Football Expert & Columnist
The Redknapp report
Jamie Redknapp assesses all 20 Premier League clubs as the season reaches its halfway stage.
Last Updated: 28/12/11 12:19pm
The 2011/12 Premier League is approaching its halfway point.
The two Manchester clubs are leading the race for the Premier League title, but it has been a season of struggle so far for other north-west outfits Blackburn, Bolton and Wigan.
Sky Sports' Jamie Redknapp has had his eye on the ball throughout the campaign and has analysed each of the 20 top-flight teams' efforts so far.
HALF-TERM REPORT: They've been fantastic. I think the improvement in their game is what has surprised me the most. They were so regimented last year but they're playing such exciting and expansive football now and it's a pleasure to watch. They can score goals in so many different ways and it's not just the strikers; you've got players like Micah Richards popping up with the goods. If they can keep the spine of their team fit, I expect them to win the league. They've got the best players and they're in terrific form.
KEY MAN: David Silva
HALF-TERM REPORT: They started off like they were going to go the season unbeaten and all the talk was about a possible new dawn with all the young players coming in, but then all of a sudden the wheels seemed to come off. They lost 6-1 to Manchester City and I thought: 'They're going to have a bit of a wobble here', but they didn't. They went on a run of winning games 1-0 and their football has been really good since. I was a bit surprised when Sir Alex Ferguson opted to play Wayne Rooney in midfield and if they want to win the title they have to keep him up front. Losing Nemanja Vidic through injury was a big blow for them and it's in defence where I think they might come unstuck, especially if Rio Ferdinand picks up an injury.
KEY MAN: Wayne Rooney
HALF-TERM REPORT: Spurs have had a great season up to now but my only worry for them is if they pick up a few injuries. Yes, they've got a big squad, but if you look what separates Tottenham and the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea is they're a little bit short up top and that's what will stop them from being title contenders. Emmanuel Adebayor has done fanatically well, but they don't have a Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney or Sergio Aguero - a goalscorer that can change the game when you need him to. All in all though, it's been really positive and if they can finish in the top four that will be a great season. That's what they should be aiming for.
KEY MAN: Emmanuel Adebayor
HALF-TERM REPORT: It's been a strange first season for Chelsea under Andre Villas-Boas. I've seen signs of improvements in recent weeks and he seems to be enjoying the role more now, because for a while he seemed like he wanted to fight the world. But I think they're heading in the right direction and in Daniel Sturridge they've got one of the best young forwards in the country. His goals will be vital for them. They're going to need Fernando Torres in the New Year, too, with Didier Drogba going off to the African Cup of Nations and that will be a huge four or five weeks for him in terms of his career. Like the teams around them though, finishing in the top four is the most important thing for them.
KEY MAN: Daniel Sturridge
HALF-TERM REPORT: They had an awful start and have done really well to get back into the top-four reckoning, but I'm still not convinced this is a better Arsenal team than last year or even the year before that. The signings Arsene Wenger made in the summer bolstered the squad but I wouldn't say they improved them greatly. Robin van Persie has been sensational for them and he will score even more goals when Jack Wilshere returns.
KEY MAN: Robin van Persie
HALF-TERM REPORT: Liverpool have come a long way under Kenny Dalglish, but If they want to get into the top four they've got to be better in front of goal. Both Bolton and Blackburn have scored more than them and that should tell you everything you need to know. Defensively they've been solid and going forward they've looked good, but they have to be more clinical. The bad news is that it looks like Luis Suarez is going to miss eight games and he's their best player. The good news is that Steven Gerrard is back.
KEY MAN: Luis Suarez
HALF-TERM REPORT: Newcastle have done incredibly well so far this season and have probably overachieved a bit. Big characters like Joey Barton and Kevin Nolan left in the summer and I expected them to be just above the relegation places at this point. But players like Cheik Tiote and Yohan Cabaye have really come into their own and in Demba Ba they've got one of the best strikers in the country right now. He has to be one of the signings of the season. Losing Steven Taylor for the season is a blow, but I think they'll be alright defensively, especially with Tim Krul in goal who has been a revelation. They may have lost some big players but Newcastle look a better team now.
KEY MAN: Demba Ba
HALF-TERM REPORT: Tony Pulis spent a lot of money in the summer and Stoke are about where they should be in the table right now. When you can afford to spend £8 million on players like Wilson Palacios and leave them on the bench for most of the season, you should be pushing for the top half and that's what they're doing. They remind me a lot of the Wimbledon teams that I used to come up against and they do ask a lot of questions of teams. Yes, they have good players who can get the ball down and play, but they know they're better off getting the ball in the box and playing the percentages and that's why they've been successful.
KEY MAN: Jonathan Walters
HALF-TERM REPORT: Two weeks ago I would have said they were in danger of going down, but they've picked up seven points from three games since then and they're about where they should be in the table. The two away wins at Blackburn and Newcastle were huge for them and then they got a magnificent point at home against Manchester City. West Brom are a team who should first and foremost be looking to stay in the Premier League. And in Shane Long and Peter Odemwingie they have two hard working strikers with goals in them and that should be enough to keep them up.
KEY MAN: Shane Long
HALF-TERM REPORT: I think they are a big club but a mid-table team. Sides in the Championship and League One have spent more than them this season so David Moyes has done a really incredible job to get them where they are. If they get on a roll, you can see them finishing in the top 10 because they've got some good young players in Ross Barkley and Jack Rodwell, but in an ideal world I think David would like to freshen things up.
KEY MAN: Louis Saha
HALF-TERM REPORT: You have to give them an A+ for where they are in the league at this stage of the season - it's been an absolutely brilliant effort. I had a feeling at the start of the season that Norwich would do well because in Paul Lambert they have a manager with great pedigree. He did brilliantly as a player winning the Champions League with Borussia Dortmund and he just has something about him. That said, I wouldn't put money on them not going down this season, despite how well they've done. You just have to look at Blackpool last season and Hull before them to know that a great start doesn't guarantee you your place in the league. They're only seven points off the relegation places and it's at the end of the season that you really have to dig in and get results.
KEY MAN: A real team effort
HALF-TERM REPORT: It has been hard for Villa losing Ashley Young and Stewart Downing and, like Everton, they look like a mid-table team at this moment in time. Darren Bent has had a poor season by his standards and their defending from set-pieces, which was excellent under Martin O'Neill, has not been very good. Shay Given has been a quality signing, though, and should bring more stability at the back when he is fit again.
KEY MAN: Gabriel Agbonlahor
HALF-TERM REPORT: I've been really disappointed by Fulham this season because they've got some good players there with the likes of Bobby Zamora, Clint Dempsey, Andy Johnson and Bryan Ruiz. They are difficult to read because they get good results, like when they beat Liverpool, and then don't follow it up. They don't start games very well and are a bit negative, which is something I've always thought about Martin Jol sides. I worked with him at Tottenham and he always seems to wait for something to happen and then in the last half an hour his teams maybe come into the game. It looks like he's fallen out with Zamora as well, which I don't understand. In the modern game you have to keep your best players on side. They've been real underachievers.
KEY MAN: Clint Dempsey
HALF-TERM REPORT: They did struggle under Steve Bruce and when the manager is under pressure from the fans, the players do notice it. There was no confidence in that team whatsoever and they were making mistakes on the pitch that they would never normally make. Since Martin O'Neill has taken over, the pressure has been taken off and there's a feel-good factor around the club; he really does have the Midas touch. Still, the signings of Wes Brown and John O'Shea haven't worked out yet, while I think they need a new frontman in January. I could see Emile Heskey, who Martin has worked with before, coming in as a short-term measure.
KEY MAN: Sebastian Larsson
HALF-TERM REPORT: They've kept a lot of clean sheets and the goalkeeper, Michel Vorm, has been a revelation but they are just a bit short up front. There's a lot of pace but they are struggling for goals. I do like what they are trying to do with their passing game and they often dominate the possession during matches. They need a cutting edge and to get a few more numbers in to boost the depth of the squad, but I think they'll be fine this season.
KEY MAN: Michel Vorm
HALF-TERM REPORT: QPR fans must have looked at their team at some point and thought: 'We've got something going here' but the victory over Chelsea remains their only home win. They spent a bit in the summer bringing in the likes of Joey Barton, who's done okay, and Shaun Wright-Phillips, who has probably been their best signing, but it's not a squad full of quality and they've still got a lot to do. What they have in their favour is that there's money to bring players in during the transfer window. I think they will survive but it will be a long season. What they need to do is get some more home wins because away wins become less frequent as the season goes on when other teams are fighting for European places or to move away from the danger zone.
KEY MAN: Shaun Wright-Phillips
HALF-TERM REPORT: I think they have massively underachieved because they've spent good money and have a good squad. Steven Fletcher and Kevin Doyle will work hard and get you goals, while they have experience in midfield in Jamie O'Hara and Stephen Hunt. However, Roger Johnson hasn't really made his mark and they don't seem to be able to get back-to-back wins or go on a run. It could end up being a tough season. The fans seem to have kept faith with Mick McCarthy, even though he did get a bit of stick earlier in the season, but they will want more from their team in the second half of the campaign.
KEY MAN: Steven Fletcher
HALF-TERM REPORT: They've really improved in recent weeks and I'm a big fan of their manager Roberto Martinez. I still wouldn't say I fancy them to get out of trouble but like last season, it could go down to the final game. I don't see them either pulling clear from the other strugglers or being dead and buried. The way they play out from the back means they will get the odd five-goal hammering as we saw against Manchester United, but they will also get a win when you least expect it. They need to pick up some more home victories but I think they'll do what they always do and just about stay up.
KEY MAN: Victor Moses
HALF-TERM REPORT: Their lack of form has really surprised me because they have good players and a good manager in Owen Coyle. Things have been especially poor at the back where Gary Cahill - who will definitely go in the transfer window - has not looked the same; it's like he's subconsciously switched off. They just need to make sure they replace him. Bolton have also missed Stuart Holden in midfield, who has only played in a Carling Cup game this season due to injury. He is brave on the ball, creates goals and pops up with them, too. They will need him back if they are to get out of the relegation zone. The fans are behind the manager because he's a Bolton man through and through and that will help the club as they try to survive.
KEY MAN: Stuart Holden
HALF-TERM REPORT: They've had a really difficult start to the season. I don't think it's a case of the players not trying for their manager but it must be extremely hard for them knowing what the crowd will be like at every game. If Steve Kean manages to get through this and keep Blackburn up, he will be able to get through anything. However, I think it's inevitable that they will change the manager... but I do think Blackburn will stay up. They are nowhere near as bad as what they're showing and if they get a few players in to help out Yakubu and Junior Hoilett up front and Scott Dann, Chris Samba and Ryan Nelsen, when fit, at the back, I think they could surprise everybody.
KEY MAN: Chris Samba