It looks like that the main question about the current Premier League season “Who will win the league?” is more or less answered before Christmas.
Manchester City look like the most likely champions. Unless Pep Guardiola’s side slips during the festive period or in January, they will win the league.
City will finish the year with visits to go to St. James’s Park and Selhurst Park. On 2nd and 6th of January the Pep Guardiola’s men welcome Watford and Burnley and then travel to Anfield to play Liverpool. The first month of 2018 ends for Man City with two home games against Newcastle and West Bromwich Albion.
The only thing that we can say about the Sky Blues at the moment is that, whoever wants to draw or win a game against them would either need to lock the goal or to outplay them. The second looks virtually impossible, so it looks like that the very solid defence is the only way to win points against this Manchester City team.
Manchester United look like the team who will finish second. There’s one thing that Jose Mourinho needs to address when his team plays against their top 4 competitors. When United play against Man City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Spurs, they are afraid of going forward, and they look like a team who is scared to attack. Mourinho must change this if he plans to keep chasing Manchester City.
Ironically, Man Utd weren’t afraid to attack against Leicester City at King Power Stadium. They have attacked a lot, but missed a lot of chances and were labelled by Jose Mourinho as “childish” after they conceded a last-gasp equaliser in a 2-2 draw at Leicester.
As of Christmas 2018, the Red Devils are not a genuine title contender anymore, as there is a 14 points gap between them and Man City. So it is very likely that Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal will give Jose Mourinho’s side a fight for the second place.
United will finish 2017 with two home games – against Burnley and Southampton. On January 1st, they got to Goodison Park and this is not going to be an easy fixture for them. On Jan 15th United play at Old Trafford against Stoke City and five days later visit Burnley. Mourinho’s biggest challenge until the end of January is the United’s visit to Wembley, when they play against Spurs.
It looks like that the Red Devils would not drop more than 5 points points by the end of January. So it is very likely that they’d keep their second place in the table.
Unlike the last season, this one Chelsea aren’t that hard to beat. Antonio Conte’s men have improved a bit in December, but they are still not a team that could consider their place in the top 3, as guaranteed. I don’t think that the Blues would miss the top 4 this season, but the reality is that if the current champions drop 5 points in two or three games, they might find themselves in the 5th or 6th position. The season is going to be very long for the Chelsea. They score less goals then their competitors, despite that their defence is among the best in the league. So if Conte wants his team to finish at high, he probably needs to reinforce it with one or two midfielders or with an offensive player.
Chelsea’s fixtures until the end of January don’t look bad. After Christmas, the Blues have two home games – against Brighton and Stoke City. On 3rd of January they play against Arsenal at Emirates, where they could loose points. On 13th of January Antonio Conte’s side plays at home against Leicester City and a week later travels to Brighton. January ends for the Blues with a home fixture against Bournemouth. All those games look like they can be won and if Manchester United drops some points Chelsea could occupy the second place in the table.
However, the Blues have to play 9 games by the end of January, two of them against Arsenal in the semi-finals of the League Cup. Antonio Conte must decide whether to prioritize the Premier League or the cups, otherwise January would turn into nightmare for his players.
Liverpool sit 4th in the Premier League table before Christmas and if they keep this position at the end of January, they should be happy about it. Why? The Reds are playing against Swansea and Leicester City by the end of December. On January 1st they travel to Burnley. Those three fixtures might bring 9 points to Liverpool, but it really depends which Reds side will turn up for them. If the Swans, the Foxes and the Clarets decide to sit deep and play in the counter attack against Jurgen Klopp’s men, which they will probably do, there would be a lot of frustration for the Liverpool fans during the festive period.
On 14th of January Liverpool welcome Pep Guardiola’s high flying Sky Blues and this is a game which is very hard to predict. The Reds will have 9 days to prepare for the Man City’s visit, but need to make sure that they have their best players available and fit for this fixture. On January 5th the Jurgen Klopp’s team play against Everton in the 3rd round of the FA Cup, a game that both teams want to win.
January will end for Liverpool with a home fixture against Swansea and an away one against Huddersfield. Both could be won, but Klopp will need to manage his team very well. He needs to decide whether to play with the same side or to use rotation and give chances to some of the players who have spend a lot of time on the bench so far this season.
Spurs share 5th place with Arsenal. Both teams won 10, drawn 4 and lost 5 games so far. Both North London rivals scored 34 goals, but Spurs have conceded less (18) than Gunners (23).
Tottenham have only one game left this year, a home fixture against Southampton. On 2nd of January they visit Swansea and two days later play at Wembley, in a London derby against West Ham. It will be followed by another home fixture against Everton. On January 21st, Spurs go to Southampton before hosting Manchester United in the last day of the month.
This fixture list looks challenging for Spurs as they need to be at their best in the games against West Ham, Southampton and Man Utd, if they want to win them. West Ham need to win every single point they could, in order to keep their Premier League place. Southampton is a vey hard to beat at Saint Mary’s Stadium, while Jose Mourinho’s side is capable of winning against Spurs at Wembley.
Arsenal and Liverpool are the most defensively weakest sides in the Premier League’s top six. If Arsenal have conceded less goals, they would have ranked higher in the table. This speaks for itself and Arsene Wenger probably needs to go to the transfer market to buy at least one defender and a world class defensive midfielder.
His team has two games to play by the end of December – against Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion. In theory both are easy fixtures for the Gunners, but in reality Arsenal will play against two sides who desperately need points and have nothing to loose. Both Crystal Palace and West Brom would sit deep and hope to score goals from set pieces. After them the Gunners will host Chelsea at Emirates and then travel to Bournemouth.
The Arsene Wenger’s men finish January with another game, at home, against Crystal Palace and with a visit to Swansea.
End of January
- Manchester City
- Manchester United
It looks to me that at the end of January, 2018, the Premier League table would look exactly as it looks before Christmas. However, it is very likely that Liverpool, Spurs and Arsenal will close the gap to Manchester United and Chelsea.