The Barclays Premier League is competitive every year in terms of who will assume the top four places in the table, and this season is no exception. Although the January transfer just closed, a lot has happened throughout the league, and some stories have stuck out. Detailed below are the top three mid-season surprises.
1 The Rise of Bournemouth
We are only in the beginning of the second half the season, but I’m going to wager that Eddie Howe, manager of AFC Bournemouth will earn Manager Of The Year. He’s absolutely brilliant at his job, having taken the Cherries from League Two to 15th in the Premier League in 3 years.
If you’re unfamiliar with the English football promotion system, that’s like having a Single A baseball team make it to the MLB, although that can’t be done. Howe played for Bournemouth, but already his managing career has outshined anything he did as a player; climbing up two leagues in 3 years as manager is a significant accomplishment. He first managed Bournemouth in 2009 at the bottom of the Football League, but then managed Burnley for two years before coming back in October 2012; it’s been a quick climb of the ladder since then.
Most people envisioned Bournemouth getting demoted back to the Championship, and rightfully so; the Premier League is incredibly difficult, especially for newly promoted teams, and Bournemouth has never played top-flight football since the team’s inception in 1890. In 23 games played this season, including today’s win at Crystal Palace, the Cherries have taken 28 points, which is 7 points clear of the relegation zone. There’s 15 matches left, but Eddie Howe and Co. have already proved they can play at this level, having beaten Manchester United and Chelsea, amongst five other triumphs so far.
With young talents like Matt Ritchie, Josh King, Junior Stanislaus, Tyrone Mings (out for season) and loanee Juan Iturbe, Bournemouth should be able to score enough to stay in the league, and they still don’t have their main striker, Callum Wilson, who has been hurt since September.
I see Bournemouth claiming a spot or two above relegation this year, a fine accomplishment for a team brand new to the BPL.
2 The (Even More Surprising) Rise of Leicester
Leicester are a good team playing like a great one. Jamie Vardy is out of his mind, playing at a level you wouldn’t expect from someone who is just finding their way into the Premier League at his age (29). Having carved his name into the history books when he broke the record for consecutive BPL games scored, he’s gone further with translating that into great team success, as they sit at the top of the table. A team that goes in and out of the Premier League and wasn’t expected to make much of a splash this year, has been taking over the league with high quality football on a weekly basis.
Back in August you might have envisioned Chelsea being in Leicester’s current spot, and Leicester in a place on the table near the bottom, just like Chelsea is today, but they’ve switched roles, it seems. Riyah Mahrez is in great form as well; both he and Vardy have proved to be a great duo in the opposing team’s third of the field.
Leicester have beaten some of the top English clubs, including Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool, and Tottenham, but how consistently they’ve been able to get points is an even bigger deal; the Foxes are side that show no signs of slowing down. As the season progresses they might be able to take advantage of their light schedule, compared to other top clubs that are playing European football as well, which gets draining come Spring. This should enable them to keep their starting 11 fresh while other sides are forced to bring in reserves, potentially losing points in the process.
Arsenal and Manchester City are poised to take the title as well, so Leicester will need to stay in top form if they have any chance of taking home silverware at the end of the season.
3 No Major Transfers
While there was some transfer activity in the Premier League, not much of it was newsworthy; there weren’t any huge transfer fees or last minute deals for big players, but some teams did make interesting moves during the transfer window. You can check out the five Barclays Premier League winter transfers you need to know right here.
Two small clubs are out to collect heads, and no big moves were made; that is English football in the winter.