Boxing day has arrived and the season’s second half has begun. The title race may be all but over, but the domestic cups are still to play for and the Europa and Champions League knockout stages have yet to commence. Just a few weekends ago we were delighted at the onset of another footballing season. Now, we find ourselves wondering how things will transpire as we prepare for another World Cup.
Based on the first three months of the season, here are some things to (arguably) expect in the second act:
- Man City drop points: While they may very well still win the league by a fair margin, City still have to play Liverpool, Tottenham, and Arsenal away from home (along with Man United and Chelsea at home). Can we really expect City to improve on their P: 19 W: 18 D:1 L:0 record? Realistically, they could hit 100 points this season even if they drop 10 from their remaining 19 games. Less realistically, they match their current form and end the season on an unprecedented 110 points! Surely with the domestic and continental trophies at stake they will divert some of their attention to the potential of continental glory. Guardiola’s last point to prove?
- Man United drop out of the top three: It has been a nightmare week for United, dropping points to Leicester and Burnley respectively. With record signing Lukaku looking isolated in attack, along with other members of the squad being unsettled (Mkhitaryan – team leader in assists to date), we may see things being strained at United as the FA Cup and the Champions League tie with Sevilla draw nearer. Mourinho looks likely to spend big in January but it remains to be seen how team cohesion will be affected during the second half of the season.
- Liverpool make a serious push for the top three: Liverpool have been scintillating in attack this season, but have been left with defensive woes (as has been standard with their act over several seasons). However, with the signing of a center-back, Liverpool could potentially plug their defensive gaps and make a serious push for the top 3. With their 46 goals-scored, they are the second best attacking unit behind Man City in the league (60). Some say they are the only team capable of beating City in their current form, although that’s still an ambitious ask.
- Transfer market surprises: Rumours of Moussa Dembele transferring to Brighton for a lowly 18 million pounds have already circulated in the media. This would be an amazing signing for Brighton if it transpired. However, it won’t be the only juicy rumour we’ll be reckoning with come January. With the World Cup looming at the end of the season, we can expect unsettled players to move around looking for starting spots or better opportunities. One wonders how many fax machine mishaps will occur towards the end of January!
- Arsenal Fan TV continues to be lit: The meteoric rise of Arsenal Fan TV’s popularity has been comparable to the crypto-currency market. Arsenal fans oscillate between moments of pure euphoria and Armageddon from week to week. Most Arsenal fans have started protecting themselves by taking their victories with a pinch of salt, knowing that it is just a matter of days until the next major disappointment. Conditions are perfect for more hilarious moments on Arsenal Fan TV as the weeks pass. Will they finish above Tottenham?
- Kane breaks the scoring records: Harry Kane has hit two hat-tricks in a week, taking him to 18 goals scored with half a season to play. I see no stopping this man as the World Cup comes nearer. What better way to go to Russia than on the back of a league record number of goals – no pressure for Kane once the hype takes over, of course.
- Allardyce vindicates himself: After his dishonourable discharge from position of England manager, Big Sam has proven himself as an indispensable name in the game with his work. Currently at Everton, he has them firing on most cylinders, ending a tragic slump in form under former manager Koeman. Thoughts begin to cross the minds of the public: “Big Sam for England!”…..until they realize that the tragedy has already unfolded. Nevertheless, he has shown that he is still one of the more capable managers in the game today. With Everton on form, we could expect them to finish between sixth and eight place by season’s end – a worthy accomplishment.
- Sackings, and more sackings: We can expect to see some high profile names getting canned over the coming months. Just look at the effect Hodgson has had at Crystal Palace, or Moyes at West Ham! Many think Mark Hughes’ time has come, and it’s getting harder to argue.
Food for thought as the new year approaches! Have your say in the comments below.