EPL Week 13 – What are the Lessons we have learned about the 23-24′ EPL Season?

EPL Week 13 – What are the Lessons we have learned about the 23-24′ EPL Season?

How does what we learned in Week 13 of the English Premier League change outlook for the 23-24′ Season?

With the last International Break until March in the rearview mirror, it’s time for things in Club Football to hit overdrive. This weekend was the perfect appetizer for a chaotic holiday period in the Premier League and gave us plenty to digest and (over)react to with old rivalries reignited and new storylines emerging. Let’s get to it.

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The weekend started with a bang as Liverpool trekked to Manchester City’s home ground for the dreaded early kick-off that may have kept the scoreline depressed as players returning from international duty get back up to speed with their clubs. It wasn’t just the players that were sluggish, as Pep Guardiola once again lamented the lack of crowd noise from the home supporters. Liverpool were far from their best – Curtis Jones looked rusty, Jota didn’t have much to do and Matip found himself on the wrong side of Erling Haaland a few times – but Trent Alexander Arnold scored an 80th minute equalizer which felt very much like a winner given how much better City played in this one. While Arsenal took advantage of both clubs dropping points this weekend and sit atop the Premier League table, it should be clear: the Premier League title this season will once again come down to a neck-and-neck race between Klopp’s Liverpool and Pep’s City.

Why are we discounting Arsenal given their current place in the table? The Gunners have been nicking results all season long (much like Saturday’s late 1-0 win at Brentford) but there’s a feeling that they’re a racecar being held together by duct tape and glue just moments from disaster. December looks to be the real test for them with 8 games in 31 days including a holiday Premier League gauntlet that includes West Ham, Liverpool away and Brighton. If they remain on top come January 1st, perhaps we’ll change our tune on their viability as title contenders.

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Speaking of seasons being held together by duct tape and glue – look no further than crosstown rivals Tottenham as an example of how quickly things can go wrong. At the beginning of the month, Spurs were sitting atop the table and in the midst of a comeback tour following the departure of club talisman Harry Kane. As the calendar is about to turn the page, they now find themselves outside the top 4, in the middle of an injury crisis and with a looming slate of games the next few weeks that could end with them back in the middle of the table. With the Asia Cup “borrowing” Heung-Min Son for the month of January, Ange Postecoglu is going to have to work some miracles if Spurs are to remain in competition for a Europe qualification spot.

If you bought stock in Chelsea after their thrilling 4-4 draw vs Manchester City prior to the break, it might be time to cut your losses. Losing at Newcastle isn’t a shame for any team this season but that manner in which they were played off the field was a clear reminder that they still have a long way to go before rejoining the Premier League elites at the top. Newcastle continue to navigate their own injury (and illegal sports wagering) crisis. Currently just 3 points back of Tottenham for 5th place, they have a 17 goal differential which puts them joint 2nd in the league.

West Ham might be this season “Jekyll and Hyde” club as they will look like genuine challengers for a European qualification spot but then turn around and lose to bottom of the table club. They don’t believe in defense (just 1 clean sheet and joint 4th most goals allowed) which will limit their potential but they score enough that they have the ability to generate the odd upset here and there. This week was no exception where they found themselves behind relegation leader Burnley DEEP into the 2nd half where a clumsy Own Goal offered them a glimpse of hope in the dying moments of the match which Tomas Soucek took full advantage of salvaging all 3 points and a bit of embarrassment for the Hammers.

We can wrap up this week with a special note on the relegation battle. Everton have somehow found themselves dragged back into the battle for safety thanks to a preeminently maligned decision to deduct 10 points from them due a single infraction of the Financial Fair Play guidelines. You can have your pick of reasons why this might be unjust – lack of transparency over the process of the decision, the seemingly inequitable treatment compared to other clubs with tenfold more infractions – but what stands out the most is that this was announced just several days prior to a league vote that failed to pass restrictions on associated club loans during the January transfer window. A very bland way of saying “clubs loaning players from another club (or league…Newcastle) with the same owner” which would allow these clubs to exploit a rather large loophole in the FFP guidelines.

While this is a tough pill to swallow for supporters of Everton, the bright side is that the punishment is applied this season where they should be able to once again mount a resurgence to escape the relegation zone as opposed to seasons past where this would have been a death knell. Luton Town did raise some eyebrows with a pretty competent win at home over Crystal Palace which has given them some cushion and Bournemouth took care of business against bottom dweller Sheffield United netting them just the slightest bit of separation from the bottom. Yet with 25 games remaining, Everton just need to overcome a 5 point deficit to surpass Luton Town once again for safety and given the general quality (or lack thereof) in play that we’ve seen from these newly promoted sides this season, I think the Toffees wil find themselves with a more comfortable spring than they’ve been accustomed to in seasons past.

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