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Liverpool's Rise, City's Revival, and United-Chelsea Struggles

 Liverpool's Rise, City's Revival, and United-Chelsea Struggles

Liverpool's Rise
Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (centre) celebrates scoring their side's fourth goal of the game from the penalty spot during the Premier League match at Anfield, Liverpool. Picture date: Monday January 1, 2024(Image-Getty) 

The English Premier League is halfway through this season. Out of 38 matches, all but 4 teams have already played 20 matches each. As expected, the top league of English football is spreading great excitement in the middle of the season. Liverpool, who could not be in the top four last season, are now on top. Among them, the biggest surprise of the season is Aston Villa occupying the 2nd place. Current champions Manchester City have lost their way at number 3. Although they have played one match less than Liverpool and Villa.

Arsenal have also remained in the title race despite losing their way in recent times. While these four teams are challenging each other for the title, Manchester United and Chelsea are finding themselves lost. United and Chelsea, considered superpowers in English football, are ranked 8th and 10th respectively. Newcastle, who made a surprise finish in the top four last season, are not in a very good position either.

On the other hand, Luton Town, Burnley and Sheffield United are leading the relegation race. Merseyside club Everton, who somehow avoided relegation last year, are still hovering around the relegation zone. All in all, the first part of the season in the Premier League was full of surprises, thrills and excitement. News agency AFP has picked out five highlights from this exciting first part of the season.

Return to Liverpool

Last season was one to forget for Liverpool. The team finished the season in fifth place after falling out of the title race after the first few rounds. As a result, they have to play in the Europa League after losing the opportunity to play in the Champions League. At that time, many saw the end of the Jurgen Klopp era in Liverpool. It was said that the days of Klopp's magic wand at Liverpool were over. Liverpool have struggled in midfield throughout the season. Lacking effective midfielders, they couldn't do well either in attack or defence. Even Darwin Núñez's £10.8m transfer seemed to have failed. Klopp was cornered in such a situation.

After a failed season, Liverpool insisted on strengthening the midfield in a change of team. The team consisted of Dominic Soboslai, Alexis McAllister and Wataru Endo. But the bigger relief for Liverpool than the new players was the return to form of goalkeeper Alisson Becker, captain Virgil von Dijk and forward Mohamed Salah.

Especially in defence, Von Dijk and Salah have been having great seasons so far. Currently, the Anfield team is at the top with 45 points in 20 matches. However, Liverpool will have to play for more than a month without Salah as he is going to play in the African Cup of Nations for Egypt. Liverpool's title success depends on how Liverpool handle the period without Salah.

City on the rise

Manchester City won the Club World Cup title just last month. Apart from that, the month was uneventful for City. At this time, they won only one of the six matches. The team's condition is so bad that coach Pep Guardiola himself has expressed concern about their Champions League play next season. But the team that won the treble last season is now signaling a turnaround. They have won two matches in a row since Christmas.

Now they are 5 points behind Liverpool who are at the top by playing one match less. City points 40 in 19 matches. Last season, however, City did not have a good first half. But it turned around in the second half. This time, City hopes to return to the top by showing dominance in the next part. Meanwhile, Kevin de Bruyne, the 'heart of the midfield', has returned from injury. The Belgian star's return will surely boost City's strength. It remains to be seen whether City can turn around in the second half like last season.

Thrill-seeking Aston Villa

Aston Villa
Sander Berge of Burnley is challenged by Douglas Luiz of Aston Villa during the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Burnley FC at Villa Park on December 30, 2023 in Birmingham, England(Image-Getty) 

Perhaps one of the biggest surprises this season is Aston Villa. The Villa Park club are having a great season under Unai Emery. Meanwhile, the team is number 2 in the list with 42 points in 20 matches. Their position in the points table could have been better had they not dropped points in two of the last three matches. Not only did Villa win the match with a bang, but their performance was also impressive. Let's talk about the 1-0 win against City. They cornered City in that match and won. Now it remains to be seen how their performance will be in the last part of the season.

This is no Manchester United

Alejandro Garnacho of Manchester United
Alejandro Garnacho of Manchester United and Moussa Niakhate of Nottingham Forest during the Premier League match between Nottingham Forest and Manchester United at City Ground on December 30, 2023 in Nottingham, England. (Image-Getty) 

Manchester United's last season under Erik ten Hoag was one of hope. The Old Trafford club also got a Champions League ticket from the top four. But Ten Haag's team is seeing the exact opposite in the new season. They lost 14 games before the end of the year. Knocked out of Champions League group stage. Their position in the Premier League is number 8.

Rumors of Ten Haag's layoff have also surfaced several times. Even if he is not laid off yet, he may lose his job if the team does not return to the rhythm soon. There has also been some change in the ownership of the team. Sir Jim Ratcliffe, owner of British multinational chemical company Ineos, has bought 25 percent of United's shares. The question is, can the new owner change the fortunes of United in the new year?

Chelsea's 'flop-show'

Chelsea is perhaps the biggest example of money not changing everything. The club has spent money like water to buy players. One star after another has also been added to the team. But success is like a golden deer for the team. They finished 12th last season. This time it is now at number 10. Coach Mauricio Pochettino is also under pressure due to such a failure of the team. Now they are thinking of buying new players in the winter transfer to change the fortunes of the team. However, there are fears that it will bring about any significant change at all.

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