Beyond the halfway point of the Premier League Season

Mohamed Salah of Liverpool courtesy of Wiki Commons.

By David Prendeville

We’ve crossed the halfway point of the Premier League season and Liverpool fans are understandably giddy, as they lead the table, four points ahead of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.

It could have been even better had Liverpool not lost to City recently. Given the solidity with which Liverpool have been defending all season, however, four points remain quite a strong lead and it’s hard to imagine them dropping too many at this juncture.

It’s really only a question of nerve. Can Liverpool hang on and win their first title in twenty-nine years? There are also the recent memories of leads literally ‘slipping’. City seems to have overcome their Christmas wobble and will be sure to capitalise if Liverpool do have any blips themselves in the remainder of the season.

Manchester United have enjoyed a recent upsurge in form under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. At the time of writing, he has currently won his first seven games in a row, including an impressive 1-0 win away at Spurs, of course, managed by the man many favour as the next permanent manager at United, Mauricio Pochettino.

While United have been undeniably impressive since Solskjaer’s appointment, getting the best out of players such as Pogba, Rashford and Martial, it’s hard not to think that this is simply down to the fact that he is anybody but Jose Mourinho.

The much-decorated Portuguese manager seems in recent times to have gained a penchant for not only losing dressing rooms, but also the plot. If Solskjaer carries on this form, though, there’s a good chance he will be offered the job on a permanent basis.

I can’t help but imagine this will be another costly mistake for United. Solskjaer’s managerial record with Cardiff was fairly woeful and there is a long history of successful caretaker managers being then given the job permanently and failing. Roberto Di Matteo, after winning the Champions League with Chelsea, is a good recent example.

It’s going to be a competitive race to join Liverpool and Manchester City in the top four. You would imagine Tottenham have enough of a lead not be caught, though injuries to Kane and Alli are a worry for them.

Chelsea’s early season form has dipped but they did sign the striker they’ve been crying out for in Gonzalo Higuain, currently the most eye-catching signing of a cautious January transfer window.

Arsenal haven’t been too far off this season either and then there’s United’s aforementioned form to consider. It should be an interesting three-way battle.

At the wrong end of the table, realistically, it looks like a fight between Burnley, Newcastle, Cardiff and Fulham, with Huddersfield, likely to be already doomed.

In terms of Irish interest, it was great to see Michael Obafemi get his first goal for Southampton over Christmas. Hopefully, the first of many for the 18-year-old.

Declan Rice has also been excelling of late. He’s even being linked with a £50-million move to Manchester City. A final decision on his allegiance is expected soon. Let’s hope we see him tog out in the green jersey at the Aviva in March.