I’ve already made my feelings about international breaks very clear, so don’t worry, I’m not going to launch into another tirade about how much better domestic football…
Instead, with the Premier League taking a break this week I thought I’d take this opportunity to deliver a bit of a progress report; take a look at some of the noteworthy clubs and make a few bold predictions for the rest of the season. Here’s part one of three:
Right now, there aren’t many clubs in ruder health than the Blues. Not only are they four points clear of Southampton in second, eight points ahead of their only realistic rivals Man City and a full 15 ahead of the team that pipped them for second last season (Liverpool), they’ve also just announced profit for the first time in…well, a really long time.
After some incredibly smart business in the summer, Chelsea are now the real deal and I would be utterly astonished if Jose Mourinho’s side didn’t canter to the title from here on out.
It’s Saints who sit in second place, and their performance this season under new boss Ronald Koeman has been surprising to say the least. I was one of many who thought that they might struggle this season; and there was good reason to think so given that they sold almost all of their good players and lost a fine manager. Instead, it is Koeman who has been the revelation and Pochettino who has struggled at White Hart Lane. The sky really is the limit for this exciting and inventive Southampton side.
They might sit in third, but something’s not right at the Etihad. Manuel Pellegrini’s side have already lost twice this term, and their recent form has been highly questionable – a home loss to Newcastle in the League Cup and to CSKA Moscow in the Champions League, and a poor draw at QPR last weekend.
It is their form in Europe that will be of most concern. Few teams would be able to stop league leaders Chelsea, and the City hierarchy will know that. For that reason, Champions League is the yardstick by which the Chilean will be measured – and unless a miracle happens, he’ll be out of a job next summer at the latest.
If we remember back to the summer, the Hammers were in turmoil. The chairmen, messrs Gold and Sullivan, wanted Sam Allardyce gone, the fans were furious with the style of play and it was all a bit of a mess. Fast forward a few months and all is forgiven, with West Ham flying high in fourth. If they’re able to keep this sort of form up then they’ve got a triumphant entry into the Olympic Stadium to look forward to.
Swansea City are another side to be performing well over the odds in the Premier League this season. With Garry Monk leading the side and looking more like the real deal with every day that passes, Swansea are back where they should be after a tumultuous 12 months. When Monk first got the job I was extremely sceptical about his capabilities, but so far, he’s proved me wrong.
It’s the same old story for the Gunners. Not enough investment in the right positions has left Arsene Wenger’s side all but out of the title race with less than a third of the season gone. When Thomas Vermaelen departed for the Nou Camp it was incredibly clear that Wenger needed to purchase another defender, and his decision not to do so was irresponsible and silly. One would think that the Frenchman would learn his lesson after all these years, but clearly he hasn’t. Will he lose his job? No chance.