Last time out we looked at the teams currently sitting in the first six places in the Premier League and asked the question: “How has this season been for them so far?” Now we turn our attention to the teams from seventh to 13th:
After enduring the worst start to a league campaign in 27 years, things still aren’t very rosy at Old Trafford. David Moyes was given his marching orders back in April; but the appointment of Louis van Gaal hasn’t proved the quick fix that many seemed to think it would be. The Dutchman has spent big – seriously big – and yet his side still looks utterly unbalanced. There’s a good chance that van Gaal will be able to fix this situation, but the reality is that after some bold words at the beginning of his tenure, the Dutchman has been a failure so far. With no Champions League football this season, United have been insipid in the league and were embarrassingly booted out of the League Cup after losing 4-0 to MK Dons. Should United fail to get into the top four, it seems unlikely that van Gaal will be around for season two.
Alan Pardew is another manager who looked like a dead man walking at the beginning of this season, with poor result after poor result stacking up for the Magpies. But he has been a man reborn in the last few weeks with a number of massively positive performances. That Newcastle are level on points with Man Utd after spending considerably less is a testament to Pardew’s man-management skills; and if he could just keep his temper in check, he has the ability to be a very good manager indeed.
Stoke are…well, Stoke. Mark Hughes has worked well with the Potters and brought them into the top 10; but the reality is that Stoke can’t hope for much more right now. With the top six in the league all possessing serious spending power, the best that Hughes and his troops can do is aim for that top 10 and build from there. They’re doing a pretty good job right now.
It’s been the case of a difficult second season for Roberto Martinez at Goodison as his side endures their typically lacklustre start to the season. This bizarre phenomenon – which sees Everton perform well below the level they’re capable of – has foiled many a season for the Toffees and really, one would think that a manager like Martinez would look to stamp that out. Neverthless, as we all know, Everton traditionally have a very strong second third of the season and given that they’re only four points off the top four, Champions League football isn’t out of the question for Martinez’s men.
Perhaps the most spectacular fall from grace – Liverpool have been abysmal this season. Poor in Europe, but even worse domestically, Brendan Rodgers’ side have fallen a long way from where they were at the end of last season. The loss of Luis Suarez has clearly hit them hard, but the reality is that Rodgers’ approach to replacing the Uruguayan was at best naive and at worst, embarrassing. Despite having seen what happened to Tottenham when they attempted to replace a similarly integral player with a number of other players, Rodgers bought big; but the players he bought simply don’t seem to be good enough. If Rodgers wants to end this season with his reputation intact, it’s time for the Reds to get moving.
It’s been a poor start to the season for Spurs, and despite being only four points off the top four, no Tottenham fan genuinely has much optimism about the possibility of qualifying for the Champions League. The North Londoners still lack a striker of note, making it difficult for them to dominate teams, whilst their defensive issues are still prevalent for all to see. Given time, I’ve no doubt that Mauricio Pochettino will be able to eke out higher levels of performance from his current squad and add some quality players to it too. But as we all know, Daniel Levy is not a patient man. If results don’t improve soon, Pochettino could find himself out of a job before the end of the season.
There was certainly a sense of Alan Irvine being a last resort when he took the West Brom job, but really, he’s doing a pretty good job. A loss to Bournemouth in the League Cup was disappointing, but there remains a sense that Irvine’s primary task is Premier League survival; once that’s achieved, he’ll build on it. After the nonsensical reign of Pepe Mel, the stability of Irvine is exactly what the Baggies need.