As expected, the EPL thus far has seen a significant drop in quality so far this term. The loss of Ronaldo has robbed the league of genuine attacking class while many of the top players - Fabregas, Torres, Arteta, Ferdinand etc have been suffering from injuries. As expected Paul Hart and Gary Megson have bitten the bullet with Owen Coyle jumping from the good ship Burnley to a more established if equally rocky Bolton. The biggest departure has been British manager Mark Hughes dumped for Roberto Mancini who has made a great start in a decidely average league. The loss of Xabi Alonso has hit last year runners up Liverpool badly as Carragher ages, Gerrard uninterested and Torres perennially injured. Arry and his Spurs doing alright at times and falling on their faces at others. O’Neill’s Villa are on course for a third consecutive sixth placed finish, better at the back but not as fluent up front. Money troubles are hitting a lot of clubs not surprisingly the bottom clubs Pompey, Hull and West Ham but also higher up Wenger remains frugal, Benitez sells squad player to keep the metre running at Anfield, the Glazers take money out of Fergie’s pocket and even Abramovich is tightening his belt. Ladies and Gentlemen, the EPL like the world of finance has finally woken up to reality.
In deciding the half term team of the season I thought it worthwhile to who I selected as the EPL team of the year last season
Johnson, Ferdinand, Vidic, Cole
Pepe Reina probably remains the best keeper in the EPL but has had a difficult time as Liverpool’s defence has been in tatters. Given despite his admirers in the media also has been a bit suspect at times. Gomes mixes brilliant with brutal but has been much improved. Some poor keepers in the league in truth but Joe Hart has been a revelation at a miserly Birmingham City and gets the nod.
Not much here to choose from. Some of the EPL’s worst players are right backs - McShane, Bardsley, Hibbert etc. Johnson started really well but has been plagued with injury of late, Boswinga likewise. Bacary Sagna though is back to the form of his first season at the Emirates and is chosen.
Injury troubles have seen Vidic and Ferdinand sidelined for long spells. Roger Johnson has been a revelation at Birmingham, Bassong has settled well at Spurs, Hangeland and Gallas still shining too. But Richard Dunne can hardly have hoped for a better start to his Villa career and John Terry is maybe not the force of old but is still the leading light in the league’s top defence.
Not much to choose from here. Nothing to say but that Ashley Cole is by a distance the best left back in the league.
Hard to know what to choose in midfield. Ashley Young’s form has dipped while Alonso and Ronaldo have swapped Lancashire for Madrid. Fabregas when fit has been excellent and is a given with 9 goals. Lampard and Essien shone while fit although it took Lampard a while to get familiarised with Ancelotti’s diamond formation. Alex Song continues to improve at Arsenal. From an Irish perspective Duff has looked reborn at Fulham while Andy Reid particularly early on was on fire for Sunderland. Aaron Lennon at Spurs was unplayable at times also while Craig Bellamy gets in on the left as he was Mark Hughes’s best player at City but is unlikely to be as favoured from now on.
Anelka’s total of 19 last season is sure to be broken. Peter Crouch has brought the best out of Jermaine Defoe who is tied on 14 with a reborn Didier Drogba and Wayne Rooney has also picked up some of the mantle brought about by Ronaldo’s departure. Torres despite his injury problems has knocked in 12. But its goals that count. Drogba is a certainty as he doesnt take the penalties while Defoe’s record is buffetted by 5 against Wigan. I’ll go with Rooney and Drogba. Im expecting big second halves from Tevez, Anelka and the consistent Bent.