Perhaps more than any other season, the 2020/21 Premier League campaign has thrown up surprise results and performances galore.
The mixture of a lack of atmosphere, incessant injury problems for some sides and the relentless nature of the fixtures after having no real summer break to speak of means that last season’s champions, Liverpool, incomprehensibly sit in sixth place at the time of writing.
FA Cup winners, Arsenal, who ended 2019/20 on a high, couldn’t buy a win for months and remain 10th, whilst near neighbours, Tottenham Hotspur, leaders at one stage, are only just above them in ninth after an incredible five losses in their last six games, the last to… wait for it… high-flyers West Ham.
Down at the bottom the story is no less intriguing.
Sheffield United, who at one stage last season looked as though a Europa League place wasn’t beyond them, and still only finished five points from a continental sojourn, have looked doomed from the first weeks of this season.
Chris Wilder’s side, until recently, appeared as if they’d beat Derby County’s worst-ever English top-flight points total of 10 by some distance.
A first win, over fellow strugglers, Newcastle, didn’t arrive until January 12, but at least they followed it up with a stunning away victory at Old Trafford and another over West Brom.
A shame that those results will be in vain as three further losses since have proved.
Mathematically, which always seems to be the caveat when addressing who’ll fall through the trap door, the Blades can stay up of course.
However, they’re already 14 points adrift and with 20 losses from 25 games are in no shape to be part of the elite next season unless Wilder pulls off – by far – the biggest escape act the Premier League have ever seen.
West Bromwich Albion’s punt on ‘Big Sam’ Allardyce looks like it has backfired spectacularly too.
Although the Baggies were getting a little stale under Slaven Bilic, to look to a manager whose outdated methods are, frankly, an embarrassment to the league in which his team are playing, was only ever going to end one way.
We are delighted to confirm the appointment of Sam Allardyce as our new Head Coach ✍️
— West Bromwich Albion (@WBA) December 16, 2020
Football has moved on from route one, but Allardyce is stuck back in the nineties. No wins from their last seven, including fixtures against those teams around them, means West Brom are only two points off the basement.
A 0-0 draw at the weekend against Burnley under normal circumstances would’ve been seen as a decent point, but a point here and there won’t win prizes. Without a transfer window buying spree to help them out of trouble, the Championship beckons.
"A manager (Sam Allardyce) whose outdated methods are, frankly, an embarrassment to the league in which his team are playing."Jason Pettigrove
Fulham, on the other hand, are building up a real head of steam under Scott Parker. The Cottagers have been roughed up a little in 2020/21, but the former tough-tackling Parker has got his team playing with the never–say–die attitude that permeated his career.
There is still some naivety to their play at times but Parker has been quick to correct any errors, and they’re picking up vital points at just the right time. A 1-1 draw at Burnley during the last midweek was hugely creditable as was a vital 1-0 win on Saturday against Sheffield United.
Fulham close the gap to three points on Newcastle ⚪️ pic.twitter.com/hPg1gNqXvh
— Premier League (@premierleague) February 20, 2021
After Newcastle’s expected loss at Old Trafford, Fulham are now just three points from the Magpies, and of all the teams from Southampton in 14th (no wins in six) downwards, the one whom you must fear for most is Steve Bruce’s side.
They’ve been awful for the most part this season and have plummeted down the division like a stone. A couple of recent wins notwithstanding, they’re a team that don’t appear to be playing for their beleaguered manager, and there’s no doubting they are in trouble at this point.
Christian Benteke’s 95th-minute winner for Crystal Palace on Monday night was cruel on Brighton, though even the point that they looked destined to earn wouldn’t have seen the Seagulls move from 16th position either.
— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) February 23, 2021
Having the best goal difference (-6) of all of the teams from Palace in 13th at this stage might not seem to be that important, but they could come to rely on such small margins at season’s end.
It really is all to play for…
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