Mails: Introducing a Premier League expectations table

Date published: Wednesday 20th September 2017 7:40

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A Premier League expectations table
I miss your expectation table from years gone by, so did my own for the first 5 games of the season. I stopped after the top 10 teams, because I really should do something productive today. Any other readers can feel free to complete the bottom half or just comment angrily on what I’ve said below.

1 Man. City – 13pts (Expected – 13 points)
A team with title ambitions may have foreseen dropping points against one of the Merseyside teams. A draw at home to Everton, the only dropped points so far and I’d assume that Pep’s reasonably happy with their position so far.

Next five: 12 points expected. Burnley, Stoke and Palace at home. With away trips to Chelsea and West Brom. One obvious outlier there. Pep won’t want to drop points against title rivals, but won’t mind if the Citizens keep up the current pace in the other, easier fixtures.

2 Man United – 13pts (Expected – 13 pts)
Five relatively easy games under the belt and 13 points taken from them; the manner in which they’ve won so far has been the real talking point so far, a Stoke slip up the only mishap so far, but it will be interesting to see how this team fares against stronger opponents.

Next five: 10 points expected. Liverpool and Tottenham coming up, accompanied by a tricky away tie to Southampton and a trip to newly promoted Huddersfield, the sort of game United teams of years gone by have regularly struggled with. Palace at home seems the only sitter, but I expect Jose’s red devils will be happy with 10 points from these 5 games.

3 Chelsea 10pts (Expected – 11 points)
Conte would have been happy not to let Spurs take all 3 points from a tricky first away trip of the season; dropping points against Arsenal shouldn’t be too much of a disappointment either. 4 points from those two games is better than Conte may have expected, but the opening home loss against Burnley was cause for concern.

Next five- 11 points expected. A tough trip to Stoke may test this side as it did their title rivals, especially while the blues try finding their goal scoring form (read: Hazard finds fitness). A tough tie against Man City at home may see a couple more points dropped.

4 Newcastle – 9 pts (Expected – 9pts)
My reason for writing this mail: The Magpies are flying high, but have faced two winnable home games and two trips to relegation rivals, where they’d expect to take some points if they want to survive (whether Mike Ashley really does is a question for another day). The home game against Spurs was a Jonjo Shelvey moment of stupidity away from a point gained in an exercise of containment and counter attacking football.

Next five- 5 points expected. Two long trips to Southampton and Brighton sandwich a home tie against Liverpool in a more testing trio of matches for the Magpies. Palace at home is a winnable home tie and Benitez will look for points from Burnley as well.

5 Tottenham – 8pts (Expected – 10 points)
The common fear is that Spurs need to make something of their title credentials this year or they’ll start losing some more star names. That said it wasn’t the easiest start to the season. Newcastle have been a bogey team for Spurs in the past and Everton were expected to challenge the top 6 this season, 6 points from those away games would have been rather welcome. An opening home encounter with Chelsea was as tough a start as you could get at Wembley, but dropping points in the following two home games doesn’t bode well for this side or their title ambitions.

Next five- 10 points expected. Bournemouth at home is the perfect opportunity to put the supposed Wembley hoodoo away and trips to West Ham and the Terriers are the sort of tests that those title credentials can’t afford to fail too often. A trip to Old Trafford and a home game against Klopp’s reds will offer a different sort of test, and they’ll need points from at least one of those games if Spurs want to match or beat last season’s final position

6 Huddersfield – 8pts (Expected – 7pts)
Six points from two “relegation six pointers” opened the Terriers’ season in fine style. The following two home games only resulted in 2 more points, although Wagner wouldn’t have complained too much if they had lost to Southampton, whose progress since promotion remains the benchmark for teams with limited resources like Huddersfield. The loss away to West Ham may be seen as another relegation 6 pointer come the end of the season, if the Hammers don’t sort out their own issues, but Huddersfield should be more than happy with their lot so far.

Next five- 4 points expected. 2 away trips to Burnley and fellow strugglers Swansea , from which Huddersfield will need points to keep momentum going. The remaining ties are: Tottenham (H), Man Utd (H), Liverpool (A). Exactly the sort of games their fans would have looked forward to when they booked their spot in the Prem. These fixtures are often the occasions when the plucky underdogs play their best football and sneak some unexpected points, 4 points will be good going from this run.

7 Burnley FC – 8pts (Expected – 6 points)
Five points from three away games against the league’s ‘big 6’. A loss at home to West Brom undoes some of that hard work, but a good start to the season so far, given the opponents faced.

Next five- 9 points expected. Huddersfield, West Ham and Newcastle are the sort of home games a team with top 10 aspirations would want to win. Everton and Man City away? Burnley can afford to drop points in these two games, but sod them: Sean Dyche (PFM personified) doesn’t lose away games to top, top opponents.

8 Liverpool – 8pts (Expected – 10 pts)
Beating Arsenal was a good start, losing to Man City may have been expected, but not in THAT manner. The loss of two points to Burnley might hurt the most in the long run though.

Next five- 10 points expected. 2 away trips against struggling Leicester and newly promoted Newcastle before a home game against the arch enemy that Klopp will need to win to rid the demons of the last Mancunian disaster. Huddersfield at home should also result in 3 points, but can Klopp take advantage of Tottenham’s suspected bout of homesickness?

9 Southampton – 8pts (Expected -12 points)
Where to from here for the perennial overachievers who may have finally reached a glass ceiling? 3 easier home games have only resulted in 4 points. 5 points dropped? One center back sulking in the back of the changing room probably thinks so. The saints will be content with the 4 points from their two away games so far, but there won’t be too many runs of games as easy as this.

Next five- 8 points expected. The next game (Man Utd away) is a very different kettle of fish from what the south coast side have faced so far. Back to back home games should result in 6 points, Stoke and Brighton away should result in at least another 2 points if Southampton want to continue competing on the right side of the table.

10 West Brom – 8pts (Expected – 9 points)
Another easy run of home fixtures have seen Pulis’s team collect 5 points. 3 points from away trips to Bournemouth and Burnley is fair going as well. Not really tested yet and Gary Barry can happily continue to tell stories about the good old days and complain about the youths of today for another few fixtures.

Next five- 4 points expected. Arsenal and Southampton are 2 difficult away trips and no one will expect a team of 8 centre backs and Grandpa Gary to do too much against the Citizens either. Watford at home and Leicester away are where the points will have to come from. Anything else will be a pleasant surprise, expect Pulis to tell you otherwise though.
Mike, NUFC

 

This is the necessary Arsenal cycle
It looks like Arsenal’s “heroic” draw at Chelsea (didn’t Burnley actually beat them?) is the seasonal “Arsenal-have-turned-a-corner-but-we’ll find-out-later-down-the-line-that-they-haven’t-really” moment.

Like that year they won brilliantly at Man City before being ripped apart by Monaco a few weeks later.
Matthew, Belfast

 

What was the best attack in PL history, then?
I was Prompted to write in after reading the following sentence about Man City’s attacking talent in yesterday’s ‘Winners and Losers’ section:

‘Yet if we cannot be truly confident that the results will continue, you cannot doubt that City will remain a potent attacking force. This might be the best collection of attacking players the Premier League has ever seen.’

I was fuming and thinking that Mr Storey must have had a knock to the head over the weekend. The first thought upon reading it was that Nani, Berbatov, Giggs, Rooney, Scholes, Tevez and Ronaldo would be spinning in their graves if they heard such a thing uttered by a sane man.
Then I re-read, just to make sure that I wasn’t imaging it, and noticed the word ‘might’ positioned comfortably in there.

This word, along with ‘may’ and ‘could’ remain stalwarts in every journalist’s vocabulary as it can be used as a safety net should the opinion/comment/point be questioned, dismissed as nonsense or proven, ultimately, to be untrue. (MC – I put ‘might’ just because the thought occurred to me but I didn’t have time to consider all other options).

But it did make me think, what do people consider to be the best attacking line-up in Premier League (yes, I know football didn’t begin with the PL but I imagine it will be more relevant to a large section of F365 readers than the old First Division) history.

For me it’s the group of players listed above. They helped United to 7 major trophies in the 3 years between 2006-2009, including 3 league titles in a row and a Champions League.
Interested to hear other people’s thoughts.

Cheers lads and keep up the amazing work,
Dave (Andrew, Phil, it’s really me), Dublin

 

Why on earth would Pochettino sack off the cups?
Very surprised to read Pochettino’s comments this afternoon, about the Premier League and the Champions’ League being the only trophies Spurs can be bothered to win. Seems to me a classic case of wanting to sprint before you can even walk.

Spurs have long since lost any habit they had – if it was ever there – of winning things. They’re not going to win the CL, because there are loads better sides than them in the competition. Similarly, the move to Wembley will seriously harm their prospects of winning the league. So it makes no sense to me why you’d just not try in 2 competitions you might have a reasonable chance in.

Winning is a habit, a culture. The winning of the smaller trophies can help pave the way for greater things, learning how to compete in finals and win. The first 2 trophies Cristiano Ronaldo won at Man United? The FA Cup in 2004, and the League Cup in 2006. You have to start somewhere, but why aim for Everest straightaway?

I notice he made reference to Wigan winning the FA Cup. Does he understand the mentality of match-going fans at all? Ask any Wigan fan what they would have preferred that season. Win nothing, escape relegation by the skin of their teeth and look forward to another struggle next year, or the unadulterated euphoria of an injury-time winner in the cup final against all the odds and a hugely superior team. A true once-in-a-lifetime moment. I know which one I’d rather have.
Kevin, Dublin

 

Enjoying watching Newcastle, which is weird
There’s still a long way to go so I’m definitely not getting carried away, but watching the Toon is a really enjoyable experience at the moment, something that hasn’t been the case for a long time (the two Championship seasons and that 5th place one notwithstanding).

In Rafa Benitez we have a manager with a stature far bigger than the club for the first time since Sir Bobby and he really proves what a difference good coaching can make – Newcastle look like a sound defensive unit for the first time in my lifetime.

I’m still keeping my fingers crossed that our resilience and form will last, but I do find it intriguing how much is made by fans and pundits alike of the power play between Rafa and Mike Ashley. Ashley isn’t on any rational fans’ wish list of owners, but Rafa has now in his career worked under Gillett and Hicks, Massimo Moratti, Roman Abramovich and Florentino Perez. Ashley is child’s play compared to that bunch!
Nicky T

 

A great mail on Preston’s wonderful start
I wanted to write in to talk about a team that is very close to my heart – Preston North End. Now, we are not the most fashionable of clubs but have a tremendous history dating back to the infamous 1888-89 inaugural football league season where we went unbeaten in both the league and the cup and recently broke our 10 time play off hoodoo with a 4-0 win over Swindon. But anyway, I digress.

I’m writing in because PNE have had an absolute stormer of a start to the championship. 4th in the league on one of the lowest budgets in the league, two points off the top and having conceded only 3 league goals in 8 league games (joint best in the football league with Leeds) despite having our two best defenders – club legend Tom Clarke and Greg Cunningham out with long term injuries and with a back line made up of two academy graduates and a reject from Rotherham.

This is combined with the fact that we lost the coach who dragged us out of the League One mire (Simon Grayson) to Sunderland only a few weeks before the season started. Myself and many other fans were fearing for the worst and at the very best we were hoping to be just clear of the relegation places in the early season.

Instead we bring in Alex Neil and the results have been astonishing. Second best goal difference in the league, one league defeat and two recent drubbings of pre-season favourite Birmingham 1-3 (resulting in Harry Redknapp getting the sack) and early pace setter Cardiff (4-0). We’ve also played most of the other top 6 and we’re still sitting pretty near the top of the league.

This is all happening despite our summer business only seeing us scour the Irish leagues for talent (Seani Maguire – keep an eye out for him) and sign the Rotherham reject mentioned before – Darnell Fisher. I for one am overjoyed and long may this season continue. Up the Lilywhites!
Swifty (Northerner exiled in France) Perpignan

 

Recommended football documentaries
Re: Owen Davidson’s email in yesterday afternoon’s mailbox – I’d highly recommend “Coach Zoran and his African Tigers”, all about the formation of the South Sudanese national team and with a particular focus on their “eccentric” Serbian coach.

Well worth a watch and offers a really interesting insight into a footballing world completely foreign to the major European leagues.
Mike Coxon

 

In response to the question of good football documentaries. Here’s a three-part Arena special from years ago by Hugh McIllvanney on The Football Men, Busby, Stein and Shankly.

Karl F, Old Woking

 

…​ESPN’s ‘The Two Escobars’ is fabulous and is available on Youtube. *Other video sharing platforms also available.
Banjo, Prague

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