Liverpool are top, Sheffield United are bottom, and between them is a table which is pretty difficult to decipher with games in hand for many clubs.
There is though a few days away from Premier League action, with the League Cup quarter-finals taking place on Tuesday and Wednesday, and with the league not returning until Boxing Day, now feels like a good opportunity to take stock of how each club have started the season. Arsenal fans, if you’ve even read to this point, we salute you.
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So let’s take a look at the table first, then get grading…
Premier League report card
Arsenal – F
An ‘F’, or in plainer terms for Mikel Arteta, about 30% – if that. Four wins from their opening 14 Premier Leagues games, and with each match that passes by you have to go back even further in the record books. Currently, with 14 points from 14, it is their worst start in 46 years, since the 1974-75 season, and now having passed his one-year anniversary at club, the onus is on manager Arteta to reverse this slump and claw his side away from the relegation zone. At this rate, a bottom-half finish beckons.
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Aston Villa – A
The club who survived by a point last season are already more than 50 per cent on their way towards 40 points after just 12 games. Win their games in hand and they could even go second. Villa deserve nothing short of an ‘A’ for this remarkable turnaround in fortunes, and while they have benefited from a shrewd summer of transfers, they are also reaping the rewards of Jack Grealish staying for at least another season and raising his level even further.
Brighton – E
A run of five games without a victory and suddenly Brighton are looking behind them. For a team with two wins from 14 it is difficult to grade them anything above an ‘E’, for though they drew with Liverpool, home draws against fellow strugglers Sheffield United, Burnley and West Brom means there are tricky away ‘six-pointers’ to come after Christmas. At this rate, Brighton will be battling to avoid the drop.
Burnley – D
Burnley’s win against Wolves on Monday lifts them up a grade, perhaps generously, but more must be done to lift them completely away from trouble after they moved out of the relegation zone. Upcoming matches against Leeds, Sheffield United and Fulham will have a huge bearing on whether Burnley are a side in trouble or overcoming an early-season blip.
Chelsea – B+
A much-needed victory on Monday night saw Chelsea bounce back from two straight defeats which saw their season somewhat checked after a bright start. Six points off the top means they are still in the hunt, but Frank Lampard will know his side can ill-afford more slip-ups as they bid to overhaul Liverpool.
Tammy Abraham scored twice after Thiago Silva’s opener for Chelsea against West Ham
Image credit: Getty Images
Crystal Palace – C+
A tricky club to grade, but with one win in their last six, and on the receiving end of a 7-0 drubbing by Liverpool on the weekend, Palace have dropped off lately and must arrest this current form to avoid dropping down even further. Still, if survival is the aim of the game, they have 18 points from 14 games. Almost halfway there.
Everton – A
It’s tight at the top but Everton should consider themselves Champions League contenders, with three straight wins propelling them back into fourth after a November slump. Those three wins came against Chelsea, Leicester, and Arsenal, and with Carlo Ancelotti steering the ship they have a manager capable of ensuring they continue this charge.
Fulham – D
Few gave Fulham a chance of survival at the start of the season, and they looked nailed-on when losing five of their opening six matches. However, a steely resolve has somehow emerged in Scott Parker’s side, and while November wins against West Brom and Leicester have put some valuable points on the table, recent draws against Liverpool, Brighton and Newcastle have outlined their determination to avoid what was looking like the inevitable.
Leeds – C+
The plus is for the pure entertainment you get with every fixture, but the fact remains they have only picked up five wins in their opening 14 games. ‘Only’ is a tad harsh for a club promoted last season, but having conceded more goals than any other club in the league so far (30 to West Brom’s 29), there are clear areas Marcelo Bielsa’s side can improve in as they look to stay above the relegation battle and secure a safe mid-table finish.
Leicester – A-
Just four points off leaders Liverpool, Leicester are the only side yet to draw in the Premier League, and while the minus next to the ‘A’ may feel unfair, it represents the five losses from their opening 14 games. Home defeats to Villa, West Ham, Fulham, and Everton have somewhat erased their efforts on the road, which has included wins at Spurs and Manchester City, but still they remain in a strong position to right the wrongs of their finish to last season when they missed out on the Champions League.
Liverpool – A
Last season Liverpool had 40 points and an eight-point lead at the top after 14 games. This time it’s 31 points and a gap which could be two points if Manchester United win their game in hand. Given the injuries to Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez in particular, it is an impressive feat for Liverpool to be top at Christmas, but not entirely remarkable given the quality they still have. A reward for strengthening in the right areas, and a credit to the makeshift or young centre-backs who have come in, while the impending return of Thiago Alcantara will only boost their hopes of retaining the title.
Roberto Firmino scored twice against Crystal Palace
Image credit: Getty Images
Manchester City – B-
Are Manchester City going backwards? Win their game in hand and they will only be five points behind leaders Liverpool, but they are still behind their points tally at this stage last season, meaning only a serious upturn in results will help them trouble Liverpool at the top. With their quality, it is of course possible, but draws with West Brom, West Ham and Leeds could come back to haunt them, while they still have to travel to Liverpool in February after drawing with the champions at the Etihad. That could be make or break for City’s title prospects.
Manchester United – A
Title contenders? Why not, writes Pete Hall, and given they could be just two points behind Liverpool if they win their game in hand then it is difficult to give United anything below an ‘A’. Were the Champions League included then that grade would drop, but focusing solely on the Premier League you have a club who have seriously improved on last season’s start, and if they can finish as strongly as they did last term then who knows. Rule nothing out.
Bruno Fernandes of Manchester United celebrates with team mates (l – r) Alex Telles, Fred, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial after scoring their sides sixth goal during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Leeds United at Old Trafford
Image credit: Getty Images
Newcastle – B-
Five wins, three draws, five defeats. A mid-table finish beckons after an indifferent start, and you would imagine Steve Bruce would happily take that after a season which has so far included a Covid-19 outbreak at the club. A look at their results shows it’s difficult to predict which Newcastle will turn up, but as it stands they are doing enough to comfortably stay away from the relegation battle.
Sheffield United – F
Two points, zero wins, 12 defeats to start the season. Sheffield United look doomed. No club has ever survived from this position, and it is clear they need the greatest of escapes to avoid relegation. It is difficult to believe even a change of managers would help, but what is clear is that Chris Wilder’s side need points in their next four matches against Everton, Burnley, Crystal Palace and Newcastle given games against Spurs, Manchester United and Manchester City will follow.
Southampton – A-
Struggling in the bottom three around 12 months ago, Ralph Hasenhuttl deserves huge credit for turning Southampton into a top-half team, one that has a familiar feel and is sticking to a method that is so far working. Keep this up and a push for European football is on the cards, though one point from their last two matches highlights the fickleness of football and how easily things could change
Tottenham – B
What a difference a week makes. Top of the table after their north London derby victory over Arsenal on December 6, three matches later they are now sixth in the table. The points swing when losing late on against Liverpool was compounded when losing to Leicester on Sunday, and now Jose Mourinho is facing a battle to prove his way is the best way for Spurs to continue their title fight.
Liverpool’s German manager Jurgen Klopp (L) greets Tottenham Hotspur’s Portuguese head coach Jose Mourinho (R) before the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on December
Image credit: Getty Images
West Brom – E
Is Big Sam the man with the rescue plan to save West Brom? Not if his players keep getting sent off, but after Allardyce’s rude realisation in the defeat to Aston Villa that he has a mighty job on his hands, he will know he can hardly do any worse than their start of one win in 13 under Slaven Bilic. It felt like a harsh sacking after the 1-1 draw at Manchester City, but it did not do enough to gloss over a poor start which has left them favourites for the drop.
West Ham – B-
Defeats to Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool are understandable, and while West Ham may be kicking themselves for losing to Newcastle and Arsenal in the opening two matchdays it has been a pretty steady start apart from that. Five points off fourth and 11 clear of the relegation zone – that’s enough to warrant a ‘B’, just.
Wolves – C-
They may not have the distraction of European football this season, but you have to say last season’s longest of campaigns is taking its toll on this Wolves side, who are struggling for goals and may well have to dip into the January transfer market with Raul Jimenez out. A tough start, but by no means calamitous.
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