It is looking more and more likely that Manchester City can turn their dream start into a perfect season
After a busy festive season, the Premier League saw 80 games played throughout December and the first week of January with teams playing up to 10 games in 34 days.
We continued to see the formidable force of Manchester City steam roll their way through the festive fixtures with eight wins and one draw, however the question continues to be asked as to whether they will continue this brilliant form and become the new Invincibles and go through the season without a loss.
Not since the 03/04 season has any team achieved what Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal achieved by going through the whole season undefeated.
Manchester City have already gained 59 points, seven more points than Arsenal in 03/04 at this stage, where City have also scored 56 goals this season, which is the most goals scored in history as of Matchday 18 by a team.
Along with this, City by far has the greatest goal difference in the league this season of +49, +20 more than next best Manchester United, where they have defeated the next five best placed teams, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham by an aggregate score of 15 to 3.
If rumours are also to be believed, the arrival of disgruntled Arsenal star forward Alexis Sanchez, possibly in January, will go a long way in extending this scintillating start to the season.
If Pep Guardiola can get his former Barcelona star to partner up with classy midfielders Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva who are in majestic form this season, along with the ever-reliable Sergio Aguero and emergent young guns Ederson, Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus they could well and truly become unstoppable this season.
As of now, it’s pretty safe to say that there are ominous signs that are leading many to believe that by seasons end we will possibly be crowning the third ever ‘Invincibles’ team in Premier League history.
Liverpool can’t contend without a world class goalkeeper and a solid defence
With Liverpool’s fab four upfront fit and firing to begin the season, their instability at the back and in goals still remains a huge concern at the halfway point of the season.
Simon Mignolet, in particular, is one that has continued to struggle in games this season. The Arsenal game in December, in particular, saw Mingolet concede three goals in five minutes with some unconvincing distribution and saves throughout the game which consequently saw him dropped for his counterpart Lauris Karius for the Leicester City game.
His inconsistent performances have led to many dropped points throughout the season so far, in a season where many pundits and experts tipped them to be at least challenging for the title at this time of the year.
So, too, the form of Dejan Lovern has also been criticised by many fans on social media, where the injury at the beginning of the season to Nathaniel Clyne, along with the lack of quality and experience in the left back position further shows the instabilities at the back this season.
However, the arrival of Virgil van Dijk for a record transfer fee in January, is good news to Liverpool supporters who hope that he will help stabilise the defence with his immense aerial ability and leadership skills.
With Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino firing on all fronts, Van Dijk will hopefully provide Liverpool with the missing piece that they have been desperately desiring, which fans optimistically believing it will help propel them into the top four and put them in a position to put some pressure on ladder leaders Manchester City.
Chelsea rejects Salah and De Bruyne are clear standouts for player of the season
Two of the most fascinating players to watch this the season so far are Mo Salah and Kevin De Bruyne.
Both ex-Chelsea rejects, Salah and De Bruyne are the strong front runners for the Player of the Year Award at season’s end.
Salah who already has 17 goals this season, scoring some absolute screamers, are most pundits’ tip for the award.
Along with the 17 goals, Salah also has five assists to his name, where he is also second in the league for shots on goal (82) behind Harry Kane. However, De Bruyne has been one of the biggest instigators that has propelled City to the top of the table.
With nine assists already this season (most in the league this season) and six goals, De Bruyne is firing on all fronts this season.
He also leads the league most through balls played and is second in the league in most crosses completed.
These stats exemplify how good of a service De Bruyne is giving his team and how good his performances this season have been.
Although we have learnt that Salah and De Bruyne have been the clear standout players this season, Chelsea, too, probably have learnt the biggest lesson, as it may look like they lost their patience too early and sold Salah and De Bruyne before they could reach their full potential.
Arsenal’s defensive insecurities and player contract disputes have derailed their season.
The worry with the Gunners this season is their inability to be able to be a solidified unit at the back.
Although it appeared that the three centre backs and two wing backs were going to be able to enable the Gunners to play in the flexible and attacking nature they always like to play with, it appears that injuries, form and the adaptability of the formation has played a massive part in Arsenal’s disappointing season so far.
Many goals this season have been from defensive errors, whether it was due to chemistry problems or personnel issues, where injuries to Shkodran Mustafi, Sead Kolašinac and Nacho Monreal has forced Arsene Wenger to throw young players like Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Calum Chambers in the deep end hoping they perform.
Along with their defensive insecurities, the constant changing of formations from 3-5-2 to 4-2-3-1 has led to many poor defensive performances.
Along with this, the ongoing player contract disputes of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil have continued to bring negative press and distraction to Arsenal. With Sanchez in particular, his negative attitude which is evident on the pitch is clearly affecting the overall performance of the team.
Sanchez and Ozil are fairly influential players on and off the pitch, so if Wenger doesn’t sort out their contract situations this January, a disappointing season so far can turn into a season of turmoil by season’s end.
If rumours are to be believed possible January acquisitions of Jonny Evans from West Brom to improve their defensive stocks, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for a replacement of Alexis Sanchez could go a long way in turning their season around.
As the season wears on, the relegation dog fight is closer than ever
Premier league seasons aren’t completed without a true relegation dogfight and the 2017-18 season is one that isn’t going to disappoint.
As the table suggests there are around 10 teams that are desperately trying to avoid relegation.
If we were looking at the table mid-way through November it was safe to say that Crystal Palace was a shoe-in to be relegated down into the second division but a mid-December revival sees them above the Premier League drop zone in the New Year.
With five of these teams sacking their managers already this season, it’s safe to say that we are in for some interesting and exciting months to come. With newly promoted Huddersfield Town and Brighton and Hove Albion looking basically safe, Crystal Palace and Newcastle’s current form suggests that they might also ensure survival for another year.
However, Swansea, Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion look the unfortunate teams that are most likely to be relegated by season’s end.
Swansea are lacking goals to stay alive, where Stoke’s defensive instabilities along with a new manger will most likely see them struggle to win games if they continue to leak goals and struggle to adapt to the new managers tactics.