The kettle is boiled, it's time for your halftime cup of tea, and to have a LOL at how wrong we all were in our preseason predictions 6 months ago...
Arsenal 1-- Manchester United 3. For everyone except Arsenal fans, this game was an absolute treat to watch. Without David De Gea, the score probably would have been 5-3 to Arsenal, as the Gunners battered United all game. But De Gea showed why he is best keeper in the world on current form, and United (for once) were clinical going forward. It had the zip and bite of United Arsenal games of the early 2000s and will be hard pressed to be beaten in the second half of the season for match of the year.
Wayne Rooney for Everton vs. West Ham-- Rooney has been a revelation for Everton this season. No he is not the rampant Rooney who gave Man United his prime years, but he is playing some of his best football in 4 or 5 seasons-- and has hit double digits in the Premier League for the first time since 2015. This goal in particular was stupendous-- almost like a golf swing. The ball fell to Rooney just inside Everton's half and he struck it perfectly first time, narrowly avoiding the referee, and a flailing arm of a West Ham defender as it sailed into the back of the net. Rooney said after the match that it was the best goal of his career, and it is tough to argue with that. The technique he showed to execute was simply sublime.
Special mention for Sofiane Boufal's mazy run for Southampton, and Jermain Defoe's Van Basten-esque volley for Bournemouth as well.
Player of the season:
Kevin De Bruyne-- He just seems to get better and better every week. The Belgian playmaker has been at the heart of everything good for Manchester City this season, and has added a level of consistency to his game that he has previously lacked. Will 2018 be the year that someone who isn't named Cristiano or Lionel wins the Ballon D'Or? Maybe... and De Bruyne would be a good bet if that's the case.
Young player of the season:
Raheem Sterling-- Another player who has added a clinical consistency to his game this season, having scored 12 goals with 4 assists at time of writing. It seems like he has been around for ages but Sterling only just turned 23 earlier this month and has earned his place in the Manchester City starting 11 week in week out with performances as electric as they are mature in nature. In a World Cup year, Sterling's form this season bodes well for England too. With Dele Alli struggling, Harry Kane will be in need of some pace and creative spark alongside him in Russia next summer, and Sterling looks like he could very well be the answer.
Manager of the season:
It's obviously Guardiola... but plenty has been said about the brilliance of his Manchester City team, so I'm going to send some well earned plaudits to Sean Dyche at Burnley.
Having been written off by many (myself included) at the beginning of the season, Burnley are within eyesight of the top 4. Plenty have said that they cannot keep up this form over the course of a whole season, but they continue to defy expectations. Having been in charge since 2012, Dyche is a rare breed-- a relatively young English manager, who has been given the stability and the time to build his team by the Burnley board. They are seeing the fruits of his labor now, and it was interesting to see that he turned down the opportunity to jump ship and take the Everton job. He obviously believes in the team and the project at Burnley, and has the backing of the dressing room and the board room in equal measure. It is refreshing to see a team like Burnley do so well, and I would love to see them sneak into the top 4, or one of the Europa League places at the end of the season.
Signing of the season:
Mohamed Salah-- Even the most optimistic Liverpool fan could not have predicted just how brilliant Salah has been in Liverpool red this season. Early on, he was snatching a bit at some chances, but he has become so lethal in recent weeks and is unstoppable when he builds up a head of steam. He is up there with some of the best dribblers in the world-- like Messi and Hazard, he has that low center of gravity and remarkable strength to just shrug off challenges and keep the ball even under the pressure of 2 or 3 defenders. With 15 goals and 3 assists at time of writing, Salah has been a seansation, and at 34m in today's market is proving to be an absolute bargain for Klopp's side.
Flop of the season:
Everton-- Plenty expected big things from Everton this season. Lots of money spent, an experienced manager at the helm and despite a recent up turn in form (#TheAllardyceEffect) they have been very disappointing. On closer look, the money they spent has a feel of a 13 year old with an unlimited transfer budget on Football Manager just buying players willy-nilly with no real plan or system in mind. That being said, they do have plenty of quality in the squad and if Allardyce can continue to get them ticking they could revive their season yet.
What to expect in 2018?
Can City when the league by March 30th? Possibly. It is hard to see where they will drop points this season never mind lose. The chasing pack are nowhere near consistent enough, and nowhere near good enough to put up any kind of title challenge, and so will have to battle it out for the remaining 3 spots in the top 4. On current form, my money would be on United, Chelsea, and Spurs to take those 3 remaining Champions League places.
As for the bottom end of the table, Swansea look as good as down, and West Brom haven't received anything like a new manager bounce from appointing Alan Pardew. Bournemouth are struggling to score goals, leaking at the back and look in danger. Crystal Palace and Stoke should have enough quality in their squads to keep them up but the same can not be said about Newcastle, who just need Mike Ashley to figure out what the hell he's doing with the club as soon as possible.
Oh yea, and England are gonna win the World Cup... :D