Hey there, it’s time to check on the bottom half of the league, from those who still dream of European football, to those comfortably coasting in the middle, to those mired in the nightmare of the relegation zone.
Six of One, Half Dozen of t’Other
- Everton 2-1-2, 5 GF 7 GA, 7 points
It’s hard to be an Everton fan. It’s like loving a mid card wrestler. They are solid workers so they will never get sent back to the indy circuit. They win enough to tease bigger things, but are never quite good enough for the main event, mostly because they lack consistency. A lone goal edges them past Watford, then they lay an 0-2 egg against Aston Villa. They put a struggling Wolves team away 3-2 with a header from Richarlison, then they get clobbered 1-3 by the surging Cherries. They seem doomed to end each season looking up at the lights after doing the job for Liverpool.
- Crystal Palace, 2-1-2, 3 GF 6, 7 points
Until their 0-4 spanking at Tottenham the Eagles had only given up two goals all season. Unfortunately they’ve only three in their own bank, an offensive output that looks like relegation fodder. Last years leading scorer Wilfried Zaha has yet to find the net. A gutsy 2-1 win over Man United showed a team that can absorb pressure and threaten on the break, but Roy Hodgson needs to get his finishers untracked quickly.
- Norwich City 2-0-3, 9 GF 12 GA, 6 points
As they proved last Saturday in their masterful 3-2 upset of Man City, the Canaries can find the back of the net. Finnish journeyman Teemu Pukki (the 29 year old has played for eight teams across Europe,) has six goals already and Norwich plucked him from Danish Superliga side Brøndby on a free transfer! The guy was this close to jumping to the more shallow waters of the MLS and now he’s contending for the Golden Boot! And he’s doing it with a frugal approach, with 12 of his 17 shots on target. Probably not sustainable but fun nonetheless. On the other hand they have surrendered more goals than anybody. So there is still work to do if they want to stay up.
- Burnley, 1-2-2, 5 GF 6 GA, 5 points
The Clarets under Sean Dyche play the kind of solid, steady Protestant football you can set your watch to. He has assembled a roster of players who know their role, maintain formation and execute their responsibilities unselfishly and without flash or risk. It’s a formula that has kept a budget team like Burnley in the top flight more than not, but the 2017/18 season’s surprise 7th place finish may have been flying to close to the sun. The extra games they played washing out of the Europa League qualifiers haunted all of 2018/19 as they fought off relegation. Five points out of fifteen isn’t as sexy as spending the spring in France, but it’s probably more Burnley’s speed.
- Sheffield United, 1-2-2, 5 GF 6 GA, 5 points
The Blades have played pretty scrappy, fun football so far this year. With a win over Palace and impressive draws away at Bournemouth and Chelsea, Sheffield haven’t wasted points and have yet to play a game that was’t separated by more than one goal. They also haven’t scored a lot, with one of their five tallies, the equalizer against The Blues coming on an own goal off Kurt Zouma’s backside. It’s a razors edge they are dancing on, but they promise to keep dancing, we’ll keep watching.
- Brighton and Hove Albion 1-2-2, 5 GF 8 GA, 5 points
The Seagull’s 3-0 win over Watford in the opener was the high water mark for the beachside squad. An attack that leaned way to hard on the seemingly ageless Glenn Murray has puttered to a halt. In fact the only Gulls to tally in that win were shipped out on loan just before the European transfer window closed for mysterious reasons. They haven’t exactly helped by playing defense either, leaking eight goals. This is a squad that’s going down if they don’t start bending the netting more often
One of these Things is not Like the Others
- Aston Villa 1-1-3, 4 GF 6 GA, 4 points
The free spending Villains have upset Everton 2-0 (hardly an exceptional event,) and fought the Hammers to a scoreless, forgettable tie. Their four goals have been spread evenly across the roster, and with the exception of big addition Wesley’s opener against the Toffees each was equally forgettable. Aston Villa is worse than bad right now. They are boring.
- Newcastle United 1-1-3, 4 GF 8 GA, 4 points
Newcastle’s lone win has been a 1-0 upset of Spurs in their Spursiest performance of the year. It was a game in which Harry Kane and friends posessed the ball for 81% of the game and sprayed 17 shots. Unfortunately only two of those shots had any chance of alarming keeper Martin Dubravka by being on target. That’s closer to the Magpies usual output. It’s a team that spent on up top talent over the summer and they have simply not produced, generating a mere 3 shots on target out of 10 attempts per game.
- Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-3-2, 6 GF 10 GA, 3 points
After a run of three draws to start the season, as well as advancing to the group stage of the Europa League, Wolves ran out of gas over the last three fixtures. They made Everton happy for a week, then provided the backdrop for Tammy Abrahams masterful hat trick last week in a 2-5 loss. Then they hosted Portuguese side SC Braga in their first group match and lost 0-1. It’s the only the second three game losing streak in Nuno Espirito Santo’s tenure. It’s not an ideal start to say the least. This fan would have liked to see some more defensive troops added to the squad over the summer. On the other hand Wolverhampton has had a rough opening schedule. And the underlying talent is still there from last years campaign. I expect to see Wolves make a steady rise back up the table once they get to feast on some truly bad teams.
- Watford, 0-2-3, 4 GF 10 GA, 2 points
Speaking of bad teams. Absolutely nothing has got right for the Hornets this year. They can’t score. Gerard Deulofeu has yet to register despite leading the league in minutes spent in the opposing penalty box per game. They can’t stop you from scoring, Ben Foster is 36 and yet to keep a clean sheet. They sacked skipper Javi Gracia after four games Maybe things started turning around with their surprise (not surprise,) comeback against Arsenal, a 2-2 draw made possible by terrible decision making by center back Sokratis and a boneheaded penalty by alleged defender David Luiz (seriously, watch this play, Luiz waves off his teammate in order to lunge into the attackers legs.) Watford should be better than this, but they have all the hallmarks of a team spiraling out of the top flight despite their talent.
We’ll check back in like this at the halfway point of the season, until then…
“From our Haus to Yours”