EPL 20/21 halfway point review: How's your team doing?
Words by Nathan Irvine
Shutterstock | Adidas
Who's set for the top and the drop?
As we reach the halfway point of one of the weirdest English Premier League races in a long time, we thought we’d assess the highs and lows of the teams involved.
Let’s kick-off with…
Shutterstock Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta looking pensive/moody
Current position - 10th
Although they’re in mid-table now, things seemed far bleaker for Arteta’s charges just a few weeks ago. Languishing closer to the relegation zone than the Top 4, Arsenal have at least found a bit of form recently. It’s too early to tell whether the tide has changed completely, but with an injection of young talent around the impressive summer signing, Thomas Partey, Arsenal may yet sneak into the European slots.
Hero so far Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang - Seems to have put his goal drought behind him
Surprise package Emile Smith-Rowe - The young Gunner has added much needed dynamism to midfield
Current position - 11th
The Midlands club spent their transfer budget wisely in the summer. Shrewd acquisitions such as right-back Matty Cash and striker Ollie Watkins - purchased from Championship clubs - have helped ease the burden on Jack Grealish’s gigantic calves. They were tipped for relegation by a number of pundits at the start of the season, but after their 7-2 demolition of Liverpool the Villains have been on the up.
Hero so far Jack Grealish - One of the best players in the league, never mind at the club.
Surprise package Emiliano Martinez - The ex-Arsenal stopper has provided stability and stopping power for Villa.
Current position - 16th
Graham Potter’s men started poorly and struggled for goals. However, they’re ever so slowly turning back into a club that’s hard to breakdown. There’s no shame in only falling to a 1-0 defeat away to Manchester City when the team looks to be shoring up the backline. The over reliance on striker Neal Maupay is a worry, mind, and one that could have dire consequences if the goal-getter becomes injured.
Hero so far Neal Maupay - Without his goals Brighton would be rooted in the relegation zone
Surprise package Tariq Lamptey - The young wingback is receiving admiring glances from the EPL’s top four
Current position - 17th
It’s fair to say that you’d expect to see Burnley worrying the top 10 by this stage in the season. But after an awful start, Sean Dyche’s team are really struggling to put a string of decent results together. The usually reliable battering-ram combo of front two Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes is completely splintered with only four goals between them all season. Sure, they’re still a tough nut to crack, but Burnley’s lack of creativity and goals is surely a recipe for a relegation fight.
Hero so far Nick Pope - The England goalkeeper is helping to keep Burnley’s head above water. Just.
Surprise package Jimmy Dunne - Only played two games this term, but looks like a solid option for Burnley’s defence.
Current position - 8th
It’s impossible to judge Frank Lampard’s season without thinking about all that cash they spent on mis-firing signings. Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Hakim Zyech et al, were supposed to catapult Chelsea to dizzying heights, but they’ve all struggled. The problem for Lampard is owner Roman Abramovich is not a patient man. If the former Chelsea legend doesn’t start motoring up the league table soon, he’ll find himself looking for a new job.
Hero so far Mason Mount - One of the genuine bright sparks in a mixed bag of a season for Chelsea.
Surprise package Kurt Zouma - He’s gone from one-time laughing stock, to a key piece of the Blues backline.
Shutterstock Even in his twilight years, Jamie Vardy is seems to be getting better and better
Current position - 13th
Bar the ridiculous 7-0 drubbing at the hands of Liverpool, Palace have looked pretty robust. But it’s keeping a win-streak going that seems to be the biggest problem. Eberechi Eze’s signing has helped to unburden Wilf Zaha somewhat, as the creative midfielder has been a menace all season. If Roy Hodgson can get a tune out of his strikers - Christian Benteke, Jordan Ayew and Michy Batshuayi - then they could conceivably challenge for a European spot.
Hero so far Wilf Zaha - Who else? Palace have done well to hang onto him for this long. He’s destined for bigger things.
Surprise package Tyrick Mitchell - Fantasy Football’s favourite low-price wingback is keeping van Aanholt out of the side.
Current position - 6th
The Toffees came out of the blocks so fast that they looked like genuine title contenders. Led by the goalscoring prowess of the transformed Calvert-Lewin they charged up the league at pace. A fair amount of the early success was down to new signing James Rodriguez unlocking defences at will. But as the Colombian’s form has slipped, so too has Everton’s position in the table.
Hero so far Dominic Calvert-Lewin - Ancelotti has turned the striker into a potent force in the Premier League.
Surprise package Alex Iwobi - A change of position has offered him more freedom to show what he can do… finally.
Current position - 18th
They were early favourites to get relegated before a ball had been kicked in anger, and nothing has really changed now. True, Scott Parker has made them more compact and they’re certainly not going to concede tons of goals every week now, but they still look frail. They have lots of talented young players, but nobody to grab games by the scruff of the neck when they need it most.
Hero so far Ademola Lookman - The midfielder is a constant threat to defences and has a neat eye for goal.
Surprise package André-Frank Zambo Anguissa - The biggest compliment we can make is Fulham will struggle to keep their summer signing beyond this season.
Current position - 12th
Bielsa’s boys are always involved in exciting matches. They’ve matched teams blow for blow across the pitch and play some delightful passes. But there’s no plan B. And when plan A is bust, they never look like winning a game. It’s a big test for Leeds United this season, and the target will be to consolidate their place in the Premier League. Lessons will be learned whether they do or don’t, mind.
Hero so far Patrick Bamford - His best stint in the EPL by far, he's enjoyed a goal-packed season already.
Surprise package Stuart Dallas - The right-back has taken the league by storm with his gut-busting runs down the flanks.
Current position - 3rd
Genuine title contenders. They’ve done it once, and there’s absolutely no reason they can’t upset the odds again. There’s a genuine toughness about Brendan Rodger’s side and they all seem to be playing for each other. James Maddison is the pivot that everything good goes through and his link-up play with those around him has been excellent of late. The traditional Big Four looks set to be disrupted once more.
Hero so far Jamie Vardy - At 34 years young, the striker is still giving opposition goalkeepers nightmares.
Surprise package James Justin - A flying wingback that has burst onto the scene in a big way this season.
Shutterstock Paul Pogba is in the form of his life for Manchester United
Current position - 4th
Favourites at the start of the season to retain their crown, Liverpool have begun to stutter. Without the regular glut of goals from Mo Salah, Sadio Mane or even Trent Alexander-Arnold, Klopp’s men have fallen slightly off the pace of late. There have been well documented injuries though - Virgil van Dijk, for one - and they seem to have had a knock-on effect. Sir Alex Ferguson always said that retaining the trophy was harder than winning it, and Liverpool are certainly facing this test now.
Hero so far Mo Salah - Once again the Egyptian is pulling up trees for Liverpool with his goalscoring exploits and general magic.
Surprise package Curtis Jones - The young man has played a couple of times in depleted sides and always come out looking great.
Current position - 2nd
Following a 5-2 pasting by Leicester City in September, it looked like Man City would struggle to make a title challenge. But Guardiola has flipped the script and has swapped a high press mentality for a pass and move strategy. It’s paid off massively, and Pep’s men once again look like genuine title contenders. All this, and with barely a sniff of star striker Sergio Aguero for much of the season.
Hero so far Kevin De Bruyne - The assists machine has contributed a number of goals this term and had a stint up front.
Surprise package John Stones - Almost forgotten about at the Etihad, Stones has come in from the cold to form a formidable partnership with Ruben Dias.
Current position - 1st
Top of the lot and that 1-6 capitulation to Spurs is suddenly a distant memory. Solskjaer deserves credit for holding his nerve and playing the way he wants. The players have fallen in line and all of a sudden they’re being mentioned as title contenders. It’s been quite a rollercoaster of a season for United fans.
Hero so far Bruno Fernandes - He's been carrying the team for much of the season with his tenacity, assists and goals.
Surprise package Paul Pogba - Really looked out of sorts for large parts of the first half, but has appeared to have become World Cup winning Pogba again.
Current position - 15th
When new signing Callum Wilson was firing in the goals, the Toon Army gave a glimpse of hope and made fans dream again. But that was at the start of the season. Ever since Newcastle United have looked like a team sleepwalking into a relegation battle. They’re not a fun watch at all. And it’s hard to work out what they’re actually good at. A serious change in mentality is needed to avoid the drop.
Hero so far Callum Wilson - The summer signing from relegated Bournemouth has been in fine form this season.
Surprise package Not already being in the bottom three at this point?
Current position - 20th
What a difference one season can make. Chris Wilder was the toast of the EPL for most of last term as his underrated Blades put many a top team to the sword. But with largely the same squad, the wheel have well and truly fallen off. They’ve only just grabbed their first win of the season. And despite having the same energy as ever, nothing seems to be coming off well. Barring a miracle, Sheffield United will be playing in the Championship next season.
Hero so far David McGoldrick - Best of a bad bunch, but is tireless in his efforts to bag a goal.
Surprise package Ex-Liverpool starlet Rhian Brewster being distinctly average in a side crying out for goals.
Shutterstock Mourinho is on the verge of a cup final with Spurs
Current position - 9th
Ralph Hasenhüttl has built on last season's solid foundations and genuinely has a team that could be playing in the Europa League next season. They're a no-frills side that are built around teamwork, hard pressing and dynamism rather than one star player. Che Adams has found his shooting boots, which has alleviated a bit of the strain on Danny Ings. Expect them to be firmly in the Top 10 by the season's close.
Hero so far James Ward-Prowse - The no-nonsense captain has developed into an outstanding set-piece taker.
Surprise package Kyle Walker-Peters - After a shaky start to life at St. Mary’s the young fullback looks the real deal now.
Current position - 5th
There haven’t been too many times this season when Spurs have been found wanting. They’re a superb team and when it all clicks, they’re almost unstoppable - just ask any Manchester United fan. Of course, they’ve had their usual drop off in form and Jose has found time to fall out with Dele Alli, but Spurs will be near the summit come may, especially if Son and Kane keep firing as they have been.
Hero(es) so far Kane and Son - Their link up play is almost telepathic and has been a joy to watch all season.
Surprise package Tanguy Ndombele - There was talk of a falling out with Mourinho last year, but the midfielder has become a lynchpin to the side.
Current position - 19th
It’s hard to see what difference Sam Allardyce has brought to this Baggies side since they dumped old manager, Slaven Bilic. They’re still hovering above the drop zone and they still don’t look like avoiding it come May. Obviously, the owners were hoping for that new manager bounce, and seemed to have one when they battled for a draw against Liverpool at Anfield. But there are few reasons for West From fans to be hopeful they won’t be going straight back down.
Hero so far Matheus Pereira - He’s found a purple patch of form that West Brom will be hoping can help the team to safety.
Surprise package Erm, see above
West Ham United
Current position - 7th
Having steadied the ship at West Ham, David Moyes has now smashed them into the sort of shape that could carry them to Europe. Thomas Soucek, Aaron Cresswell and Jarrod Bowen have all been instrumental in getting the Hammers up the table. And although they took a financial hit, getting record signing Sebastian Haller out of the door proves that Moyes has a system that he needs certain players for.
Hero so far Thomas Soucek - The rangey midfielder has scored some vital goals all season. Moyes’ new Fellaini?
Surprise package Jarrod Bowen - Just how fast and tricky is this guy? He’s tortured wingbacks in every game.
Current position - 14th
The horrific injury to Raul Jimenez all but crushed any early aspirations Wolves may have had for the season. You can see how badly they’re struggling without their target man. Last year’s star, Adama Traore has been largely invisible as the team look a shell of their former selves. An established striker is surely needed in the January transfer window if Wolves are to avoid mid-table obscurity this season.
Hero so far Pedro Neto - Has made good on his early promise and is filling the void left by Diogo Jota nicely.
Surprise package Romain Saiss - A rock at the back that has somehow added goals to his game.