, the Cherries have suffered injuries along the way, but so have plenty of teams further up the league.
Bournemouth’s rise to the Premier League, funded by Russian businessman Maxim Demin, isn’t quite the fairytale some would have you believe. On promotion from the Championship in 2015, the Cherries were slapped with a £7.6m fine for breaching Financial Fair Play rules, quite spectacularly. They already had a wage bill higher than a number of Premier League clubs at £30.4m, and subsequently made a £38.3m loss.
A bit naughty… and maybe this season the south coast club’s luck is running out.
Dean Smith’s Aston Villa are also deep in trouble, currently 19th and, after spending big in the summer, they were the new team which seemed most likely to cope.
The Villans won promotion from the Championship with the help of Chelsea loanee Tammy Abraham, and head coach Smith already had the mercurial Jack Grealish as his captain.
So a spend of over £100m on players such as striker Wesley ought to have done the trick, but they have failed to gel, and injuries to Wesley and former Burnley keeper Tom Heaton have seriously dented their survival hopes.
Villa look the most likely team to join Norwich in the drop when hostilities resume.
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