Since my last Premier League Big Six report, the power struggle continues with everyone dropping points over the festive period. The revival of Manchester United since their capitulation in the UEFA Champions League, to Arsenal continuing their downward spiral and Thomas Partey now becoming my new favourite player.
Power Struggle at the Top
Premier League Title Favorites; Liverpool
Despite defensive instabilities, Jurgen Klopp’s team look determined to score themselves to Premier League glory. The Reds have overcome what was a shaky defensive start to the season after losing Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez but are now showing glimpses of what was the all-conquering side that ran away with the title last season.
Jurgen Klopp is having a career year as a manager. The German international lost his best defender and player for what looks like the season, his star signing has been dealing with reoccurring injuries but his balancing of all that with integrating young players into the squad is the transition from winning once to eyes on domination.
It is reminiscent of the Pep Guardiola, Kevin de Bruyne situation in 2018/2019 Premier League season where the Belgian international only played 19 spread out games. Manchester City won that title by a single point chasing down future Champions League winners Liverpool on the strength of the system despite missing their best talent.
Surprisingly it is West Brom and not Sheffield United drifting away from the pack. Leeds have a top 10 offense with a bottom 3 defense, it's a thin line Bielsa is walking🤦🏾♂️Liverpool continue to try and push away from the pack. United and Chelsea are our best hope. #PremierLeague pic.twitter.com/RNkMsOOjHJ
— Mab Sidam Analysis (@MabSidam) December 31, 2020
Contenders; Manchester United and Chelsea
In the last big 6 report, I called Manchester United a mid-table side and referred to them as “pretenders”. Those “pretenders” are only three points behind league leaders, Liverpool, with a game in hand. Their recent run of great form has even changed my mind completely on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Whether I like it or not United have clawed their way into contention. Powered by 60% of sorcery and 40% luck of Bruno Fernandes, United look like Liverpool’s best bet for a title race.
Chelsea is fading out of contention due to their defence instabilities and the new signings taking more time to embed themselves into the squad. Frank Lampard will have to solidify his back end with more dynamic midfield play in the transfer market. The offence will hum regardless of the defensive performances as Chelsea are just way too stacked with talented technical players to struggle in that area. Some of their young stars are misfiring, a certain German prodigy but on paper Chelsea still have one of the best teams in the league. They should maintain their status as “contenders” of the strength of the offence alone.
Chasers; Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City
Two weeks ago I considered this a two-horse race between Chelsea or Tottenham. That was due to the excellent defensive play both teams were displaying. Chelsea has failed to continue their defensive excellency. Tottenham have maintained their stout reputation as a backend unit thanks to Jose Mourinho. The problem is their offence has collapsed on itself since Harry Kane “Gheorghe Hagi” impression got shaky. Jose Mourinho has to get his offence in sync again to get his team back to contender status.
In basketball, it’s said you need to change the bottom of your roster to keep the locker room fresh. If not, the team can grow stale as everyone knows each other too well and no new angle to the team can be introduced. Manchester City has become a De Bruyne-centric and needs new energy in the dressing room to re-establish the team’s identity. Manchester City used to be ruthless and now they just feel passive and conservative (that’s why the defence is so good right now). The introduction of someone like Erling Haaland. The introduction of such a lethal striker may be the shot in the arm this team needs to go back to being all-conquering.
Premier League Crisis; Arsenal
Arsenal are underperforming and have dropped to join a group of mid-table sides above them as Mikel Arteta continues to implement Arsenal’s new identity. The Gunner’s defence is actually league average. Surprisingly their offence despite all the big names is one of the worst in the league. The addition of a few creative players will help propel them to Europa League contention.
Leeds United seem determined to be the mid-table version of Liverpool. Marcelo Bielsa and his boys will score their way to safety if need be. West Brom, Fulham and Burnley are going to take this thing all the way it seems. Sheffield United are gone in my opinion, two points so far this season is far too less. Aston Villa is an anomaly and is a serious Europa League placing contender.
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