We sat down with LV BET’s UK and Ireland brand ambassador, Jason McAteer, to get his take on the Premier League so far.
Premier League so Far
I think the Premier League has been brilliant so far. COVID-19 issues around Christmas time put a lot of doubt into everyone’s mind with games getting cancelled, but we seem to have come through that and picked up where we left off.
I think the quality of football has been fantastic.
At the beginning of the season, when I was asked about who would be challenging, I went for Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United. Manchester United have dropped away. A new manager has come in, and he hasn’t really been able to turn it around for them. Chelsea also seem to have dropped off, especially around the Christmas period. A couple of draws and a loss against Manchester City has left them with a mountain to climb, and it’s really come down to a two-horse race on whose going to win the Premier League. As far as relegation goes, it’s fascinating. I think as many as eight teams could possibly go down. We’re seeing teams changing managers and investing heavily in the January transfer window.
It’s been a fantastic season so far.
Premier League Winners
I think when you look at the league as we stand today, the first-place gap looks significant, but Liverpool do have a game in hand, which leaves the gap at only six points. Six points is very doable. I always feel that Liverpool and City push themselves to ridiculous levels, which we see amongst rivals in sports; they push themselves to produce ridiculous stats – we see phenomenal quality come out of these situations.
I think City and Liverpool both have the credentials to win the title, they both know how to do it, they’ve both been in this position before, and they know what it takes. The pressure of Chelsea and Manchester United slipping away will certainly help the two teams, leaving them without any real competition from below. They’ll push each other all the way.
I think for Liverpool, once City get into the realms of 10, 12 points, that’s when they’re out of sight. You can’t see them losing three or four games with Liverpool winning all of theirs. So, while it’s still six points, it’s still very doable. Liverpool are nicely tucked in behind them, and they certainly will push them all the way. There’s a new singing coming into Liverpool, and they’ve got each other still to play at the Etihad, but Liverpool away from home this season have been very good. It’s still all to play for.
Arsenal have had a resurgence, haven’t they?
The Premier League is all they’ve got left to play for since they got knocked out of both cups. Their EFL Cup semi-final against Liverpool would have been really disappointing for Mikel Arteta, who has changed it around.
After they got beat 5-0 by City, they made seven changes against Norwich. It was a big ask; his job was on the line. They went on a good run with a single defeat in 12 games. Massive turnaround for them. Some of the senior players stepped up and rolled up their sleeves, and the younger players have really come to the fore, and their quality is certainly coming through. You put it all together, and they’ve produced fantastic performances and results. I certainly wouldn’t rule Arsenal out of the top four.
Rangnick has still got a job to do. He still needs to find a team for United. He still needs to find a philosophy and keep a lot of players happy. I’m not sure whether he’s got the credentials to do it. I know that’s a big shout, but there are some big egos in that dressing room. He’s got to keep many players happy, and he’s got to find some performances quickly.
I think I’ll give third place to Chelsea. I think they’ve got enough and they’ve got a very good manager, even though they won’t catch Liverpool or City. I’m going to throw in Arsenal as the fourth-place finishers.
It’s a fascinating battle. There’s a lot more to get into at the bottom of the table than at the top.
If you look at Newcastle – I predicted them to go down at the beginning of the season; I didn’t envision the buyout and throwing a sizable amount of money into the pot. I think they’ve bought well. They’ve spent over £80million this window. You can see from the players they’ve brought in; you can see that a few of them will be long-term signings. You could say that the likes of Trippier and Wood have been brought in to keep them in the Premier League – good quality players that have been around and know what it takes to fight for everything, they’ll be very good in the dressing room. With the money that they’ve outlaid, I think they just have enough to stay away from relegations.
Other teams are starting to panic. We’ve seen sides release managers; Watford have done it, which they do every five minutes, don’t they? Roy Hodgson has gone in and found a clean sheet from somewhere (0-0 vs Burnley). I think Watford, with Roy, they’ve got enough to score some goals, but it’s all about whether Roy can continue to make up their defence and find an identity for them. We know they can do that – become difficult to beat. So, Watford could claw their way out of it.
Burnley always do well with Sean Dyche towards the end of the season. They start putting results together, but they’ve lost goals without Chris Wood. Whether that ends up impacting them – we’ll need to find out.
I’ll throw Burney in the mix as one of the teams that could get relegated.
Norwich have changed their manager a few months ago. Dean Smith going in there – knows his way around at the lower end of the division. I thought he was brought in with one eye on them, going down and bringing them back up – as he did with Villa. I just think they’re going to run out of steam come the end of the season and drop back into it.
I’ll go for Norwich as a relegation candidate.
Another team that you need to throw into the mix, and one that I think if they don’t click very quickly, is Everton. They’re in freefall. I think that when you look at the teams that have changed their managers, they’ve changed them with managers that know the division and what it takes around April time to put some points on the board and stay away from relegation. Frank has never been in that situation.
He’s done ok with Derby before he went in with Chelsea. It’s a different proposition winning trophies to a relegation battle. I dismay at Everton. Rafa’s left them without an identity, no confidence. If Frank doesn’t find some quick results, Everton are in trouble.
Player of The Year
I’m going to go with Mohamed Salah.
Being a Liverpool fan, I see a lot of him. He stands out when it comes to his performances. Some of the goals he’s scored have been phenomenal; the goal against City was ridiculous. He seems to be doing it at such a consistent level, doesn’t he? Season after season, after season, he just keeps producing 8,9 on ten performances.
He’s become more complete this season. He doesn’t give the ball away as much, and I think his decision making has been a lot better. His partnership with Trent has been phenomenal – it’s one of the big reasons Liverpool challenge as they do for all major honours.
He’s got an EFL Cup Final coming up at the end of the month, and the Champions Leagues starts up again – a competition in which he has featured heavily. He’s put some fantastic performances in during the Group Stages.
Yeah, I’m going to go with Mohamed Salah.
Young Player of The Year
Some fantastic young players have come through – and developed as well.
You would think it’s a foregone conclusion with Phil Foden still being at such a tender age and putting in the performances he has with City. He’ll probably be heavily backed.
But, you’ve also got to look at the likes of Saka. After his disappointment in the summer; to come back as strong as he has, then go through all he did with Arsenal at the beginning of the season and still be a standout player. He’s put in fantastic performances, and he’s growing in confidence. I don’t think we should rule him out.
Conor Gallagher has been a standout for Palace. On loan from Chelsea, he’s scored seven goals this season already.
One of the disappointments of the season has been Harvey Elliott’s injury. He got into the Liverpool team early in the season and had some outstanding performances before his horrible injury at Leeds. Whether he gets enough game time between now and the end of the season remains to be seen; if he does, he’s one to look out for.
If I had to pick a player right now, I’d go for Phil Foden.
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