My piece for The Boot Room on what the rest of the season holds after a fascinating first half of 2016/17
The end of 2016 sees most of Europe’s top leagues take a break from what has been a fascinating first half of the 2016/17 season.
Chelsea lead the pack by six points but only four points separate second place Liverpool from fifth placed Tottenham. Manchester United seems to finally be picking up some steam and can certainly challenge if they get through this period unscathed. Last seasons surprise title winners, Leicester City, are only three points away from safety but a period without Champions League football should bring some good results. Of the promoted sides, Middlesbrough and Burnley are almost halfway to the vaunted 38-point safety net.
There have been the usual eye-popping results in the Premier League so far this season with Leicester thrashing Manchester City, Bournemouth’s comeback win over Liverpool and the Swansea/Crystal Palace slug-fest among them. Arsenal, however, continue to be the enigma they are each season. There will likely be more twists and turns before the season ends but it might come down to a race between Liverpool and Chelsea given their lack of European commitment.
The biggest surprise so far is in France, where Nice hold a two point lead heading into the break. Lucien Favre’s side have done extremely well so far, beating Monaco, Marseille and Lyon at home while tying Paris Saint-Germain away. The French champions lie in third, behind Monaco and ahead of Lyon, while Marseille have moved up to sixth. PSG’s domestic form has been shocking, with four losses already to date, and the recently appointed Unai Emery is on the hot seat. Just like the leaders in the Premier League, Nice have no European commitments while their main challengers do. Monaco may just have the best chance to haul them in if Emery can’t right the ship but Nice have certainly made Ligue 1 much more interesting this season.
Juventus haven’t been as dominant as in recent seasons but the Old Lady leads the league with a game in hand on her rivals. Roma and Napoli continue to fight it out for the role of challenger but Juventus has beaten both teams already this season. The surprise of the season in Italy is the resurgence of AC Milan. Vincenzo Montella’s reputation has certainly been enhanced by the work he has done reviving a fallen giant. Without much money to work with, and a mixed bag of talent at his disposal, Montella has his side sitting fifth and in the hunt for a Champions League spot. Only two point separate Milan from second place Roma and if they get a few reinforcements in January they could solidify a Champions League spot. While Montella hopes to end the season as he started a fellow Italian is trying to undertake a similar revival in La Liga with Valencia.
Each league has had its share of surprises in the first half of the season and there’s more to come.
There have been managerial changes aplenty at some of Europe’s top sides to go along with the usual player transfers. Those changes have undoubtedly played a role in the current scenario in Europe’s top leagues as new managers taking time adapting to new clubs and, sometimes, leagues has certainly had an effect.
The first half of the 2016/17 season brought plenty of surprising moments on the pitch. The big teams each have their issues to deal with, whether it be new managers, players in poor form or navigating multiple schedules. There’s sure to be more in store as we get into the business end of the season.
I’ve been thinking about this since the beginning of the season. It’s still early days but some of the performances and results have been fascinating, and hopefully they hold up.
The topsy turvy nature of the Premier League is old news at this point but there is a valid argument that things are going as expected as the top six sides in the country currently occupy the top six spots. They’ll vary position etc throughout the season but you get the feeling that overall that won’t change.
As the article points out, there’s plenty going on in Europe’s other top leagues.
Newly promoted Red Bull Leipzig is right on Bayern Munich’s coattails while Borussia Dortmund sit in fifth. That’s down to underwhelming performances from those two. In France, Nice leads all comers with Mario Balotelli heading the attack, though their lead was cut to three points before the international break. Still, Monaco look likely to give Paris Saint-Germain a good run for their money this season. The Serie A remains the least suspenseful league with Juventus’ four point lead. AC Milan’s bright start to the season has made things exciting and there’s always the possibility that Roma and/or Napoli finally put up a good challenge. And La Liga is fun as always. Six points separate first from fifth and the performances of Sevilla, Villarreal and Athletic Bilbao mean things won’t be easy for Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid. They’ve all suffered shock results to lower teams already as well so there’s sure to be more drama as the season goes on.
Definitely sad to see Stuttgart’s long, slow spiral to this position. Some really good players have come through that club but, as the article shows, a lot of poor decision delayed the inevitable. Wolfsburg had a poor season but they can bounce back with a couple good moves. I think they could stick with Hecking at least one more year and see what happens.
Nothing much to say here beyond that I agree with the sentiment of the author in the second to last sentence.
But this weekend, the game proved that it can also be ahead of the curve with the spirit of solidarity and empathy for others which it generates.
For starters, they’ll continue to unearth gems and produce good, young talented players. I think the Bundesliga will be fine, considering a lot of those players are not German it opens up possibilities for academy players. Sure, there may be a drop off in some cases but the clubs can all adjust. I don’t think Wolfsburg will miss De Bruyne too much unless Draxler still has his injury issues.
Some good questions, the focus will certainly be on the bigger teams, Bayern Munich and Dortmund but the Bundesliga has plenty of intrigue in 2015/16.
I can understand why the decision-makers in Germany feel such moves are necessary but hopefully they work to ensure the fans aren’t put out too much by those changes. Unlikely but one can hope.
Good breakdown here of what Germany’s top teams need this summer.
Good piece, interesting read.
As suspected after last week’s results, four of our seven leagues now have champions. Juventus in the Serie A and Chelsea in the Premier League have joined Bayern Munich and PSV in winning the title in their leagues. Now only La Liga, Ligue 1 and the Primeira division remain.
It doesn’t seem likely that any of those will go to the wire but they are still tight enough that things could change.
Primeira Liga(31) and Eredivisie(Round 32)
Benfica still holds a three-point lead in the league after a big win over the weekend, while Porto and Sporting Lisbon also won.
No games for the Eredivisie this weekend with only two more rounds remaining. Not like it matters I guess.
Ligue 1(Round 35)
Paris Saint-Germain has made up their game in hand and now officially have a three-point lead with three games remaining. All the other big boys won as well, with Lyon keeping pace and Monaco retaining their Champions League spot ahead of now fourth-placed Marseille by five points. If Marseille can beat Monaco in their next encounter then the duo could switch places before the season is done.
Ligue 1 highlights here
Serie A(Round 34)
Juventus decided now was the time to clinch their Serie A title after two rounds during the previous week. A 1-0 victory over Sampdoria was enough, while Roma won to retain second place and Napoli, despite a win, still remain in a Europa League spot. AC Milan lost to Napoli and still remain mid-table but Inter are sneaking closer to a Europa league despite a draw.
Serie A highlights here
Bayern Munich did Bayer Leverkusen a favour during the weekend by fielding a weakened side which allowed Leverkusen to win and close the gap to Borussia Mochengladbach to two points. Schalke won while Borussia Dortmund drew but the chance of getting into Europe is still their for Jurgen Klopp’s side as they are only three points off a place.
Bundesliga highlights here
La Liga(Round 35)
Two high-scoring victories during the week keep Barcelona at the top of the table as they followed up a 6-0 win over Getafe with an 8-0 win over Cordoba. Real Madrid kept pace so the two-point lead remains but they are both pulling away from the pack. Only four points separate third place from fourth and three points separate fourth place from fifth. Atletico Madrid, Valencia and Sevilla are the teams in those positions, in that order, and that could change when Atletico Madrid play Barcelona.
La Liga highlights here
Premier League(Round 35)
Three games left to go and the “best league in the World” is relegated to a relegation battle and fight for Champions League spots. We shall see what happens. Chelsea huffed and puffed to the title with a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace, Arsenal beat Hull, Manchester United lost to WBA, Liverpool beat QPR and Manchester City beat Tottenham. The top six side remain the top six sides though.
Premier League highlights here