The 2015-16 Premier League campaign has now passed the halfway point and this season has certainly had its fair share of surprises up to this point. Nobody expected the defending champions, Chelsea, to spend the majority of the early season fighting at the bottom of the table. Even fewer could see their legendary manager Jose Mourinho fired and attempting to entice an offer from Manchester United.
Football is a sport that is constantly in flux. The form and quality of players on the pitch is perpetually evaluated and can be affected by everything from their current injury status, the teammates that surround them, and their current levels of happiness with their club. In recent seasons, it has been shown even more than ever that success requires much more than buying a squad of proven professionals. The delicate balance of personalities, tactical discipline, and club ambitions must be maintained.
While certain clubs on this list may be satisfied with their performances up to this point in the season, none have won silverware as proof of their quality. For the clubs struggling to meet expectations, there are still 18 matches remaining in the league schedule for them to turn their fortunes around. The battle for the coveted top four spots in the league is as intense as ever before, while the relegation battle features several clubs well acquainted with the drop. Here are the 2016 New Year’s Resolutions that each club should make to better achieve their goals.
20 Aston Villa - Find Goals
Aston Villa is a club well accustomed to the demands of avoiding relegation. Last season, they barely managed to avoid it, finishing in 17th. This season that will be much harder without the services of Christian Benteke, their leading scorer of the last three seasons. The squad began 2016 with a 3-1 loss to relegation rivals Sunderland, which will not help its cause. Sitting seven points below 19th place and with a league low 16 goals on the season, Aston Villa needs to find goals immediately if they want to compete in the top flight next season.
19 Sunderland - Improve by Playing Younger Players
While Sunderland may currently sit in 19th place in the league table, they have showed moments of promise throughout the 2015-16 campaign. One of those bright spots has been the emergence of several young players, notably Yann M’Vila, Patrick Van Aanholt, and Sebastian Coates. However, this is a squad that features talents such as DeAndre Yedlin and Jack Rodwell, routinely battling for playing time with older players. If Sunderland commits to playing their promising youth players, they may be able to stave off relegation and greatly improve their squad.
18 Newcastle United - Sign a Striker
This New Year’s Resolution for Newcastle United is simple and should be easily taken care of in the January transfer window. Through the 20 matches they have played in the Premier League this season, they have scored 19 goals. Emerging young forwards like Aleksander Mitrovic and Ayoze Perez need a proven, veteran striker to set an example of the effort they need to give in every match. Only six players have scored goals in the Premier League for Newcastle this season and forwards account for a grand total of nine.
17 Swansea City - Return to Early Season Form
Swansea City began their 2015-16 campaign on fire by stunning Chelsea at Stamford Bridge to earn a draw and smashing Sunderland and Manchester United. However, since their hot start, they have fallen off dramatically, managing only two wins against lowly Aston Villa and West Brom. Ayew, Gomis, and Sigurdsson need to regain the passion and intensity with which they began the season. This team has more than enough talent to finish in the top half of the table, they must now prove that.
16 AFC Bournemouth - Avoid Relegation
Bournemouth has been a surprising club during their first campaign in the Premier League. They boast a good deal of young, English talent and have performed admirably against big clubs like Chelsea and Manchester United. Their form over the last month has been fantastic, allowing them to climb above the relegation zone, but it will need to continue through January. Their chances of relegation remain high thanks to their last four matches coming against Chelsea, Everton, West Brom, and the final matchup with Manchester United. The road ahead is difficult for the Cherries.
15 Norwich City - Keep Robbie Brady and Nathan Redmond
After having its offers rejected four times, the team finally was able to purchase Robbie Brady from Hull City for £6.93 million. The 23-year-old has been a revelation for the club, earning three Man of the Match performances. Twenty-one-year-old English striker Nathan Redmond has been almost as impressive, with four goals and two assists to his tally. Both of these players could receive attention from larger clubs in the January and summer transfer windows. The future success of Norwich depends on these players.
14 Chelsea - Secure Champions League Football for Next Season
Chelsea finished 2015 in the worst fashion imaginable. The defending champions dismissed Jose Mourinho and their team looked shambolic throughout much of the season thus far. Despite this, they remain only 13 points out of 4th place and current manager Guus Hiddink is convinced Champions League qualification is within reach. With the arrival of striker Alex Texiera looming on the horizon and other big money transfers being rumored, Chelsea appear to be determined to make a push for qualification by any means necessary.
13 Southampton - Stick with Ronald Koeman
With the exception of a 4-0 drubbing of 1st place Arsenal, Southampton has had a rough road in November and December. They have lost six out of their last eight matches and been held scoreless in half of those games. Despite this recent hard run, they sit comfortably above the relegation zone and poised to make a second half push, should they continue to play within the system Ronald Koeman has so expertly designed. Last season, this club finished seventh and they are capable of a similar finish in this current campaign.
12 West Brom - Stay the Course
At this point during the 2014-15 campaign, West Brom sat just above the relegation zone in 17th and looked destined for the drop. Alan Irvine was sacked and Tony Pulis’ entrance was a breath of fresh air to the club. Their fortunes immediately turned and the Baggies haven’t been in the relegation picture since. While European qualification is probably out of the question, a top half finish isn’t, and with Tony Pulis at the helm, relegation shouldn’t be an issue.
11 Everton - Find their Next Goalkeeper
At 36-years-old, time is certainly catching up with stalwart Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard. Howard has already begun planning for a future career as a broadcaster, which means Everton should likely do the same for the aging American keeper. Joel Robles may be a potential solution, but lacks the match experience necessary to be a starting Premier League keeper. It may not be necessary to sign a keeper in January, but this summer the Toffees will need to find another keeper capable of shouldering the significant burden Howard now carries.
10 Stoke City - Keep Jack Butland Happy
Jack Butland has been a revelation for Stoke City so far this season. He currently leads the Premier League in saves with 76 and is tied for 2nd in clean sheets with eight. Butland is the lynchpin of the no-nonsense defense that has been cultivated over the last several years by their captain Ryan Shawcross. Butland is also 22-years-old and looks to be a future starting member of the English National Team. The future success of Stoke depends on the happiness of their young goalkeeper.
9 Watford - Continue Living the Dream
In their first season after achieving promotion from the Championship, Watford are living their dream scenario. They are firmly out of relegation danger and have a friendly end of the season schedule. The Hornets dominated Liverpool and Odion Ighalo has been a revelation, leading the club in goals with 14. Ighalo was recently linked with a big club transfer, but has downplayed that move for now. This has been a dream season for their fans and it is now up to them to keep it going as long as possible.
8 Liverpool - Play with Consistency
During Jurgen Klopp’s first season as Liverpool manager, he is playing with many players he did not choose. That factor can partially explain the club’s current lackluster position in the league table. As Klopp grows more familiar with Liverpool, he will learn the capabilities of these unfamiliar players, which will hopefully resolve the club’s problem of not showing up for matches against Newcastle, Watford, and West Ham. Staying motivated and committed from week to week will help Liverpool improve on their early season struggles.
7 Crystal Palace - Live up to Selhurst Park’s Reputation
Selhurst Park is a fortress, and their fans treat it as such. The matchday atmosphere in Croydon is on the level of any in the Premier League. However, the Eagles have failed to match their park’s reputation so far this season, boasting the 12th best home record in the league. Their away form is much better, currently the 4th best. Their surprising home struggles occur despite enjoying an incredible home atmosphere. If they want a chance to show European opponents just how fearsome Selhurst can be, they will need to perform against England’s best.
6 West Ham - Enough with the Scoreless Draws
West Ham have climbed within a shot of the Premier League Top Five by playing a particularly pragmatic brand of football. They look to hold their opponents in check, while allowing their creative players to dissect opposing defenses. For the month of December, West Ham was borderline unwatchable, not because of poor results, but because of three consecutive scoreless draws. This is a club capable of scoring goals in matches where they intend to do so, and that should be their intention in every match.
5 Manchester United - Fire van Gaal, Appoint Ryan Giggs
Ryan Giggs has been Manchester United’s unofficial manager in waiting since he took control of the reins on an interim basis in 2014. Controversies surrounding his personal life have prevented that in the short term, but he remains the favorite candidate of fans. Louis van Gaal is falling increasingly out of favor and his disappointing December was an example of the ongoing crisis of leadership surrounding the club. Unless they are bringing Sir Alex Ferguson out retirement, Giggs is the next best thing.
4 Tottenham Hotspur - Stay in the Top Four
Four years ago, Tottenham Hotspur broke through football’s glass ceiling and managed to finish in qualifying position for the Champions League. Improbably, Chelsea went on to win the Champions League, knocking their London rivals out of the competition. That does not look like it will be happening this season and Spurs are in command of the final qualification spot and looking to climb further. They are capable, but will they be able to follow through?
3 Manchester City - Win the Premier League
Anything less than lifting the Premier League trophy at the end of the 2015-16 will be considered a disappointment by Manuel Pellegrini and Manchester City. They spent heavily during the summer, signing Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne, and Nicolas Otamendi among others and exceeding the €200 million mark in transfer fees. With that kind out outlay, anything less than England’s most prestigious domestic trophy would be a disappointment. They are currently three points behind Arsenal, but will have a second chance against the Gunners on Matchday 37.
2 Leicester City - Show Vardy and Mahrez the Money
It is no secret. The key to Claudio Ranieri and Leicester City’s success has been their duo of Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy. The pair have combined for a total of 28 goals and 10 assists through their 20 matches so far this season. The big clubs of England and Europe are circling like sharks, eager to splash the cash for them. If Leicester want to continue their incredible run, they must sign Vardy and Mahrez to long term deals. If they do not, they run the risk of these players leaving and the club not receiving their true value in transfer fees.
1 Arsenal - Don’t Slip Up
Everything is going as well as could be expected for the Gunners. Mesut Ozil is having an amazing season, with an astonishing 16 assists in his 19 matches played in the Premier League. Alexis Sanchez and Olivier Giroud are lighting up the score sheets on a routine basis. Their shaky defense from the last few seasons has looked dominant at times. They are rightfully sitting atop the Premier League table and rumors have circulated of Arsene Wenger even smiling on occasion. Their fate likely rests on an away trip to Manchester City on Matchday 37, where all of their hard work could be undone.