Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Breaking Down The Premier League Contenders and Pretenders Midway Through The Year

So it's almost (or it is depending on when you're reading this) the winter break. The points separating the top teams in the Premier League are slim and this is turning out to be one of the most exciting seasons in a while. So let's look at the contenders and pretenders in the Premier League as it stands right now.

The table is as follows right now:
1. Arsenal - 35 pts
2. Liverpool - 30 pts
3. Chelsea - 30 pts
4. Manchester City - 29 pts
5. Everton - 28 pts
6. Tottenham - 27 pts
7. Newcastle - 26 pts
8. Southampton - 23 pts
9. Manchester United - 22 pts
10. Swansea - 19 pts
11. Aston Villa - 19 pts
12. Hull City - 18 pts
13. Stoke City - 17 pts
14. Norwich - 17 pts
15. West Brom - 15 pts
16. Cardiff - 14 pts
17. West Ham - 13 pts
18. Fulham - 13 pts
19. Crystal Palace - 13 pts
20. Sunderland - 8 pts

The point spread of the Premier League in the top half of the table is pretty even, which makes for a fun second half of the season, hopefully.


Arsenal: Arsenal coming into the season would have probably been dubbed "elite pretenders" the perennial 4th place finishers have had a flying start to the season and have found themselves at the top of the table for almost the whole year so far. Arsene Wenger looked to be on the hot seat coming into the year, but now he looks certain to be offered a new contract this season. The addition of Mesut Ozil plus the improved play of Aaron Ramsey, Olivier Giroud, and the whole defense has seen Arsenal seemingly take the step towards a title.

Manchester City: The team from the blue half of Manchester are up to their normal tricks, scoring lots of goals at home and trying to grind games out away from home. Sergio Aguero is firing on all cylinders, while support players such as Yaya Toure, Jesus Navas, and the reinvigorated Samir Nasri have City in great position should they stay in the top 5 going into the winter break. The keeper situation may cause problems for City, but new boss Pellegrini will find a way to make it work out.

Chelsea: Can you ever count out a Jose Mourinho squad from an EPL title challenge? The Special One returned to London this season and has had a pretty good start to the season, even if he wouldn't tell you so himself. He still hasn't lost a game as manager of Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and with his midfield playing so well you almost forget that their strike force is abysmal, almost.

Everton: What the heck? Who would have thought Everton would be on a contender list for EPL title challengers? Well they are on mine, solid back to back performances against Manchester United and Arsenal have morale higher than ever for the Merseyside club. Amazingly they have only lost 1 game so far this season. The on loan duo of Lukaku and Deulofeu are proving to be great pick ups for Everton and Roberto Martinez is looking more and more like a managerial genius each week.


Manchester United: Don't get angry, United fans. You had to see this one coming. Manchester United are a shell of themselves compared to last season. No Sir Alex to be that rock on the sidelines and David Moyes is looking out of his league managing one of the biggest (if not THE biggest) club in the world right now. All eyes are on United to see how they battle during the second half of the season. If they add some quality in the midfield during the January transfer window we could be talking about a completely different United team.

Liverpool: Liverpool are having one of their best seasons in recent memory, but I still don't think they're good enough to put them into the contender discussion. They have the best strike duo in the league with Suarez and Sturridge, but that will only carry you so far. I see Liverpool trailing off into 4th this season. But even if that is as high as they finish, that is a great success. Brendan Rodgers should be everyones Manager of the Season so far.

Southampton/Newcastle: No disrespect to either club, both are having phenomenal seasons considering where most expected them to be this far into the season, but there is no real threat to the top teams in the league coming from either.

So there you have it. My contenders and pretenders so far in the Premier League. What do you think? Did I miss any team that should be on either list? Let me know in the comments below or on twitter @theinformsoccer

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Best and Worst Case Scenarios For The United States World Cup Draw

By now most of you should have seen the pots for the World Cup 2014 draw. If you haven't you can view the pots and the reasons teams ended up in what pots here.

Many, like myself, looked at the pots and thought, well this could either go terribly wrong or amazingly well for the United States. The USA has the possibility of drawing a very daunting group of death, but also the possibility of drawing a group they should cruise out of. Here are the best and worst case scenarios.

Best: The best draw for the US would come with them ending up in a group comprised of Switzerland, Algeria, USA, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Switzerland is easily identified as the weakest of the Pot 1 teams and every country in the other pots will be itching to have them drawn into theirs. Algeria is ranked 26th in the world and look to be this years whipping boys out of the tournament. The USMNT has already defeated Bosnia-Herzegovina recently and that was not on US soil. So their chances of coming up big against them again are very high. That group would give the US the best chance of getting out of the group stage on top. Alternates for a good draw for the US out of each pot are Colombia out of Pot 1. Nigeria, Cameroon, or Ecuador out of Pot 2. Croatia or Greece out of Pot 4.

Worst: Now comes the part every United States fan is dreading will not happen, the USMNT drawing the group of death. Lets start with Pot 1. Basically every team besides Switzerland and possibly Colombia in this pot will cause huge problems for the USMNT. It's evident the United States doesn't have the talent to match those teams at full strength, so drawing Spain, Germany, Brazil, Belgium, Argentina, or Uruguay could spell a sure loss in the games they play against them. Out of Pot 2 it has to be Ghana. The USMNT could find themselves in yet another matchup against Ghana, and that team is one that will haunt the USMNT. The US will also want to avoid the Ivory Coast. While vastly underachieving in the big tournaments so far, they are a team full of talent and capable of being a dark horse in the tournament. From Pot 4 its Italy, Netherlands, and Ronaldo...I mean Portugal. All three of those teams have deep squads and the ability to go deep in the tournament. The US would do well to avoid them if possible.

Now with that over I must say this, the best and worst draws are all in your own opinion. The USMNT is a scrappy team, they like to play the underdog role. In my opinion those are the best and worst scenarios for the USMNT. Yes, they are capable of showing up at any given moment and producing a win for a ages against a top team, but in the World Cup everyone is playing at their absolute highest level. No harm in the USMNT to want to avoid some of the more dangerous countries and watch them knock each other off.

What do you think? What are the best and worst draws the USMNT could get?