Before a ball was even kicked, we had plenty of drama to divulge in the Premier League. We had the return of Cristiano Ronaldo, and what was meant to be the ultimate return of Manchester United. Narratives began to write themselves regarding what was meant to be a four-way battle for the title. Yet, here we are at the halfway mark, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer dismissed; Manchester United sixth, and Arsenal inside the top four. There’s a reason we call it the most unpredictable league in the world.
Now at the halfway mark, it’s important to hand out some constructive criticism, or, for some, undeniable praise. With that said, read on to see how we’ve graded the bottom half of the Premier League so far.
Premier League Grades: The Bottom Half
Premier League Grades: 20th: Norwich City – F
After labelling the Premier League the most unpredictable league in the world, the last thing someone should go onto discuss is 20th-placed Norwich City. We all saw this coming, didn’t we? The Canaries just do not learn, as they yo-yo between Championship titles and top flight relegation. At least, on this occasion, however, they’ve waved farewell to Daniel Farke, and introduced a man very much capable of producing the miracle of safety in Dean Smith.
The former Aston Villa manager (we’ll get to that in part two) has shown some signs of promise since taking over. He has overseen a win over Southampton, and draws against Wolverhampton Wanderers, where a clean sheet was kept, and Newcastle United. With those results, Norwich are just three points adrift of safety – suddenly making survival a real possibility. For now, though, they get an F for falling foul of the bottom three stench once more.
19th: Newcastle United – F
Newcastle United are lucky to be receiving a grade at all. The Magpies sit 19th, with just one win to their name. What makes matters worse is that, if this was a table based on money, they’d be sitting top of the tree after the controversial takeover by the Saudi Arabia Investment Fund.
Despite the increased funds; the introduction of Eddie Howe, and the thankful removal of the Sports Direct logo, this time next year, we could be looking at the richest club to ever feature in the Championship. Howe has some job on his hands, but, ultimately, a job likely made easier by January acquisitions.
18th: Burnley – E
Burnley – the Premier League’s greatest pet peeve – sit in what feels like a predictable 18th place. With the lack of resources at Sean Dyche’s disposal, Burnley’s demise has always felt inevitable. And maybe, just maybe, this could be the year they fail to keep up with the cash. They’ll try for all their might to prove that statement wrong, but whilst others are strengthening around them in January, Dyche is likely to be left in the cold once more.
17th: Watford – C
If you asked Watford fans at the start of the season if they’d be happy with 17th at Christmas, they would have instantly said yes, and hoped that you were from the future – arriving with good news. In classic Hornets fashion, a managerial change has already occurred, with Xisco Munoz replaced by Claudio Ranieri in October. But, it must be said, Ranieri has done a more than adequate job so far.
The former Leicester City boss has taken Watford two points clear of the drop-zone, and on course to hit their main target of safety come the end of the campaign. He has Emmanuel Dennis to thank for many of the points earned, but can ultimately take some of the credit, himself.
16th: Leeds United – D
It’s important to consider respective ambitions before issuing a grade to various teams. And that’s why Leeds United get a D. Before the season got underway, there would have been a healthy amount of optimism around Elland Road, and why not? Marcelo Bielsa’s side impressed many in their first campaign back in the top flight, so why, with the backing of in-person fans this time around, would they fall short of expectations?
Enter injuries galore, and Covid-19 disruption. The Yorkshiremen have been the definition of unstable this season, and much of their inconsistency can be blamed on injuries to the likes of Patrick Bamford, and Kalvin Phillips. They still get a low grade, however, as even they, with an injury list so extensive, would have held higher expectations of themselves.
15th: Southampton – C
Like Watford, Southampton sit exactly where everyone expected them to be at the start of the season: Comfortably clear of the relegation zone, but still looming in the depths of mid-table. The Saints have shown sparks of individual promise – mainly from two Chelsea loanees in Armando Broja, and Tino Livramento. As a collective, Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side have been as unspectacular as they have been comfortable. And, as a bonus, they are yet to lose 9-0. Life is about the small victories.
14th: Everton – D
Under Rafael Benitez – a Champions League winning manager at Liverpool – Everton always looked destined to underwhelm. And ever since an injury to Dominic Calvert-Lewin, they’ve done just that. Sitting in 14th, it doesn’t get more depressingly mundane for the Toffees, who have been incredibly disappointing. Just halfway through the Premier League season, Everton fans have started to turn on former Red Benitez, whose squad continues to grow slimmer and slimmer, injury after injury, week after week.
13th: Brighton & Hove Albion – C
If you go back to the start of the season, Brighton & Hove Albion were flying higher than their Seagull wings had ever allowed them to fly before; many were already preparing Graham Potter’s statue – and some still rightfully are. Now, at the halfway point, they sit in a comfortable 13th position, with plenty of potential to rise even higher.
It still feels like common knowledge that they are just a clinical striker away from reaching what many assume would be unstoppable heights. Potter will be satisfied with where his side is at, but will know just how much more they could be.
12th: Brentford – A
To put it simply, everyone has fallen in love with newly-promoted Brentford this season. They have taken to the Premier League like Didier Drogba to a game against Arsenal. Any grade other than A would have felt wrong, and completely off the mark. Sitting in 12th place – on course for survival and so much more – Thomas Frank’s side have settled right into the Premier League.
Whether it is the electric home atmosphere, or the consistent upsets against the Premier League’s best, we are hoping to see even more from the Bees in the second half of the season.
11th: Aston Villa – D
Before the season even got underway, many expected Aston Villa to reach new heights following their summer acquisitions. Two months later, however, and Dean Smith was sacked – replaced by Steven Gerrard, who has done a more than adequate enough job so far. Under the former Rangers boss, Villa have lost just three times – against Chelsea, Manchester City, and Liverpool.
In the games considered more winnable, Gerrard has got Villa winning whilst playing much improved football. Heading into the new year, they’ll certainly be a club to keep an eye on.
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