Roughly halfway into the 2015/16 EPL season, and this has been one of the most dramatic, shocking and entertaining campaigns of all time. Records have been shattered, high profile managers have been axed, a charismatic German manager has arrived, dozens of upsets have occurred, newly promoted sides are flying high, unexpected stars as blossoming, an underdog sits atop the table, whilst the defending champions are in disarray and have parted with “The Special One.” It’s not even Christmas yet, but the Premier League is the gift that keep on giving, and these are the 10 most shocking storylines so far.
10. Swansea Slip Down the Table
Since being promoted to the EPL in 2011, Swansea have been one of the brightest and most impressive promoted sides and looked to have cemented themselves as a Premier League club. They won the League Cup in 2013 along with a ninth place finish, but would dismiss Michael Laudrup and replace him with Swansea player Garry Monk. Despite losing star striker Wilfried Bony, Monk guided them to eighth with 56 points in 2014/15, which was their highest position and points haul ever in an EPL season. It has all been downhill from here, however, as they have had a shocking start to the season where they have just 14 points and one win in their last 12. They sacked Monk, and now are a team desperately lacking confidence. They need a manager to steady the ship, and it is reported that Marcelo Bielsa could be the man for the job.
9. High Flying Watford
Somewhat under-the-radar, newly promoted Watford have massively exceeded expectations so far and have soared to a remarkable seventh place after 16 games. This sees them (narrowly) ahead of West Ham, Liverpool and Everton, and just one point behind Crystal Palace and Tottenham. Although the table is very congested, this is mightily impressive from the Hornets, as not many people gave them a chance at the start of the season. Much of this success can be attributed to the goal scoring of Odion Ighalo, who has bagged 10 goals already this season. His strike partner, Troy Deeney, has also contributed five. They have faced a few tricky fixtures where they have struggled, and they now enter a formidable stretch where they next play Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham and Man City. With a team full of confidence, they will likely pick up a few points over this stretch.
8. Bournemouth Fighting Against the Odds
In August, everyone was eager to see how an exciting Bournemouth would fare in the Premier League. This was because they were a League One team not long ago, but earned promotion to the top tier after a stunning season in 2014/15 where they topped the Championship with 90 points and +53 goal differential. After a promising start, disaster struck as their two most expensive signings picked up long-term injuries, and were then joined on the sidelines by star striker Callum Wilson, who faces six months out after scoring five in seven games. Things were looking bleak and they faced back-to-back 5-1 thrashings from Spurs and Man City, but since mid-November they have turned a corner and look capable of staying up. They earned a point in an exhilarating 3-3 draw with Everton, before posting historic wins over Chelsea and Man United to stun the league and show they still have fight in them.
7. Woes at Villa Park
With a pitiful six points from 16 games and a goal difference of -17, things are looking particularly bleak at Villa Park as Aston find themselves propping up the table. Villa managed to avoid the drop in thrilling fashion last season after appointing entertaining former Tottenham boss Tim Sherwood in February. He even guided them to the FA Cup Final. However, after six losses in a row, Sherwood was sacked in late October. They appointed Remi Garde, and it appeared that he was the perfect man for the job after overseeing a goalless draw against Man City in his first game. A 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Everton followed, though, and they have picked up just one point since. No team has ever recovered from six points in 16 games in Premier League history, and Villa does not look like the team to break that.
6. Tottenham’s Unbeaten Run
Consistent is not a word you often associate with Tottenham, but this season they have been just that. Pochettino is developing something special at White Hart Lane with his young squad, and we are starting to see this blossom. After losing to Man United on opening day, Spurs went on a 14 game unbeaten run before losing to Newcastle on the 13th of December. Whilst they drew more than they won, it shows their progress under Pochettino. Unlike previous Tottenham teams, there is a defensive resoluteness which has been developed through the addition of Alderweireld, who partners fellow Belgian Jan Vertonghen, and the masterstroke of converting Eric Dier into a formidable defensive midfielder. Going forward, Alli has emerged as a star, whilst Dembele and Lamela are much improved and Son has also impressed. The future looks bright, and this could be the year they reclaim fourth place spot.
5. Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool
After a stuttering start to the campaign, Brendan Rodgers was shown the door at Anfield, which paved the way for Jurgen Klopp to finally manage a Premier League club. Although very likeable and charismatic, Klopp is renowned for his self-described “heavy metal football,” which involves high energy and pressing opponents high up the pitch. This requires great physical fitness and discipline, and his training sessions are notoriously intense. Since taking the helm, Klopp has overseen a 3-1 victory at Stamford Bridge and a 4-1 thrashing of Man City at the Ethiad (as well as a 6-1 win over Southampton in the league cup). There have also been poor performances, showing that it will take time for his philosophy to be fully embedded and his players may suffer from fatigue occasionally. Although improved, Liverpool find themselves in ninth with a +1 goal differential, but just two points shy of fifth placed Tottenham.
4. Inconsistent Man City
Man City are a team that has seemed invincible in recent years, and unless you were a team in the top four, then it seemed very likely that you would get embarrassed both home and away. Not so much this year, as City have stumbled their way through this season with incredibly inconsistency. They will not be panicking just yet, as they sit just three points off the top and have had to face much of the season without the likes of Aguero, Silva, and crucially, Kompany. But with a squad so talented there have been many eyebrows raised at some performances. Most notably this has included a 4-1 thumping from Spurs away from home and a 1-4 dismantling from Liverpool in front of their own fans. They have also lost to Palace, West Ham, and Stoke, and not won in their last four away matches.
3. Jamie Vardy Breaks the Consecutive Scoring Record
It would be unfair to Vardy and to Leicester to combine his incredible goalscoring run with their phenomenal start to the season, so they fully deserve two entries. Aside from big fans of the EPL last year, Jamie Vardy was not a name that many knew. Four years ago, the English striker was playing for Fleetwood in the Conference, but now he is the deadliest striker in the league, a record breaker, and just about everyone’s Fantasy Premier League captain. On the 28th of November, Vardy made history by scoring in a staggering 11 consecutive Premier League matches, eclipsing Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s mark of 10 from 2003. Stretching from the 29th of August to the 28th of November, the run helped Vardy to pick up consecutive Player of the Month awards. Integral to Leicester’s success, Vardy will need to keep finding the back of the net if Leicester are to maintain their form.
2. Chelsea’s Shocking Title Defense
Last season, Chelsea cantered to the Premier League title (and League Cup) and lost just three matches along the way. Astonishingly, this season they have lost nine of their 16 matches and currently sit just a point out of the relegation zone. On the 17th of December, Jose Mourinho was sacked, which has divided Chelsea fans. There appeared to be some issues between Mourinho (their most successful manager of all time) and star players Costa, Hazard, and Fabregas, who have all been completely anonymous this campaign. A number of controversial incidents have contributed, including his fallout with club doctor Eva Carneiro and two stadium bans. Guus Hiddink will serve as interim manager now, with Chelsea 20 points off the top and 14 off a crucial fourth place finish. It is impossible to predict whereabouts Chelsea will finish this season, but for Hiddink, he will be focusing on boosting morale and getting more from the star players.
1. Leicester City Top the Table
Whilst there is no question that Jamie Vardy’s record breaking run has helped Leicester to top the table after 16 games, the entire organization deserves credit for their astonishing start to the season. Mahrez must also be mentioned and has been exceptional, with the midfielder chipping in a mightily impressive 11 goals and seven assists. In August, if somebody told you that Leicester would be top and Chelsea were a point off relation in December you would think that they were mad, yet here we are. Manager Claudio Ranieri has the team, who narrowly escaped relegation last year, playing with astonishing confidence and they play an exhilarating, fun, and unselfish brand of football that is a joy to watch. After 16 games last season they were bottom of the table, and a year later, they are at the top. A stunning story—can they go all the way?