A look back at our preseason predictions as the season hits the halfway mark
Today kicks off Matchweek 20 in the Premier League. Believe it or not, that means we’re into the second half of the season. A few teams haven’t gotten to their 19th game yet (a mixture of COVID issues and schedule changes around other competitions), but the majority have actually reached the “half-way mark”. So, with that in mind, I figured I’d revisit The Turf pre-season prognostications and have a look at where things stand in relation to our forecast.
The Final Tables
Back when we were previewing the individual teams for our “Around the Pitch” series, each of us forecast where we suspected each club would end up in the table. Those predictions looked like this:
|Manchester United||Manchester United||Liverpool|
|Tottenham Hotspur||Manchester City||Manchester United|
|Manchester City||Tottenham Hotspur||Tottenham Hotspur|
|Leeds United||Leeds United||Wolverhampton Wanderers|
|Leicester City||Crystal Palace||Southampton|
|Sheffield United||Sheffield United||Leeds United|
|Southampton||Leicester City||Crystal Palace|
|Burnley||Newcastle United||Newcastle United|
|Crystal Palace||Southampton||Sheffield United|
|Newcastle United||Burnley||West Ham United|
|Aston Villa||West Bromwich Albion||West Bromwich Albion|
|West Ham United||West Ham United||Aston Villa|
|West Bromwich Albion||Brighton & Hove Albion||Brighton & Hove Albion|
|Brighton & Hove Albion||Fulham||Fulham|
With a few minor exceptions, we were all pretty much thinking along the same lines when trying to predict how everything would shake out. Of course, there have been some surprises so far this season.
Top Of The Table?
Our pick to win the title seems to be floundering
While it isn’t much of a surprise that we all put “the Big 6” at or near the top of the table, it is a bit odd to see us all agree that Chelsea would be the team to dethrone Liverpool this season. Most of that sentiment was due to the fact that the club brought in A LOT of talent ahead of this campaign. The list of studs on the team sheet is extensive.
Given all of the new faces, some growing pains were to be expected. We all agreed that Frank Lampard was up to the task, and the early returns proved us right. However, a recent skid and an impatient owner/board of directors has cost Lampard his job. The Blues currently sit 9th in the table, and having to acclimate to a new coach (Thomas Tuchel is the likely successor) could make climbing the table that much more difficult.
Claret and Blue is All the Rage!
Two surprise teams – overperforming or underestimated?
Given the lack of suspense at the top of last season’s table, all of the attention was focused on the relegation fight during Project Restart. When the final whistle blew, both West Ham United and Aston Villa had done enough to avoid the drop. The Hammers finished 16th, just one spot ahead of Villa in 17th. Coming off of that, we had both teams pegged for potential relegation. If they survived, they’d both likely be hovering near the bottom, but definitely in the bottom half. Instead, they’re once again separated by one place in the table. This time, however, it’s 7th and 8th.
Villa are one of the teams that still has games in hand thanks to a COVID outbreak that had thrown the schedule makers into a tizzy. Two wins from those games could find them competing for a spot in Europe if their form continues. West Ham has managed to be a thorn in the side for most of their competition this season. They’ve managed draws against Tottenham and Manchester City and victory against the likes of Leicester City. Even their losses have been tight affairs, and they appear to be proving us wrong, looking more and more likely to stay in the top flight with every passing week.
The bloom is off the rose for last season’s darlings.
In their return to the Premier League last season, Sheffield United brought a stout back line to the table. They were the fourth stingiest defense in the league. Only Liverpool and both Manchester clubs conceded fewer goals during the campaign. They weren’t great at scoring in their own right, but given their defensive prowess, they managed a 9th place finish. Despite the departure of goalkeeper Dean Henderson (he was on loan and returned to Manchester United in the offseason), all three of us expected a similar finish to this season for the Blades. Though we anticipated a slight drop-off, we still had them pegged for a mid-table finish. Boy were we wrong.
Currently sitting bottom of the table, their defense has been a shell of what it was last season. Aaron Ramsdale, who was Henderson’s replacement, hasn’t performed at the level required. As a result, the team has the second worst goal differential in the league (-22). Their 10 goals for are tied for the worst in the division as well. They’ll need to turn things around fast if they hope to finish anywhere near our mid-table preseason forecast.
The Road Ahead
So far, the first half has had plenty of storylines. With the specter of COVID-19 still hanging over everything, it will be interesting to see how the second half unfolds. The fixture list is congested, especially for those teams involved in other competitions. The current transfer window is still open for a few more days, and the winter weather is just starting to set in. All of this should make for a fascinating race to the title. I can’t wait to see which of our staff will have bragging rights regarding our predictions. In the meantime, enjoy the rest of the season!
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