Analyzing the Premier League Frontrunnersby Jermaine Johnstone January 14, 2021 0 comments
Manchester United’s victory at Turf Moor on Tuesday night saw them dethrone defending champions Liverpool to rise to the top of the table for the first time this season. There are just 10 points dividing the top 10 with Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Aston Villa having the greatest opportunity to near the summit via their games in hand. With nearly half of the league fixtures completed in this disjointed campaign, we look at the teams leading what is shaping up to be a memorable title race.
Serious questions were asked of Pep Guardiola‘s men after an uncertain start to the season featuring draws with newly-promoted Leeds United and West Ham as well as a humbling 5-2 defeat at home to Leicester City.
In recent weeks, however, the City has turned their fortunes around winning their last six in all competitions, including dominant victories away to Chelsea and Man United. Guardiola seems to have settled on his strongest center-back pairing with John Stones and Ruben Dias keeping four clean-sheets in their last five starts together.
The form of Kevin De Bruyne will be crucial as always, but with some favorable fixtures coming up and the benefit of most of the squad having achieved it twice before, City has every opportunity to cement themselves in the race.
Spurs have hit a rough patch, winning just one of their last five in the league. Although, they have displayed their title credentials on numerous occasions this term, going unbeaten against the traditional ‘big six.’
Jose Mourinho’s style is more evident in their football now than ever. The 57-year-old’s elite pedigree will have Spurs supporters believing that this might be their year.
Carlo Ancelotti‘s side recruited big in the summer, with the additions of Colombian international James Rodriguez as well as holding midfielders Allan and Abdoulaye Doucouré, but perhaps the biggest player for them is England striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin who has scored as many league goals as Kane with one less appearance.
His goals have been essential for Everton who sit just one point behind their Merseyside rivals Liverpool and have won four of their last five. Their form has been flaky at times this season and key injuries further down the line could severely hinder them. However, while they are keeping pace with the big names at the top of the table, it would be unfair to completely discount them.
Another club that has operated under the radar this season, Leicester is just a point behind the current champions. Jamie Vardy is enjoying yet another profitable season and the Foxes have demonstrated once again that they can mix it with the big boys, claiming scalps away at Man City, Arsenal, and Spurs.
Harvey Barnes has been something of a revelation this season and James Maddison is also in great form, but Brendan Rodgers will want his side to be a bit more consistent if they are to have a chance of silverware in May.
It would have been hard to believe that Jurgen Klopp’s rampant reds would ever struggle to score goals, but that is the main issue affecting them at the moment. Liverpool is winless in their last three in the league, scoring just once.
Their problems have allowed rivals Manchester United to close the gap and even surpass them ahead of the clubs’ huge clash on Sunday afternoon, but this is a squad that stormed the division less than a year ago. They remain favorites to retain their title and Mohammed Salah leads the top-flight scoring charts. If they are able to get the engine running again with a victory at the weekend, any doubts may just fade away.
The much-maligned Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was looked to be in real danger of permanent dismissal after his side were knocked out of the UEFA Champions League, but a largely unexpected turnaround has seen them soar to the top of the table, a position they haven’t found themselves in this side of Christmas since 2013- the year of their last title success.
His side has a knack for finding a way, regardless of how dire the circumstances may seem, to leave with all three points and midfielder Bruno Fernandes has been at the heart of it. With 11 goals and seven assists in the league, the 26-year-old has been the driving force behind United’s change of fortunes, but with the added attacking flair of Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford, and Anthony Martial, it comes as little surprise that only Liverpool have found the net more times this campaign.
A worry for United fans may be that they are without a win against any of the big six sides. They correct that at Anfield on Sunday. It would be impossible to look past them when deciding title favorites.
Follow Jermaine Johnstone on Twitter @JermaineJohnst6
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