New Year EPL & Turkey’s
By Glenn Cowan
We approach the halfway mark in what can only be described as another strange season in the life of the English Premier League, with the Christmas & New Year fixtures almost upon us.Games come thick and fast over the festive season, with supporters and armchair fans getting a near overdose of footie action.Of course, one of the key benefits to being over in Thailand is the opportunity to watch pretty much any game you wish. Makes following your own team even easier when you can kick back in one of the great sports bars and take in a game or two!
Setting the Pace
It would seem that Chelsea have refound their rhythm, under new coach Antonio Conte. The combustible Italian has successfully managed to pick up from a very poor performance last term and allow the West Londoners to be “there or thereabouts” at the halfway point. Sadly, last season's’ winners Leicester City are in real danger of doing a “Chesney Hawkes” as they struggle to get to grips with the 2016-17 campaign. That said they are still tearing up trees, having finished top of their Champions League group - not bad for a maiden voyage in top European footie!
Man City are in the mix at the run in too. Pep Guardiola has seen issues first hand, but it would seem that they are well placed to perform strongly in the 2nd half of the season. Pains me to say it, but they are looking a good shot for the title this term, oh well better city than Liverpool, any day of the week!
Talking of Looserpool. The flamboyant Jürgen Klopp seems to be getting some good results from his attacking players. However, it is in defence that he needs to do more. Early games were exciting to watch, but you couldn’t help but think every opposition attack would lead to a goal. Jose Mourinho has had a stop-start start to his tenure as new boss at the Theatre of Dreams. There are still clearly issues with the strength and depth of the squad. Whether transfer activity in the January window will be able to help Jose to firm up key areas remains to be seen.
The Sack Race!
The usual merry-go-round of manager chopping and changing hasn’t quite kicked-off yet. That said, it’s pretty safe to expect movement’s at some of the “under-threat” of relegation clubs. Could England national team’s only 100% manager make a bid to come back and save Sunderland from relegation for the 2nd season in a row? Whatever happens it seems a long shot that David Moyes will still be the Black Cat’s manager at the end of this season.Will Bob Bradley still be in situ at Swansea? Not likely as he is hot favourite to be the next manager given his P45. Alan Pardew is seemingly under pressure as Palace manager, with his side a little too close to the bottom of the table for comfort.
Given the obscene amounts of money at stake for dropping out of the league we can expect to see real pressure on managers at any of the lower placed clubs. West Ham, Hull City, Stoke City and dare I suggest Leicester City’s managers will be hoping that they have a fairly immediate turn in fortunes and are able to put some breathing space between them and the lower placed clubs.
Boxing Day sees no less than 8 fixtures scheduled, with Watford vs Crystal Palace in the lunchtime kick off position (local time 7:30PM) 6 games will take place at 10pm, with Arsenal, Burnley and Chelsea all home to West Brom, Middlesbrough and Bournemouth respectively. Man U take on a struggling Sunderland, surely will be 3 points for Jose in that one! Champions
Leicester are at home to Everton, while Swansea City will be hoping for a win when they take on West Ham.The late game of the day sees Pep Guardiola's side travelling to Hull City.
A resurgent Liverpool take on Stoke City in the only game on the 27th, with Tottenham Hotspur travelling to Southampton for the single game on the 28th. Everton are soon back in action with an away game at Hull on Friday 30th.
New Years Eve sees 7 games scheduled, with the biggest game of the day featuring Liverpool and Manchester City (12:30AM local time) for those still out and about. Then games continue to be played each day with 12 matches between Sun 1st Jan and Wed 4th Jan. Without question the pick of the games here will be Tottenham taking on Chelsea, sadly it’s an 8PM UK game, which means 3AM for us locals.
Aside from the run of games it is important to remember that the transfer window officially opens in January. Big name moves at this time of the year aren’t quite as likely as the summer, but it still can happen.
It’s likely that one or two of the moves that didn’t quite get across the line in the summer be resurrected for the winter window.Could we see Cesc Fabregas off to either Juventus or Inter Milan? Perhaps even Riyad Mahrez be tempted to renew conversations with Arsenal over a move away from the King Power Stadium? Chelsea could be looking to further increase their potency with a big name move for Real Madrid’s James Rodriguez… Watch this space for further developments.
Love it or hate it, the transfer window will give some clubs another opportunity to shake their deck in the build up to the finale of the richest EPL in history. Who’s your money on for winning the league? And who do you fancy for avoiding the drop into the dreaded Championship?