Liverpool, Chelsea hailed in our mid-season Premier League review

Date published: Thursday 22nd December 2016 12:08

With the Premier League season almost at its halfway stage, TEAMtalk’s journalists discuss which players have caught their eye so far – and give us their tips for the title and relegation.

There’s been plenty of thrills and spills in an eventful campaign so far – and it’s no wonder to see Chelsea catch everyone’s eye after an 11-match winning streak saw them build up a six-point advantage at the summit.

After Sky Sports duo Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher had their say on events so far, our James Marshment, Matt Briggs, Ian Watson and Oli Fisher share their thoughts on the campaign to date…

 

Who has been your Premier League Player of the Year so far?

JM: Diego Costa. I honestly thought Chelsea would sell him off last summer, but he’s really knuckled down and has become the best striker in the league. His workrate is phenomenal and he’s arguably the best in the world when it comes to playing as a lone frontman.

IW: Costa again. A bit like Zlatan Ibrahimovic is now doing at United, Costa has led the line brilliantly all season, scoring goals, creating space for others, and roughing up centre-backs without crossing the line as he has so often before.

OF: It has to be Costa. The league’s top scorer has fired Chelsea to subsequent top spot. We all knew he could be an absolute nightmare for defenders on his day, but he seems to have his day a lot more often now.

MB: Costa has had a revival but his Chelsea team-mate N’Golo Kante edges him. He’s a phenomenon. He has followed up his title-winning efforts last season with Leicester and is in line for another Premier League winners medal. He has a win percentage in England of 68.5%, while Leicester and Chelsea have accrued 2.29 points per game with him in the side.

And the unsung hero of the season so far?

Christian Benteke: Discusses Liverpool exit

IW: Jordan Henderson. Obviously Liverpool’s more attacking players hog the headlines but the captain has been superb in linking things together.

OF: Christian Benteke deserves some credit for somewhat of a career revival. His eight goals in a struggling Palace team show how valuable he can be. Liverpool didn’t play to his strengths; the Eagles definitely do.

MB: Is it possible to be unsung in the Premier League these days? Fernandinho has been good for City.

JM: I don’t know if you’d call him ‘unsung’ as such, but Swansea’s Gylfi Sigurdsson has been class on his day.

 

Who has been the best new signing of the 2016/17 season?

IW: Sadio Mane has been a revelation for Liverpool having stepped up like he’s been playing on such a stage all his career. Kante has also been fantastic for Chelsea but that is unlikely to have surprised anyone.

OF: Based on impact alone, I think it’s difficult to look past N’Golo Kante. He has kept Chelsea ticking over brilliantly, and it’s no coincidence they have done so well this season.

MB: Kante for the reasons outlined above, but Arsenal new boy Shkodran Mustafi has been dependable and missed when he’s not playing.

JM: Mane. He’s been electric for Liverpool and it’s not often you say a £30m fee looks a bargain. He’ll be a big miss when he’s away with Senegal next month.

These five players will leave huge holes for their clubs to fill in the Premier League….

Posted by TEAMtalk.com on Donnerstag, 22. Dezember 2016

Who has been the best English player in the Premier League so far?

OF: Jermain Defoe. Why not, he’s still scoring goals, get him back in the squad Gareth. If you’re reading this Jermain, merry christmas.

IW: Adam Lallana. He obviously loves playing for Jurgen Klopp and the feeling appears to be mutual. It’s no wonder his confidence is flowing having contributed most assists for Liverpool and the second highest number of goals behind Sadio Mane.

JM: A slightly maverick choice, but I’m going to go with Jordan Pickford. I think he’s been different class for Sunderland and is already in the top five keepers in the country. Esteemed company when you consider the other great goalkeepers we have here….

MB: Pickford has stepped up to the Premier League with ease and will play for the senior England team this season, but I think Lallana has shown plenty of class so far. Coutinho and Firmino has taken the majority of the plaudits, but Lallana has been very good and he’s scoring goals too.

 

Which Premier League manager has impressed you the most?

Antonio Conte: Chelsea boss impressing with Moses transformation

MB: Antonio Conte, as I predicted (ahem) has been brilliant. Passionate, tactically astute and authoritative.

IW: Conte, obviously. The role and influence of a manager is sometimes over-played but the Italian has come in after a short summer, changed the mindset of his squad, tweaked his tactics and inspired a club-record winning run, despite not getting the players he wanted in the summer.

OF: It simply has to be Antonio Conte. The Italian has deployed a fresh approach that has Chelsea playing wonderful football, and most importantly getting the results.

JM: You can’t look beyond Conte. His record is incredible. I didn’t think I’d see last season’s 4-2-3-1 formation get binned so quickly but Conte has completely forced a tactical rethink.

 

Who do you think will win the Premier League?

MB: I went for Chelsea in August – mainly because of Conte and I cannot see any reason why I would change that pick now.

JM: I’ve been talking up Arsenal in the Monday Verdict column but they’ve had a couple of terrible results lately. If they can get their central midfield combo right, I still think they can have a say…

IW: No idea. Obviously Chelsea are in the driving seat, but there’s more to come from Liverpool, City and United. The January window will be a huge factor, but if I had to pin my colours to any mast, it’d have to be Chelsea.

OF: Personally I don’t think Manchester City are done yet. They have a great squad which will become useful down the stretch. Hard to deny Chelsea are in pole now though…

 

And which three will go down?

Curtis Davies: Fearing the worst

IW: The current bottom three – Sunderland, Swansea and Hull – are all in massive trouble but there’s usually one team that drops like a rock after Christmas. That might be Watford or Boro but they might be saved by the lack of quality already in the drop zone.

OF: Hull City for me will finish bottom, while Swansea need a change fast if they have any hope, but I see them going down too. As for the third team, I think Sunderland’s time could be up.

MB: I hope Swansea stay up. I think all the **** Bob Bradley has had to put up with has been ridiculous. Hull and Sunderland will go I think, and the other spot could be Middlesbrough or Burnley.

JM: Hull, Swansea and Burnley. The Clarets are great at home, but I don’t think that’ll be quite enough

 

Which team has surprised you the most so far?

Slaven Bilic: Does not fear West Ham axe

MB: West Ham’s slump has been shocking. With a couple of good signings I was expecting them to finish in the top six. Slaven Bilic’s recruitment has proved shambolic though.

IW: I don’t know why Southampton keep surprising me. Continually they lose their manager and best players but the culture that has been installed throughout the club over a number of years means they can cope with change. I thought they might struggle this time – wrong again.

JM: West Ham – mainly because I just didn’t see them being quite this bad. I like Slaven Bilic so I hope they turn it round.

OF: Probably Leicester, and in a negative way. We all knew they wouldn’t be able to match last season, but they look a completely different team.

Which player should we be keeping an eye on in 2017?

OF: Zlatan Ibrahimovic has found his form nicely in the Premier League. With 11 goals already despite his relative drought, expect him to potentially push for 25-30 this season.

IW: Paul Pogba. He’s just starting to find his feet in the Premier League and Jose Mourinho seems to have found a formula to get the best out of him.

JM: Daniel Sturridge. There’s lots of talk that Liverpool will sell him and Klopp doesn’t fancy him. But with Mane heading to the African Cup of Nations, I think he’ll get lots of chances and lots of goals – that is, assuming, he stays fit!

MB: Gabriel Jesus. Man City’s new Brazilian is a class act and they will be hoping he can inspire them to a title tilt.

Pick a team of the season, so far

JM: Pickford; Azpilicueta, Matip, David Luiz, Milner; Kante; Mane, Ozil, Sanchez, Hazard; Costa

OF: Courtois; Walker, Vertonghen, David Luiz, Milner; Sanchez, Ozil, Kante, Hazard; Costa, Ibrahimovic.

IW: Lloris; Azpilicueta, Van Dijk, David Luiz, Bertrand; Henderson, Herrera; Lallana, Sanchez, Mane; Costa.

MB: Pickford; Azpilicueta, Van Dijk, David Luiz, Rose; Kante, Henderson, Lallana; Sanchez, Costa, Hazard.

 

Think our selections are rubbish? You can join the debate by adding your thoughts in the story comments box, below…

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