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Who Will Be the Premier League’s Winners and Losers this Season?

Who Will Be the Premier League’s Winners and Losers this Season?

Friday, 10 January, 2020 - 08:45
Fans wear Jürgen Klopp masks during the win over Sheffield United. (Getty Images)
London - Barry Glendenning
Could Liverpool blow it? Should Brighton and West Ham be confident of staying up? Can Bournemouth carry on surviving? Can Jamie Vardy keep scoring to win the golden boot?

Can anyone stop Liverpool?

In a word: no. Jürgen Klopp’s side have succeeded in making a total mockery of any notion that their apparently relentless march to a first league title in 30 years might be derailed by fixture congestion either side of Christmas.

Much was made of the fact that they were scheduled to play a grueling 13 games in 40 days across four competitions between November 23 and January 5 but, they have taken maximum points from the nine Premier League games they contested during that period.

Liverpool lead their nearest rivals, Leicester, whom they demolished on Boxing Day, by 13 points with a game in hand. They have proved similarly impervious to injuries to key personnel such as Fabinho, Joël Matip and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and, even if their current form turns out to be unsustainable, it seems utterly inconceivable that they might suffer the kind of collapse that would allow a rival in full flight to remain anything other than a speck in their rear-view mirror.

Who will finish in the top four?

In the absence of anything resembling a close title race, the battle for the three remaining Champions League spots should provide some excitement and drama near the Premier League summit.

Leicester and Manchester City have put enough daylight between themselves and the chasing posse to suggest they will occupy two of the berths available, but the chase for fourth spot looks to be between Chelsea, Manchester United, Tottenham and Wolves.

It is Chelsea’s to lose as they are in the box seat but, like their nearest rivals, they are dogged by inconsistency. Although Frank Lampard’s side have not strung back-to-back league wins together since the first week of November, their grip on fourth has barely been loosened but a winning streak from any of the teams behind them would prompt some serious jitters.

Still fewer than 10 points off the pace for fourth with a little under half the season to go, a reinvigorated Arsenal under the new management of Mikel Arteta might still fancy their chances of swooping with a sustained challenge while a place in the Europa League would have been beyond the wildest dreams of fans of Crystal Palace and Sheffield United before the season commenced.

Is any mid-table side safe from the drop?

Seventh on Christmas Day in 1995, Norwich ended up being relegated and that should prove a cautionary tale for any team outside the current top six suffering delusions of adequacy.

This time last season Brighton were 10 points clear of the relegation zone but still needed to rely on the charity and shortcomings of others to finish just above the thick black line. Of the current top 10 Crystal Palace look most vulnerable to an admittedly unlikely collapse.

Beyond that nobody is safe but fans of Everton, Southampton, Brighton and West Ham have various reasons to be confident of survival.

Newcastle, in 13th, have just lost three matches in a row and, with their treatment room stuffed to the gunwales, find themselves on a slide that shows no sign of being arrested any time soon.

Mike Ashley, their famously parsimonious owner, may have to dig deep this month if he is to keep them in the top flight for yet another season fraught with the now traditional peril, disillusionment and rancor. Considering the return he has got from his summer outlay, even a January splurge might not be enough to save his team.

Who will get relegated?

Only three teams in the Premier League’s 27 full seasons – West Brom, Sunderland and Leicester – have been bottom of the table on Christmas Day and avoided relegation but after steering the Foxes to unlikely survival in 2015 Nigel Pearson looks set fair to repeat the feat with Watford.

Installed as the club’s third manager of the season in early December, he masterminded three wins out of four over the festive period, lifting the club off the foot of the table on Boxing Day and providing genuine hope to the denizens of Vicarage Road.

Norwich, the new bottom side, urgently need to start converting home leads into wins if they are to have any chance of extending their stay in the top flight.

Dogged by injuries, a porous defense and out-of-form strikers, Bournemouth have taken only four points from the past 30 available and look destined for the drop after five years punching above their weight.

Who will win the golden boot?

Last season’s competition ended in a three-way tie between Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah on 22 each, a tally that looks likely to be beaten by the most prolific striker this time.

A rank outsider before the season started, Jamie Vardy has 17 goals to his name already and is four clear of Danny Ings, who has been banging them in for a Southampton side that had until recently been struggling.

After an astonishing streak of 11 goals in eight games, Vardy has endured a comparative drought, scoring just one in four before missing Leicester’s past two matches. Level with Ings, Aubameyang seems likely to make even more hay while the sun is shining over the Emirates following the arrival of Arteta.

The Guardian Sport

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