Halfway into a historic Premier League season
As the Premier League season wages on, Arsenal and Manchester City look to pull away from the pack as the competition at the top gets fierce
The English Premier League is widely regarded as the most prestigious domestic league in the world of sports. In addition, it is the most popular – and subsequently the richest – league in soccer, as it accumulates an estimated $5.3B in revenues per season and has more viewership than any league in any sport on Earth. It is historically known for its intense physical play, incredible upset stories, as well as for showcasing many of the best players in the world, this season has been no different.
While the talent across the league has been top-class, many players have felt the toll of a long and grueling season. Aside from the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down the world in 2020, this was the first time in the Premier League’s 30- year history that saw a pause in the middle of the season. This was thanks to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, taking place from Nov. 20 to Dec. 18. Along with the many human rights controversies of that World Cup, there have been concerns regarding the wellbeing of players in the Premier League. This has forced the league to condense its season, creating a more rigorous schedule of intense matches. Amid the unfamiliarity of this season, it has been one of the most unpredictable and exciting campaigns in the league’s history.
Now at the halfway point of the season, Arsenal leads the league by five points, with a game in hand. In August, they were given 25-1 odds to win the Premier League, or less than 4%. At the halfway point just two years ago, Arsenal sat in 11th place en route to an eighth place finish in which they accumulated just 61 points. Today, they sit on 50 points– on pace to equal the Premier League record 100, only ever achieved by Manchester City’s “Centurions” in the 2017/18 season. Historically, Arsenal is one of the biggest clubs in the world but has failed to win the league title since their “invincibles” side went unbeaten 19 years ago. Since then they have tailed off as a club. The broken culture at the club over the past couple of seasons has begun to shift since the appointment of former club captain Mikel Arteta as manager. He has offloaded many of the big personalities and deadweight players, instilled a strict but healthy environment, and made smart signings that have created a culture that players want to be a part of. Though many people could see the progress, nobody imagined they would have just one defeat in their opening 19 matches and lead the title race by the halfway point. With the youngest squad in the Premier League and the second youngest manager, Arsenal certainly have a bright future ahead.
During the early days of preseason, second place Manchester City were heavy favorites to win the league for a third consecutive time. Though they have stumbled, they still have a significant shot, especially with Norwegian phenom Erling Haaland leading the line. Signed this summer from German club Borussia Dortmund, the 22-year-old has smashed many records. In 19 matches he already has 25 goals and 3 assists, on pace for 48 goals this season– the current record is just 34. He also has four hat tricks, by far the quickest to ever achieve that feat. However, the team around him has struggled to find similar success and will have to work hard to catch up with the Gunners.
Another surprise is Newcastle United. A year ago, the Magpies had one win and 11 points in their opening 20 matches and became one of the favorites to be relegated to the Division II EFL Championship. Today, they sit comfortably in third place with 10 wins and 39 points, boasting the best defense in the Premier League. The team was inspired by managerial and ownership change – even though the new ownership, the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, comes with severe controversies of its own.
This season has also seen the rejuvenation of once-buried Manchester United and the rise of three surprise teams: Brighton, Fulham, and Brentford – who sit graciously, yet cautiously, above powerhouses and preseason favorites Liverpool and Chelsea. The league has seen the fall of Leicester City – former Premier League champions in perhaps the most incredible underdog story in the history of sports – who are now fighting to avoid relegation. Nottingham Forest, one of the most successful teams in English soccer, have triumphantly returned to the top flight for the first time since the turn of the millennium.
We now see a relegation battle for the ages, with eight teams realistically in the hunt, including Everton, a club that has never been relegated;West Ham United and Wolves, two sides that competed for a UEFA Champions League spot a year ago; and Leeds United, a club that has embraced an American approach with manager Jesse Marsch and three other key starters from the United States.
These headlining stories do not even cover the abundance of comebacks, late winners, and memorable goals we have witnessed. Across the pond, the excitement that the World Cup brewed has certainly carried over to the post-tournament domestic leagues. There is overwhelming intrigue in the Premier League at the moment, and rightfully so. So far, the 2022/23 Premier League campaign has been a historic and memorable one, but from the neutral perspective, we can only hope that the best is yet to come.