Jose’s The Fired One, Leicester Win Again, Watford, Palace and Stoke targeting Europe – What is the Premier League Turning Into?

In my Premier League Prediction at the start of this season (which I will review in a new post soon) I predicted a comfortable league triumph for Mourinho’s men and Leicester and Watford in the bottom two positions. Could I have been more wrong? The Premier League has been turned on it’s head by magical Mahrez and hopeless Hazard…

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Let’s first go to both Champions and relegation candidates, Chelsea. What can I say? From Costa’s bib-throwing antics to Eva Carneiro’s horrible dismissal, the club has been rocked by scandal after scandal. This hasn’t entirely overshadowed what’s been a dismal beginning to the season so far – with 1.24 goals per game compared to last season’s 1.92, and 1.59 conceded, far more than last term’s 0.84. Key players like Eden Hazard, Diego Costa and John Terry haven’t risen to the occasion, and the sacking of Jose Mourinho shouldn’t have surprised us because of their poor form. Was it the right decision, though?

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May                                                                December

Of course, form like that for a team like Chelsea is always grounds for the sack, but Roman Abramovich may well have sacked the best manager in the world right now, or maybe just behind Pep Guardiola. But 7 months after they strolled to the title, is it not sensible to presume he would’ve turned it all around and at least made the Europa League (something Guus Hiddink can be proud of id he makes it come May ’16)?

I guess, both on the field and off it, something must have been going on. I mean, world class players don’t play well one season and disappear the next. Also, today’s victory under Steve Holland over Sunderland was a long way from their poor performance against Leicester – were Terry’s men trying to prove a point? With all the controversy surrounding the club, it can’t have been easy for the players to get their heads down and work hard in training for a manager that accuses them of betrayal! The club constantly deny the reason for the sacking being dressing room unrest, but I don’t imagine it was a jolly place to be either. Either way, dismissing Mourinho may be harsh, but 16 games in  they needed a drastic change to save their season.

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So what about the future? Hiddink’s back and in my opinion the appointment is safe at best. He’ll undoubtedly keep them up. maybe go on a cup run like in 2009 and if his short reign goes very well he might even challenge for Europe. But it’s just until the end of the year, and then they will have to review their options. Ancelotti has ruled himself out of a return to the Bridge, so Pep Guardiola, highly likely to leave Bayern Munich this summer, has to be the favourite. But with City and United sniffing around, will the Spaniard rather manage a team destined to finish higher than the Blues this season? That leaves Diego Simeone as a candidate, or the likes of Juande Ramos or even Mr Rodgers himself!

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Alright, that’s enough depressing stuff, what about the big success story? In the summer, when Nigel Pearson left and Claudio ‘The Tinkerman’ Ranieri came in, they were ‘destined for relegation’, but they’ve only lost a single match so far and today’s win at Goodison Park puts them 5 points clear of Arsenal (2 points if Arsenal overcome City on Monday). They have been simply astounding. Vardy, Mahrez, Okazaki, Albrighton, Kante, Morgan, Schmeichel… They’ve all been amazing, and none of them were household names before the beginning of the season. What remains to be seen is how far they can go…

Everybody said they’ll fall away in a tricky December and January, but they’ve already forced a point out of Man Utd and destroyed Chelsea and Everton, and only need to play inconsistent sides City, Liverpool and Spurs before emerging from the tricky patch. No-one can see them win the league, and they just want 40 points to stay in the Prem next year! A realistic aim would be Europa League, and maybe even Champions League!

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Truth is, the ‘top sides’ haven’t been at it this year. Arsenal have been alright but still haven’t reached title-challenging momentum, City, United, Liverpool, Spurs and Everton are all struggling against lower teams and it’s laid a road for teams like Leicester, Watford, Crystal Palace and Stoke to start knocking on the doors of the top 6. The League hasn’t been up to high standards and at the moment, nearly halfway through the season, no-one can predict what will happen tomorrow, let alone at the end of May. The problem is that if teams like Leicester do make Europe then they will be struggling against elite Spanish and German teams and the English Champions League nightmare will continue! Perhaps the extra competition is, however, a good thing, because it means that rich teams like the Manchester clubs don’t always storm to success and their is a lot of competition for the higher positions.

And y’know, a bit of unpredictability is great for football bloggers, too…

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