Matchweek 13 brings us to one-third of the way through the 38 game Premier League season. We’re heading into the Festive Season, and while the rest of Europe’s football will take a nice winter’s nap the lads in the UK will keep kicking all the way into the new year.
So let’s take a step back while we can to look at where the league stands as we prepare for winter football.
It’s City’s Game, we Just Watch it
The biggest question coming into Manchester City’s 2018/19 campaign was whether it was even possible to match their stunning domination of the table from last years 100 point campaign. Last year City scored 106 goals and only conceded 27. They only suffered two defeats and four draws. It was an unprecedented demolition of the league.
Most observers, including yours truly, expected the Blue side of Manchester would take a step back from last year. One of baseball super nerd Bill Jame’s Six Indicators to predict a team’s performance is the Plexiglass Principle, which simply states that a team that improves significantly from one season to the next is likely to give back some of those games the season afterward. Adding 26 goals from 2016/17’s team seems to fit the definition.
This was especially true when Kevin De Bruyne, possibly the best midfielder on the planet, suffered a knee injury in training after their week one dispatching of Arsenal, then aggravated the injury in an FA Cup win over Fulham in October.
Mahrez Steps Up, Reds Keep Battling
Pep Guardiola’s squad looked at the prospect of playing the year without their arguably best player and shrugged. The Citizens are on pace to shatter last years performance. They are coring 3.08 goals per match to put them on a 117 score pace! They have only let FIVE balls into the net all year, on pace for a mere 14 goals surrendered, HALF of last years total. Both totals would be records. Riyad Mahrez, the Sky Blues biggest signing over the summer, has picked up the slack in midfield. Leroy Sane, who inexplicably had the summer off to watch Germany flame out of the World Cup on TV, has five goals already. It’s not even December and Manchester City already looks like they are on cruise control.
Liverpool is only two points behind on the table, and their defense has been just as stingy. Last year’s winter addition of central defender Virgil Van Dijk started paying dividends immediately, plugging up a leaky back line and contributing immensely to their run to the Champions League final. Jürgen Klopp has dialed back last years frantic attack to focus more on defense. They have been the only club to keep a clean sheet against Man City. And probably the only club with a shot at catching them.
Meanwhile, at the Bottom of the Barrel
The Plexiglass Principle applies to the losing teams as well. It can be just as hard to be wretched for an extended period as it is to be excellent. Huddersfield Town and Newcastle United started the season in the doldrums, but both sides appear to have found some wind in their sails of late.
Newcastle ended October with the heartbreaking last-minute loss to Manchester United I wrote about here, and a dreary 1-0 defeat in front of the home fans against Brighton Hove Albion. They managed a draw against an equally inept Southampton team to finish the month with 3 points and a comfy chair in the relegation zone.
Then they flipped the calendar and something clicked. The Magpies are undefeated in November. And it doesn’t look like a fluke. First, the took care of business at home against Watford 1-0 for their first victory of the season. As we examined in September, the Hornets are a solid mid-table team, making this a solid win. Then they welcomed AFC Bournemouth to St James Park and sent them packing on the back of two goals from West Bromwich loanee Solomon Rondon. They were the first tallies for the big Venezuelan striker this year and it looks like the ex-Baggie is starting to settle in. Then this past weekend they went to Turfmoor and stuck it to the Clarets of Burnley 2-1. The three victories in a row have propelled the Magpies to 12 points and thirteenth place, as well as a four-point buffer between staying up or spending 2019/20 playing the likes of Ipswich Town.
Terriers are Getting Feisty
Huddersfield Town have spent their first season and third in the top flight desperate to prove that they belong here. The 2017/18 team only avoided relegation on the last day of the season. Like Newcastle, the Terriers have spent most of the new year facing relegation, although they did show some impressive potential by drawing on the road against Everton and Burnley. They have also had a brutal schedule, having absorbed thumpings from all of the top four teams so far.
Also like Newcastle, the month of November has been kinder. They got their first home goal of the season and their first win, 1-0 against a Fulham squad that is in a tailspin right now. They looked to repeat that performance against West Ham, but Felipe Anderson’s 74th-minute equalizer saved the point for the Hammers.
But the real sign of life from Huddersfield would come with this past weekends trip to Molineux. Wolverhampton have settled into the mid-table after an impressive start to the season. Still the best promoted side we’ve seen in years though. Two weeks ago they almost beat Arsenal, at the Emirates!
But the Terriers came into their house and spanked them 2-0, with goals in each half from Australia’s Aaron Mooy. It was Wolves 4th defeat in their past five and the 3 points pushed Huddersfield two safe of relegation. It’s still a long way to go, but it’s nice to see some fight from the cellar dwellers.
“From our Haus to Yours”