To be fair, it’s been a topsy-turvy season in the English Premier League so far. The football commentators have been going on endlessly about the problems of both Chelsea and Manchester United.
Despite winning the title at a canter last season, Chelsea, with much of the same team, suffered an astonishingly poor run of results (nine defeats already this season), which led to the sacking of manager Jose Mourinho for the second time (not even good performances in the European Champions’ League saved him this time), to be replaced by Guus Hiddink on an ‘interim basis’ until the end of the season.
Meanwhile, Louis van Gaal is suffering for trying to stamp his own authority at Manchester United. Despite taking over from a hapless David Moyes and spending a lot of money in the transfer market, he has been unable to get the team to gel on the pitch. They have been accused by both fans and commentators of not playing attractive football, and key players such as captain and England talisman Wayne Rooney have been suffering from a loss of form. They were just elimanated from the Champions’ League and dropped into the Europa League for the New Year. Then there is also the constant speculation over Van Gaal’s future, fuelled by newspaper rumours that Bayern Munich’s manager Pep Guardiola could be about to replace him.
None of the constant column inches devoted to these two clubs (plus United’s rivals City, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur to a lesser extent) shouldn’t detract from Leicester City’s rise to the near top of the table, continuing the form which started at the back end of last season, after they had been candidates for relegation, saved themselves and rose onwards and upwards, despite the change in manager (Claudio Ranieri was appointed in the summer). They won’t win the league, but a Europa League spot, on current form, is not beyond them.
Then there’s the promoted clubs. Bournemouth, Watford and Norwich City have not become the whipping boys that many commentators predicted. They have played very well to stay in the league so far, and nobody can predict which teams could be relegated at the end of the season (at present Aston Villa, Sunderland and Newcastle United are currently favourites with the pundits)…. but it’s only half time, and anything can happen in the second half of the season.