The Top 5

Just over a half of the English Premier league season has passed and at the turn of the new year there are more than a few surprises, new stars, and high profile sackings to continue to make this league the most exciting on the planet. How have the top teams done on their midterms?

Arsenal

The Gunners find themselves leading at the half way point. Rational thought would have you thinking they’ll find some way to lose again but with the developments in and around the top this just might be the year Arsenal lift the trophy again.

Best Player – Mesut Ozil

Only one player could win this as he has been quite simply a man at the peak of his powers. This season has been the one in which he has finally stepped out the shadow of his teammates, first Santi Cazorla and now Alexis Sanchez. Arguably the best player across the league so far, Ozil has found a way to marry consistency with his world class vision and technique.

Quiet Achiever – Petr Cech

Hailed as a coup at the start of the season, the Chelsea veteran and compiler of clean sheets has impressed after an inauspicious start to the season perhaps down to nerves. The cream has risen to the top and he continues to make crucial saves for the Gunners as they make another bid for a seemingly elusive title.

Worst Players – Kieran Gibbs and Mathieu Debuchy

It’s hard to place a damper on what might be the best chance the Gunners have had at the title in years but this must be placed squarely at the feet of the backup fullbacks. Kieran Gibbs and Mathieu Debuchy haven’t been terrible and they kept are being out by Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal.

Manager – Arsene Wenger

He doesn’t have Jose Mourinho nagging him and tugging at his nerves and has been able to hold it together on and off the field.

Team Grade – A-

 

Leicester City

One word- amazing. From relegation threatened less than a year ago to title contenders*. The asterisk remains because nobody seems to take them seriously, not yet.

Best Player – Riyad Mahrez

How can Jamie Vardy break the EPL record for most consecutive games with at least one goal and not be the best player? When Riyad Mahrez is your teammate. The only other contender for player of the half season, Mahrez has been the complete package, scoring and assisting goals at a rate that has the big clubs drooling.

Quiet Achiever – N’Golo Kanté

Nothing has been truly quiet about Leicester this term but the man at the base of the midfield N’Golo Kanté has been quietly putting together a top season. Already getting a few looks from some bigger clubs, Kanté has been the rock on which Leicester have built their coup.

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Worst Player – None

How can we possibly say there is a worst player on this side? We can’t. Well done, Leicester City.

Manager – Claudio Ranieri

Written off at the start of the season, the Tinkerman has let it all happen as Leicester carried over their late 2014/15 form to this season to the surprise of everyone. A few additions aside, why change a winning formula?

Team Grade – A+

 

Manchester City

On paper they should win the league every season but seasons like these are why we play the games. Injury hit and underperforming, City still find themselves in the hunt but must really get serious if they are to translate paper to reality.

Best Player – Kevin De Bruyne

First season, first on the list of City players so far. Kevin De Bruyne has made his presence felt on his return to England. Ten goals and assists in all competitions and being the one attacking constant on a City side depleted where it hurt most, De Bruyne has announced himself as the true King of the Belgians.

Quiet Achiever – Joe Hart

It’s almost always quiet when goalkeepers perform on top teams and this is no different. Joe Hart is now back at the heights he touched when the wave of hype first hit him.

Worst Players – Martin Demichelis and Eliam Mangala

The less said about them the better. City must first get Vincent Kompany fit then figure out a way to clone him. Maybe that’s the current project that has kept him out for so long.

Manager – Manuel Pellegrini

Manuel Pellegrini probably feels he’s living on borrowed time in Manchester. In the meantime, all he can do is try to win.

Team Grade – B-

 

Tottenham

The Hotspur have quietly eked their way into the top four at the halfway mark partly because of the missteps of the traditional powerhouses and their own doing. Harry Kane has silenced many who thought for sure he was a one season wonder and Delle Alli and Erik Lamela have been a breath of fresh air.

Best Player – Toby Alderweireld

The best centre back in the league over the first 20 games has been pivotal to Tottenham’s success. They have so far recorded seven clean sheets and have the best defensive record in the league. One feels that Kane and Toby will need to keep up their form to continue to prop up a side that lacks the strength in depth of Arsenal and Manchester City.

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Quiet Achiever – Delle Alli

It’s no longer quiet but Alli has been a revelation with five goals and three assists to his name already. The 19 year old is already being talked about for England’s Euro 2016 campaign.

Worst Player – Nacer Chadli

His limitations have been evident this season and the way back to a starting spot seems long and complicated.

Manager – Mauricio Pochettino

He hasn’t reinvented the wheel but he has built a team with a good mix of youth and experience. Although he expects to be quiet in the January transfer window they should look to get Harry Kane some backup.

Team Grade – B+

 

Manchester United

Possibly the reincarnation of United least resembling that left by Sir Alex Ferguson to date, Van Gaal’s United have found a way to hang in the mix despite some drab performances that have caused the manager to come in for significant criticism. His job might or might not be under threat but United have looked more like themselves in the last two.

Best Player – Chris Smalling

It’s not difficult to pick a best when so few have been remarkable but the formerly error and injury prone defender has risen and matured this season into the unrecognisable Mike. He might just be a future club captain.

Quiet Achiever – Anthony Martial

The only thing quiet about this kid is his demeanour on the field half the time. Martial has had the weight of expectations and pressure thrust on him and has responded with maturity beyond his years.

Worst Player – Memphis Depay

There are quite a few contenders. Matteo Darmian who has had to be pulled at halftime a few too many times, Wayne Rooney who has not been himself, and Marouane Fellaini but there can be only one. The others all have been constrained somehow. Darmian, new to the league has struggled against pacy wingers, Rooney by the system and by fatigue and Fellaini expected to do what he is not really capable. Depay has been the antithesis of Martial and better start letting his football do the talking before he goes the way of Wilfried Zaha.

Manager – Louis van Gaal

He seems to have taken over the title of Tinkerman from Ranieri. His tactics have frustrated and his usual resolute and defiant stance has been softened in recent weeks as he has begun to feel the weight of pressure on his job.

Team Grade – C