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Premier League Fans' Mid-Season Review

- 07:01, 16th January 2020

Back in August we asked 20 Premier League fans how they thought their team's season would pan out. As we've reached the halfway stage of the campaign, we thought we would return to the fans and see just how they have actually got on.

It's fair to say there have been plenty of surprises and a lot of chop and change among the managers. 

Without further ado, let's kick off with the Gunners!

Premier League Fan's Mid-Season Review

Arsenal

Words: @cdavison_afc

There’s been plenty of change at the Emirates this season, can you sum up in one sentence your roller-coaster season?

Majorly disappointing and incredibly frustrating.

Were there any positives before Unai Emery got sacked?

No, not really. The football was dire, we somehow went from being unable to defend to being unable to score goals and create chances. We were dropping so many points, the confidence was nowhere to be seen.

I think everyone connected with the club had simply run out of patience, from the board, to the players and to the fans. It was a weird feeling, the atmosphere was toxic, but everybody was in agreement for once, something had to change.

Are you confident that Mikel Arteta is the man to lead the Gunners long term?

Well certainly after the first few games with Mikel in charge, I would say I'm hopeful and quietly confident he can take us forward. I have been very impressed with what Arteta has improved in such a short amount of time, there's a real sense of fight and passion amongst the squad again. We are working a lot harder with and without the ball, everyone seems to know their role and the team finally appears to be more organised on the pitch.

Where will Arsenal finish at the end of the season?

With how this season has panned out so far, I really don't know! I don't think top 4 is realistic now, but I'm hoping we can still reach at least 6th spot. There's a lot of strong sides in the top half, so it will be tough.

Surprise package of the season so far?

I think it's got to be Sheffield Utd, hasn't it? They are currently sitting in 6th place as I type this, what an incredible job Chris Wilder is doing. I had them to go down this season, I just didn't think they had enough to survive in this league, their summer transfer business didn't seem impressive at the time either, but how wrong I was!

Underachievers of the season so far?

Unfortunately, considering where they are in the table after 22 games, it's probably got to be Arsenal. When you think of how big this football club is, sitting in 10th place is totally unacceptable. You could possibly argue Everton for this one too, they are 11th in the league at the moment. These are two huge clubs who shouldn't be anywhere near where they are at this stage.

Top 4 and Relegation Predictions

1. Liverpool

2. Man City

3. Leicester City

4. Chelsea

18. Bournemouth

19. Aston Villa

20. Norwich City

Aston Villa

Words: @avillafan

Villa made a lot of signings going into the new season, how many of these have made their mark on the first team?

Tom Heaton has probably been our signing of the season so far. His leadership qualities have proven to be priceless and he has single handedly kept us in games at times this season.

Bjorn Engels is another who impressed me early on but he seems to have lost his way recently. Ezri Konsa has probably surprised me the most. This lad has a bright future.

You must be delighted with the way Jack Grealish has adapted to the top flight. How much would it take to prize him away from Villa Park?

Jack hasn't really surprised me or many Villa fans. We know exactly what he is capable of and I have said plenty of times that he will break a few hearts around B6 if he eventually moves on to bigger things.

I am a big believer that a player’s value in the modern game doesn’t represent an actual player's value in the market as a whole. It's a sellers market at the top level. Clubs don’t need the money and Villa’s new rich owners give us that safety blanket also.

Grealish could be the difference between relegation and survival for Aston Villa and that is probably worth around £80million to Villa.

With many of the sides below you, mainly Watford, starting to pick up points in recent weeks, how confident are you that Aston Villa will remain a Premier League team?

If you asked me a few months ago, I was confident things would improve. We just had to cut out the mistakes. The problem has been that we haven't learned from those mistakes and then you have to start questioning different aspects from management to player quality.

We had an awful December but the win over Burnley was massive for us on New Year's day. We just have to concentrate on ourselves and hopefully we will be OK.

Surprise package of the season so far?

Sheffield United without doubt. Chris Wilder is massively underrated and doesn't get the credit he deserves.

Underachievers of the season so far?

West Ham. I felt that they had an outside chance of giving those chasing the Champions League a scare. I am sure they will move away from the relegation zone in the next few months though.

Top 4 and Relegation Predictions

Top 4: Liverpool, Man City, Leicester and Chelsea.

Relegation: Norwich, Bournemouth and Burnley.

Bournemouth

Words: @CherryChimes

At the time of writing Bournemouth are in the relegation zone, what has gone wrong this season?

Injuries for the most part. We have lost too many players and many of them have been in the defence. Of course, the team has also found it hard to score many goals, so it's the usual can't score but letting them in story. Until we get players back it's going to be very difficult.

Is the pressure on Eddie Howe or are Bournemouth fans relaxed about the current situation?

I'd say the pressure has been on Eddie Howe and he puts it on himself anyway. The fans have been disappointed but we all realise we have to get behind the team now and help them get out of this situation.

I felt a lot of the harmony between the fans and the players come back after the last game in the FA Cup and now we are looking to build on that. We all know that the next five or six games are absolutely massive - they are all winnable and if we don't pick up points now it is going to be very difficult to survive with the fixtures at the end of the season.

Do you expect to strengthen in the January transfer window?

I don't expect any permanent signings. Bournemouth have spent over the summer and it's not the time to bring in too many new players as it would be saying Howe hasn't got faith in the players already at the club. I do expect a loan signing and it has to be a good one.

Where will Bournemouth finish at the end of the season?

My pre-season prediction was 12th. We'd be ecstatic with that now. I have to think who could finish below us and with that in mind I believe the team is good enough to get up to a 16th place finish from this position. 

Surprise package of the season so far?

Among our players I'd say it has been the abilities of Aaron Ramsdale. None of us really expected him to start as the number one keeper and he has looked imperious at times and saved the team from much bigger defeats.

Underachievers of the season so far?

I don't think Philip Billing is quite the player Bournemouth hoped he would be. He has the stature and durability to keep running for 90 minutes, but I don't find that he really applies himself as much as he could. He only scored his first goals for the club in January against Luton in the FA Cup.

But the bigger disappointment has been Dominic Solanke. He only scored his first goal in a year in that same FA Cup game and for the price Bournemouth paid it was not good business.

Top 4 and Relegation Predictions

1. Liverpool

2. Leicester City

3. Man City

4. Chelsea

18. Aston Villa

19. West Ham

20. Norwich City

Burnley

Words: @TurfCastPodcast

After a strong start, the Clarets have dropped off in recent months. Are Burnley in danger of getting sucked into a relegation battle?

Definitely, unfortunately we’ve already been sucked in after 7 defeats in 9, and with the fixture list we have coming up I’m not sure the stats will get any better. Hopefully after this run of poor form and dodgy fixtures we can pick up some points.

Where can we expect Sean Dyche to strengthen in January to give Burnley that extra lift away from the drop zone?

Do not expect anything from us in the transfer market. In recent days we’ve been strongly linked with a couple of Bristol City players, especially their captain Josh Brownhill. However all the noises from the club and Dyche we’re doing not expect anything’, ‘the market is a difficult place’ etc etc

What is your target for the season now? Just staying up or prioritising a cup run?

Both would be nice, and push on to top ten because despite the predicament we find ourselves in we’re not a million miles away from the top half. The number one priority of course is securing Premier League football for a fifth season in a row.

Where will Burnley finish at the end of the season?

I’m still quietly confident we will stop up, we’re just on a bad run at the moment. I’d say 15th.

Surprise package of the season so far?

Got to be Sheffield United hasn’t it? Plenty of people had then for the drop and they’re still sitting pretty in the top 6. Fair play to Chris Wilder and the blades. The season where we’re finished 7th was one of the best as a Claret so I’m sure they’re loving life at the moment.

Underachievers of the season so far?

I’d say West Ham and Everton both deserve that title. Both in the bottom half and had to sack their managers. Both spent some cash over the last few years too.

Top 4 and Relegation Predictions

1. Liverpool

2. Manchester City

3. Leicester City

4. Chelsea

18. Bournemouth

19. Villa

20. Norwich

Brighton

Words: @wearebrighton

What has changed since Graham Potter came into the club?

In terms of points on the board, not much - we're roughly where we were at the halfway stage a year ago. Of course, it's a bit folly to compare this season and last as in 2018-19, we won just two league games between the start of January and the end of the season, which ultimately cost Chris Hughton his job.

In terms of playing style, anybody who has watched Brighton this season can see that we're light years away from what we were under Hughton. Gone is the mentality of preserving a clean sheet at all costs and grinding out results and in its place has come vibrant, positive football. It hasn't always worked - we've naively chucked away points against Burnley and Aston Villa in the final minutes of games when Potter's devotion to attack has seen us concede late on - but it's certainly much more enjoyable to be an Albion fan this year than last.

Do you feel more optimistic for the future than 12 months ago?

I think so, yes. Hughton did an excellent job and he's easily the best manager Brighton have had in my lifetime, but there was this sense that he had taken the Albion as far as he could. He'll get you into the Premier League and grind out enough points to survive, but when you've got an ambitious owner like Tony Bloom who has publicly stated that Brighton should be a top 10 club, then he probably isn't the man to deliver that.

The question then becomes is Potter? You can see what he's trying to do and the way he's trying to do it and the most impressive thing about this season so far is that he's got what is largely Hughton's team playing 'Potterball' football. With a couple of transfer windows to bring in more players suited to his style of play, then things will become very interesting.

What has been the most exciting moment of the season so far for Brighton?

Most Albion fans would probably say the wins against Spurs or Arsenal, but for me it was Watford away on the opening day when we won 3-0. For two years in the Premier League, we'd travelled the length and breadth of the country knowing that we probably wouldn't see a goal, let alone a win. Sometimes, there wasn't even a shot on target to cheer. You're spending a lot of money not for the football, but for the day out.

Where do you expect to strengthen in January to push away from the relegation zone?

Potter has been using a square peg in a round hole at left back this season by starting 6'7 centre half Dan Burn there in every game. Burn is now out for eight weeks with a fractured collarbone so we desperately need reinforcements.

Potter's public utterances on Glenn Murray are always positive but he clearly has no use for Murray with his style of play. A striker to ease the burden on Neal Maupay would be good and if we do get one, Murray should be allowed to leave if he wants to - he shouldn't spend the last few years of his career sitting on our bench. It's not fair on a man who has given so much to Brighton.

Where will Brighton finish at the end of the season?

Tough question. We could realistically have around eight more points than we currently do were it not for stupid sendings off and poor game management in conceding those late goals I've already touched upon. If it all clicks in the second half of the season, we could feasibly finish in the top 10.

Surprise package of the season so far?

Got to be Big Dan Burn. Hughton didn't give him a minute of league football last season. Under Potter, he's been one of the first names on the team sheet. Nobody would have seen that coming, especially as the signing of Adam Webster for £18m from Bristol City in the summer looked like it would relegate Burn to fourth choice centre back.

Underachievers of the season so far

Nobody has really underachieved, but Webster hasn't exactly looked like an £18m defender. Potter seems to love him because he can play an accurate pass while completely ignoring the fact that his defending is extremely suspect, especially under the high ball.

Chelsea

Words: @AbsoluteChelsea

Are you surprised by how well Frank Lampard has done this season?

There’s surprise to an extent, particularly at the start of the season. Two wins in the first six Premier League games, with both of those games on the road – it certainly wasn’t worrying because of knowing this was a long-term appointment. The surprise came between September and October with the run of seven straight wins in all competitions.

Prior to the season, Chelsea were outside contenders for the top-four for the majority, and it has to be said Frank Lampard has over-achieved this season already.

Coming into the season, there were no expectations, and that reflected on the pitch – they were playing with no fear.

With form in recent weeks dropping off, is January key to adding experience into the mix of this young side?

For me, it’s not about adding ‘experience’ into the squad. Chelsea need to add in positions to strengthen the squad. Defensively this season, it’s been the same old story – conceding extremely poor goals, and going forward, take away Tammy Abraham’s 13 Premier League goals, Christian Pulisic and Mason Mount are the next highest contributors with goals, with five. Signings aren’t key in January, but they will prove key to continuing the challenge for the top-four.

Who do you see as your biggest rivals for the top 4 what with some of the usual names unable to keep consistency?

For Chelsea, to not sound cliché but it’s ourselves. If we are able to maintain some consistency, something which hasn’t really been seen since the end of November, then there won’t be any issues in qualifying for the Champions League next season.

I think Sheffield United and Wolves are going to drop off at some point – it’s a similar story to last season, nobody is showing they really want top-four. Nine points clear of Spurs, 11 ahead of Arsenal at the point of writing this – it has to be Manchester United.

Where will Chelsea finish at the end of the season?

From the position Chelsea are in now, I expect top-four to be achieved. A couple of signings are likely to come through the door to strengthen the already promising squad. Chelsea have shown they can beat the big sides with the results at Tottenham and Arsenal. The only area which needs to be ironed out is the home form.

Surprise package of the season so far?

It has to be Sheffield United. To be in the top-six with 32 points accumulated already, they’ve been superb. In the six league defeats that they’ve had, four of those have come against those in the top three of the league. They’re holding their own, and under the management of Chris I think they’ll be in the Premier League for many more years to come. I didn’t expect them to excel, I didn’t expect them to go down, but the only question for them to answer is can they keep this up for 38 games?

Underachievers of the season so far?

It’s got to be Tottenham. From a Champions League final in May, to sitting in eighth, and nine points off of the top-four. Their league form was overshadowed by the incredible run in Europe, and it’s continued.

Even the appointment of Jose Mourinho after the bold firing of Mauricio Pochettino, they looked to show signs of improvement. Four wins from the first five put Spurs back on the right track, but then in the last five in the Premier League, they’ve only collected four points. 

Top 4 and Relegation Predictions

I think the top-four will stay as it is. It’ll be just the positions which could have some movement, between Leicester and Manchester City, because the title is done and dusted as far as I’m concerned.

To go down, I fear for Norwich City that they’ve already left themselves with too much to do at the foot of the table. Watford are under a resurgence since the appointment of Nigel Pearson, so I’m predicting Bournemouth and Aston Villa to go down. With Wesley out, if Villa don’t sign a forward in January, they’re going to find it extremely difficult to rely on Jack Grealish to carry them through games.

Whilst Bournemouth have surprisingly been poor this season under Eddie Howe. The only positive for these sides is that there are so few points between the bottom seven or eight sides. One defeat, and a win for a rival puts you back into trouble.

Crystal Palace

Words: @TheEaglesBeak

Do you feel Roy Hodgson has proved plenty of critics wrong so far this season?

Yes, most definitely. He has had his critics throughout his career but he has slotted in at Palace and has become the perfect fit for us, just like he was at Fulham and West Brom. We are fully aware that this is not a manager for the future but the game is such a fickle one, no appointment is long-term these days and all the time Hodgson gives us much needed stability, we will be just fine.

There are a number that question where the club is going under him and asking why we cannot push on particularly with some of his tactics but you have to be careful what you wish for in this game.

How far can this Crystal Palace team go and what is the fans' target for the rest of the season?

As I alluded to above, many fans want something different, bored of the football we play under Hodgson but I beg to differ. Yes, there are times when it is frustrating to watch but any fan at any club will get that.

Looking at our position right now, it is key to get to that 40 point barrier which looks achievable at a decent stage in the season and then look to a top ten finish. This squad is more than capable of that.

Are you afraid of the usual Wilfried Zaha transfer talk kick-starting again?

We are used to it! If I am honest I expected Wilf to go a couple of summers go, he deserves a shot at the big time again but all the time he does not put in a performance week-in week-out then top clubs will be unlikely to take a punt on him. Works for us but I expect him to go this summer, not January

Where will Crystal Palace finish at the end of the season?

Would love to say in the top seven but I will go a bit easier on them and say 8th or 9th would be great.

Surprise package of the season so far?

Jordan Ayew - did not turn any heads in his season long loan last season but after signing for £2.5million in the summer and six goals to his name so far this season in the Premier League, we finally have a striker that is leading the line, hassling and creating, not to mention scoring! Notable mention to Vicente Guaita - has won us a number of points this season, a top top goalkeeper.

Underachievers of the season so far?

Christian Benteke - we cannot keep waiting to see his poor goal scoring form return, it may not ever come back so a clean break is needed for both parties.

Top 4 and Relegation Predictions

Liverpool

Man City

Leicester

Chelsea

In no order - Norwich, Watford, Bournemouth

Everton

Words: @EvertonNewsFeed

Is there optimism on the blue side of Merseyside for the first time in a while now three-time Champions League winner Carlo Ancelotti is at the helm?

Definitely I would say. The only real let down is that dismal Merseyside Derby display in The FA Cup but the fans aren’t angry at Carlo in the slightest over that it’s more so the players who just aren’t good enough for the team anymore that the fans are gruntled about. The fans love Carlo and will back him to the hilt, fingers crossed he can bring the good times back to Everton

Do you believe he will strengthen in January?

Maybe 1 or 2 signings more than likely loans but I think the main focus will be to get players out. Oumar Niasse and Cuco Martina are still lingering around with both of their contracts set to expire in the summer. Hopefully we can get somebody in for centre midfield just to bolster it up a bit

What do you believe the goal is for Everton now this season? Is it just to avoid relegation or can more be achieved under the new regime?

I think our goal for this season is to just get as high as possible as we can on the table. The league is so close at the minute so it’s important that we don’t start slipping away from the top half. A European Place is something that all Everton fans would crave for, we need to go back to play European football consistently.

Where will Everton finish at the end of the season?

Despite me going on about European football I can see a 7th or 8th place finish for Everton this season. I hope Carlo can prove me wrong though and we can get higher because I don’t see why we can’t be.

Surprise package of the season so far?

Definitely Sheffield United of course, I knew when they got promotion last season that they were going to be putting up a fight and stay away from the relegation places. Chris Wilder has done an amazing job there.

Underachievers of the season so far?

There are a few underachievers this season; Man United are just a constant yo-yo, Arsenal not too far behind, but I’m going to say Everton. I’m not just saying that because I support them either. Our squad is pretty solid for the most part and we had a very good run of fixtures at the start of the season that Marco Silva blew. If we had shown up in some of them games we would be pushing on a top 4 spot if not already there.

Top 4 and Relegation Predictions

1.Liverpool

2.Manchester City

3.Leicester

4.Chelsea

18.Aston Villa

19.Bournemouth

20.Norwich

That’s the teams, I don’t really want Villa to go down but the form and showing of all 3 in the bottom there over the past few games has shown enough to me how I think it will end up

Leicester City

Words: @FIRST4LCFC

You predicted a top four finish at the start of the season – but have you been surprised by just how well you’ve done so far?

Good question! It’s a tricky one to answer. Like you say, I did predict Top 4 – it was just a feeling I had after seeing how well we ended last season under Rodgers.

So in all honesty I’m not surprised we are in the top 4, but I am surprised at the gap we have built up ahead of 5th place. Right now, I would be seriously gutted if we managed to blow the lead we have built up and didn’t qualify for The Champions League.

Do you believe Champions League qualification is inevitable at this stage or are you not getting too carried away?

Had you asked me before the Southampton game I’d have answered a lot more confidently, but yes I still think we are going to finish in top 4. I do think that Liverpool will do extremely well to blow the title from here, and Man City will finish 2nd – with us coming 3rd.

I feel there is enough inconsistency in the chasing pack, with traditional clubs like Man Utd, Spurs, Chelsea and Arsenal all struggling for any real form. For me, this will be enough for us to keep our place in that magical top 4. All of these clubs are all at present still in European competition too, so fixture congestion could well lead to extra fatigue as the season goes on.

If anything, it’s Wolves and Sheff Utd we should keep an eye on! Although Wolves are also in Europe so maybe just The Blades...

Is this team better than the 5000/1 Premier League winning side?

I think so, yes. On paper when you go man-for-man it’s hard to put together a case for a handful of the 2015/16 side. Our current team is a lot younger, and therefore maybe more inexperienced, but ultimately these are players that are held in higher regard than our champions were at the time.

Statistically we are playing a better brand of football, a brand that I just couldn't see that previous crop of players playing.

Of course, there is one obvious exception, Riyad Mahrez. He has gone on to become an even classier operator now at Man City. We are yet to replace him in our side and this is certainly an area we need to strengthen in. Kante was also a key player, but I do feel like N'didi is just as good - if not maybe even more dynamic in this team!

Surprise package of the season so far?

It’s a no brainer for me, Chris Wilder’s Sheffield Utd side have taken this league by storm. We are over halfway into the season and they are maintaining the high-level of performance that they started the season with.

On paper their team has no right to be doing what it is, but similar to our title winning side, there is an incredible team spirit and that is clear for anyone to see.

Underachievers of the season so far?

This one is between Everton and West Ham for me. However, I’m going to have to go with The Hammers purely because Everton have picked up since the appointment of Ancelotti.

West Ham were constantly tipped by the mainstream media as one of the teams to look out for before this season commenced, and its fair to say they have majorly disappointed on all fronts.

Top 4 and Relegation Predictions

1 Liverpool

2 Man City

3 Leicester City

4 Chelsea

18 Burnley

19 Bournemouth

20 Norwich City

Liverpool

Words: @AnythingLFC_

Do you believe this side will go the entire season unbeaten?

I think this team can 100% go the season unbeaten. I think we might start seeing the odd draw happening with the Champions League starting back. If Liverpool are still way ahead, I can see them getting a result and going unbeaten.

Is Premier League the only competition you care about until May or is retaining the Champions league equally important?

Absolutely not. I think it [Premier League] should be our main focus for now but as the season goes on you always want to go as far as possible in all competitions. I can genuinely see us getting to another Champions league final this season.

Tell us about the new signing Takumi Minamino. What can he bring to this already incredible side?

The first time I saw him play was that game at Anfield vs us. I thought, wow look at the guy. Was so quick on the ball and very skillful. I think he can give us more options as he can play many positions. Also, we can now rest the front 3 more often and he can play across all positions

Where will Liverpool finish at the end of the season?

Number 1 unless something crazy happens like all our players getting kidnapped!

Surprise package of the season so far?

Sheffield United for me. They have done fantastic all season and continue to be a very hard team to beat. I think they can finish in the top 10 which would be a great achievement for them.

Underachievers of the season so far?

Has to be between West Ham and Arsenal. Both teams are not where they want to be and are miles off it. The new managers coming in might give them a boost but both teams have been extremely disappointing this season.

Top 4 and Relegation Predictions

Top 4 - Liverpool, Man City, Leicester and Chelsea

Manchester City

Words: @City_Xtra / @dannyldnr

Why have Manchester City been unable to keep up with Liverpool this season? Are the Reds on another level or have Man City regressed?

Definitely both. Liverpool have been superb and their unbeaten record is testament to that - but the bigger factor has been our failure to replace Kompany and big injuries to our top players. Losing Aymeric Laporte was huge, as I'd place him second only to Van Dijk in the Premier League. Leroy Sane has missed the entire season so far as well.

On top of that, we've generally looked very frail this year, especially in defence where it's looked like the opposition could score at any moment - just look at the fact we've only kept 7 clean sheets in the league this season.

Is Pep Guardiola a victim of his own success?

In many ways, yes. You only need to look at the way teams set up against us - most games we're up against a 10-man blockade camped out in the penalty area and it can be very hard to break teams down.

I think the team has become very complacent this season and while Guardiola will be trying to cut down on that, the success he's brought the team has lead to sloppiness all over the field. We're giving the ball away far more often, missing plenty of chances, and for the most part, look very slow and unmotivated.

In another sense, expectations are very high following his 198 points tally across the last two seasons and anything less is generally viewed as a failure. Similarly, if we don't win the Champions League this season or at least 2 domestic trophies many pundits will look down on City for failing to reach the heights of 2017-19.

Which player is going to be crucial for the second half of the season?

Without a doubt, Aymeric Laporte. He's just returning from a long-term injury and the difference he makes to our back four - and the whole team - is staggering. He's a leader on the field and has the athleticism and intelligence to really dominate attackers. I think we'll see a big improvement defensively over the rest of the season, especially in big Champions League games such as our upcoming tie against Real Madrid.

On top of that, keeping Fernandinho fit has always been a massive factor for us. sloppiness and lack of drive I mentioned don't usually apply to him and his versatility will come in handy as it's only a matter of time before another player picks up an injury. And of course, Kevin De Bruyne will continue to be vital - he's the best player in the league for me without a doubt.

Where will Manchester City finish at the end of the season?

2nd, for me. Liverpool look too good right now and even though I think we'll make up some ground, we've been too poor to salvage anything higher than that.

Leicester are faltering a little bit and we still have another game to play against them, so I can see us overtaking the Foxes and keeping our spot in 2nd until May.

Surprise package of the season so far?

I've been very impressed with the impact Phil Foden has had on the team. Fans have been imploring Pep to give him more minutes for a few seasons now, but this year he's played a lot more and has been very exciting. All of our lacklustre performances tend to get turned on their head when he's introduced to the game, and a lot of that has to do with the fact he's a local lad and a City fan.

Underachievers of the season so far?

None of our team has really performed at the level they should be, aside from maybe De Bruyne and Fernandinho. But the player that stands out for me has been Bernardo Silva. Nine goal contributions in the league all season is an underachievement for a player with his quality.

We could usually rely on him for a bit of magic in dull games last year, but so far he's been a little pedestrian and things aren't coming off for him the way they did last season. That being said, he produced a masterclass at Old Trafford in the Carabao Cup semi-final including a fantastic opening goal.

Top 4 and Relegation Predictions

For the top four, I'd say Liverpool, City, Leicester, and Spurs. The top three all look secure but that last Champions League place is a point of contention. I think Mourinho can work some good while Lampard might see a decline.

I think we'll see Norwich remain in last place, with Bournemouth and Aston Villa filling the other two relegation spots. Watford are a strong team so I think they'll edge that 17th place position. We've got some really interesting games coming up in the next few weeks at the bottom of the table, with Bournemouth playing Norwich, Watford, and Aston Villa within the next four gameweeks. Those matches could change everything.

Manchester United

Words: @UnitedInFocus

Where do you stand on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer? Do you think he is still the right man for the job?

This is the subject of ongoing debate among fans, many feel he should go as he isn't good enough and was never the right man. I would say that in the here and now, he should stay, under review until the end of the season. Pochettino's availability looms large, and Solskjaer needs a strong second half of the season. Sadly 2020 has not begun well.

Who have been the stand out performers this season and who do you reckon has run their course?

This answer might be predictable, but Jesse Lingard's time is clearly up. It should have been last summer.

Scott McTominay has been the standout player this season, and Fred has come on really well. Marcus Rashford has 17 goals so far this season and is ahead of where we expected, and Mason Greenwood is living up to the billing.

Is the target still top 4 or does the club prioritise the Europa League for Champions League football?

At this stage United can't be picky. Both are risky and we have to try and balance our aims in both. We are fifth in the league despite our inconsistency and Chelsea can be caught in fourth, but we keep failing to take advantage when they slip up.

Where will Manchester United finish at the end of the season?

Before the season I was confident of a top four place, but I don't share that optimism at the moment. I can see us tailing off and ending up sixth or seventh as it stands. If we add to the squad this January and sign a couple of players, fourth might just be do-able.

Surprise package of the season so far?

It has to be Brandon Williams. He was suggested as an option when Luke Shaw first got injured, and it took Solskjaer a little while to come around. But when he got his chance he was brilliant and he is probably our number one left-back right now.

Underachievers of the season so far?

By the same token, Luke Shaw. He has gone from first choice left-back and Player of the Season last year to losing his place to a youngster. Victor Lindelof has been jarringly inconsistent too, and has taken a step back from his form a year ago.

Top 4 and Relegation Predictions

Sadly, Liverpool first, then City, Leicester and Chelsea. To be relegated, Norwich are gone and it could be Bournemouth and Villa who drop, I can see Nigel Pearson keeping Watford up.

Newcastle United

Words: @NUFC360

Are you surprised just how many points Newcastle have picked up?

Yes, I'd have to say it's been unexpected. I predicted ourselves in the midst of the bottom three, hanging on by a thread, but it's been a pleasant surprise result wise. But it has not changed my view on Bruce.

I felt we've very often been lucky. Hanging on and sneaking a win. We still struggle majorly with goals and we can only keep that going for so long. It's awful not knowing what team shows up. I'm ok with bad days, but we can't seem to give consistent performances. Bruce still has a lot of work to do in that area.

What is the difference between Newcastle under Rafa and Newcastle Under Steve Bruce?

Rafa was a meticulous man. He'd never leave things to chance, everything had a method. Bruce is the opposite I feel, he's more of a man manager, which can yield unclear messages. Imagine being a striker and all you're being told is "Have a go son, I have faith in you". What do you do with that message? I think that shows in our general play. Because we have no clear direction, we become a very hot and cold team. I still think some of Rafa's learning has stuck with the lads, which is why we've managed to churn out results.

Who have been the stand out performers so far?

Difficult, but I think Dubravka, Willems and Almiron have to get it. I'll also give a mention to Manquillo who I find is the one most improved. So glad Almiron has started scoring, he now has three goals this season and seems to have found his stride. Willems is an automatic buy imo, always influential in his play and Dubravka has the most saves in the league. Hat off to Carroll too who's managed to set up four goals, he's a handful for anyone.

Surprise package of the season so far?

Manquillo for me. He's been very consistent, he's gone from a bit of a stop-gap type cover to someone you want to have in your team. And due to his performances, he's earned interest from the likes of West Ham. I wish for him to get a goal at this point, that in itself would be a good reward for all his hard work. He sticks his head down and gets on with things. Yedlin has been above him, but not anymore, he's staked his claim.

Underachievers of the season so far?

Sean Longstaff, sadly. A lad going from strength to strength last season to being someone I want more from this season. He has that pass or shot in his game, but he's been inconsistent. Difficult to tell you how that's happened. But there's plenty of talent there, he just seems a bit sluggish and untidy, polar opposite to 18/19.

Joelinton came with the pricetag of £40M. It's not his fault he cost that, but there's an expectancy with a sum like that. The biggest concern is the lack of work he puts in, he's not positioning himself, he's dispossessed quite a lot. The lad needs A LOT of work.

Top 4 and Relegation Predictions

Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea and Leicester in that order for top four. I made a bet that Liverpool will go the full season without losing in the PL and I stand by that still.

Burnley, Watford and Norwich in whatever order. Burnley doesn't deserve a PL spot for the type of football they play, it is awful. I feel for Norwich. I like Farke's style and what some of their players produce, but it's too far gone at this point. Watford may have a run of form at the moment, but Pearson isn't someone I feel is a capable PL manager. I think they'll drop in form again.

Norwich City

Words: @NorwichCityMFW/@Gary_Gowers

Is Daniel Farke still held in high-esteem at Carrow Road or are fans starting to get impatient?

The simple answer is yes, he is still well-liked in these parts. Most City fans - there are of course a few (very few) dissenting voices - can see the decent job he has done in almost impossible circumstances. For example, the biggest permanent deal we did over the summer was to bring in Sam Byram from West Ham for... wait for it... £750,000!

Who does that in preparation for a season in the Premier League? (Byram has been pretty good by the way - but that's not the point). Farke basically had the smallest PL budget known to Man to work with, so, coupled with a horrific injury crisis, he was handed a task so difficult, even Houdini would have struggled to get out of this one.

What needs to change going forward so that Norwich can climb out of the relegation zone?

In order for us to climb out of the relegation zone, hell will have to freeze over, Trump will say something coherent and sensible, and Boris Johnson will undertake an act of kindness of no benefit to him personally. In other words, it's not happening. We're done.

Do you believe that you will be able to keep hold of some of your brightest talents such as Max Aarons?

I think we might - just - but given the predicament we find ourselves in, I guess there is limited value in keeping him here until the summer. And given how exorbitant the fees are in January, they may see value in cashing in now. Farke has made clear he wants him to stay but it may ultimately not be in his hands. Whoever gets him, whenever that time comes, will get themselves a cracking little player.

Where will Norwich City finish at the end of the season?

20th - next question...

Surprise package of the season so far?

Sheffield United - without a doubt. Chris Wilder has worked wonders with a squad that is basically the one that took them up and, unlike City, they have been able to tap into the exact same vein that won them promotion. They're hard-working, resolute, organised and, crucially, they can defend.

Underachievers of the season so far?

I'd have to say the other promoted team, Villa. Having splurged circa £140 million in the summer, they've been pretty poor and would have been poorer still without Jack Grealish. Their performance against Man City when they got beat 6-1 was not becoming of a team that's had so much cash spent on it. Bournemouth run them a close second, as most people forget how they have been financed through this 'rags to riches' phase. They're not just plucky little Bournemouth... not when they've had such huge reserves of cash behind them.

Top 4 and Relegation Predictions

1. Liverpool

2. Man City

3. Leicester City

4. Chelsea

18. Aston Villa

19. Bournemouth

20. Norwich City

Sheffield United

Words: @bladespod

Are the Blades away from the relegation scrap now or is there still a danger that they can get sucked into the lower half?

I think we're safe now - four wins will guarantee safety and the way we've been so hard to beat, three wins might be enough with the draws we'll pick up. By my count we've only been outclassed once this season, and that was at Anfield a few days ago - I like our chances of getting another 15-20 points.

What has been the biggest difference between Sheffield United in the Championship and Sheffield United in the Premier League?

We've changed our style of play. In the Championship we played a very possession-heavy game; in the Premier League we've gone to something that is more defensively solid but can press and counter at speed. It's worked a treat, teams have had difficulty coping with the numbers we flood forward at speed when we get the ball. Having a lightning forward in Lys Mousset has absolutely helped as well.

Will David McGoldrick ever score?

Yes! He's been unbelievably unlucky, with a goal harshly ruled out by VAR at Spurs (Lundstram's big toe was offside about four passes before it came to McGoldrick) and also produced some unreal saves from opposition keepers. I do think it's started to play on his mind a little as he's missed the target more often than usual in the last few games but if he keeps getting in these positions, one of them is going to go in. He's never been a great finisher, but to have zero goals from so many chances is just freakish at this point.

Where will Sheffield United finish at the end of the season?

Top six is a step too far - I can't believe I'm even writing that - but I think we can have genuine aspirations of finishing in the top 10. Somewhere between 8-12th is my guess.

Surprise package of the season so far?

Leicester feel like the obvious answer but I'll give myself a pat on the back and said I picked them to break into the elite this season. Putting the Foxes aside, how can you say anyone but Sheffield United? The consensus choice by every bookmaker, and more or less every pundit, to finish bottom of the league, we went into Christmas 5th in the Premier League and the number one United in the country.

Underachievers of the season so far?

I'll look away from the bottom of the table here as so many of those teams are just a couple of wins away from midtable. I thought Manchester City would run away with the league this season, and, although Liverpool have been almost perfect, City have to look at themselves as big underachievers - five defeats and not even the second best team in the league at the moment. I know they have injuries but given their transfer budgets it's shocking that they haven't got better depth, particularly at the back.

Top 4 and Relegation Predictions

Liverpool, City, Chelsea, Leicester in that order. At the bottom, Norwich are too far adrift - but picking two others is a challenge. I'll guess that Villa's injuries might do for them, and West Ham's total lack of home advantage will also see them in trouble.

Southampton

Words: @TotalSaintsPod

How do you rate the first half of Southampton’s season?

In true footballing clichés, it's been a ‘game of two halves so far!

Up until mid-November, we’d been OK playing away, but absolutely dreadful at St. Mary’s – including the infamous……**I can’t even bring myself to mention the score again**…..loss against Leicester!

Since picking up a hard-earned point at the Emirates (which should have been three!) at the end of November, Saints have been in fantastic form. Ahead of the return fixture against the Foxes, we’ve won 5 of our last 8 Premier League games, picking up 16 points.

That period has seen us win against the likes of Chelsea and Spurs, pushing us up into mid-table. Based on the last couple of seasons, nose-bleed territory for us!

What changed in recent weeks that has seen the Saints climb up the table and Danny Ings to become the hottest striker in the Premier League?

Several things have changed after the last (November) International break.

Ralph Hasenhüttl has settled on his favoured 4-2-2-2 formation, has played players in their correct positions and there’s been a massive increase in Saints intensity.

They are playing a high-press again and, when the opposition have made mistakes, Saints are now punishing them.

Winning football matches breeds confidence, so it's understandable that the improvement in form has led to more belief within the squad.

Ings has been the heartbeat of the side throughout that period. It's great to see a local lad, a Saints fan, banging the goals in for us. More importantly for Danny, it’s great to see him staying fit (touch wood) after so many bad injuries the last few years.

Do you believe that there’s more to come in the second half of the season?

I think we have to be realistic, the current squad (which does need strengthening – particularly in defence) has been playing to almost full capacity the past few weeks. I’m not sure how much more this group of players can give (technically or fitness wise). Time will tell on that.

In the meantime, you hope they can now maintain the standards they’ve shown recently.

Where will Southampton finish at the end of the season?

It’s still very tight in the bottom half of the Premier League. Only a handful of points separate 18th from 10th. After the start we made, staying up is still the most important thing.

I’m going to go for an optimistic 13th.

Surprise package of the season so far?

Leicester have obviously done great, but I’d pick Sheffield United instead. I think they’ve been brilliant – and thoroughly deserve to be where they are in the league. Chris Wilder is a fantastic, honest and committed manager, who really gets the most out of every player in his squad. Well done to them (so far).

Underachievers of the season so far?

Despite being 5th (at time of writing), I’d say Manchester United. Despite being one of the biggest Clubs in the world, they’ve looked bang average most of the season – with a bang average manager ‘at the wheel’. The Fergie Years look a long way behind them!

I must give a quick shout out to Arsenal and West Ham as well. Both having changed managers recently emphasises how poor they’ve also been.

Top 4 and Relegation Predictions

Relegation-wise – anyone but Saints I hope! I’ll say Norwich, Villa and Bournemouth (who appear to be in freefall). That said, I think the final relegation place could be decided on the last weekend of the season at this rate!

Tottenham Hotspur

Words: @spursshow

Mauricio Pochettino being sacked surprised many, but had Spurs fans been clamouring for a change in the dugout?

I wouldn't say fans were clamouring but there were many who thought he had taken this group of players as far as he could and they were not responding to him enough. You only had to look at the result and the performances from Jan 2019 onwards. It seems as if the players could only get up for the Champions League games

What has Jose Mourinho brought in his first two months in charge?

Too difficult to say in 2 months. There was a definite min bounce with away wins and a great comeback against Olympiakos at home but since then there has been poor displays at home to Chelsea and away at Norwich and Southampton. It doesn't really matter who is in charge- the squad needs refreshing with new players and some players being shipped out.

Do you feel like Top 4 is still achievable what with Chelsea and Wolves performing so well?

I think the Top 4 is beyond us now with 9 points between us and Chelsea- we have to find some great from somewhere. This season is a transitional one now with hopefully a decent run in the FA Cup thrown in too. I think we will finish 6th

Surprise package of the season so far?

The surprise package so far has been Sheffield United, they were unlucky not to get all three points at the Lane. Well organised, they play  with good tempo and real passion

Underachievers of the season so far?

The underachievers have been Arsenal. Nothing has gone right since Wenger has left although I think Arteta will turn them around if given the funds.

Top 4 and Relegation Predictions

Top 4 will be Liverpool, Man City, Chelsea and Leicester

Bottom 3 will be Villa, Bournemouth and Norwich

Watford

Words: @thewatfordway

It’s been far from boring at Vicarage Road this season with Nigel Pearson becoming the third permanent manager in the dugout. Do you think the current form will continue?

Absolutely. Nigel and his team have brought the club back together and I see no reason why this form should not continue. The squad was vastly under performing in the league under Quique Sánchez Flores with very little being shown to give the Watford fans hope. We have a good run of fixtures coming up starting with Tottenham on Saturday so it is vital we continue on this upward trajectory.

What is different under Pearson to the previous two managers?

Pearson is a very direct manager and I think this is exactly what our squad needed. I believe after the successes of last season it was evident from the first game that the team's mentality was not up to standard. He has taken time to meet the fans and explain what he wants to achieve here. His man-management has also been spoken of highly and with a core of English players in the squad I am sure this is something they appreciate.

Did you sack Javi Gracia too early?

No, I don’t think so, however we replaced him with the wrong manager in Flores. Although we got to an FA Cup Final with Javi our league form dramatically suffered as a consequence and that form continued into the current season. We as Watford fans will always appreciate Javi allowing us to experience the cup final and that is something I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Where will Watford finish at the end of the season?

I’m an optimist so I hope we will finish lower mid table. In fact, looking back at the state we were in a few weeks ago before Pearson’s appointment it would have been a miracle if we finished 17th!

Surprise package of the season so far?

Sheffield United by a landslide! I had them tipped for relegation when they were promoted and they have proved me and others vastly wrong. Chris Wilder has done wonders with the squad he has and I am happy he has been rewarded with a new deal.

Underachievers of the season so far?

Tottenham for me. Others could have been contenders but I expected them to build on the success of reaching the Champions League final as well as moving into their new ground. With the players they have at their disposal they are vastly underachieving. For context Tottenham are closer to Watford in the league (8pts) than they are Chelsea in 4th (9pts)

Top 4 and Relegation Predictions?

1. Liverpool

2. Manchester City

3. Chelsea

4. Leicester City

18. Bournemouth

19. Aston Vila

20. Norwich

West Ham United

Words: @WestHamWorld

We think it’s fair to say not many were excited by the appointment of David Moyes. Has the first match against Bournemouth helped ease concerns?

The problem with Moyes' reappointment wasn't so much about his ability to improve the team but more about the clear lack of direction or plan the board has. It was 18 months ago that the owners decided David Moyes was not good or worthy enough to take the club forward, so why did they think it would be a good idea to bring him back?

Moyes has the ability to keep us in the Premier League, and we will, but the owners need to sit down and really work out what they want to do with the club over a five/10 year period and stick to it, because at the moment they're just taken every season as it comes.

Which players need to step up to bring some consistency to the side?

Felipe Anderson is West Ham's most inconsistent player and was becoming under fire from the fans before his performance against Bournemouth. Perhaps Moyes' arrival will give the Brazilian the confidence he needs to really show us what he's all about. On his day he's unplayable, so hopefully, we start seeing the player we paid £40m for 18 months ago.

What areas would you like to see strengthened in the transfer window?

We need another holding midfielder but it'll also be good to see a new right-back come in. Poor ol' Pablo Zabaleta isn't getting any younger and Ryan Fredericks is now injured, so we're desperate for cover there. A striker should also be on Moyes' shortlist, because Haller can't do it all on his own and Albian Ajeti just doesn't seem good enough.

Where will West Ham finish at the end of the season?

Solid mid-table. Anywhere between 9th and 12th. And I'll be pretty pleased about that given the circumstances.

Surprise package of the season so far?

Sheffield United. Chris Wilder is doing a sensational job and has one of the favourites to go down competing with the top six.

Underachievers of the season so far?

West Ham? Yeah, West Ham. With the money we've spent over the last two years and the quality we have in the squad, it's pretty ridiculous that we're still competing at the wrong end of the Premier League table.

Top 4 and Relegation Predictions

Top four - Man City, Liverpool, Leicester, Tottenham

Relegation - Norwich City, Bournemouth, Burnley

Wolves

Words: @TalkingWolves

Wolves are looking every bit a side challenging for the top 4, are you surprised?

It's a bit surprising this season if I'm completely honest. We've got a great core of players but I'm surprised with how competitive we've been in both the Europa League and Premier League with such a small squad.

With the Europa League knockout phases incoming, can you maintain this form in the second half of the season?

I think the key thing for Wolves is to add players this January. The core of the squad is strong but we desperately need to add depth to strengthen the squad and help maintain a strong end to the season.

Are improvements needed in January to bolster the squad?

Definitely. As I said earlier, the squad is so small at the moment and with the departure of Patrick Cutrone, arrivals are a must. I'd expect Wolves to bring in three or four players this month.

Where will Wolves finish at the end of the season?

I'd be satisfied with the top half and I'd be ecstatic with top 7 again.

Surprise package of the season so far?

Sheffield United, it has to be.

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