Twelve rounds of the 2017/18 Premier League season have been played. The period that the sensible among us would have called too early to draw any tangible conclusions is slowly coming to an end.
The top of the table has taken a rather believable shape as the ‘top six’ currently occupy their proclaimed positions. The battle against relegation, however, has some perhaps surprising contestants at this point. In the middle, there are some surprises as well, in both directions.
For some reason, teams that get promoted to the top tier are automatically seen as the strongest favourites to return where they came from. So far, it’s not looking anything like that. Brighton & Hove Albion (9th), Huddersfield Town (10th) and Newcastle United (11th) sit well above the danger zone, with seven, six and five points more than West Ham in 18th, respectively. Not a lot, but it’s a good start.
The Premier League Season After Twelve Rounds
The round started with the North-London Derby on Saturday lunch-time. Tottenham Hotspur have played some magnificent football this season. They’ve thrashed Liverpool, they’ve beaten Real Madrid. But at the Emirates, they were thoroughly outplayed by the resurgent Arsenal, and the game has allowed the Gunners to approach their neighbours to just one point. Strikes from Shkodran Mustafi and Alexis Sanchez in the first half settled the outcome, but Arsene Wenger will probably be pleased the most about the excellent performance of the much-criticized Mesut Ozil.
Liverpool 3-0 Southampton
The win over Spurs saw Arsenal climb to 5th place but only for a few hours, as it turned out. Liverpool continued their recently discovered excellent form by giving Southampton no option but to leave Anfield with bowed heads after a 3-0 defeat. Mohamed Salah, who is turning into a bargain of the century for the Reds, netted twice in the first half before Philippe Coutinho capitalised on a rebound to finish the Saints off.
Southampton have continuously lost their key players in the last several years, mostly to Liverpool. But due to excellent scouting, they always managed to find the right replacements and continue playing reasonably well.
Under Claude Puel they finished 8th last season and reached the final of the League Cup. Therefore it’s hard to find the reasoning behind their decision to replace him. Now Mauricio Pellegrino faces a hard task of leading the team forward with apparently no fresh funds for player acquisitions. As he revealed in his recent press conference, the club may have to sell Virgil van Dijk in January in order to sign a few attacking players and stop the current goal drought.
Chelsea put the final touch on the misery of Tony Pulis at West Bromwich Albion with a 4-0 win at the Hawthorns. The Baggies have since dispensed with the services of their manager as they make clear that their current league position is unacceptable.
The game was settled in the first half as Alvaro Morata, Eden Hazard and Marcos Alonso made it 0-3 by the 38th minute, and Hazard added his second on the night just after the hour-mark. Antonio Conte had been under a bit of pressure himself earlier this season despite having just won the league. But after four consecutive wins it would seem the pressure has been significantly lifted from his shoulders.
Manchester United 4-1 Newcastle
At Old Trafford, Manchester United were convincing against Newcastle. The return of star players Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic will please Jose Mourinho and their fans as well. The three points, however, were absolutely imperative in this game if they intend to stay in second place, and within reasonable distance of their city rivals.
Goals from Anthony Martial, Chris Smalling, Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku turned the game around after Dwight Gayle had given the Magpies an unexpected lead early on.
To the dismay of all of those who still have hopes of usurping them from the top spot, Manchester City seem unstoppable at the moment. There can be no doubt that Pep Guardiola has put together a team of outstanding quality. Their latest victims were Leicester at the King Power Stadium.
Gabriel Jesus and Kevin De Bruyne scored either side of halftime to give the visitors a 2-0 victory. However, Guardiola will now be sweating over the injury of his most reliable defender John Stones. The England international is set to be out for six weeks, and Guardiola himself said it would be “a real, real problem”. His team already lacks Benjamin Mendy who won’t be back before April, with midfielder Fabian Delph deputising at left back at the moment.
Huddersfield Town lost convincingly away to AFC Bournemouth this weekend despite the home team playing with ten men for the entire second half after Simon Francis got a second booking.
Callum Wilson scored twice in the first half, Harry Arter made it three in the 70th minute before Wilson completed his hat-trick in the 84th. The Cherries, however, still have a tough battle ahead to secure their Premier League status.
Burnley are having a simply remarkable season. Having beaten Swansea at home, they have piled 22 points from 12 games – the same as Arsenal and Liverpool, which is by far their best tally ever in the Premier League.
Swansea, on the other hand, seem to be heading into another relegation battle this term. With just eight points to their name, they sit 19th at the moment. Former Swansea midfieder, Jack Cork, and Ashley Barnes are the names that made the score-sheet in this game.
Speaking of relegation, the clash between Crystal Palace and Everton at Selhurst Park was theoretically seen as very important. But in the end, it solved nothing as the teams shared the points between them.
James McArthur gave the earliest of leads to the hosts in the first minute, Leighton Baines equalized from the spot in the 6th. Wilfried Zaha restored the lead for the Eagles in the 35th, only for Oumar Niasse to make it 2-2 in the first half injury time.
This point will mean very little to both teams in their bid to avoid relegation, but especially to Crystal Palace who remain rock-bottom with only five points to their name. But having invested a lot of money in signings in the summer, 16th place for Everton can by no means be regarded as a positive. They have already said farewell to manager Ronald Koeman and are now actively pursuing a replacement.
Watford 2-0 West Ham
West Ham are another team that have already changed the manager. After the home defeat to Liverpool in the previous round, Slaven Bilic got his marching orders, but his successor David Moyes hasn’t changed their fortune at least for now.
Like Burnley, Watford are also having a very good season. They had no problems in dispatching the Hammers on Sunday. Will Hughes in the first and Richarlison in the second half were the ones responsible. West Ham, therefore, remain in the relegation zone, in 18th with nine points, while Watford are 8th with 18.
Brighton & Hove 2-2 Stoke
In the last game of the round, Brighton & Hove Albion welcomed Stoke City on Monday evening. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting gave the Potters the lead after just under half an hour, and Pascal Gross equalized a minute before halftime. There was time still in the first period for Kurt Zouma to restore Stoke’s lead. But right on the hour mark, Jose Izquierdo made it 2-2.
The home team will certainly be more pleased with the point won as they continue to cling on to a mid-table position. Stoke, on the other hand, in 15th place aren’t nearly as far away from the relegation zone as they would like.
All in all, 2017/18 is developing into another interesting Premier League season. At this point, the battle for top four spots seems likely to gain the most attention. The relegation scramble is also showing potential for unpredictability. Manchester City hold the lead firmly in their hand right now, but should they hit anything smelling of a crisis, there are plenty of others ready to capitalize.
There is still a long way to go.