Welcome to another episode of THE MID-TABLE RIDDLE!
The nation’s favourite quiz show asks which of the Premier League’s middle crop are actually any good?
Our contestants today are Wolves, Watford, Everton, West Ham, Bournemouth, Leicester — give ’em a big hand everybody!
MANAGER: Marco Silva
There is a general consensus among many Premier League viewers that Everton should be the best mid-table team.
7th feels like their spiritual home.
Unfortunately for the Goodison Park faithful, significant investment hasn’t solved all the club’s problems… it may have even created a few.
Marco Silva may have brought Richarlison with him but he also brought a fundamental misunderstanding of how to defend set-pieces.
His Hull and Watford sides were just as vulnerable at corners and free-kicks as the Toffees have been this season — the gaffer is the only common denominator.
The mid-table riddle hinges on relativity and perception.
And in Everton’s case, this does not work in their favour.
Supplying a new manager (plucked from a team currently above them in the table) with resources of Gylfi Sigurdsson, Bernard, Andre Gomes, Lucas Digne, Richarlison and co’s quality raises expectation.
Underwhelming is probably the word…
MANAGER: Eddie Howe
STRENGTH: Aesthetic attacking football
WEAKNESS: Away games
Many see the Cherries as inconsistent but they’re actually one of the most predicatable teams in the league — decent at home, s**t away.
Only the ‘top six’ have better home records than Bournemouth while only Fulham, Huddersfield, Cardiff and Brighton have worse records on the road.
They concede LOADS of goals.
Huddersfield are the only team in the league to have conceded more this season… and only by one goal as well.
Unlike some other teams in the mid-table mix *cough* Everton *cough* Bournemouth are content just to be out of the relegation scrap.
They were bottom of League Two just ten years ago, remember.
Likeable scrappers with an impressive manager, they just need some reinforcements at the back to erase the biggest question mark next to their name.
MANAGER: Nuno Santo
Wolves have caused more than a few problems for the Premier League’s top dogs this season.
1-1 draws against both Manchester clubs and Arsenal were enhanced by victories over Spurs and Chelsea to give make them a ‘tough test’ in the eyes of every commentator/pundit on popular television.
However, defeats to Brighton, Cardiff and Huddersfield (as well as draws to Newcastle and Fulham) are the main reason for the considerable gap between 7th and 6th (11 points).
We must remember Nuno Santo’s mob played in the Championship last season — add on some additional credit for that.
Tactically impressive, the wing-back pairing of Matt Doherty and Jonny have been mightily effective while midfielders Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho are class acts.
Current favourites to finish as the official ‘best of rest’, there is a sense the club are hurtling in the right direction at some velocity.
CONTESTANT: West Ham
MANAGER: Manuel Pellegrini
The Hammers are frenetic, we know that by now.
A squad packed with maverick types invariably produces the kind of inconsistency that blights mid-table by nature.
In Marko Arnautovic, Felipe Anderson, Samir Nasri and Manuel Lanzini (remember him?) they have deeper quarries of talent to mine than most of their immediate rivals.
Couple this with the industry and application of Robert Snodgrass, Mark Noble and Declan Rice and you’ve got the ingredients of a well-balanced midfield.
The main problem – apart from the Arnautovic hokey cokey – is their defence.
Centre-backs Issa Diop and Fabian Balbuena have improved West Ham’s back four but they are still heavily reliant on Lukasz Fabianski, who rivals Rice and Anderson for Player of the Year at the London Stadium.
As the team currently occupying tenth they are objectively the most difficult to gauge…
MANAGER: Javi Gracia
STRENGTH: Team chemistry
WEAKNESS: Top six opposition
We have already determined that inconsistency is a common trait among the mid-table lingerers.
In many ways, Watford defy this expectation.
There is hardly anything between their home and away records; and they have conceded exactly the same volume of goals they have scored.
The Hornets boast a number of players you could label ‘underrated’ to look knowledgeable — Jose Holebas, Adboulaye Doucoure, Craig Cathcart…
Despite this, you could still say they are greater than the sum of their parts.
Javi Gracia’s stewardship has been so impressive the club have resisted their usual ploy of changing manager at a rate purposefully designed to deceive pub quiz attendees.
They know their place though.
A win over Spurs represents the only points Watford have taken off top six opposition all season.
They should be pinching a few draws off the big boys — they’re good enough.
MANAGER: Claude Puel
STRENGTH: Individual talent
Like Everton and West Ham, Leicester have a few players who wouldn’t look out of place in a top six team.
Ben Chilwell, Wilfred Ndidi, James Maddison, Jamie Vardy, Kasper Schmeichel, Harry Maguire and new boy Youri Tielemans form the core of an impressive outfit.
For whatever reason, Claude Puel hasn’t found the recipe for the ingredients.
Many fans share Vardy’s view that the Frenchman is a ‘f**king k**bhead’ though Puel would probably question the decision-making of his players in the final third.
Vardy is the only player with more than five league goals this season and even he isn’t guaranteed a place in the starting XI.
Over to you!
Use the up and down arrows to rate which of the mid-table teams are good, and which are time-wasters…