The festivities are over, there is no more Bucks Fizz left to drink, and every mince pie humanly possible has been had. And that must mean one thing and one thing only. It’s time to dish out some Premier League grades at the halfway stage. If you missed part one of the grades – where it was the turn of the bottom half – you can check it out here.
Premier League Grades: The Top Half
Premier League Grades: 10th: Crystal Palace – A
After a squad overhaul and managerial change, many were worried about Crystal Palace. But they shouldn’t have been. Patrick Vieira has done an excellent job so far, and has overseen a side always on the up, and siting 10th. Spearheaded by the abundantly talented Connor Gallagher – who may well be the signing of the season – Palace have been a joy to watch so far.
What is most refreshing about them this season is that they are a far cry from the average, and, lets face it, slightly boring, side managed by Roy Hodgson for so many years. Like others, they have more than earned their grade A.
9th: Leicester City – D
After battling for a place in the top four in the last two seasons, many expected Leicester City to do the same this season. The Foxes have been anything but Champions League worthy so far, however. Admittedly, injuries haven’t helped – and they continue to pile up – but Brendan Rodgers has enough quality at his disposal to be performing better.
A 1-0 win over Liverpool may act as a much-needed kickstart to Leicester’s season, but, for now, the Foxes remain unimpressive in the standings. Out of the Europa League to make matters worse, Rodgers’ side have had a campaign to forget thus far.
8th: Wolverhampton Wanderers – A
Wolverhampton Wanderers very much looked like a side stuck in the obscurity of mediocrity towards the end of Nuno Espírito Santo’s reign, and not many were convinced by Bruno Lage’s appointment. Halfway through the season, however, and Lage has more than proven doubters wrong. Under the Portuguese manager, Wolves have been a far cry from the lacklustre side on show last season – a side often more likely to put you to sleep than score.
Under Lage, Wolves are quick, exciting, and unpredictable whilst remaining undeniably resolute at the back. They have all of the ingredients to qualify for the Europa League for the third time in four seasons, and more than deserve their A grade.
7th: Manchester United: U
It was mentioned in part one that Newcastle United were lucky to even receive a grade. Manchester United haven’t been so lucky. In came Jadon Sancho in the summer; in came Raphael Varane. If that wasn’t enough, in came Cristiano Ronaldo – one of the best players in the world. It looked like a Premier League winning side had assembled at Old Trafford. Instead, we are looking at a mid-table side so full of division and finger pointing.
In 7th, having endured results as bad as a 5-0 thrashing by Liverpool at Old Trafford, the only positive for United is that things can’t get worse from here, surely?
6th: Tottenham Hotspur – C
A C grade may seem fairly generous for a Tottenham Hotspur side sitting outside the top four. But, in the context of their season, 6th place isn’t the be all and end all. Since the arrival of Antonio Conte, they haven’t suffered the bitter taste of defeat, and look far more likely to return to form on a permanent basis – especially with Harry Kane’s golden touch finally beginning to glow once more.
With a whole half of the season to go, Spurs sit just five points adrift of the Champions League places – a gap that should be considered touching distance to set up a scintillating run in the new year.
5th: West Ham United – A
The fact that West Ham United should be disappointed with their place outside of the top four tells you all you need to know about just how good they’ve been so far. The Hammers have defeated Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham this season, and look increasingly likely to become a permanent contender for the various European places.
It is also worth noting that the Hammers eased past the Europa League group stages, and remain one of the underdogs in regards to going onto win to competition.
David Moyes will be hoping to use his side’s recent 4-1 victory over Watford as a springboard to greater success in the new year, as West Ham’s top four charge continues.
4th: Arsenal – A
If you told an Arsenal fan, who had watched their side concede 10 goals in three games without a strike at the other end in losses to Brentford, Chelsea and Manchester City, that the Gunners would be 4th at Christmas, they would have collapsed in shock, or called for a doctor to give you the once over. The fact is, however, Mikel Arteta’s side have more than earned their Champions League place at the halfway mark.
The Spaniard got off to a rocky start, but the young quartet of Martin Ødegaard, Gabriel Martinelli, Emile Smith Rowe, and Bukayo Saka have fired Arsenal back to where they belong. Behind that quartet, the unforeseen solidity of Ben White, Aaron Ramsdale, Gabriel, and Takehiro Tomiyasu have turned a previously shaky Arsenal side into a formidable, and functioning machine.
Proving doubters wrong with every game, Arteta will hope to see his side’s form continue in the new year and beyond.
3rd: Chelsea – B
Those that were expecting Chelsea to compete with Manchester City and Liverpool for the Premier League title were made right at the start of the season. The Blues were flawless, and looked likely to take City all the way. A festive dip in form has seen Thomas Tuchel’s side float adrift of the silverware, though – allowing City to sprint ahead.
With Romelu Lukaku back firing, Chelsea will hope to resurge their title run in the coming weeks, when they play host to Liverpool in what will be a crucial game regarding the Premier League title.
2nd: Liverpool – B
Who would have thought that a side welcoming back what feels like an entire back four – plus the addition of Ibrahima Konate – would improve on their torrid times of last season? Liverpool were always going to return to a form far closer to their best this season. Who wouldn’t with the reintroduction of Virgil van Dijk?
With a full squad on show, the Reds have been rampant in front of goal, and Mohamed Salah has looked better than ever – which is the highest praise the Egyptian can receive in the context of his recent seasons. Jurgen Klopp’s side have been far from perfect – the 1-0 loss at Leicester proved that – but they haven’t been unimpressive, either – far from it, in fact.
They’ll have some task on their hands if they want to catch Manchester City, but Klopp has provided greater miracles in the past.
Premier League Grades: 1st: Manchester City – A
They’re out of this world, aren’t they? Robotic even – in the best of ways possible. No matter what the opposition does, this Manchester City machine does not falter. A growing injury list? The talent factory will just spring a perfectly suited player from the greatest depth in Premier League history. Guardiola allows for no mistakes; he constantly seeks perfection. And you can tell.
Six points clear, and looking unstoppable, Manchester City may just ease to Premier League glory for the fourth time in five seasons come May.
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