The Premier League never fails to impress when it comes to entertainment. Many milestones have been reached including Brentford becoming the 50th different team to feature in the Premier League and Manchester United completing a 29-game unbeaten run from February 17 2020 â€“ 19 September 2021 (Gonzalez: 2022). Cristiano Ronaldo even made his highly anticipated return to the club from Juventus, where he netted 35 times during the 2020-21 campaign in Serie A. So how did Premier League sides do during the first-half of the season?
Brentford stung Arsenal on the opening day, winning 2-0 as Sergio Canosâ€™ goal helped his side to victory. The Gunners lost their following two fixtures, meaning they lost their three consecutive opening fixtures for the first time since 1954. The Beesâ€™ honeymoon period saw them draw away to Palace and Aston Villa, only conceding no goal in their opening three games. An impressive start.
Despite a shock defeat to Spurs, Manchester City flew out the blocks, winning three consecutive games and going unbeaten in seven after an open-day defeat away at Spurs. Itâ€™s what reigning champions do although shock defeat at home to Palace, and a 6-3 victory against Leicester are warning signs that City will need to be defensively strong to retain the title.
September saw the wheels crumble at Spurs, with a surprise defeat away at Palace, compounded by centre back Japhet Tangangaâ€™s red card. With Kane struggling to find the net during the first-half of the season, Spurs could ill-afford any defensive mistakes. Yet, two successive London derby defeats against Chelsea and Arsenal respectively were enough to seal Nunoâ€™s fate as Spurs manager. He was swiftly replaced by former Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, the following month after picking up 15 points from 10 games.
Norwich joined the managerial merry-go-round that month too when Daniel Farke was sacked two weeks after the Canariesâ€™ 7-0 away defeat against Chelsea. Norwich were bottom of the table, five points from safety and in need of a miracle. So, who better to replace Farke with than Dean Smith, who survived Premier League relegation with Aston Villa two seasons ago. Smithâ€™s arrival made an instant impact, going unbeaten in his opening three matches which surely would have delighted Norwich fans. Despite remaining bottom of the table after the first-half of the season, Norwich were three points from safety with plenty to play for.
Throughout November, the battle for first-place between Liverpool and Manchester City began heating up. City sunk local rivals Manchester United 2-0 at Old Trafford, courtesy of an early Eric Bailly own-goal and a sublime finish from Bernardo Silva. Hard fought victories over the following weeks against West Ham and Aston Villa respectively, reflected Cityâ€™s ability to dig deep to get results without playing fantastically well. By Christmas, City were three points clear at the top of the league with 44 points while enjoying an eight-match unbeaten run. Certainly, shades of a team hungry to achieve three consecutive league titles for the first time in its history.
Around this time, the fixture list took a battering with many players withdrawing from action due to positive COVID tests and other illnesses. Notably, several teams with smaller squads including Burnley, experienced many postponed matches during this time, restricting the games one could bet on. Bookie offers like the betting offers from Bet365 were still available for all the other premier league games.
â€œWeâ€™re at such a difficult moment in time that itâ€™s very difficult all roundâ€ (Anderson: 2022), manager Sean Dyche told The Mirror. Weeks after the New Year, Burnley had fixtures against Watford and Leicester postponed due to COVID cases within the Claretsâ€™ squad. This followed three straight defeats over the festive period for Burnley, who were booted out the FA Cup by Pennine rivals Huddersfield from the Championship, while losing Premier League fixtures against Leeds and Manchester United.
As spring fast approaches and the table begins to take shape, we head into the business end of the season. The title-race between City and Liverpool remains very close and both sides will go toe-to-toe at the Etihad Stadium on April 10. The relegation battle remains just as interesting. Newcastle manager Eddie Howe only joined in November 2021 but since then, he has hauled the Magpies out of the relegation zone and closer towards mid-table security. There remains plenty to play for this season, but many clubsâ€™ final standings will go down to the closing stages of this season.