PL half-term report – Each team’s season so far graded amid busy Xmas period
Well, what a season it’s been already.
With Liverpool buoyant after last season’s memorable Premier League title triumph, few backed against Jurgen Klopp’s champions retaining their crown this time around.
And despite a number of injury setbacks, they’re finally in the groove heading into the New Year, while fierce rivals Manchester United gathering steam at a vital stage of the season.
But it’s not been plain sailing for everyone, with Arsenal hovering just above the relegation zone while Sheffield United are suffering from the dreaded “Second Season Syndrome” and still looking for their first win of the season.
So, without further ado, Mirror Sport have graded each club based on the season as a whole…
1. Liverpool: A
There were questions as to whether Liverpool could maintain their standards after romping to the Premier League title last term.
But, as we tuck into our turkeys, they sit comfortably at the summit of the top flight with a four-point cushion to second-placed Leicester after 14 games.
Only a frankly weird 7-2 drubbing by Aston Villa stopping this from being A+.
2. Leicester: A-
The Foxes looked handily placed for a return to the Champions League for the majority of the last campaign before wilting at the end.
They look set to challenge the European spots again this term, but have shown vulnerability with five defeats already.
Jamie Vardy’s goals will again prove pivotal, and the challenge will be whether they can last the pace of a frantic campaign with the added pressure of Europa League football.
3. Manchester United: B+
Despite all the criticism, sit just five points off the title pace with a game in hand.
Have turned in some impressive performances – especially going forward – none more so than the 6-2 hammering of Leeds in their final top-flight game before Christmas.
But have largely struggled at home and still have a dodgy display in them, as shown by crashing out of the Champions League.
Second half of the season could go either way, you feel.
4. Everton: A-
Jurgen Klopp said he knew Everton would re-emerge as rivals when Carlo Ancelotti took over, and there are signs he may well be right.
The former Chelsea boss has got the Toffees going – and he’s got Dominic Calvert-Lewin scoring.
Inside the top four after 14 matches – can they challenge for a spot at Europe’s top table this term?
5. Chelsea: B
Were in everybody’s title conversation until back-to-back defeats at the hands of Everton and Wolves.
But returned to form by beating West Ham 3-0 in their last game before Christmas and are still only a couple of wins from pace-setting Liverpool.
Frank Lampard will be confident of another top-four finish.
6. Tottenham: B
Tottenham had an excellent start to the season, going on an 11-game unbeaten run after their 1-0 opening day loss to Everton. The run saw Spurs tipped as genuine title contenders with proven winner Jose Mourinho at the helm but they have since dropped off slightly, losing back-to-back games to Liverpool and Leicester.
In the form of Harry Kane and Heung-min Son, Spurs have arguably the best attacking partnership in world football and they look well set to secure a spot in the Champions League after last season’s disappointing sixth-placed finish.
They are not quite the finished article yet but Mourinho will be pleased with the progress he has made in his first full season at the club.
7. Southampton: A
The Saints could easily have decided to part ways with manager Ralph Hasenhuttl after their 9-0 thrashing at the hands of Leicester last October but they are now reaping the benefits of sticking with the Austrian.
A win over Newcastle in November saw them go top of the Premier League, albeit briefly, and they have lost just four of their 14 games this season.
Che Adams and Danny Ings have developed a dangerous strike partnership, captain James Ward-Prowse is pulling the strings in midfield and the returning Theo Walcott looks to be back to his best. It has been an excellent start to the season and they will be hoping they can continue in the same vein.
8. Man City: C+
City are struggling to score goals with the same regularity this season, with Sergio Augero and Gabriel Jesus’ respective fitness problems having a major impact with the pair managing just two goals between them in the league.
They have shored up defensively with the additions of Ruben Dias and Nathan Ake and the return to form of John Stones but, despite the fact that only Liverpool have lost less games than City’s two, their struggles in front of goal have led to a lot of draws and mean they currently sit eighth in the table.
Pep Guardiola has committed his long-term future to the club but it feels like City are in the midst of a transition period this season.
9. Aston Villa: B
Having narrowly avoided relegation to the Championship by a solitary point last season, Villa ensured that key stars like Jack Grealish, Tyrone Mings and John McGinn signed new long-term deals with the club.
They also did some good business in the transfer window, with additions like Emiliano Martinez, Ollie Watkins and Ross Barkley immediately strengthening the first-team.
And Dean Smith’s side have had a good season so far, banishing suggestions of another relegation dogfight and becoming the only side to defeat defending champions Liverpool – thrashing Jurgen Klopp’s side 7-2.
10. West Ham: B
David Moyes has done a stellar job at West Ham so far this season, with the Hammers picking up notable wins over Wolves and Leicester and holding firm against Tottenham and Manchester City.
A poor opening day loss to Newcastle had Hammers fans fearing another relegation scrap but they have risen up the table, with the likes of Jarrod Bowen, Tomas Soucek, Vladimir Coufal, Declan Rice and Michail Antonio impressing.
11. Wolves: C
After back-to-back 7th placed finishes, Nuno Espirito Santo will be hoping for the same this time around.
The departures of Diogo Jota and Matt Doherty and the serious injury to Raul Jimenez, means Wolves are without their top three scorers from last season.
It’s been a struggle at times and the football hasn’t always been exhilarating, but wins over Arsenal and Chelsea mean they are on the same points tally as after the same amount of games last season.
January will be important.
12. Newcastle: C
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Steve Bruce’s side have picked up points this season, but to say it hasn’t been pretty would be an understatement.
The arrival of Callum Wilson has given them a regular source of goals, but the approach adopted by the Magpies has failed to become any more attacking.
They look as if they will face no threat of relegation, and for that Bruce should be commended. After the upheaval of the summer and the failed takeover, the actual season has been one without too much drama.
13. Crystal Palace: C-
Eight points ahead of the drop zone, Roy Hodgson’s side should be able to enjoy a relatively stress free second half of the season.
Wilfried Zaha has been in outstanding form and the acquisition of Ebere Eze looks a shrewd one. Aside from that however, Palace still lack quality in a number of positions.
The 7-0 thrashing by Liverpool was a particular lowlight and fans will be desperate to see more investment in the playing staff next month.
14. Leeds: B-
There was much excitement for not only Leeds’ return to the Premier League, but also for Marcelo Bielsa’s first crack at the English top flight.
And their first few months haven’t disappointed, with the Whites one of the most exciting teams in the league.
Their 24 goals scored is the highest in the bottom half, while their 30 conceded is the worst of any of the 20 teams.
Leeds were thumped 6-2 at Old Trafford against Manchester United, but were praised for their approach, even in defeat.
While some of that may be slightly misplaced, they look head and shoulders the best of the promoted trio and should escape any relegation concerns at the end of the season.
15. Arsenal: F
After winning the FA Cup and the Community Shield, hopes were extremely high that Arsenal could compete towards the top of the table.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s new contract added more optimism, but it has gone horribly wrong for everyone involved.
12 goals in 14 is a record only better than three other teams and all of them are below them.
Four defeats on the spin at the Emirates is their worst run since 1959, while eight losses in all competitions is the worst start by an Arsenal side in almost half a century.
There has been genuine talk of relegation. All of the progress under Arteta is at threat of unravelling.
16. Burnley: C
The Clarets endured a miserable start to the Premier League season and failed to win in their opening seven games of 2020/21.
But as they often do, Sean Dyche’s men are beginning to grind out results and two wins in three games – including a stunning triumph at Arsenal – has given them much-needed momentum.
You’d expect them to now kick on and start fighting their way up table.
17. Brighton: D+
For all their free-flowing, attacking football, Brighton have found themselves hovering just above the relegation zone.
Indeed, a five-match winless run has got Seagulls fans anxiously looking over their shoulder and they’ll have to start picking up points soon or Graham Potter could be fighting to save his job.
They’re a team that boasts experience, including Danny Welbeck and Adam Lallana, and they’ll be crying out for their know-how in the second half of the campaign.
18. Fulham: C
Like Burnley, Fulham’s poor start to the season saw them toughing it out in the bottom three and they were tipped for an immediate return to the Championship.
But Scott Parker’s are beginning to find their style in the top flight, as was evident in their superb performance in the 1-1 draw with Liverpool.
They’ve got to start turning draws into wins, but given how poorly they started, things are now looking more positive for the Cottagers.
19. West Brom: D
The Baggies will be plying their trade in the Championship this season if they don’t stop their alarming form.
Club chiefs made a desperate attempt to turn things around, making the controversial decision to sack Slaven Bilic and bring in Sam Allardyce, whose reign got off to an embarrassing start as Aston Villa romped to a 3-0 win.
And with just one win all season, the Midlands club need Allardyce – who guided Crystal Palace to to a memorable survival – to use all of his experience to oversee another remarkable campaign.
20. Sheffield United: D-
Last season, the Blades were one of the surprise packages of the season, having battled for a European spot all campaign before fading out at the business end.
However this season, they’ve had an awful time. Still without a win and with just two points all campaign, Chris Wilder is seemingly facing Mission Impossible to avoid relegation.
The truth is, it’s been a season to forget for Sheffield United and it will take nothing short of a miracle if they secure Premier League status for a third successive season.