After the Covid pandemic meant the 2019/2020 season stumbled over the line following a long break, many had low expectations for the current campaign. However, even with all the uncertainty surrounding it, we’ve witnessed a truly fascinating first half of the season so far. Some teams have hit the halfway point in their fixtures, with others a few behind due to postponements and the league seems to be as wide open as it’s ever been. With that in mind, we thought we’d look at whether this season could turn out to be the most exciting and unpredictable one for a long time.
There has been a lot of buzz about the league table since the 2020/2021 Premier League campaign kicked off in September, with teams absolutely packed into the top half without much separating them. At the time of writing just 6 points separate Leicester City at the top of the league and West Ham United down in 7th. An honourable mention goes to Aston Villa too, who although are down in 11th, are still only 12 points off the top and they boast 4 games in hand on the table topping Foxes.
With the table being so tight, it has made for great reading all season as we have seen teams put together a small run of form and being touted as title contenders before suffering a few poor results and dropping out of contention before restarting the cycle. Liverpool started the season strongly and initially people were confident that they were just too good and although they might not saunter to victory with the same ease as last year, they would still retain their crown, yet they now find themselves down in 4th and without a goal in their last 3 games.
Their Merseyside rivals Everton also started the season on fire and led the league after 6 game weeks, with many claiming the combination of serial winner Carlo Ancelotti at the helm and a whole host of impressive signings, they could potentially challenge for the title too. They subsequently fell away after that but are still enjoying an excellent season and are definitely sniffing around for a European place.
Next up, it was Spurs’ turn to lead the league as they enjoyed some great form with Harry Kane and Heung Min Son combining what felt like every week for a ludicrous number of goals and assists. Coupled with another serial winner in Jose Mourinho, pundits and fans alike were wondering if it could finally be their year as all the pieces fell into place. However, just like those before them, Spurs stuttered and fell away slightly, nestling back into the chasing pack, but currently being in contention still.
As 2020 turned to 2021, we saw both a blue and red resurgence emanating from Manchester as the two powerhouses seemed to finally get their affairs in order. After a hugely underwhelming start to the season, Guardiola’s City have really kicked things up a gear and have slowly risen up the table to find themselves sitting nicely in 3rd, with enough games in hand to go top. Normally a side assocated with goals galore and free flowing football, this season it has been their defensive resilience which has caught the eye. With John Stones’ redemption in full flow and the hugely impressive new signing Ruben Dias adding some much needed steel to the defence, Guardiola’s men have steadied the ship – and then some.
After a massively disappointing end to the season in which they were knocked out at the semi final stage of three competitions, Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s tricky reds didn’t exactly look convincing at the beginning of the season either. A shocking 6-1 demolition at Old Trafford by Tottenham and a miserable Champions League exit at the hands of RB Leipzig left Solksjaer on the brink, with many touting him to be next to face the sack.
With their backs against the wall, United gradually hit back and although they haven’t pulled up any trees just yet, they do seem to be finally finding their feet somewhat and without hitting top form yet, find themselves one point behind Leicester with a game in hand. Could Ole be back at the wheel again?
The first half of the season also saw Arsenal well among the headlines, however, not for any of the same reasons as the other teams mentioned so far in the article, as they’ve endured a rather disastrous opening half of the campaign. Sitting in 15th place after 14 game weeks, the Gunners were just 4 points above the relegation zone, leading to incoming West Brom boss Sam Allardyce referencing them as relegation rivals to the Baggies. Arteta was under enormous pressure and although the board and fans were really keen to see him given time to succeed, the clock was certainly ticking with every passing week that he failed to get a positive result.
Luckily for the Spaniard, he has since turned things around and after a series of good results, the Gunners are now up to 11th. This would still represent a pretty dreadful finish if it were to be their position come the end of the season, but with the way the table is at the moment, they’re actually only 7 points off 4th placed Liverpool, not bad after the catastrophic start.
As well as the big hitters, a few other clubs have been punching above their weight so far too. After narrowly avoiding relegation last season, owing largely to Michail Antonio’s incredible form following the restart, many had tipped the Hammers to struggle again, especially with a fixture list that saw them play 6 of last years top 7 teams in the first 7 game weeks. These predictions were seemingly confirmed after they slumped to a 2-0 defeat against Newcastle in their opening fixture. In a huge surprise, the Hammers proved everyone wrong and easily dispatched of Leicester and Wolves to start, beating them 3-0 and 4-0 respectively. They then followed this up with fantastic performances against Spurs, Manchester City and Liverpool, drawing two and narrowly losing out to the Champions. Moyes didn’t have the freedom to spend much in the transfer window but West Ham have really progressed as a side and are 7th at the time of writing, just 3 points behind 3rd placed City.
Another side who deserve a mention for a fine start to the season are Ralph Hassenhuttl’s Southampton. After a decent campaign last time out, in which the Austrian steered the Saints away from the bottom of the league, fans were wondering if he’d be able to kick on. The answer was resoundingly yes as they started the season brilliantly, even topping the table for a brief period of time. The likes of Danny Ings, Che Adams and James Ward-Prowse have turned the Saints into a really solid side and they look well placed to build on their strong first half of the campaign.
Finally, we can’t mention a topsy turvy season without mentioning Dean Smith’s Aston Villa. Villa survived relegation by the skin of their teeth on the final day of last season and as such, people weren’t expecting too much from the Midlands side this year. They couldn’t have been more wrong! The Villains have been fantastic so far and would be much higher than 11th if they hadn’t been unlucky with the postponements of a number of their games. Villa can boast 4 games in hand over a number of sides in the league and if they were to win all 4 of those, would match Leicester’s points tally at the top. As well as this, Villa played their part in by far the craziest result of the season so far in a 7-2 drubbing at home to Liverpool. The match was an incredible affair and had fans all over the country rubbing their eyes in disbelief as they completely dismantled the Champions. Dean Smith has got them playing some fantastic stuff and it would be no surprise if they were to continue this in the second half of the season and challenge for some European football.
The 2020/2021 Premier League season has been absolutely full of surprises and the table continues to turn on it’s head every week. Even in a league that is renowned for being more competitive than it’s European competitors, this season anyone really can beat anyone and this has made for fantastic viewing.
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