Wednesday, December 26, 2012

BPL Midseason Review and Second Half Predictions

The end of Matchweek 19 marks the midway point of the 2012-13 Barclays Premier League season, so I thought it prudent to recap what has happened so far and how I see the second half playing out. Here are my quick thoughts on each team in order of where they stand in the table:

1. Manchester United (46 points) - dramatic victories in recent weeks have masked some flaws in the back, but they are still the class of the league. Victory over Man City in December was critical.

2. Manchester City (39) - lost two of last four, including shocker to Sunderland. Hope to be within striking distance of the top of the table when they host Man U on April 6.

3. Chelsea (35 - only played 18 matches) - have won three in a row and seem to be hitting their stride under Rafa Benitez's leadership. Match at Everton this Sunday will be important for Champions League positioning.

4. Tottenham (33) - Gareth Bale is healthy and showing that he is one of the top talents in the BPL, lifting the Spurs to Champions League contention once again. Have lost to Everton and Arsenal already.

5. Everton (33) - Blues are often a second-half team, so an impressive first half has them thinking Champions League for the first time since 2005. A positive result against Chelsea this weekend would really shake things up.

6. West Bromwich Albion (33) - one of the big surprises of this season, the Baggies shook off a three-loss streak with seven points in their last three matches. Will likely get a wake-up call at Man U this weekend.

7. Arsenal (30 - only played 18 matches) - a roller coaster season for the Gunners, who are currently on the upswing with three wins in a row. High goal differential of +14 looks really good at this point relative to other teams they are competing with for Champions League.

8. Stoke City (28) - the Potters are on a nine-match unbeaten streak, utilizing their typical style of conservative play. We'll see how well that works against Man City next week.

9. Swansea City (25) - Michu's 13 goals have led a surprising attack for Swansea, the first Welsh side to play in the BPL. Could see them climbing until a late-season stretch that will have them facing Chelsea and both Manchester clubs in a span of three matches.

10. Liverpool (25) - Anfield natives are restless coming off a dreadful loss to Stoke. Liverpool has to find another offensive threat to partner with superstar goal-scorer (11 on the season) and drama queen diver Luis Suarez.

11. Norwich City (25) - The Canaries have surprised many BPL followers this season by staying mid-table, but their -8 goal differential reveals some concerns that will likely catch up with them unless they can find some offensive firepower before the January transfer window passes.

12. West Ham United (23 - only played 18 matches) - the best of the promoted sides this season, the Hammers have been a solid squad and should have enough to stay out of the relegated zone.

13. Sunderland (22) - biggest win of the season so far came earlier today when they knocked off Man City and got over the 20-point mark with their second win in a row. Steven Fletcher has enjoyed his first season at the Stadium of Light, tallying eight goals.

14. Fulham (21) - the folks at Craven Cottage are nervous, as Fulham's recent form has been horrible (draws with relegation zone QPR and struggling Southampton, as well as being routed by Liverpool). Dimitar Berbatov has cooled off.

15. Newcastle United (20) - one of this year's biggest disappointments, Alan Pardew's crew has not been able to follow up their stellar 2011-12 campaign with anything Demba Ba's continued scoring punch (11 goals - no one else has more than 3).

16. Aston Villa (18) - the Villains have been thumped by a cumulative score of 12-0 in their last two matches, raising tempers and concerns at Villa Park. Christian Benteke has been impressive in spurts, but they are now a BPL-worst -21 in goal differential.

17. Southampton (16 - only played 18 matches) - the proud fanbase of the Saints were thrilled to rejoin the top flight, but they have struggled a bit. A recent win over Reading could prove to be crucial to remaining out of the relegation zone.

18. Wigan Athletic (15) - winless in their last six, Wigan Athletic must once again get hot in the second half to avoid relegation...something Roberto Martinez has been able to coax out of his boys in recent seasons.

19. Reading (10) - recent form has not been all that bad, with a draw vs Swansea and one-goal loss to Man City, but they have a lot of work to do to move up the table and avoid going back down.

20. Queens Park Rangers (10) - QPR brought in Harry Redknapp a few weeks ago when the team was winless and looking for something to spark the squad. Redknapp has since led the team to a win, and two one-goal losses after that win show improved form...but likely not enough to avoid relegation given their poor start.

And here are my revised predictions for how the table will finish:

1. Manchester United (Champions League berth)
2. Chelsea (Champions League berth)
3. Manchester City (Champions League berth)
4. Everton (Champions League berth)
5. Arsenal (Europa League berth)
6. Tottenham (Europa League berth)
7. Stoke City
8. Swansea City
9. Liverpool
10. West Bromwich Albion
11. West Ham United
12. Norwich City
13. Newcastle United
14. Sunderland
15. Fulham
16. Aston Villa
17. Southampton
18. Wigan Athletic
19. Reading
20. Queens Park Rangers

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