Horror Reds stat behind slump; worrying figure City can’t ignore: PL Mid-Season Report Card
We’re at the halfway mark for the 2022/23 Premier League season and most fans’ pre-season predictions have been torn up.
Arsenal have emerged as the league leaders as Mikel Arteta’s young squad continue to dazzle, Eddie Howe’s incredible turnaround at Newcastle has the Magpies sitting pretty in third while Fulham have stuck the middle finger up at the ‘yo-yo club’ critics.
However, fans of Liverpool and Chelsea have had to cop taunts from their rivals as they both struggle in mid-table as West Ham, who went as deep as the semi-finals in last year’s Europa League, are firmly entrenched in a fight for survival.
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Arsenal went top of the Premier League after Matchweek Three and have never looked like relinquishing it.
Despite having one of the youngest squads in the competition, Mikel Arteta’s side have displayed a maturity beyond their years when it comes to striking at the right moments and their defensive awareness.
The summer acquisition of Gabriel Jesus proved pivotal in boosting the Gunners’ attacking fortunes, but the constant presence of Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka on the wings cannot be understated.
Even in Jesus’ absence through injury after the World Cup, Eddie Nketiah has seamlessly slotted in and it’s been business as usual for Arteta’s side.
It isn’t just up top where Arsenal have shined either as their backline has shipped just 14 goals all season, chalking up nine clean sheets.
The title is Arsenal’s to lose at the moment, with the only questions surrounding their title credentials centred around a lack of depth should a horror run of injuries hit.
But until that happens, those at the Emirates will continue to sing long into the night and dream of a first Premier League title since the ‘Invincibles’ season in 2003/04.
Hard to give any other grade other than full marks.
Aston Villa went into the 2022/23 season with high hopes having signed Philippe Coutinho on a permanent deal as well as highly-rated midfielder Boubacar Kamara (free) and Diego Carlos ($45m).
However, it took just 90 minutes for that optimism to evaporate with an opening-day defeat to Bournemouth.
One win (at home to Everton) in their next five fixtures did Villa boss Steven Gerrard no favours as the Villa Park faithful’s discontent increased in volume with every passing game.
Villa would again win once (at home to Southampton) in their next five before Gerrard was sacked after a dismal 3-0 loss away to Fulham that left the Villans languishing in 17th and an increasingly bleak outlook.
Former Arsenal boss and four-time Europa League winner Unai Emery was announced as Gerrard’s replacement in a massive coup for the Birmingham-based club.
Emery hit the ground running and has four wins in his first six games as Villa boss with the Claret and Blues sitting just outside the top half jersey store.
Kamara has been the bright spot in the team and looks set to become an even more important player under Emery as Villa fans rejoice they finally found a player to fill the defensive midfield void that has plagued the club for years.
With Emery to lead Villa through the second half of the season, their final grade could be vastly improved.
It’s never a good sign when your manager claims your team is “way short of where we need to be” and “barely had any defenders” before the Premier League season began.
But that’s exactly what came out of Bournemouth manager Scott Parker’s mouth after the Cherries’ last pre-season friendly.
He wasn’t wrong either, given Bournemouth went into the Premier League season with a weaker squad than the one they got promoted from the Championship with.
Although Parker oversaw a surprise opening day win over Aston Villa, things quickly unravelled.
A 4-0 loss to Manchester City, a 3-0 defeat to Arsenal and a 9-0 shellacking away at Liverpool cost Parker his job as Gary O’Neil stepped up to the plate.
Despite working with the same squad, O’Neil enjoyed a six-game unbeaten run which propelled the club as high as 10th in the table at the end of it.
But from that moment on, it has been an alarming slide back down the table.
The Cherries have lost eight of their last nine, with a 3-0 win over Everton the only bright spot during the nightmare run of form.
Summer arrival Marcus Tavernier has been one of the bright spots in an otherwise dull Cherries side and will be key to helping the team stay afloat in the top flight.
Having seen Sheffield United suffer second season syndrome and Leeds come perilously close to relegation last year, fans were right to be fearful over how Brentford would get on having finished 13th in their debut Premier League season.
Those fears have well and truly been quashed this season as Thomas Frank’s side sit pretty in eighth spot having lost just once in their last 10 games.
It’s not just a remarkable run, but a remarkable campaign that has included a 4-0 win over Manchester United, a 3-1 win over Liverpool and a 2-1 away to Manchester City.
Central to Brentford’s stunning season to date has been the form of striker Ivan Toney, who has 13 goals to his name.
Summer arrival Ben Mee has also slotted seamlessly into the Bees’ backline, leading the team in blocks per game (1.3) and second in interceptions.
Having proved they won’t succumb to second season syndrome, Brentford can start to think about a potential European push in the second half of the season.
Mid-season MVP: Solly March
Brighton went into the season having lost $154 million worth of talent, with defensive midfielder Yves Bissouma and left back Marc Cucurella departing to Spurs and Chelsea respectively.
Yet the Seagulls didn’t look they’d missed their star duo at all as new arrival Pervis Estupinan slotted in at left back with ease while his fellow Ecuadorean Moises Caicedo stepped up to fill the hole left by Bissouma.
Graham Potter oversaw a blistering start to the season with four wins from their first six games, including a first-ever win at Old Trafford to beat Manchester United on the opening day.
However, it seemed only a matter of time before a bigger club came calling for Potter and that’s exactly what happened as Chelsea plucked the Englishman from the Amex to replace Thomas Tuchel on September 8.
The Seagulls needed just 10 days to find a replacement as former Sassuolo boss Roberto De Zerbi signed on.
The Italian had a tough start to Premier League life, failing to win any of his first five fixtures as big questions were asked if he had the credentials to manage in England.
However, those critics have certainly decreased in volume as De Zerbi finally got his first league win as Brighton boss — no prizes for guessing which team and manager it was against.
Solly March has been pivotal in Brighton’s recent run of five wins from their last seven and will continue to be the go-to man as the season continues.
With four goals and four assists so far, the midfielder looks a player reborn under De Zerbi.
Should Brighton continue their form, the big focus will inevitably turn to their ability to handle the pressure of a push for Europe.