Football: ST's EPL half-time report

Richard Jolly's Best Signing Lucas Torreira scoring Arsenal's goal in their 1-0 win over Huddersfield with an acrobatic bicycle kick.
Richard Jolly's Best Signing Lucas Torreira scoring Arsenal's goal in their 1-0 win over Huddersfield with an acrobatic bicycle kick.PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Townsend
TownsendPHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Best Player Virgil van Dijk has helped Liverpool keep 12 clean sheets so far.
Best Player Virgil van Dijk has helped Liverpool keep 12 clean sheets so far.PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Biggest Letdown Alexis Sanchez with Worst Manager Jose Mourinho in better times, with the Chilean hoping for an upturn in the next half of the season following his former coach's departure.
Biggest Letdown Alexis Sanchez with Worst Manager Jose Mourinho in better times, with the Chilean hoping for an upturn in the next half of the season following his former coach's departure.PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
MOUSSA SISSOKO (left)
MOUSSA SISSOKO (left)PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Richard Jolly takes stock of the 2018-19 English Premier League season at the midway point, with every team having played each other

Best individual goal

ANDROS TOWNSEND

"A scorer of great goals, not a great goal scorer," according to Roy Hodgson. Townsend proved his manager right with a 26m, 109kmh volley that flew into the Manchester City net.


Biggest shock

MANCHESTER CITY 2 CRYSTAL PALACE 3

City had a 100 per cent home record and had gone 52 games without losing to anyone outside the big six. Palace had a solitary point from their previous six away games. So, with perverse inevitability, Palace won, and deservedly so.


Best game

ARSENAL 4 TOTTENHAM 2

A game that had it all: Penalties and a red card, controversy and a comeback, a broader narrative and plenty of drama on the day. Perhaps Arsenal's best display under Unai Emery and it brought a terrific result.


Best signing

LUCAS TORREIRA

No matter how many times various people said that Arsenal needed a defensive midfielder, it was never any less true. When Torreira belatedly arrived, he showed what Arsenal had been missing. He brought plenty of bite, a couple of useful goals and the capacity to make Granit Xhaka play better.


Best team goal

AARON RAMSEY

The finish, a back-heel flick against Fulham, was pretty special, but a remarkably quick counter-attack to go from the edge of the Arsenal box made it even better. Hector Bellerin, Alexandre Lacazette, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ramsey (three times) were all involved.


Most improved

MOUSSA SISSOKO

After two seasons in London, he looked a waste of £30 million (S$52 million) of Tottenham's money. Now the powerful Frenchman has become their most reliable midfielder and their fans are singing, "Who needs Bale when you've got Sissoko?" What a turnaround.


‘Best of the rest’ team

4-4-2

Ben Foster (Watford) Matt Doherty (Wolves) Federico Fernandez (Newcastle) Issa Diop (West Ham) Ben Chilwell (Leicester) Ryan Fraser (Bournemouth) Andre Gomes (Everton) Ruben Neves (Wolves) Felipe Anderson (West Ham) Callum Wilson (Bournemouth) Richarlison (Everton)

Substitutes: Alex McCarthy (Southampton) Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Crystal Palace) Philip Billing (Huddersfield) James Maddison (Leicester) David Brooks (Bournemouth) Roberto Pereyra (Watford) Glenn Murray (Brighton)


Best player

VIRGIL VAN DIJK

Defenders don't tend to win the individual awards, but perhaps they should. Van Dijk has been a colossus at the back, transforming Liverpool into a frugal side and forming a superb partnership with Joe Gomez.


Best manager

JURGEN KLOPP

And not merely because Liverpool are six points ahead in a league most expected City to win. Klopp has enacted change. Liverpool are not always as fast and frenetic, but they are better defensively, more consistent and more tactically flexible. The fact they have not dropped points to any of the bottom 15 is remarkable.


Best understudy

BERNARDO SILVA

But for Mohamed Salah, Kevin de Bruyne would have been named Footballer of the Year last season. Until their December relapse, Manchester City barely missed the brilliant, but injured, Belgian. It is a sign of the class and creativity of Bernardo Silva, but also of his reliability and defensive discipline.


Biggest letdown

ALEXIS SANCHEZ

Even after the Chilean's slow start at Old Trafford, there was a theory this could have been his season. He had a rare summer off and a fine pre-season. Yet, since then, he has mustered a solitary league goal, been dropped and injured. It is hard to see the league's best-paid player getting into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's strongest side.


Worst manager

JOSE MOURINHO

With a dishonourable mention of Mark Hughes, another who moaned better than he managed, it is Mourinho. He was sacked after failing to get the best from his players, criticising them relentlessly, presiding over poor football and even, unlike his teams, failing to defend properly. He left Manchester United 11 points behind the top four, and with the biggest wage bill.


Worst showing

KENEDY

The Brazilian borrowed from Chelsea helped keep Newcastle up last season. But at Cardiff in August, he had a shocker. He was the first player since 2010 to complete the first half of a Premier League match without making a pass. Then he cost his side victory by missing a penalty.


Worst signing

ANDRE-FRANK ZAMBO ANGUISSA

Fulham spent £100 million (S$173 million) and are 19th. If much of the focus has been on the much-vaunted Jean-Michael Seri, it is worth noting that his midfield sidekick Anguissa cost still more. A £30 million defensive midfielder has failed to protect the defence. Centre-back Calum Chambers has looked a better option in midfield.


Worst signing

GLENN MURRAY

Murray is a stalwart of the lower leagues who turned 35 in September. His career should be winding down. Instead, the inelegant Brighton striker has been rubbing shoulders with Sergio Aguero and Anthony Martial in the scorers' chart.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 29, 2018, with the headline 'Half-time report'. Print Edition | Subscribe