2021 Midseason Premier League Update
The halfway mark of the English Premier League (EPL) season is here in what has been another nail-biting and entertaining season.
The halfway mark of the English Premier League (EPL) season is here in what has been another nail-biting and entertaining season. We’ve seen Manchester United thrash Southampton with nine goals, defending champions Liverpool FC concede seven goals to Aston Villa, and Chelsea FC fire their manager Frank Lampard, a beloved former player. These past few weeks have been a testament to the intensity and unpredictability of the Premier League. Have no clue what I’m talking about? Here’s a review of the EPL’s season to help you out.
West Ham United Off to Strong Start
Criticism was thrown at David Moyes’s West Ham United before their Premier League campaign even commenced, with the selling of young talent Grady Diangana leading to accusations from the fans of a lack of ambition. Yet, the club’s pair of signings from the Czech Republic have greatly contributed to the team’s overall productivity; newcomer Tomáš Souček has already netted eight goals, five of which were headed goals, and West Ham has clinched a clean-sheet victory every time defender Vladimír Coufal has started. Moreover, with the arrival of Manchester United loanee Jesse Lingard, who scored two goals on his debut against Dean Smith’s Aston Villa, the future looks bright for a team that has always been regarded as subpar. If the Hammers are consistent in their performances, they have a great shot at qualifying for the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Europa League at the end of the season.
Sheffield United Struggles
Despite signing promising British talents like goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale, winger Oliver Burke, and left-back Max Lowe this summer, Sheffield United sits at the bottom of the table with a goal difference of -22 and 11 total points––one of the worst starts to a campaign in Premier League history. The Blades have shown hints of potential, including a victory against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United, but whether they can keep their place in Europe’s most competitive soccer league is still a massive question. Sheffield United successfully claimed a top-half finish last season, finishing 22 points above the bottom three; the team prided itself on its exceptional defensive ability (conceded only 39 goals in their 38 matches) and unique style of play that utilized overlapping center-backs. Yet Chris Wilder’s side is suffering the ‘second season syndrome,’ hindered by a lack of firepower upfront and an unstable defensive line. Despite Wilder’s role in promoting Sheffield to the Premier League, his role at the helm is now under increasing scrutiny; the upcoming weeks will be crucial in determining the club’s future.
Player Spotlights: Thiago Silva
& Rúben Dias
Thiago Silva made the move to Chelsea on a free transfer and has stabilized a youthful Chelsea squad. Despite being 36 years old, the experienced defender has adapted well to the quick-paced nature of the Premier League and has served as a role model for many on the pitch. Notably, the Brazilian has played a vital role in mentoring 21-year-old Reece James, who now is Thomas Tuchel’s first choice for the right wing-back position. Partnered with Antonio Rüdiger and Cesar Azpilicueta, the former Paris Saint-Germain player has adapted well to Tuchel’s back three. Silva’s aerial dominance and his outstanding work ethic on the pitch are unmatched, and the entire Chelsea squad feeds off of his calm and confident energy.
Centre-back Rúben Dias, who signed from Portuguese club S.L. Benfica, has become a mainstay for Manchester City. Dias’s passing accuracy and quick transitioning abilities from defense to attack have been crucial for the ‘Pep Project’––an ambitious plan overseeing the development of new generation players. The Portuguese defender has also made an immense impact on teammate John Stones, who has been a player reborn this season. The defending duo Dias and Stones form an imperious partnership––warranting comparisons to the great duo of Nemanja Vidić and Rio Ferdinand. Their statistics are exceptional: When both of these defenders started, City has secured 14 wins, 13 clean sheets, and only conceded two goals in 15 matches. Dias will continue to be essential for Manchester City as the club aims to win their seventh Premier League trophy.
Leicester City Joins the Title Race
While Manchester City remains at the top of the league in phenomenal form, Leicester City deserves applause for their season so far. After missing out on UEFA Champions League qualifications by a slim margin, Brendan Rodgers’s side came back hungrier. Despite star left-back Ben Chilwell’s departure to Chelsea, the Foxes have seemingly found perfect additions to compensate: defenders Timothy Castagne and Wesley Fofana. The recent structural switch to three at the back has paid dividends for the club, creating more attacking opportunities for the strikers. Like Leicester City’s title-winning 2015-2016 season, Jamie Vardy has been the main man leading the attack with 11 goals and five assists. Vardy continues to impress and threatens the opponents with his incredible pace and goal-scoring abilities. If Leicester can keep this momentum going, they have a chance of pushing for the title.
The Premier League is no stranger to dramatic endings and unexpected victors; that is precisely what makes the EPL one of the greatest leagues in the sporting world. Regardless of the teams’ current forms, it’s too early to tell which teams will come out on top, qualify for European competitions, or part ways with the Premier League, but the final weeks will certainly bring excitement.