English Premier League Review for Week 16 – What did we learn?
What a week of Premier League action we just had. With the December mid-week fixtures making their first appearance, a double dose of games meant that squad depths and manager rotations took center stage as clubs tried to balance lineup strength and player safety. Some managed to find that balance and escape the week with maximum points and without new injuries. Others did not, and now find themselves behind the 8 ball and playing catchup in order to keep their season aspirations within reach.
Let’s get into this EPL Week 16 Review
This week we will start at the top of the table as the movement there has put the title race on a trajectory that would make it one of the more exciting ones in the past decade. Aston Villa has not only tossed their hat in the ring but, with consecutive wins over Manchester City and Arsenal, have fully inserted themselves as legit contenders.
Aston Villa seem set to make waves
They boast the longest active home winning streak in the league which parallels the type of season Liverpool had in 2019-2020 when they beat Manchester City to the League title. Ollie Watkins and Leon Bailey have paired well in attack and as a result, Aston Villa boast the leagues 3rd highest Goals Scored tally behind just Liverpool and Manchester City. Boubacar Kamara and Douglas Luiz have anchored the midfield all season and were key parts of the 1-0 wins vs City and Arsenal. All in all – Villa have looked the part in recent weeks but the key question remains: do they have enough depth to support a season-long title chase or will injury luck eventually go against them and derail their campaign much like it did for Tottenham.
Liverpool still strong – Lookng good at the nearly halfway mark
With all that said, Liverpool are your current league leaders after 16 games. Mohammed Salah is having himself another incredible season and scored his 200th goal for Liverpool at the most crucial of times with Liverpool struggling at Crystal Palace and in need of a spark to level the scoreline. Harvey Elliot came off the bench and provided the prime example of why squad depth is ever important in the modern day game by scoring the game winner as the game clock hit 90’.
Wins over Sheffield United and Crystal Palace don’t provide the same cachet as Manchester City and Arsenal but a case could be made that the two wins for Liverpool coming on the road in quick succession are nearly as impressive. With 9 points picked up in fewer than 7 days’ time, Klopp has cemented Liverpool as key players – and perhaps the team to beat- in this year’s title race.
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We can’t conclude the title talk without a brief mention of the current oddsmakers favorites Manchester City. They did bounce back from their loss at Aston Villa with a come from behind win at Luton Town. Currently 4th in the table and 4 points behind Liverpool, City continue to look like a more pedestrian version compared to seasons past. Kevin de Bruyne isn’t due back until January and City’s schedule this month is the worst of them all with a trip to Saudi Arabia for the Club World Cup inserted before the holiday fixtures begin. If the reigning champs are going to repeat for a fourth time this season, Pep Guardiola is going to have to dig deep into his bag of tricks or perhaps deeper into pocketbooks of ownership in January for some new game changers that can be added to the squad.
The other team in Manchester isn’t faring much better. A midweek win over middling Chelsea continued to provide some glimmers of hope that a second consecutive top 4 finish remained a possibility, but the 3-0 hammering by Bournemouth at Old Trafford has doused those hopes and sparked discussion over Ten Hag’s future at the club. The looming return to Anfield where they suffered a supremely embarrassing 7-0 loss combined with a midweek win-or-go-home match vs Bayern Munich could be enough to end the tenure of United’s 6th manager since Sir Alex Feguson retired just a decade ago.
Credit should be given to Bournemouth as they are unbeaten in their last 5 and have picked up 13 of a possible 15 points which will go a long way in their quest to survive another season in the Premier League. Everton have also positioned themselves well to survive the drop as they are now a staggering 5-1-1 in their last 7 league matches. Consecutive clean sheet wins over Newcastle and Chelsea should provide enough evidence that Dyche has gotten things stabilized and set up for sustained success now in Merseyside and the threat of opening their new stadium in embarrassing fashion in the Championship appears to be a distant concern.
We’ll close this week with the best performing club over the double header. The only way you can top a pair of home wins vs Manchester City and Arsenal would have to be a pair of resounding 5-0 wins and that is exactly what Fulham managed to do. Scoring 5 goals and keeping a clean sheet is usually enough to keep fans talking about the performance for a month, but to do it twice within a week is as close to ecstasy as these fans might get. West Ham continues to choose not to play defense in any fashion and Nottingham Forest have drifted concerningly close to the relegation zone but make no mistake: Fulham have now scored an eye watering 16 goals in their last four Premier League matches. Disregard at your own risk.
Here comes the trial by fire in Europe for EPL teams that haven’t been exceptional in majror tournaments – the strong teams get to rest
The coming midweek slate should provide a much needed opportunity for rest with just the few clubs that have yet to secure advancement in their European group stage needing to put forth a full strength lineup (cough…Manchester United..cough). From there, the stage is set for a grandstand finish to the 2023 calendar year with 4 league matches in 15 days on tap. Fasten your seatbelts folks, we’re in for a rollercoaster of a ride!
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Week in Review for the English Premier League If you weren’t aware that the club calendar is raring to kick into its final gear, let this past weekend serve as notice because we are about to hit the season's home stretch where trophies are won and European dollars are...
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