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Barclays’ Premier League at Half Time: What We Know So Far Including Robin Van Persie’s Hot and Steve Kean’s Not

Posted on the 19 December 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost
Barclays’ Premier League at half time: What we know so far including Robin van Persie’s hot and Steve Kean’s not

Arsenal striker Robin van Persie. Photo credit: Ronnie Macdonald

As the Barclays Premier League approaches the half-way mark and enters the fast and furious festive season fixture pile-up, things are getting more serious and more tense for football fans. With Premier League clubs each playing four times between now and 2 January, a lot can change fast. But the season’s now old enough to draw some reasonable conclusions and makes some informed forecasts. Here’s The Periscope Post’s invaluable guide to what’s happened and what we should to expect from the rest of the season.

Trophy staying in Manchester (but possibly crossing town). It looks like a two-horse race between the two Manchester clubs, Manchester United and Manchester City. City currently has the edge on bitter rivals United. After 16 games, the Citizens have a whopping 41 points and have only lost once (away at Chelsea). The Red Devils have amassed 39 points from the same number of games. If it comes down to goal difference, City have the edge; their current haul of  plus 35 bests United’s 23. That said, only fools ever write United off at Christmas. Sir Alex Ferguson’s charges usually improve in the second half of the season and their 2-0 win away at Queen’s Park Rangers was ominous for City. They won at a canter with key players Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand looking back to their very best. Watch out Prem!

Six into four. One of Manchesters United and City look most likely to win the Premiership but it is not just top spot that counts. A top four finish delivers a hugely lucrative UEFA Champion’s League spot and the competition for the top four is fiercer than ever. That’s because there are six sides all with realistic ambitions to finish in the top four and they’re all purring at present. Liverpool lie in sixth but are far from out of it given how tight it is at the top. They are rejuvenated under Kop legend Kenny Dalglish and have beaten both Chelsea and Arsenal. Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal had a nightmarish start to the season but have shown remarkable bouncebackability. Spearheaded by captain fantastic Robin van Persie’s remarkable 15 goals, they have roared back into contention. Fourth-placed Chelsea have also experienced a blip or two but the team finally seems to be adapting to manager Andre Villas-Boas’ tactical style and, in England international Daniel Sturridge, they have one of the Premiership finest youngsters. In third place lies Tottenham Hotspur. Under the guidance of Harry Redknapp – widely regarded as England’s finest current manager – Spurs have outstripped even the most optimistic expectations. Whether they can maintain the momentum in the second half of the season remains to be seen but with the likes of Rafael van der Vaart, Luka Modric and Gareth Bale in their ranks they have a good chance of a top four finish (and an outside chance of a title challenge).

Who’ll not make the top four out of Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham? Leave a comment and let us know your thoughts.

Player of the (half) season. Van Persie’s heroics in an Arsenal shirt make him Periscope’s player of the season so far. But there have been other players who’ve started the season almost as sensationally. Manchester City’s diminutive playmaker David Silva is the chief reason his team are top of the league. And Swansea goalkeeper Michel Vorm (more on him later) is the main reason the newly-promoted Swans are swimming not sinking in the biggest pond.

Injury-ravaged Blackburn Rovers looked well and truly doomed. Rovers may not be bottom of the league – Bolton prop up the table – but they are looking the most likely team to be relegated. Inexperienced manager Steve Kean somehow retains the confidence of the board but most Rovers’ fans want him replaced before it is too late. The reason? He has overseen a humiliating string of home (and away) losses and, while clearly a decent fellow, does not seem to be particularly tactically astute. Rovers latest reverse – a disappointing home loss to fellow strugglers West Bromwich Albion – has the Ewood Park faithful increasingly restless as they prepare to do battle with cellar dwellers (and derby rivals) Bolton. Blackburn’s plight is worsened by the recent loss to injury of key defenders Scott Dann (ruptured testicle) and Gael Givet (heart palpitations). They join fellow stoppers Ryan Nelsen, Michel Salgado and Martin Olsson on the overburdened treatment table.

Scott Dann’s ruptured testicle is a painful blow to Blackburn Rovers’ chances of Premiership survival.

None of the promoted trio look out of their depth. Premiership new boys Norwich City, Queen’s Park Rangers and Swansea City have all turned heads on their return to the big time and you’d not bet against all three staying up this season. In ninth position, Norwich sit the prettiest of the bunch. Bright young Scottish manager Paul Lambert’s positive, enterprising approach has worked wonders and seen strikers Grant Holt and Steve Morison score seven and six goals, respectively. In contrast to Norwich, Swansea’s solid start (12th) has been built on a rock-solid defence. With eight clean sheets from 16 games, goalkeeper Michel Vorm has been one of the undoubted stars of the season so far. Last season’s Championship winners Queen’s Park Rangers have been most erratic of the promoted teams. While they have claimed some notable scalps (Chelsea at home, Stoke and Everton away) their home form has been patchy at best. QPR fans are hoping Mercurial Moroccan Adel Taarabt works his way back in the first team for the crucial festive fixtures.

Periscope predicts it will be Blackburn Rovers, Wigan Athletic and one other to go down. Who do you think will go down? Leave a comment and let us know.

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