Half Way. Happy?
So we've reached the half way stage. Are we all happy? Is the season delivering exactly what you expected?
Regulars will know I got caught with a couple predictions last season! In my defence no-one saw what was about to unfold at Leicester, but yes, I had said they would go down! Wrong. Badly wrong! I also thought West Ham would struggle, but Slaven Bilic delivered a wonderful season for Hammers' fans. I was pleased for him. He's a nice guy.
Let's be honest, neither Leicester nor West Ham are as good as their season suggested last time out. I think what we're seeing this time is much nearer the mark - so I was only 12 months out. That's my excuse anyway!
This year I went for Swansea, Hull and Watford to go down. No one likes being right about predicting an unhappy season for a club, but two out of three looks very likely to go. I expected Sunderland to struggle, but it's been tougher for them than I thought it might be. I still think they've got enough to sqeak clear again, but they're trying their best to make a mess of it. I still think there's a really good chance Watford will fall into trouble. You can't keep beating the 'system' as they do. Eventually it catches up with you.
That's why I thought Swansea would struggle as well. Huw Jenkins got a little bit too clever for his own good there. Yes, he did a brilliant job backing the right people to propel the club from where he found it all the way to Wembley and the Premier League, but that's the point, he 'backed' the 'right people'. I think Mr Jenkins started believing too much in all the good publicity he was getting and somehow convinced himself he was the reason for Swansea's success. He wasn't - and a couple of dreadful appointments have caught him out.
Let's get this clear - I like Bob Bradley. He's another of the good guys, but what chance did he really have? You're in a relegation battle, because your previous appointment was poor, and you compound that mistake with another. Brilliant. Oh, and why are you having to make so many managerial appointments? The answer to that is because you forced the best guy for the job out of the door by meddling with his backroom appointments. Garry Monk isn't doing too badly at Leeds is he?
I said in a tweet recently - when are the people that make these decisions going to take responsibility for them? It was the same at Villa last season. Who thought Remi Garde was a good idea?
Swansea are on the cusp of doing it again. I wish Paul Clement all the luck in the world - he's going to need it. My choice would've been Chris Coleman. He's got the experience required for a fight like the one Swansea are in. He's an X Premier League manager, coming off the back of a wonderful Euro's with Wales. He's played for the club, and he's a Swansea boy. What more do you need?
The big 6 have re-taken their rightful positions at the top, but not yet in the order I expected. I thought United would win the title, but they're too far off now, although as Leicester proved, anything is possible! The irony of United's recent good form
is that it's largely down to half a dozen players that Mourinho had written off after deciding he didn't want them! I can also tell you that he'd said to one of them recently 'I made a mistake buying you in the summer. You can leave in January'. He's changed his mind now! I'll let you work out who the player was.
Conti has done a fantastic job at Chelsea. Simply brilliant. They've got to be favourites to win it now.
What a job Klopp is doing as well. If there's a team to stop Chelsea then it has to be Liverpool. Again, I didn't expect to see so much improvement so soon.
Arsenal are simply doing what Arsenal do - no more - no less. Spurs are interesting. They're finding some of last season's sparkle now - particularly Kane and Dele. They won't win it, but they're heading for another top 4 finish.
As we enter the New Year it's City that have got the problems - 5th, and that's after spending £100m+ in the summer.
Guardiola is finding out exactly what I thought he would - that without Messi, Xavi and Iniesta - without Muller, Robben and Levandowski, the 'project' isn't quite as easy as it was at Barca and Bayern.
Remember all the rubbish four games in? I read one piece suggesting 'Pep has sorted City out in a month'. What absolute nonsense
Look, Guardiola is a class act and he's had stunning success in his career so far, but he's had some
good fortune along the way as well. Barca weren't bad when he inherited them were they? Rijkaard had turned them into winners again. And he wasn't going to struggle at Bayern was he?
The gig at City is different. I understood why he wanted Joe Hart out. Hart was a big influence in the dressing room and there's only room for one boss. A showdown with Messi led to his ultimate departure from Barca. That was a battle he couldn't win. He took Hart on and won before a ball was kicked.
Ok, so change the keeper, but not for one that simply isn't up to the job. City won't win the top prizes with Bravo in goal. At some point Guardiola is going to have to swallow his pride and accept that. He's also going to have to get 'street-wise' in our league. He can't dominate it as he did in his two previous jobs with the best players and little or no opposition. Our league is demanding. It's brutal. It doesn't forgive. It's for battlers. Conti and Klopp worked that out very early on. If it's not, why has Arsenal's 'beautiful' football only delivered a top 4 finish for a decade?
There will be days that City look fantastic. They'll pass teams to death and score goals, just like Barca and Bayern did, but they won't 'dig' results out and in the end that will cost them.
I said when Guardiola took over that he had a strong dressing room to sort out. Hart's departure helped, but Kompany and Yaya are still there and I think the rest are beginning to have reservations. The answer is another major spend combined with a compromise on his beliefs. But, is Guardiola for compromising? It all makes you realise what a brilliant job Mancini did doesn't it? They say the 'first' trophy is always the hardest to win. Mancini did that - and left a squad good enough to go on winning. Given time he would've cracked the Champions League as well. The clue to that is in what Guardiola said recently 'it's tough in a competition when you don't have a history'. City know that competition a lot better now than when Mancini was in charge.
One New Year's prediction - Aguero to Madrid in the summer and Sanchez to City as his replacement. Let's see......!