Premier League 2019/2020 – how are each club doing?

UK sport has been given the go ahead to return to our lives as of this month, and some sports have already planned their return. The EFL has already brought League One and League Two to an end, but the Championship will be back on 20th June, and in a separate article in this blog, I will look at each of those clubs to see how they have been doing in the season so far.

However, the Premier League makes its return this Wednesday, 17th June, with games held behind closed doors. In this article, I will look at all 20 Premier League clubs, analysing how they have done this season so far, and what they need to focus on in their remaining games. I will also pick out some key players that each club will need to rely on in their remaining games.

The clubs are listed in alphabetical order.

Arsenal

LEAGUE POSITION (when league was suspended): 9th

HOW THEY ARE DOING:

It has been a mixed season for Arsenal, with the disappointment of Unai Emery’s reign being followed by an upturn in fortunes under former Gunners captain and midfielder Mikel Arteta, following his move from Manchester City, where he had been on Pep Guardiola’s coaching staff for just over three years.

The last five results for Arsenal show you how much they have improved; 2 draws followed by 3 wins in their last 3 games before the season was brought to a halt. That should give them and their fans some confidence going into the season’s restart next week.

The football has looked better since Arteta came in as well, and that really was what had to be altered first. The players look happier now, and the results and gradual climb up the table show that. As for whether they could break into any European places, it will be hard, because the teams above them are still a little ahead of them in terms of quality, I feel, but there’s no reason now why they can’t push all the way.

KEY PLAYERS:

They will be relying on the goals of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang not drying up if they want to make their charge on the higher places. Younger, exciting players like winger Bukayo Saka and striker Eddie Nketiah will also likely get chances in the team and can add a different element and more pace to the team too.

 

Aston Villa

LEAGUE POSITION (when league was suspended): 19th

HOW THEY ARE DOING:

The season has had it’s ups for Aston Villa, but mainly it has been downs. The team underwent major surgery last summer, with 11 new players coming in, whilst two other players, winger Anwar El Ghazi and centre-back Tyrone Mings, made their previous season’s loan moves permanent. However, despite that huge investment, the results have been disappointing. The Villains are currently sitting in the bottom 3, and their last five results show 1 win and 4 consecutive losses after that.

They brought in some good players to their team, but the thing that I think has let them down is that not many of those players had Premier League experience. Apart from goalkeeper Tom Heaton, left-back Matt Targett, and defender Tyrone Mings, none of those 11 players had ever played in the Premier League before now. That was always going to count against them. Admittedly, the majority of Sheffield United’s squad has never played in the Premier League, but I’ll come onto the reason they are doing well and Villa aren’t.

They did add midfielder Danny Drinkwater on loan from Chelsea and experienced goalkeeper Pepe Reina on loan from AC Milan in January, as well as highly-rated Tanzania striker Mbwana Samatta, but they still lack a lot of experience across the squad, despite the obvious strength in depth. They have been unlucky with injuries, but unfortunately, in their position, I can’t see them staying up unless other results go their way.

KEY PLAYERS:

The Villains will be relying on their strikers to score goals when the season gets back underway. Wesley and Heaton are both out injured for the rest of the season, so the likes of Samatta, McGinn, Grealish, Trezeguet and El Ghazi will need to step up to the plate if they want to avoid an immediate return to the Championship next season.

 

Bournemouth

LEAGUE POSITION (when league was suspended): 18th

HOW THEY ARE DOING:

It has been a disappointing season by Bournemouth’s standards. Since they were promoted to the Premier League for the first time back in 2015, they have finished 16th, 9th, 12th and 14th. Now, however, they are in the relegation zone, and look to be in huge danger of ending their stay in the top flight. They have lost three of their last five games, and have only won 7 games all season. It really hasn’t been good.

One of the reasons for this could be the loss of Lys Mousset, who whilst only one player, was starting to make an impact at the end of his time at the Vitality Stadium. He joined newly-promoted Sheffield United last summer. Another of their key players last season was winger David Brooks who moved from Bramall Lane the season before. He was a huge threat last season, but has been out for the majority of this season with an injury sustained in pre-season. They did sign Liverpool winger Harry Wilson on a season-long loan in the summer, as well as several promising players from the lower leagues (left-back Lloyd Kelly from Bristol City, right-back Jack Stacey from Luton Town and defensive midfielder Phillip Billing from relegated Huddersfield), as well as spending £13.7m on Dutch winger Arnaut Danjuma from Club Brugge, but ultimately they have not had the overall desired effect.

Bournemouth will need to fight hard to pull themselves out of the relegation zone this season, but I fear for them, because some of their performances this season have not been Premier League standard, and that could cost them.

KEY PLAYERS:

Scotland winger Ryan Fraser is one of their best players, and has caught the eye of several big clubs, such as Tottenham, Liverpool and Arsenal, and can always be relied upon to cross the ball into the area when Bournemouth need an assist-machine. At the front, Norway’s Josh King is a threat, but this season he has scored 7 goals, which is a worry for the Cherries, as he is one of their main strikers. The other first-choice striker, Callum Wilson, has only scored 9 goals, so again he isn’t much better. This is where Bournemouth will need to improve if they want to stay up.

 

Brighton and Hove Albion

LEAGUE POSITION (when league was suspended): 15th

HOW THEY ARE DOING:

The best way to look at this season for Brighton fans is that this has the been a season of change. Former manager Chris Hughton had been in charge since December 2014, when the club was in 21st place in the Championship and had just lost their manager, former Liverpool defender Sami Hyypia, who had resigned. Since then, they have risen to the top of the Championship, becoming one of it’s best teams in recent seasons, before finally sealing promotion to the Premier League in 2017. They have been 15th and 17th in their first two seasons, and currently sit 15th at the moment.

However, there have been changes which have been noticeable this season, following the appointment of then-Swansea manager Graham Potter to replace Hughton, who was sacked after last season. The signings were more ambitious, with Belgium winger Leandro Trossard coming in from Genk for £18m, whilst the club also spent £20m on Bristol City centre back Adam Webster and a reported £16m on Brentford striker Neal Maupay, who scored 25 goals in the Championship for the Bees last season. Australia midfielder Aaron Mooy also joined on loan from Huddersfield, making his move permanent in January, in another smart move.

The football has been noticeably more attacking as well, as you would expect with this much spent on attacking players. Sometimes they need to work on the defence, as they have conceded 40 goals in the Premier League so far, but overall, I think if they keep pushing and keep trying, they will be fine.

KEY PLAYERS:

Brighton will need to rely on their strikers to score goals and their midfield to give them chances is they want to survive. Another player worth keeping an eye on is 21-year-old Argentina midfielder Alexis Mac Allister, who had spent the first half of the season on loan at Argentine side Boca Juniors. The Seagulls fought a well-publicised fight to cancel his loan spell in South America, and it will be interesting to see what he can do if they rate him so highly as to bring him back into the team early.

 

Burnley

LEAGUE POSITION (when league was suspended): 10th

HOW THEY ARE DOING:

It started off slightly worryingly for Burnley this season, as they were struggling near the foot of the table, and were playing with relegation a little bit. Between the 19th October, when they played away at Leicester, and 11th January, when they played away at Chelsea, the Clarets lost 10 of their 14 games. Admittedly, in that block of games they faced Leicester, Chelsea twice, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United, but there were other, perhaps winnable games in that block.

However, they have come back, and now sit in exact mid-table, which is really good. If there is something that they need to work on, I think it is goals scored, because they have only got 34 this season, which puts them in the bottom half of the table for that. Given how they like to play, with two strikers upfront, this has perhaps been less than they would have expected or wanted. However, the positive of this season has definitely been their upturn in form. In their last 7 games, they have won 4 and drawn 3, and those have included wins over Leicester, Manchester United away, and draws against Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. These show just how much of a corner the Clarets have turned since their earlier wobble.

They made some good transfers over the summer, with the return of striker Jay Rodriguez the most notable one. He left Turf Moor for newly-promoted Southampton back in the summer of 2012. He signed for the Clarets last summer from West Bromwich Albion, where had scored 22 goals in the Championship for the Baggies in 2018/2019.

KEY PLAYERS:

England goalkeeper Nick Pope has been one of the team’s best players in recent seasons, and this season, with the departure of Tom Heaton to Aston Villa, he has rightly become their first choice player. The partnership in central defence between James Tarkowski and Ben Mee has also been a huge part of their success in the Premier League, and is one of the landmarks of this Burnley team. Likewise, upfront, the strike duo of New Zealand international Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes, who is eligible for the Austria team if they ever wanted him, has been very important to the Clarets.

Czech Republic striker Matej Vydra has found his Lancashire shooting boots recently, and for the first time since his move to Burnley from Derby County in the summer of 2018, he is starting to look like a player wanted at the team. It could be a good moment for him to get much more involved too.

 

Chelsea

LEAGUE POSITION (when league was suspended): 4th

HOW THEY ARE DOING:

This year was always going to be a year of transition for Chelsea. Last season, Mauricio Sarri was in charge, following his move from Napoli, but you never really felt that his tactics were the way Chelsea like to play traditionally. Now, I’m not someone who agrees that clubs have traditional ways of playing, and new managers should come in and set their team up in that way (I think if you are going to appoint a manager, let them play their way – if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work). However, Sarri’s tactics and style of play just didn’t seem to fit either Chelsea or the Premier League.

He left for Juventus last summer, and club legend Frank Lampard was appointed from Derby County, who he had led to the playoff final. Credit where it’s due, Lampard has made some really positive changes to the team. They are still loaning out a lot of players, but the youngsters are now finally getting a chance in the team. Tammy Abraham was even given the no. 9 shirt. Mason Mount, Reece James and Fikayo Tomori have all become first-team regulars this season.

Their results have been good as well, and given this is the first season under Lampard’s leadership, it has been a successful appointment for him. They have gained 14 wins from their 29 matches, which is only four less than Manchester City this season. However, where they might need to improve is at the back, because they have conceded 39 goals this season, and only have a goal difference of +12. This is the most amount of goals conceded and the lowest goal difference in the top 5, and it’s these sorts of stats that have led to them dropping points at times this season.

KEY PLAYERS:

With Morocco winger Hakim Ziyech and Germany striker Timo Werner coming in next season (Werner 95% joined), these are times to be excited about if you are a Chelsea fan.

As far as the players at the club are concerned, they will be relying on their experience of being in the top 4 to see them over the finish line, and Champions League football delivered in Frank Lampard’s first season in charge at Stamford Bridge. That means that, whilst the young players will have a part to play in sealing a place in the top 4, the experience of players like captain Cesar Azpilicueta and striker Olivier Giroud will be crucial to helping them finish strongly.

 

Crystal Palace

LEAGUE POSITION (when league was suspended): 11th

HOW THEY ARE DOING:

Crystal Palace have had a really good season, with a lot of positives to take from it. If we look at their performances since Roy Hodgson came in, they have finished 11th and 12th, and are on course for another strong finish this time around. The former England manager may have left the national side in relative disgrace following the disaster of losing to Iceland at Euro 2016, but he has rebuilt his reputation at his boyhood club.

Their last five games have shown 2 losses followed by 3 consecutive wins before the season was brought to a halt. They are currently 6 points behind Manchester United in 5th place, but even so, I think that making up those points won’t be possible. If they can break into the top 10 before the end of the season, then that will be an achievement in itself for them.

They made some good signings over the summer, bringing in good defensive experience in former Chelsea and England centre back Gary Cahill, as well as completing the permanent signing of Swansea striker Jordan Ayew. They also added depth to their midfield by bringing in Everton midfielder James McCarthy, who linked up again with his former Wigan Athletic midfield partner James McArthur at Selhurst Park.

KEY PLAYERS:

Captain Luka Milivojevic has proved over the last few seasons to be the glue that keeps Palace together at times, as he is reliable with penalties, leads from the middle of the pitch, and generally helps his team over the line when they need someone to do that. Jordan Ayew has been their top scorer this season so far, which has also been a positive for them, after they spent £2.5m to bring him back permanently. The experience and leadership of Cahill at the back will definitely need to be called on, and the fact that Wilfried Zaha is still at the club will always be a positive for Palace.

On a side note, Norway striker Alexander Sorloth is in free-scoring form for Trabzonspor in the Turkish Super Lig, netting 19 goals in 26 games, having struggled initially following his move to Palace in January 2019 (he scored 3 goals in his 8 games following his move). There has been talk of him being brought back early from his two year loan in Turkey, but it appears that won’t be happening.

 

Everton

LEAGUE POSITION (when league was suspended): 12th

HOW THEY ARE DOING:

By their historical standards as one of the bigger clubs in the league, Everton have been really disappointing over the last few seasons. Ever since David Moyes left the side in 2013 to replace Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, Everton seem to have been going downhill. Roberto Martinez had one good season before being sacked in his second, then Ronald Koeman came in and wasn’t a huge success, buying lots of players that the club never really needed. He was replaced by Sam Allardyce who, in his usual fashion, steadied the ship, before leaving due to the unpopularity of his playing style. Then long-term target Marco Silva was appointed, but he was also very unsuccessful overall, and Everton then went for Carlo Ancelotti in December last year, who seems to be doing a good job thus far.

Everton really need Ancelotti to succeed, and I think he will because of his experience of managing at the top levels in the Premier League, having won the Premier League and FA Cup in 2009-2010 with Chelsea. That I think will give Everton an edge when the new season starts, and he can get Everton going from the start on a level pegging, rather than having to come in halfway through.

Their signings last summer included Portugal midfielder Andre Gomes on a permanent deal, following his loan spell last season at Goodison Park, as well as Ivory Coast midfielder Jean-Philippe Gbamin, Italy striker Moise Kean, and Arsenal and Nigeria winger Alex Iwobi. They did get unlucky with Gbamin, who has spent the majority of the season out injured, but Kean has not been a success yet, although he is still only 20, and so these and the results all counted against Silva, leading to his departure.

Ancelotti has so far steadied the ship and got the team looking up the table again, which was important, but next season will be interesting as we see what he does to continue developing the Toffees.

KEY PLAYERS:

Striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin has become Everton’s main focal point and target man since Ancelotti’s arrival, and is one player they will need to and can rely on to get them a goal or two when they need it. Further back, France left-back Lucas Digne was the club’s player of the season in 2018/2019, and is able at getting forward and helping the attacks, as well as set-pieces, and the team will be looking to him to continue offering the threat he does. On-loan Monaco right-back Djibril Sidibe has also come on much more since Ancelotti came in, and, whilst not necessarily a prime goal scorer, Brazilian winger Bernard is a tricky customer at the best of times, and could make the difference in some tougher matches.

 

Leicester City

LEAGUE POSITION (when league was suspended): 3rd

HOW THEY ARE DOING:

Leicester have been one of the surprise packages this season, currently in place to claim a Champions League spot next season. At the moment, that looks like it will be their’s, but they also need to ensure that their recent slip, which has seen them lose 2 of their last 3 games, doesn’t cost them. Chelsea are closing in on them, currently just five points behind them, although they also have mixed form, so that is one positive for the Foxes.

The way to set Leicester up to be able to play to their best strengths is to make Jamie Vardy the focal point. By that, I mean you put him in the team, and then have wingers who are adept at crossing the ball into the box, and can create chances for him. You need an attacking midfielder or central midfielders who can play the ball through to him, often through or over opposing defences. Vardy is one of those strikers who runs away from the ball to create space, rather than towards it like a lot of strikers do, because they want the ball. This is something Brendan Rodgers seems to have got right this season mostly, which is why they are doing so well.

They made some very astute signings last summer, turning Belgium midfielder Youri Tielemans’ loan from Monaco into a permanent signing, whilst Ayoze Perez was signed from Newcastle United, and that has proven to be money well spent. Another Belgian midfielder, Dennis Praet, was signed from Italian side Sampdoria, and has made his mark on the Foxes’ performances too. Another signing for the future was full-back James Justin from Luton. I watched Justin a lot last season, and he is good at the attacking full-back role, and can play on either side, so gives great flexibility and versatility in those positions.

KEY PLAYERS:

Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel has once again been Mr. Reliable for Leicester this season, and will continue to be for the rest of the season. The central defensive partnership of Turkey’s Caglar Soyuncu, whose form as seen him linked with clubs such as Manchester City and Manchester United, and former Red Devils defender Jonny Evans, has been a huge reason for Leicester’s strong showing this season. The midfield is also going to need to be in top form, with Wilfred Ndidi particularly needing to be in the team. It was noticeable that, when he was injured, Leicester’s standards slipped. We have talked about Jamie Vardy, but also Kelechi Iheanacho has been in form this season, and he will need to continue playing as he is if the Foxes want to seal their place in the top 4 at the end of this season.

 

Liverpool

LEAGUE POSITION (when league was suspended): 1st

HOW THEY ARE DOING:

There is very little that needs to be said about Liverpool that hasn’t already been said.

Quite simply, they are doing fantastically this season, and their football is breathtaking at times. There hasn’t been a single player who has been in the team that hasn’t contributed, either with an assist or a goal, or a good or crucial pass – little things like that from a multitude of talented players is what has led to the whole team being almost unbeatable.

It hasn’t been entirely perfect, with them losing against Watford in one of the biggest shocks of this Premier League season, so that shows that there are perhaps still some small chinks in their armour, however a couple of years ago, all Liverpool fans were saying that they would never get anywhere unless three positions were significantly improved. Those were the goalkeeper, central defence, and left-back. Fast forward to this season, and the signings of Alisson, Virgil van Dijk and Andrew Robertson have filled those gaps.

Liverpool are possibly one, at most two wins away from their first Premier League title. All they have to do now is to not bottle it, and concentrate on their own games, and not anyone else’s.

KEY PLAYERS:

There are so many to list, but the really key players have been the midfield for me. The strike trio of Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have been talked about so much, as have the defence, with Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez, Virgil van Dijk and Andrew Robertson becoming the best defensive quartet for the team.

Without a strong midfield, these two areas would not be able to link up, and captain Jordan Henderson, Fabinho and Georginio Wijnaldum have all been outstanding this season. Add in James Milner and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and this is the reason why everything seems to have clicked this season for Liverpool.

 

Manchester City

LEAGUE POSITION (when league was suspended): 2nd

HOW THEY ARE DOING:

Put simply, at times this season it’s been difficult to tell that this is the same Manchester City side that won back-to-back Premier League title in the last two seasons, and has been seemingly unbeatable since Pep Guardiola came in back in 2016.

Last season, they lost just 4 out of their 38 games. So far, after 29 games this season, they have already lost 7, so almost doubled the number of losses. That really says a lot about how they have been this season.

It is difficult to pinpoint exactly what has gone wrong this season; maybe they have just become too complacent after winning back-to-back titles, and having everything go their way. Maybe the fact that Liverpool ran them so close last season just meant they felt the pressure this season, and it got the better of them. Maybe it’s the questions surrounding their finances, which could result in them not being in the Champions League next season. There are several possible reasons.

As far as their positioning goes, they will definitely be in the top 4 at the end of the season, but whether that results in a Champions League placing remains to be seen.

KEY PLAYERS:

England’s Raheem Sterling has been a very reliable player for them this season, and has so far scored 24 goals in all competitions this season. The strike duo of Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus, who keep swapping with each other, have once again been prolific in front of goal, and Belgium midfielder Kevin De Bruyne has also pulled the strings of the rest of the team in the way that only he can. These are all players that Manchester City will be relying on when the season gets underway again.

 

Manchester United

LEAGUE POSITION (when league was suspended): 5th

HOW THEY ARE DOING:

It has been an overall very good season for Manchester United, by their standards of the last seasons. Since Sir Alex Ferguson left, they have been through three full-time managers, and one interim (Ryan Giggs). Current incumbent Ole Gunnar Solskjaer started off as an interim manager, before joining the club where he made his name as their permanent manager. Their league placings since Ferguson left have been 7th, 4th, 5th, 6th, 2nd and 6th, and are currently 5th this season.

They brought in several good players to add to their team last summer, with Solskjaer focusing on youth with their additions. 22-year-old Wales winger Daniel James was signed from Swansea, and 22-year-old English right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka joined from Crystal Palace. As well as those, 27-year-old centre back Harry Maguire was signed from Leicester, and in January, 25-year-old Portugal midfielder Bruno Fernandes joined from Sporting Lisbon.

Their placing this season has been down to some good performances, and in their last five games, they have won 3 and drawn 2. Across the season, they’ve only lost 8 games, which is one more than Manchester City. I think most United fans might have taken that as a positive before the start of the season, given how they far they have been behind their fierce rivals in previous seasons. However, there is obviously still work to do if they want to get back into the top 4. This season will I think go down as a success, when you factor in the new signings and how well they have done overall.

KEY PLAYERS:

Strikers Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford have been in really good form this season, with 38 goals between them in all competitions this season (16 for Martial and 22 for Rashford). Two other forwards, Daniel James and Shanghai Shenhua loanee Odion Ighalo have also shown promise in their time at the club so far. Bruno Fernandes has been a huge boost for them since his January arrival, and looks to be money well spent. Aaron Wan-Bissaka has made the right-back position his own, and young striker Mason Greenwood has been a really exciting addition to the first team. Overall, the signs are good for the Red Devils, if all of these players are in top form.

 

Newcastle United

LEAGUE POSITION (when league was suspended): 13th

HOW THEY ARE DOING:

Considering the unrest over the summer when highly popular manager Rafael Benitez, whose tenure included relegation to the Championship in 2016, promotion as champions the following season, and surviving relegation with some really good football since then, left the club after not agreeing a new contract and was replaced by former Sunderland and then Sheffield Wednesday manager, it hasn’t been a bad season at all for the Magpies. The football they have played has been OK, but it has been effective in most parts. Their record this season stands at 9 wins, 8 draws and 12 losses, so whilst consistency is still an issue, they are in 13th place and well clear of any relegation fears, a whole 7 points above the bottom three.

To some extent, the players that were brought in by Bruce have helped the situation. Joelinton has been a huge failure to date, being given the number 9 shirt following the departure of Venezuela striker Salomon Rondon after the end of his loan spell, having scored just one goal in the Premier League all season, and that was away at Tottenham Hotspur in August. He seems to be more of a winger, not a central striker, and this may be the issue with him here. The loan signings that were brought in, which were Dutch left-back Jetro Willems last summer, and then in January Tottenham left-back Danny Rose (after Willems suffered a season-ending injury), Austria winger Valentino Lazaro and Algeria midfielder Nabil Bentaleb have all played their part in shoring up the team and giving them a small boost in certain areas. One player who joined in the summer and who has shown huge promise is French winger Allan Saint-Maximin. He doesn’t score too many, but he makes good runs and movements on the pitch which help to create opportunities.

There should be no fears for Newcastle getting relegated this season, and a solid mid-table finish will be good for them. To do that, they will need to not lose focus, and will need two or three more wins at least, and I don’t think they will be sucked into the danger areas if they do this.

KEY PLAYERS:

We have mentioned above how Allan Saint-Maximin has shown promise this season, and Newcastle will be looking to him to keep working hard and playing his part in keeping the club away from the relegation battle going on below them.

Other players they will need to rely on include Switzerland defender Fabian Schar, who has previously shown under Benitez that he is a threat from defence; Miguel Almiron, with the Paraguayan’s work rate never questioned, but now he has started adding goals to his game as well, so he will be a key player for the Magpies; Sean and Matty Longstaff, the Newcastle-born brothers and midfielders, who have been linked with moves away after their impressive form for the club. Sean is a long-term target of Manchester United, whilst Matty has recently been linked to Italian club Udinese.

 

Norwich City

LEAGUE POSITION (when league was suspended): 20th

HOW THEY ARE DOING:

Despite looking a different side since they were last in the Premier League a few seasons ago, and showing that they have some players who are Premier League quality, it has been another season of struggle for Norwich. Sadly, despite some excellent early results, including a Teemu Pukki hat-trick against Newcastle back in September, it has not been easy for them.

Part of the reason for this, I think, has been their recruitment. Their squad is mainly made up of players who have never experienced the Premier League before, and that is always going to be a problem for a side newly promoted to the English top flight. In their squad at this current time, the only players who have any Premier League experience are goalkeeper Tim Krul and midfielder Alex Tettey, and that is one of the reasons they have been stuck at the foot of the table. They have talented players, as we saw in the Championship last season, but that needed to be mixed in with experience of the Premier League.

As for their chances of staying up, unfortunately, I don’t think they will survive. From what I have seen this season, they have played well, but 5 wins all season tell its own story. They have also conceded 52 goals, joint with Southampton, and only Aston Villa are below them in that statistic.

KEY PLAYERS:

Young English midfielder Todd Cantwell has shown this season that he is Premier League quality, despite still being only 22 years old, and has been linked with several clubs, including league leaders Liverpool. Finland striker Teemu Pukki has scored 11 goals this season, after netting 29 goals in the Championship last season, and do the Canaries will be looking to him to get as many goals as possible when the season gets underway again.

 

Sheffield United

LEAGUE POSITION (when league was suspended): 7th

HOW THEY ARE DOING:

Arguably the joint team of the season, alongside Liverpool, Sheffield United have taken the league by storm in their first season back in the Premier League. Added to that has been the way they play their football, which has been the biggest contributor towards their placing just outside the European spots. To explain, if you’ve never seen Sheffield United’s style of play under Chris Wilder, they play with wing-backs, but then the centre backs are wing-backs on the outside of the actual wing-backs. So the likes of Jack O’Connell and Chris Basham, whilst being two of the three defenders (along with John Egan), are the ones putting the crosses into the box, and providing the ammunition for the strikers and midfielders in the middle.

Initially, every team seemed to be foxed by this system of play, but there have been signs in the second half of the season that the Blades’ opponents are working out how to play against them, which has caused them a few issues. However, it is still a very impressive way of playing, and they are very well drilled in doing it week in, week out.

Their recruitment has been pretty good this season, but they are a team that I have often criticised for their recruitment, for one simple reason. They buy players because they want them, not because they actually need them.

If you don’t believe me, then look at the signings they made who were later deemed surplus to requirements after a few months or a season, and these are all since Wilder was appointed in the summer of 2016:

James Hanson

Caolan Lavery

Samir Carruthers

Lee Evans

Ryan Leonard

Ricky Holmes

Nathan Thomas

Luke Freeman

Ben Osborn

Conor Washington

Ched Evans

Now, admittedly, Osborn and Freeman have both said that they want to stay and fight for their futures, but on the whole, there should be questions asked about their recruitment strategies. Maybe before signing a player, they need to stop and ask themselves if they genuinely, genuinely need them. It’s just a thought.

They will undoubtedly finish in the top half of the table, and, with Manchester City’s European ban still on the table, there may still be some reward at the end of the campaign for their efforts, with a spot in the Europa League not completely out of the picture.

KEY PLAYERS:

On-loan Manchester United goalkeeper Dean Henderson has been arguably their best player this season, and is in with a shout for Keeper of the Season in the top flight. Aside from that, they haven’t had many players that have stood out, because realistically it has been a team effort in every meaning of that phrase. That is what has made this team so extraordinary on their return to the Premier League.

 

Southampton

LEAGUE POSITION (when league was suspended): 14th

HOW THEY ARE DOING:

It has been a good season for Southampton, compared to their previous few. Since Ralph Hassenhuttl came in part way through last season, there has been a lift in the Saints’ play, and it has been noticeable. He changed to play with wing-backs, which gave them more pace going forwards, and young French right-back Yan Valery has become a key player under the Austrian former Red Bull Leipzig boss. He saved them from relegation last season, and this season, despite a rocky start, they have looked to be in better form, and whilst still in the second half of the table, they are beginning to look up the table again and not down it.

They are a whole 7 points outside of the relegation zone, which doesn’t sound like much, but given where they have been in the last few seasons, I think most Saints fans would accept that that is an improvement in their fortunes. They have still lost 15 games though, with 4 of those coming in the last 5 games, but again, the performances overall have been better. Now, whilst some would argue that football is a results-based business, and they are absolutely right, here I think it was important that the style was improved. Under previous manager Mark Hughes, the team was becoming a little lethargic in their play, and so Hassenhuttl had to be given time to change that, which would then change the results.

For those still doubting what I’ve said above, then the club have given the Austrian a new four-year contract in the last couple of weeks, which shows you that, whilst results are still iffy at times, they feel they are on the right track with him, and that is the main thing. I think, this season, they will be absolutely fine, and with three or four more wins, they can ensure their place in the Premier League next season, and continue to build.

KEY PLAYERS:

Striker Danny Ings has had his career reinvigorated since moving to the south coast from Liverpool, initially on loan before making his move permanent last summer. He has very much become their target man up front, netting 15 goals in the Premier League this season, and this form has led to rumours of him being called up for the England squad at some point. Still only 27 years old, he still has a lot of time left in his career. Mali winger Moussa Djenepo joined the team last season, and whilst he has been a little on the fringes at points this season, he has shown promise at points this season, and he shouldn’t be written off as a bad signing.

 

Tottenham Hotspur

LEAGUE POSITION (when league was suspended): 8th

HOW THEY ARE DOING:

It has been a poor season by Tottenham’s standards, and a tumultuous one. They began the season with long-term manager Mauricio Pochettino in charge, after reaching the Champions League final and losing to Liverpool last season, but in November, with continuously bad results, and unrest in the squad, the Argentinian was shown out of the door, and replaced by Jose Mourinho. It threw up all sorts of questions at the time, and since then, there have been improvements, but ultimately it looks likely that Spurs will miss out on any European football next season, as they are already out of this year’s tournament.

Under Mourinho, results have improved, and to be fair to Mourinho, he seems to have learnt from his time at Manchester United when things went hugely downhill, and he has stayed out of the media spotlight much more since joining Spurs.

As far as the season will go, I think they will struggle to gain any place in Europe next season, unless some luck goes their way. However, given where they were, the improvement has been noticeable.

KEY PLAYERS:

They will need to rely on their star striker duo of Son Heung-min and Harry Kane to get the goals needed to seal a place inside the top 10. Dutch forward Steven Bergwijn, who joined in January, will also need to play a part in their attack.

 

Watford

LEAGUE POSITION (when league was suspended): 17th

HOW THEY ARE DOING:

It has been a season of struggle for the Hornets, who have not been able to pull away from the relegation zone at all. They have been through two managers and are on their third, which is never good when you are trying to survive a fight to stay in the league. Javi Gracia was sacked in September, and he was replaced by former boss Quique Sanchez Flores, who was then sacked in December, and replaced by former Leicester City boss Nigel Pearson.

However, since Pearson, and his former Leicester assistant Craig Shakespeare, came in, things have started to look up a bit more. Summer signing Ismaila Sarr has been a key example of that improvement, with the win against Liverpool one match in which he shone.

As far as this season is concerned, I still feel concerned for them, because whilst they are sitting outside the relegation zone at the moment, they are still only outside it on goal difference, and that is only by one goal. Their form has been mixed as well, with 3 wins, 1 draw and 1 win in their last five games. They still have a lot of work to do when the season gets underway.

KEY PLAYERS:

The Hornets will need to rely on, amongst others, their captain, Troy Deeney, who will need to inspire them to survival, and so they can hit the ground running. Winger Ismaila Sarr will also need to keep up his form, and continue to cause problems for opposing defences. Midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure has been linked with top clubs, such is his form and importance to Watford.

 

West Ham United

LEAGUE POSITION (when league was suspended): 16th

HOW THEY ARE DOING:

West Ham are another club who have had to change their manager this season, with the team struggling under former Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini, and his departure meant former boss David Moyes returned to the team, having left after guiding West Ham to safety at the end of the 2017/2018 season. He has made some impact at the club, with them now sitting in 16th place, only outside the relegation zone on goal difference. They are above 18th-placed Bournemouth with a better goal difference of 3, and above 17th-placed Watford with a better goal difference of 1, so, like those teams, they have got a lot of work to do when the season gets underway again.

Their transfers last season have been the main problem for them this season, with a combined £69m spent on Spanish attacking midfielder Pablo Fornals and French striker Sebastian Haller, however neither has made a name for themselves at the London Stadium thus far, and have both been disappointing. They also brought in Spanish goalkeeper Roberto, who has not proven to be a success at all, making some really simple errors, and generally proving to be unpopular with the fans.

The Hammers moved to improve their goalscoring prospects in January, with the £22m signing of Hull City forward Jarrod Bowen being sealed on transfer deadline day. Whilst his record in the Championship speaks for itself, West Ham should exercise caution, because their last import from the Championship, striker Jordan Hugill from Preston North End, has not yet added anything to the team, and has spent the last two seasons on loan at Middlesbrough and QPR. However, having watched Bowen, I think he will add what they have been missing.

KEY PLAYERS:

As mentioned, whilst pressure should not be piled on him, Jarrod Bowen needs to find his feet if West Ham are going to compete in the Premier League next season. They will also be relying on their captain, midfielder Mark Noble, to lead the team. Another player who has shown good form this season has been England midfielder Declan Rice, and that form has seen him continually linked with clubs such as Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea.

 

Wolverhampton Wanderers

LEAGUE POSITION (when league was suspended): 6th

HOW THEY ARE DOING:

It has been another really good season for Wolves, and their return to the Premier League since their promotion back in 2018 continues to get better and better. They have been involved in the Europa League this season, and it looks very likely that they will be there next season too.

If there was one thing that manager Nuno Espirito Santo might want to look at to improve, then it’s perhaps how many draws they have had this season. Their record this season is 10 wins, 13 draws and 6 losses. In fact, if we look at their form in the last 5 games, they have recorded 3 draws and 2 wins. They are only two points behind 5th-placed Manchester United, and 5 behind 4th-placed Chelsea. Had they managed to get a couple more wins, they could be in the top 5 or even top 4. However, that is not to say that this has been a disappointing season for them; far from it.

They have a very talented squad already, but added to it last summer with the signings of Mexico striker Raul Jimenez (who joined permanently after being on loan the previous season), Belgium midfielder Leander Dendoncker (who did the same thing), Italy striker Patrick Cutrone (who later departed in January) and Portuguese winger Pedro Neto. In January, they signed another Portuguese winger Daniel Podence, who joined from Greek side Olympiakos.

The sky is the limit for Wolves. They really are going from strength to strength at the moment.

KEY PLAYERS:

Wolves’ playing system relies on them having good wing-backs, and Matt Doherty and  Jonny Castro Otto offer them good width, and a threat going forward. At the back, captain Conor Coady has led the team incredibly well, whilst at the front, the trio of Adama Traore, who is being strongly linked with Liverpool, Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota have been so impressive this season. Even new arrivals like Pedro Neto have played their part when they’ve come in. Wolves will be in Europe next season, but the question for them and their fans is how far can they go? Can they break into the top 4 one day? Time will tell.

 

 

 

One thought on “Premier League 2019/2020 – how are each club doing?

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