This Premier League season is probably the most unpredictable one in recent memory. This is the season that Premier League has truly lived up to its hype of uncertainty and improbability. The recurring plotline of unlikely results – though now they actually seem to be the likely in this topsy-turvy Premier League season — continued when each of the 20 Premier League clubs took to the pitch on Boxing Day on Saturday.
While each of the other major leagues had been put off for the festive season, English Premier League saw another exhilarating day on Saturday. Manchester City’s 4-1 thrashing of Sunderland and Tottenham Hotspur’s comfortable 3-0 victory over Norwich City were probably the only two results that must have been anticipated beforehand.
The other top teams faltered on the day. Surprise Premier League Leaders Leicester City, who stand atop of the table midway into the season, were defeated at the hands of Liverpool courtesy of a goal from substitute Christian Benteke. Arsenal, the only side to overcome Leicester this season and who had been considered Premier League favorites following their victory over Manchester City last week, suffered a humiliating 4-0 defeat at the hands of Southampton, who had failed to win any of their last five matches.
Probably the biggest shock of this season so far has been defending Premier League champion Chelsea’s abysmal performance. Chelsea’s fortunes didn’t improve on Saturday either as newly-appointed Blues boss Guss Hiddink, following the sack of Jose Mourinho, was denied victory on his return to Stamford Bridge by Watford when Oscar failed to convert a 80-minute penalty kick, and Chelsea were held to a 2-2 draw.
Manchester United continued their awful season under Louis Vaan Gaal after succumbing to a 2-0 defeat at Stoke City. The result means Van Gaal’s team has now suffered four successive league defeats, which is the first time Manchester United have been through such a poor run of form since 1961.
Leicester City, Crystal Palace, and Watford are the three clubs that have exceeded all expectations this season. The rise of Leicester City in particular has been really remarkable. They sat at rock bottom of the Premier League standings last Christmas, and this year, they are standing top of the table. However, the achievements of these clubs are no fluke. They spent wisely and made the best use of their resources at hand to go head-to-head with their wealthy rivals. However, in Premier League, even the smaller clubs are no longer paupers. Last season, even the bottom team in the league amassed $96 million in TV payments alone. This is the reason why Premier League has become so competitive and even the likes of Leicester stand a chance to contend in the league.
The Premier League is wide open, everywhere from the title race of the top four, to the relegation zone. In fact, after Boxing Day, just 12 points separates first place Leicester from eleventh place Stoke, who are only six points away from the top four. What fans have learned so far this season is to throw all assumptions about the Premier League out the window. Leicester’s ascent to the top of the table and Chelsea’s battle near the relegation zone are just two indicators.
Just a week after cruising over Manchester City, and just when many football pundits had decided Arsenal were best poised to claim the Premier League title – their first since their 2004’s “Invincibles” feat, Arsenal suffered one of their worst defeats with Arsene Wenger at the helm. That same Manchester City side on the other hand ran riot over Sunderland. Liverpool haven’t really found their rhythm, even under Jurgen Klopp, but Klopp finally seems to have unlocked the key to nullifying the threat of the Mahrez and Vardy duo.
This year, it could be anyone’s league to win. There are a lot of good teams this season, but no one true stand out. Last year’s champion, Chelsea, had a goal difference of +41. Usually, it takes a goal difference of +50 to win the league. At the moment, City and Spurs look likely to finish with the difference of around 35. Arsenal are just behind them.
The Premier League about to enter into the January transfer window where fan will see lots of changes in personnel in a move to save the season or strengthen the current league position. These changes will ultimately decide the fate of the Premier League, but for now, fans are left to only make predictions – which will very likely prove to be wrong if the league continues on the pattern it has so far this season.
Two big games are coming up next. Embattled manager Louis Van Gaal is set to pit his Manchester United side against Chelsea on Monday, which will be followed by a titular clash between Leicester City and Manchester City on Tuesday. These two games will significantly influence how this Premier League season unfolds.
[Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images]