Who’s Favored To Win The 2016-17 Premier League Title?
Top 6 Clubs Title Chances, Predictions & Betting Odds
With the Boxing Day officially behind us and half of the fixtures gone, it’s a good time to take a step back and look at what we expect the Premier League to provide us in the first half of 2017. At the end of each year, everyone likes to try to predict what will happen until the end of the season, including the clubs – especially since the new transfer window will start on January 1st. We want to analyze the top teams in the Premier League in order to figure out their title chances and to try to predict where they’ll end up at the end of this season.
Last season ended extremely surprising for all football fans and critics. Leicester City were crowned champions, Liverpool and Chelsea failed to qualify for European football, where West Ham and Southampton replaced them. Key players like Hazard, Rooney or Sergio Aguero failed to live up to their reputation and their form from previous seasons, leaving their clubs well behind their pre-season objectives.
This time around, we’re seeing a completely different story. After the first half of the season, “top 6” clubs (the two Manchester teams, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham) occupy the first 6 places of the Premier League standings. This hasn’t happened in a while but shows us that the difference in value between these squads and the rest of the division was also reflected on the field.
Premier League Table – 8th January, 2017
Also, 3 of these 6 top clubs have changed their coaches at the start of the season, while Liverpool has done so at the beginning of 2016. Arsenal and Tottenham, the two teams which have performed well last season, have kept Pochettino and Wenger on their benches.
Guardiola, Mourinho, Conte, and Klopp are the five-stars coaches which came to test their skills in the hardest league in the world. We’ll begin our team-by-team analysis and draw a conclusion a little later, where we’ll be able to see just how well these coaches have fared. We’ll begin from 6th spot and go up.
6th Spot: Manchester United
Pre-season expectations: Top 4 finish/Title challenge
While the board was more reserved and only targeted a Champions League spot, Mourinho acted in his usual arrogant manner and said that his squad would challenge for the Premier League title. Sitting 6th just before the end of the year proves that the Portuguese manager was wrong. Let’s look at some numbers to understand exactly how wrong.
The Red Devils sit on 33 points with a 27-18 goal difference and have 9 wins, 6 draws, and 3 losses. Their home form is 7th in the league, while their away form is 5th. More often than not, Mourinho fielded a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic leading the line. The Swedish striker is United’s top league goalscorer, with 12 goals, and the second best scorer in the league after Diego Costa.
United’s form picked up in November and December, with their last defeat happening in the Europa league on the 3rd of November against Fenerbahce. They’ve managed 4 straight league wins and have recovered some of the distance separating them from the Champions League places.
Zlatan’s has returned to good form after some rough periods, Henrikh Mkhitaryan is playing better and better, Pogba has established himself in the side, and players like Lingard, Blind, Mata, Bailly or Ander Herrera have all shown good form throughout the season.
Although Zlatan has shown he can still score goals, his age is really starting to show. The people behind him aren’t supplying him with lots of good balls either since Mourinho insists on playing Pogba as a central attacking midfielder – which he just can’t play.
United’s games against top 6 clubs haven’t been great either – defeats against City and Chelsea, draws with Arsenal and Liverpool, and a single win against Tottenham. Neither their attack nor their defense is especially impressive this season – the overall feel is that United are playing like a team which should finish between 5th and 7th place.
Mourinho still hasn’t solved defensive depth issues. With Shaw injured more often than not, he’s still using Valencia as a right back and rotating central defenders more often than he should. Blind as left back isn’t a long-term solution – here is where United should make a move in the transfer market.
Meanwhile, although their attacking depth is a joy to behold, Mourinho didn’t find a good formula just yet – mainly because the left winger has always disappointed. Martial, Rashford, Rooney or Memphis all had sub-par performances this season.
United will finish below 4th place – 5th or 6th, because they are still involved in all cup competitions as well and just don’t have the squad depth or quality to push higher.
Manchester United PL title odds at Bet365: 17.00 or 16/1
5th spot: Tottenham Hotspur
Pre-season expectations: Europa League spots (5-6)
Why fix something that isn’t broken? After challenging for the Premier League title last season, Pochettino just made some very small adjustments to his side during the summer – bringing in Wanyama, Janssen, Sissoko, and N’Koudou, although only Wanyama managed to become a serious first eleven player. They’re looking good ahead of the second half of the season – let’s just see exactly where.
36 points, 10-6-2, 33-13 goal difference – second best defense in the league, behind league leaders Chelsea. The Spurs finished 3rd in their rather easy Champions League group and exited the League Cup after a 1-2 defeat against Liverpool. After a rather sketchy start to the season, Dele Alli and Harry Kane are back to top form. They had some serious issues from mid-October to end-November when they only managed a single win – a period which really affected their standings.
Form is picking up, key players have started performing, goals began to flow. 5-0 vs Swansea, 3-0 vs Hull, 4-1 away vs. Southampton are all impressive wins. If they can perform like this for long periods of time, a top-4 finish is a certainty. The squad also has adequate depth and good solutions on all positions, especially in midfield and defense.
Up front, the might rely a little too much on Alli, Eriksen, and Kane, but then again, Janssen, Son or N’Koudou could replace them at any moment. Their defensive record is also a joy to behold – just 13 goals conceded over 18 games. Home form is also excellent – 2nd best in the league, with 1 point lower than Chelsea. Another very good point is that the team is very well-blended, both between the players and with the coach.
The team is overly-reliant on Harry Kane. When the striker doesn’t perform or snatches at chances, the rest of his colleagues find a hard time finding the net more than once a game. Also, if they want to challenge for Champions League places, they have to start performing on the road as well. Currently, they’ve only managed 13 points from away games, 6th record in the league and weakest of all top 6 clubs.
None. Nothing. There isn’t a single thing about this Tottenham squad we find extremely damaging at the moment. There’s no pressure of challenging for the title either.
We actually expect Tottenham to finish in the first 4 places. They haven’t qualified further in the Champions League or the league cup, so they have an edge against Arsenal and City – one of which they’ll probably leapfrog until the end of the season. With 1-2 quality additions to the squad, they should be more than fine.
Tottenham PL title odds at Bet365: 13.00 or 12/1
4th spot: Arsenal
Pre-season expectations: Title challenge (isn’t this a classic?)
Well, the Gunners are challenging for the Premier League title for quite a while now. Although they did come relatively close in some occasions, they haven’t won the title since 2003. After some years when they heavily relied on young players, Arsenal has started investing in big-money transfers – like Ozil and Alexis Sanchez. This hasn’t brought them the silverware they needed, but maybe this can change this year.
After 18 rounds, Arsenal sits 4th, with 37 points and a 39-19 goal difference. They’ve had a great season and were undefeated for a long period of time, only to lose 2 recent games – against Everton and Man City – and drop 9 points behind league leaders Chelsea. They’ve also won their CL group but got kicked out of the EFL cup by Southampton. Their home and away form are both 4th in the league at the moment, showing us that their final place is indeed correct.
Unlike last seasons, Arsenal have shown good, consistent football and great runs of form. They only suffered 4 defeats in all competitions and are close to the points target needed by a title challenger in this part of the season. They’ve had some great games, like a 3-0 win against Chelsea, showing that the team can deliver in important games.
They also have a few players which are no short of genius this season, mainly Ozil and Sanchez. 39 goals scored is the 2nd best attack in the division, and 19 goals conceded isn’t really that bad. Overall, a very well-rounded team with good capabilities of impressing even further.
Arsenal is overly reliant on Ozil and Sanchez to provide a moment of genius in order to win games. The rest of their players are good or mediocre, and the squad lacks depth sometimes. The gunners will also be involved in the Champions League during spring, so they’ll also have a packed schedule.
Tradition. We can’t remember a single season when Arsenal have looked horrible in this period. They usually botch it with a winless streak of 3-4 rounds during February – March, and then never really recover until the end of the season.
3rd – 5th. Arsenal or Manchester City will go ahead and finish below Tottenham – and probably both.
Arsenal PL title odds at Bet365: 15.00 or 14/1
3rd spot: Manchester City
Pre-season expectations: Title winner
When you bring in Josep Guardiola as a coach and give him a couple of hundreds to spend, you can’t really aim for anything else lower than winning the Premier League title. This is what Manchester City have done this season, and their transfers have been exactly as spectacular as you’d expect: Bravo, Stones, Sane, Gundogan, Nolito, and Rulli.
The result after 18 games? 3rd place, 39 points, 39 goals scored, 20 conceded, 12-3-3. The bad part of their season is the high number of points lost against weaker sides, like Crystal Palace, Everton, Southampton or Middlesbrough. They’ve managed to qualify from their Champions League group as well and were kicked out of the EFL cup by their arch rivals Man United. Can they go ahead and win the title?
The quality of their squad is stellar, no question about it – especially in the offensive compartment. They’ve shown they can outscore any opposition and have had some great games – like a 3-1 victory over Barcelona and many games won by 3 or 4 goals. Guardiola is also a very experienced technician who is used to fighting on multiple fronts and winning silverware. Another big advantage is their huge transfer budget – we can easily expect one or two big-name signings in the January transfer window.
The less-than-ideal part of their campaign refers to the backup striker and the defense. When Aguero missed games through injuries and suspensions, which both happen fairly often, Guardiola plays either Nolito as a false nine (with bad results) or Iheanacheo, who lacks experience at this level. Moreover, the team lacks world-class fullbacks and even central defenders – Stones just isn’t as safe as he was at Everton.
As much as Guardiola is an asset, he can also be a liability, since he hasn’t fully adapted to how teams play in the Premier League just yet. Some of his bets paid off, but others (Claudio Bravo, no new fullbacks, Kolarov as a central defender) didn’t.
2nd – 5th place, closer to second if they manage to make good transfers, further away if they don’t. Guardiola also has an obsession with winning the Champions League, so he might favor that competition over the domestic league.
Manchester City PL title odds at Bet365: 8.00 or 7/1
2nd spot: Liverpool
Pre-season expectations: Top 6 finish
Klopp’s Liverpool are one of the most beautiful stories in the Premier League, for various reasons. He took over the team when they were struggling in mid-table anonymity and are now 2nd in the league, after some very nice games so far. They are still a wildly inconsistent team, but that’s just a part of their charm, isn’t it?
The Reds are currently second in the league, with 40 points – 6 under Chelsea. They have the best attack in the league, with 45 goals, while they’ve conceded 21. A very interesting thing is that they don’t have any big goalscorers and many of their players are used to finding the net. Mane (8), Lallana (7), Firmino (6) and Coutinho (5) are the main scorers, with Milner, Origi, Can and Sturridge also close by. Another big advantage they have is that they don’t really care if they’re playing home or away – same style, same results.
They have the capability of out-scoring and defeating any opposition, without a doubt. They produce great football and often score 3 or 4 goals in a game. Another big advantage is the fact that they aren’t involved in European Cups, so Klopp has more time to prepare their domestic games. Speaking of Klopp, he’s clearly a great motivator and tactician and is one of the big plusses the club has at the moment.
Since the team is built around attacking, their defense is often overlooked. For example, their squad lacks a holding midfielder completely, and there are teams that know how to profit from this fact. Moreover, their inconsistency is well-known – they’ve managed to throw away a 3-1 lead at Bournemouth and lose 4-3 recently. Those 3 points would have brought them much closer to Chelsea.
Nothing really. The team is working well, and if they manage to maintain focus and good form, they should have a good season.
Second place, with the possibility of challenging for the title, if they beat Chelsea in their direct game.
Liverpool PL title odds at Bet365: 5.50 or 9/2
1st spot: Chelsea
Pre-season expectations: Title challenge
Pre-season, how did Chelsea look? Hazard out of form, Costa out of form, few players that were really considered “world class”, Pedro labeled as the worst transfer of last season – all with the addition of a new coach, Antonio Conte, with no previous experience in English football. After 18 rounds in the Premier League, the club is first in the standings. And that’s not even the best part.
46 points, 15 wins, 1 draw and 2 losses, with a 38-11 goal difference – 3rd best attack, best defense. 8-0-1 home record, with a single loss at Stamford Bridge – against Liverpool. The other defeat was against Arsenal at Emirates, the only game in which they were clearly outplayed in the first half of the season. Since that defeat, they’ve recorded 12 straight league wins, ending the first half of the season with 6 points above their opponents. Is there really anything that can stop them?
We really don’t have space to go into everything that’s going well for them. Hazard, Costa, Pedro, Moses are all in great form. Conte’s 3-4-3 is unique in the Premier League and many teams don’t know how to play against it. They have the best defense in the league and also have the transfer budget to bring in a player or two.
No European cups and no EFL cup also lead to a rather light schedule. And, last but not least, they are absolutely GREAT against small teams, only losing points against Swansea. Everyone knows that you need to beat the smaller teams if you really want to challenge for the title.
We don’t really have anything to say here. The only slightly worrying issue is their form against other top teams – losing to Liverpool and Arsenal, but winning against the other, although with some luck in the games against City and Tottenham
Chelsea PL title odds at Bet365: 1.72 or 8/11
This concludes our mid-year analysis of the Premier League. To sum up, we believe that following: Chelsea will win the league, United will finish 6th or 5th, Liverpool or City will finish 2nd or 3rd, while Arsenal and Tottenham will battle for 4th place.
If Chelsea fails to win this title, we’d see it as a massive surprise – but we’ll be here to analyze the second part of the season as well – round after round – just like we’ve watched the first part. The spectacle of the Premier League is something truly unique, and we’ve only covered the title challengers. The relegation battle should be equally interesting.
Images: Mirror.co.uk, Standard.co.uk, Metro.co.uk, ABC.net.au, SkySports.com