Halfway Point Update - We’ve Got a Title Race on Our Hands
5 Clubs Separated by Just 6 Points At Top of the Table
We’ve reached the halfway point in what has been a very compelling EPL season thus far.
Heading into this season, the general consensus was that Manchester City would again raise the trophy, and would do so without much of a sweat. While that still may be the case, the 23-24 campaign has provided real parity, and we as fans are fortunate to say that on January 9th, we have 5 teams separated by just 6 points at the top of the table.
As I type this blog, the league leaders were again bitten by the injury bug, as Trent Alexander-Arnold is now “out for a few weeks” with a knee injury suffered in Sunday’s 2-0 FA Cup victory at the Emirates. Trent has been outstanding this year, regardless of what desperate internet trolls try to portray with clips of his defensive play, but it’s next man up. On the bright side, we only have 2 Premier League tilts in January. Seemingly every team has had setbacks this season, whether it be injuries or international duty, so far be it from me (or any Red supporter) to feel sorry for ourselves.
Virgil van Dijk did not travel with the club to London on Sunday, with Klopp bluntly telling the media that he was ill, and “looked like shit”. This very well could be the gaffer being cautious after an exhaustive festive period, but let’s hope the big man is feeling fit. If not, we’ll see more of the Konate-Quansah pairing in the back, with Swiss army knife Joe Gomez rotating between both full and half-back positions.
Other News Around the Prem
It seems that the majority of big names lured to Saudi Arabia this summer are already seeking greener pastures. Go figure. Most recently, there are reports out of Al-Ettifaq that Jordan Henderson is looking to make his return to European football. It’s clear that Liverpool would have no need for him, with their revamped (and younger) midfield having proved to be far more effective than their predecessors. ESPN reported that Ajax has expressed interest in Henderon, which on the surface seems like it could be a solid fit. It’s been a roller coaster of a season in Amsterdam, with the head coach and front office personnel being sacked mid-year. And let's not forget the fans protesting outside Johan Cruijff Arena following an abysmal start to the campaign. But Ajax no longer find themselves in the relegation zone of the Eredivisie, currently sitting in 5th and having made great strides since John van't Schip took over. A veteran presence could prove to be very useful for the young squad.
What is going on with Arsenal? I won’t put too much stock into Sunday’s FA Cup result, even though both managers sent out very strong sides, but generally speaking, it has not been a very joyous holiday period in North London. After the 1-1 draw at Anfield on December 23, Arteta’s side proceeded to get blanked at home by West Ham, and then fell 2-1 to Fulham at Craven Cottage. They now sit in 4th place with 40 points. Much has been made about their lack of a striker, combined with their lack of a true #1 keeper, which is fair. This is still the same team that challenged for a title last year (only now featuring Declan Rice) but they’ve looked extremely flat of late. Saka seems tired and frustrated - opposing teams have adapted to both him and Martinelli being so effective on the wings, and Arteta must change something up.
Manchester City are looking like Manchester City again. Not that they were ever really struggling, but all signs are pointing towards one of their signature hot streaks. Their January and February PL fixtures are very soft, and they’re welcoming back KDB, Haaland and Doku in the next couple of weeks.
The festive period was up and down for Aston Villa, yet they still find themselves in 2nd place with 42 points. We witnessed a Boxing Day classic at Old Trafford, with United edging Villa 3-2 behind 2 goals from Garnacho, and the winner compliments of Rasmus Højlund at 82’. Villa would then have to be bailed out at home to Burnley, ultimately winning this one 3-2 behind a 89’ Luiz penalty.
Timo Werner is back in the Premier League! Werner will join Spurs until the end of the season on loan from RB Leipzig. He chose Tottenham over Man United, which will surely give the talking heads at SkySports something to bemoan for the next couple of days. The move comes as Son Heung-min is off on international duty, so it will be a nice opportunity for Timo to get minutes up front alongside the red-hot Richarlison.
Buckle up for what is sure to be an exciting 2nd half.