THE BPL ROUND UP
by Kevin Cain
As the season has turned the corner for the second half of things then there is still massive uncertainty about which team will actually win the Premier League and which three teams will be relegated to the Championship. Also there is great debate on who will actually make the Champions League and the Europa Cup for next season.
But still surprising everybody is the continuing success of Leicester City. Far from fading away into the nether regions of mid-table, Leicester City are holding on strong and competing strongly for the league.
I think most honest genuine football supporters around the globe would be quite happy if Leicester were to win the Premiership against all the odds, and Claudio Ranieri the famous Tinker Man will end triumphant on his return to Premiership management.
Still baffling Manchester United fans is the decision to leave Louis Van Gaal in charge at the Theater of Dreams. His style has been heavily criticised by fans and pundits alike for being boring and too defensive.
Across the city of Manchester on the sky blue side, things are going a little better. However, Manchester City's season has also been spluttering and they are not the consistent team of prior seasons. It must be highlighted that both these clubs spent heavily in the close season and the new additions simply have not performed. Is it poor management or bad coaching ? That remains to be seen if changes are made at the top .
Meanwhile in north London both Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur are both looking good to seriously be in the mix come May the 15th and the last games of the season. Arsenal have been playing some attractive stuff and Mr Venger has surprised a lot of critics, even some home supporters.
But it is their north London rivals that have astonished many people. Mauricio Pochettino has molded one of the strongest Spurs squads for decades. Tottenham are possibly the best team in the Premiership on the eye and play swift passing football with attacking flair players such as Dele Alli. If they continue to play the same way for the rest of the season then a top four place is the least they can expect.
It seems strange summarising the top of the division without evening mentioning Chelsea, but the former champions are still languishing in thirteenth place, a point behind Everton who themselves continue leaking goals on a regular basis.
The relegation battle at the moment concerns three big guns, the most seriously in trouble is Aston Villa who are rock bottom of the league. Many cannot see Villa getting away from trouble but the warning signs have been on the cards for the last three or four years. Villa have been flirting with the bottom three for too long recently and perhaps they need to go down to rebuild and re-structure. It would be a sad day if relegation did happen for Villa as they are one of the elder statesmen of the Football League and the Premiership.
Just above Aston Villa are Sunderland and Newcastle United. Big Sam has been installed at the Stadium of Light to keep the Black Cats up and with his prior record of keeping teams from relegation then there is hope for Sunderland. Newcastle also have a strong squad and the return of some long term injuries should be enough to bolster their Premiership hope.
So if this is the case who will accompany Aston Villa in the drop ? The favourite four according to the bookies to compete for relegation are; Swansea, Bournemouth, Norwich and West Brom. But there is always a late comer who slides down the table uncontrollably in the last few weeks of the season.
There are a couple of teams that come to mind in this category and who you would not normally associate with the dreaded drop - and this season I think Southampton and Everton need to look over their shoulders. Southampton have had a couple of good results recently but it papers over a very average season so far. Meanwhile at Goodison Park, Roberto Martinez has a fixation of dabbling with death in front of goal. His insistence that his defenders play out from defense has seen the Toffee's concede too many goals to unlikely opponents.
All this contributes to what is so far a most intriguing season where any team can beat another and the unexpected is the norm. Typifying this is Liverpool who on their day can beat the best away but lose against the average at home. Surely Jurgen Klopp can turn a very average team around to once more challenge for honours? Watch this space.........
Upcoming Key Fixtures:
Sunday 14th February
Arsenal v Leicester City
Manchester City v Spurs
Sunday 28th February
Manchester United v Arsenal
Wednesday 2nd March
Liverpool v Manchester City
Saturday 5th March
Tottenham v Arsenal