Premier League Matchday 16 Storylines
As we near the halfway mark of the Premier League season nothing is going to plan. Leicester City are top of the table, Crystal Palace and Watford are squarely in the hunt for European football and Chelsea are engaged in a relegation battle. Only three Premier League consistencies remain at this point: Spurs occupy 5th place, Sunderland are living in the drop zone and Stoke have scored the joint least goals in the league. Lets take a look at the biggest stories of the weekend.
Everton talisman Romelu Lukaku is in the form of his life. The 22-year-old Belgian is on a six-match goal streak in the Premier League and a seven-match goal streak in all competitions. His 12 goals in 16 weeks would normally be the subject of every headline but Jamie Vardy has overshadowed the former Chelsea striker’s impressive form. Everton have lost just twice since their 2-0 defeat to Manchester City on August 23rd and just three times all season in the EPL. Lukaku’s goal streak has coincided with a six-match unbeaten run for his club, but they have won just two of those matches. The Toffees sit in 10th but are just three points out of 5th place. Their next match is a great litmus test against the league leading Leicester City Foxes that pits Lukaku against his top goal scoring rival at the moment. Speaking of the league leaders…
Leicester City Strong
The Foxes took seven points from a possible nine in their last three matches. Many pointed to this stretch of the schedule as the time when Leicester would fall out of the running. In the first half of said six game run their lead at the top has actually increased. Without a truly dominant team at the top of the league Claudio Ranieri’s men have made the top their own. As more and more observers, fans and pundits alike, buy in to Leicester’s title bid the tune around the club remains the same. Star winger Riyad Mahrez has not changed his mission, “I don’t think we can win the league,” he told the BBC, “We just need to get the 40 points and then after that we will see.” 16 weeks in to the season it seems odd that the top side in the league are still focused on staving off relegation. Perhaps this attitude is what makes this scrappy counterattacking side so successful. That begs the question, what happens after this team reaches their goal of 40 points in the coming weeks?
Chelsea Continue to Sink
Jose Mourinho lashed out at his side after a 2-1 loss to the league leaders on Monday. He claimed he prepared his players well for the tricky tie but his players abandoned the game plan, leaving him to feel “betrayed.” After the loss the Blues sit just one point away from the relegation zone. The defending champions would need to win out their remaining 22 games in order to have a shot at the title, as close to an impossible task as you can imagine in England’s top flight. Weeks ago the goal shifted from a title chase to an uphill battle for a Champion’s League spot, a goal that may also be unattainable now. Generally it takes upwards of 65 points to earn a 4th place finish, and since 2007 the team that finished 4th has never had less than 68 points. To reach 68 points Chelsea need to take 53 points from their remaining 22 matches – roughly 2.4 points per match (they are currently taking .94 points from each match). Even if Chelsea win 17 of their last 22 matches they could still miss out on a Champion’s League place. There is no more time get in form. Their sprint up the table must begin now, or it may never happen.
UPDATE: Clearly Roman Abramovic read this post and was able to grasp the desperation of the situation as he sacked Jose Mourinho Thursday. The time had come and despite his success in West London in both tenures, the “Special One” had to go.
Spurs Streak Screeches to Stop
Tottenham Hotspur’s club record unbeaten run of 14 games came to a halt on Sunday. Bottom dwelling Newscastle arrived at White Hart Lane on Sunday to hand Spurs just their second loss of the 2015-16 campaign, their first since the opening day of the season. The fact that Mauricio Pochettino’s side took a point from 14 straight matches masked their troubles winning matches as they took the full three points just six times on that run. With only two losses on the campaign the Lilywhites sit in fifth place, having missed several opportunities to break into the coveted Champions League positions. Mousa Dembele, Eric Dier, Erik Lamela and Toby Alderweireld have all been in fantastic form this season but Dier seems to be showing signs of weakness in the midfield and Dembele missed Sunday’s match with an injury. The PL is a wide open competition but Tottenham have failed to climb the ladder. With matches against Southampton, Norwich, Watford and Everton coming up Spurs have a chance to earn some much needed points before they take on league leaders Leicester City on January 13th. By that time both Tottenham and Leicester will have been thoroughly vetted and their campaign’s should have a clear direction.