The Premier League season is now only four games away from its half-way point, who’d have thought it? It seems like only weeks ago we were making our pre-season predictions. Alas, 15 games have passed us by and Manchester City are seemingly running away with it. Now 8 points clear and grinding out wins every week, the season could be over by January.
Can anybody catch them?
The simple answer to that question is: no.
1st: Manchester City
City have everything about them. Their two strikers are in the top five forwards in the league, with Aguero as one of the league’s greatest ever strikers and back-up Jesus as one of the most exciting young talents in world football at present. If one of them doesn’t score or assist, you can bet your life the other one has.
Guardiola’s system also means that he rotates the pair of them so they can be rested and raring to go for every match. The Spaniard usually starts with a front three, meaning only one of the two strikers start. However, he can easily turn a game on its head by changing the system to play them together, exemplifying the versatility Guardiola has within his carefully crafted City team.
Behind those two there is more quality all over the pitch. De Bruyne has been the best player in England this term, notching up a joint league high of 8 assists with exceptional team mate David Silva. Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling have also been in devastating form, with the latter scoring match-winners in two of their last three games to keep their joint record 13 match winning streak alive.
New £40 million goalkeeper Ederson has provided stability in goal and has proved to be a solution to the goalkeeping problems that have held back the Citizens in recent years. And although wing-back Benjamin Mendy ruptured his ACL early on in the season, the other full back addition Kyle Walker has settled in with no trouble at all. They have strengthened what was already a strong defence.
City’s strength in depth was exactly what Guardiola wanted to achieve with his transfer business. It means he can rotate the way he wants every game to try and minimise the amount of injuries the team get. Unless they are hit by one or two injuries to their key players and other clubs are not, they will not be caught.
This is a more controversial prediction but I believe Chelsea will finish above Manchester United and this is simply because Chelsea have a more clinical edge about them and have clicked into blistering form at the busiest time of the season.
Eden Hazard has hit some of the best form of his career in recent weeks, and questions marks over his finishing have been answered as he has scored 6 goals in his last 7 starts. Coupled with a tricky number 9 in Alvaro Morata, who has scored 9 league goals already this season, and is playing in a front of Hazard in a new 3-5-2 formation, Chelsea look lethal and solid concurrently.
They can pivot 3 the trio of central midfielders Kante, Fabregas and Drinkwater, giving Fabregas the freedom to pick passes to Morata and Hazard. They also have no injuries to date and good strength in depth, so Conte can change the system up if it is working to no avail, with Willian and Pedro offering width and directness off the bench.
With games against West Ham, Huddersfield and Bournemouth coming up, Chelsea are expected to pick up close to maximum points which will be crucial for their title challenge.
3rd: Manchester United
Manchester United played brilliantly against an in-form Arsenal at the weekend and will have many pundits scratching their heads at the view that Jose Mourinho has lost his ability to do well in big games.
They were clinical on the counter and scored their goals against the run of the play in typical Mourinho fashion. However, I believe that Manchester United often lack a cutting edge when things are not going their way.
Without Pogba for most of the season, they have looked unimaginative although they have just about scraped to victories in many of their games against bottom half opponents. Lukaku is a powerhouse up front, but I do not think he is technically good enough to score a goal out of nothing, unlike the other top 4 contenders who all have a talisman. This will prove to be a shortcoming for the United team for the rest of the season.
Pogba saw red for a challenge on Hector Bellerin on Saturday and he will miss the biggest game of the season so far against their rivals Manchester City next weekend, along with potentially two other games in the hectic festive period. This will be a crucial blow for United, and I can only see them dropping points in the coming fixtures.
If they can pull of a result against Manchester City without Pogba, my prediction that Chelsea will come 2nd may come back to haunt me.
Liverpool are on a cracking run of form at the moment and often when they hit form like this they are hard to stop.
Unlike in previous seasons, they are dispatching teams in the bottom half of the table with relative ease of late, beating Brighton, Southampton and West Ham comfortably in their last four fixtures and drawing to Chelsea.
Further to this, they’re front four are scarily explosive at the moment. Mohamed Salah has been a revelation this season, leading the goal scoring charts in the league having already totted up 17 goals in all competitions. And along with Coutinho, Mane and Firmino they’re attacking line up is mouthwateringly pacey, powerful and clinical.
The obvious and most consistent downfall to the team as always has been their defence and this is why I cannot see them come above 4th place in the league this season. Klopp has struggled to finalise a back four, with Gomez, Alexander-Arnold and Klavan dipping into the starting line-up on an inconsistent basis.
Klopp still needs to find out what his best back four or five is and solve these defensive frailties that have cost Liverpool so much in recent years.