With last years top three clubs all undergoing managerial changes many predicted a bit of a shake up and a competitive season at the top of the table. This is not a list of the best, but more accurately the most improved teams of this season.
Southampton have been fantastic under Pochettino this season. A team that has been playing attractive football and getting the results when they need them. They’ve not quite been ‘all conquering’ but it’s a significant improvement on last seasons 14th place and it’s a good sign that a key part of the success comes from the young English contingent of Lallana, Shaw, Ward-Prowse and Rodriguez. Its seems Pochettino’s loose grasp of English and the change of chairman at the club has done little to slow progress at St. Marys and now it seems the biggest challenge they face might be keeping hold of their up and coming stars with rumoured mounting interest from the leagues big guns.
Palace were tipped for a swift trip back to the Championship back in August and for a while it looked like that was destined to be. However, under Tony Pulis, palace have been rejuvenated and have soared into mid-table with a string of impressive results typified by their recent streak of five wins. Jason Puncheon in particular has been in a run of good from in recent weeks. Joe Ledley has also impressed since January and the good support from the fans has no doubt help turn Selhurst Park into an intimidating venue for travelling teams.
Firstly, I believe credit must still be given to David Moyes. He spent over a decade at the club and was responsible for building the foundations of their current team. Roberto Martinez was coming to an established and stable club who have been getting good results and league positions for years, but my word, he’s taken something good and made it much better. Everton have been solid as ever this season but going forward have looked to have much more purpose. They attack with pace, and have been playing some great football. The on-loan Lukaku has been fantastic up front, whilst the midfield doesn’t miss Marouane Fellaini one bit. In fact, they look technically better and faster without him. The full backs have also been outstanding this season. Moyes was known to utilise his full backs as an attacking threat during his tenure as Everton boss and was effective, but this year it’s on another level. Seamus Coleman has come on leaps and bounds this term, performing as one of the best right-backs in the league in my opinion. With the ever impressive Baines at left back they really do give teams a good work out in the wide areas whilst remaining fairly solid defensively. Additionally, one man that cannot be overlooked is another loanee, Gareth Barry. He sits in the holding role, bringing experience and a quality of passing to the core of the Everton team, and is defensively aware, dropping back to cover counter attacks which enables the full-backs to go forward simultaneously causing a great attacking threat that has been the undoing of many opposition teams this season. Roberto Martinez can be very happy with his sides performances this year and with them floating just outside the top four, providing they have a good summer and continue to develop, you wouldn’t bet against them continuing to push for a Champions League place next season.
In my mind title favourites. I predicted it would be Chelsea and if I’m honest Liverpool didn’t even come into consideration. I thought they’d be 4th at best and now here we are. Liverpool at the top of the table with three games to play and the best strike partnership in the league. A surge in momentum since the half way point has seen them pick up win after win and now it seems like only Chelsea could upset their title hopes and hand City a way back. They can be assured though with Mourinho recently claiming he may look to rest players against the reds in order to further Chelsea’s Champions League hopes. City won’t be too happy with that. As for Liverpool themselves it really has been a team effort. Brendan Rodgers looked like a man with a plan last season and now it’s certainly come to fruition. Firstly the previously almost anonymous midfielders Henderson and Allen have really stepped up their game. They’e been running teams into the ground with help from others like Coutinho and Sterling in the more advanced roles and with the ever-present Steven Gerrard adapting to a holding role with ease, the midfield has been dominating those of their opponents. I think however, the stand out performers for Liverpool are of course Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez. The duo have been lethal in front of goal bagging 20 and 30 goals respectively whilst setting up many others. Liverpool are running rampant and it’s hard to see anyone standing in their way of a first Premier League title.
And as I did a prediction of the bottom three it seems only right I end with the top, looking exactly the same as it does now.
2nd Manchester City