With New Year’s Day fast approaching and 2013 just around the corner, all twenty clubs in the Premier League will be hoping for bigger and better results. Just what they need differs from team to team but every manager knows who or what they want.
And with a New Year, comes New Year’s resolutions. Welcome to Part Three.
Queens Park Rangers – I promise to win another game at least and try and be only the second team in history to avoid relegation after being bottom at Christmas.
QPR have had a horrible starting half to the season and with only one win from twenty games, The Hoops are heading headfirst into the Championship. Mark Hughes promised to leave the club no worse than the previous season, where they finished 17th. Half a year on, they sit bottom of the league and level on points with the team above them, Reading.
West Bromwich Albion, who are the only team to survive after being bottom in December, ended that season with 34 points, a target that looks desperately far from reality. Now under the helm of old reliable Harry Redknapp, their form has picked up but they are still a far cry from a Premier League team.
Three points may be hard to come by but with fixtures at home against Liverpool, Man City and Man United, the London side can hope to pick up points from the big clubs at Loftus Road. May 2013 be better for the troubled club.
Reading – I promise to make the most of the home fixtures as well as try and keep a clean sheet.
They may be languishing at the wrong end of the table but recent matches have shown that Reading’s performances aren’t as bad as their results suggest. In the last two months, aside from Sunderland and Arsenal, Brian McDermott’s men have only lost by a one goal margin. The game against Manchester United, where they led twice only to end up losing 4-3 illustrates the capability The Royals have.
The only problem Reading have is that they cannot finish games with a clean sheet and are struggling to keep their defence from leaking sloppy goals. Better, more experienced defensive options need to be bought to the Madejski Stadium in hope of surviving relegation. From last season, too many players are still at Championship level and need to step up their game in order to have any chance of survival.
Southampton – I promise to gather a consistent run of form and to avoid dropping back into the Championship.
They may be in the relegation zone but Southampton have had a pretty mixed return to the Premier League since their promotion last season and fans may not be too upset with their position so far. After a tough opening four defeats where they lost to Manchester City, Wigan, Manchester United and Arsenal, the Saints finally found their feet with a win over Aston Villa and have gone on to better things.
It’s not always easy to perform well when you’ve spent so long away from the top league but clubs like Swansea have shown that if you can play good football, results will follow. The most important note for Nigel Adkins is that his side are beating the teams around them which is the best aspect any club can have in a relegation battle. Although I believe Southampton will struggle, they look to have the quality to survive this season.
Stoke City – I promise to ignore the hate and continue playing our way.
Much has been said about Stoke’s style of play with many going as far as stating they would be a more suitable rugby team. Yet with results looking very favourable and an unbeaten home record that stretches to seventeen games, including a 3-3 spectacle against Southampton, who’s to say what Stoke are doing is wrong? The best way to tackle your critics is to show what you can do regardless of what they say.
And Stoke are doing just that.
A hugely impressive 3-1 victory over Liverpool emphasised the system Tony Pulis has deployed at the Britannia Stadium and it is safe to say big clubs now fear the visit away to Stoke. As long as the club quietly keep on performing the way they do and continue to pick up points, Pulis and the fans will be very happy people.
Sunderland – I promise to forget about the poor start and keep reaching for a higher place.
With manager Martin O’Neill stating in a press conference that he felt Sunderland’s troubles are far from over in December, any spectator can tell the Black Cats have had a rough time. Four points from their opening four games didn’t look so harmless at the beginning of the season but when one win in only the next six matches followed, things were looking bleak at the Stadium of Light.
However through a fortunate turn of events, Sunderland found victory over Fulham after Brede Hangeland was sent off in the first half hour. From then on, O’Neill’s side have suffered another dip in form before gaining the biggest three points of their season with a 1-0 win over champions Manchester City.
As inconsistent as Sunderland are, they have the capability to pull something spectacular out of the bag and it is only a matter of time before Adam Johnson and Steven Fletcher click together. Both major signings in the summer, only Fletcher has proven he is up to scratch and with Johnson largely anonymous until now, maybe the New Year will prove fruitful.