We are at the mid point of the English Premier League season and it is a good point to look at what teams have exceeded our expectations and who is disappointing their fans.
Liverpool. Position: 1.
Yes we expected Liverpool to be a top four team this season and close the gap too Chelsea and Manchester United but nobody really expected Liverpool to be leading the league at Christmas.
Aston Villa. Position 3.
Several teams have threatened to break the big fours stranglehold on the top positions in the Premier League, but Aston Villa are the ones looking most likely to one of those priceless Champions League spots for next season. Martin O’Neill gets my vote as manager of the year so far.
Hull City. Position 6.
It was a magical start to the season for Hull City fans as they have been in the top six of the Premier League all season. The wheels are threatening to come off the wheels a little, but with 27 points, Hull is only about 13 points for ensuring a second season in the Premier League. For a team supposed to be in a relegation fight, Hull has been a breath of fresh air in the Premier League this season.
Bolton Wanderers. Position 9.
Bolton is another team that was supposed to be embroiled in the relegation battle, but a great run recently of five wins in eight games has lifted Bolton to a comfortable mid-table position, where they should be able to stay all season. For Bolton fans, that is a successful season.
Arsenal. Position 5.
Arsenal’s inconsistent form has driven Arsene Wenger and their fans crazy all season. Nobody expects Arsenal to lose to the likes of Fulham, Hull City, Stoke City, and draw with Sunderland and Middlesbrough. With 5 losses before Christmas and with Cesc Fabregas out for three months with knee ligament damage, it is going to be a difficult second half of the season for Arsenal.
Everton. Position 7.
Everton are where you would expect them to be in the table, but they have not played as well as I would have expected this season. Everton’s traditional strength has been its home form and that has been puzzlingly mediocre this season. David Moyes needs some healthy forwards or Everton will miss out on a UEFA Cup place that is there for the taking.
Portsmouth. Position 10
I expected that Portsmouth would be challenging for a top six place and to see them in 10th place with more losses than wins is disappointing. Manager Tony Adams is on the hot seat and rumors of a fire sale at Fratton Park in January will not help matters.
West Ham. Position 17.
I expected West Ham to be a middle of the table team this year but their performance this season has be a massive disappointment. The off-field financial issues with the Hammers Icelandic owners and the Tevaz saga are hanging over the team and I would not be surprised to see West Ham sell its bets players in January and get relegated.
Manchester City. Position 18.
Before the takeover by the Arab oil consortium I expected Manchester City to be a solid middle of the table team who might have challenged for that last UEFA Cup place. To see them third bottom at Christmas must be making City fans sick, especially as expectations were so high in August when the takeover was announced.
Blackburn Rovers. Position 19
I expected Blackburn to be a mid table team this year, and never thought that they would be sitting second bottom at Christmas with Paul Ince already out of the door. Big Sam has his work cut out for him, but I expect that Blackburn to ultimately avoid relegation this season.
Sunderland. Position 13.
I expected Sunderland to be a mid-table team this season, but the sacking of Roy Keane and the teams performance has made Sunderland a disappointment this season. Without those last two wins, Sunderland would be bottom with West Brom.
Middlesbrough. Position 14.
I expected Middlesbrough to be another mid-table team, but with no wins in six games the Boro are looking at a relegation battle. If Stewart Downing and Tuncay leave in January, it could be a really tough second half of the season for Boro fans.
Chelsea. Position 2.
Sitting second in table at Christmas is where I expected Chelsea to be. They are not playing as well as I expected them to do, which is good news for Blue’s fans as their form should get better as the season progresses. I still expect Chelsea to be right around the top of the league at the end of the season,
Manchester United. Position 4.
Seven points back with two games in hand, and world club champions, not a bad start to the season for Manchester United. Similar to Chelsea, United are title contenders as excepted without playing particularly well this season, and like Chelsea I expect them to play better in the second half of the season/
Fulham. Position 8.
I expected Fulham to be a solid middle of the table team and that is what they are. They still cannot win away from home, but they will win enough games at Craven Cottage to avoid the relegation battle.
Wigan Athletic. Position 11
Similar to Fulham, Wigan is a solid middle of the table team, who are difficult to beat under Steve Bruce. They are not a contender for a UEFA cup place, but are happy just staying in the Premier League.
Newcastle United. Position 12.
I expected Newcastle to be involved in the relegation battle, and unlike Wigan who have the same number of points, I expect Newcastle to be in a relegation battle all season. The unstable ownership hangs over this team and the pending departure of Michael Owen cast a cloud over this team. Newcastle are still a mess, and unfortunately that is about what I expected from them.
Stoke City. Position 15.
I expected Stoke to be involved in a relegation battle this season and they are. Beating Arsenal, Villa and Tottenham have been highlights, but Stoke needs to find goals from places other than Rory Delap’s throw-ins if they are to avoid the drop.
West Bromwich Albion. Position 20.
West Brom is right where I expected them to be. They are a good Championship League team but are simply not good enough for the Premier League.