The start of any new year is a time for self-reflection – so what habits will each Premier League side look to change in 2019?
Here’s our look at the New Year resolution each Premier League side should look to take up in the second half of the season.
Part 1 looks at Arsenal through to Huddersfield…
ARSENAL… plug a leaky defence
Unai Emery has rightly won plaudits for handling what could have been a difficult transition period after Arsene Wenger’s 22-year reign with the minimum of fuss. However, results in recent weeks suggest Arsenal are slipping into their bad old ways as flat-track bullies at home but easy prey on the road. Defensive mishaps have contributed to their poor away form but the recent dip in performance levels might just play in Emery’s favour with the transfer window now open.
BOURNEMOUTH… build from a position of strength
Eddie Howe’s remarkable work with the Cherries continues with little fanfare, and they look easily on course to secure a fifth straight season at Premier League level. However, injuries and a recent loss of form have seen the Cherries slowly slip back into mid-table.
With relegation looking unlikely, January could be the right moment for Howe to invest in more bright talent like David Brooks to ensure his side avoid the eventual fate of the likes of West Brom and Stoke of falling victim to complacency and turning stale.
BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION… start taking travel sickness pills
At the Amex Stadium, the Seagulls are one of the toughest nuts to crack at Premier League level, with only Spurs and Chelsea leaving the South Coast with all three points so far this campaign. However, it’s a different story for Chris Hughton’s side on the road, where they can often look toothless in attack. Brighton’s imperious home form means they currently look on course for survival again, but a few away wins would make it a much more comfortable spring for the Seagulls in their second season at this level.
BURNLEY…. show no qualms about winning ugly
The recent 2-0 win over West Ham suggests Sean Dyche’s side are gradually turning over a new leaf, as they ended a disappointing first half of the season on a high.
Even when winning, the Clarets are a side that rarely dominate in terms of chances, but if Dyche can tighten up his exceptionally generous defence as the season enters the final straight, they should start to look more like the team that enjoyed an unlikely tilt at European football just over six months ago by grinding out important wins.
CARDIFF CITY… don’t change too much
The Bluebirds would go down on a record low points tally… would struggle to score… wouldn’t register a single away win…. it’s fair to say most pundits didn’t give Neil Warnock’s side a prayer at the start of the season. However, Cardiff have shown plenty of resilience following their surprise promotion in 2017/18 and have an impressive ability to brush off the heavy defeats that newly-elevated sides inevitably suffer when exposed to more technically-gifted sides at this level. It might not always be aesthetically pleasing, but Cardiff fans won’t care one bit if scrapping for every ball and pouncing at the right moment is what it takes to secure 17th place or higher come May. Don’t rule out a great survival story in South Wales.
CHELSEA… start showing more faith in young talent
Will 2019 finally be the year Chelsea start to show a bit more faith in their young talent? Maurizio Sarri has started integrating several young stars into the Blues set-up in cup competitions this season but has been far more cautious in the Premier League.
The arrival of Christian Pulisic next summer also suggests the club hasn’t yet lost their taste for big-name signings at the expense of their own homegrown talent.
CRYSTAL PALACE… take the pressure off Wilf
The Eagles finally broke their unwanted record of failing to win a game without talisman Wilfried Zaha last month, but will surely need to add to their attacking options to avoid sleepwalking towards relegation. There are worse teams than Palace in this season’s relegation mix, but with Christian Benteke looking a shadow of his former self, and Alexander Sørloth struggling to convince, Zaha urgently needs a decent support act to help fire the Eagles away from danger.
EVERTON… start playing with intensity
It’s been a festive season to forget for Marco Silva at Everton, with only a thumping win away at Burnley to show for their efforts. As the perennial ‘best of the rest’ side in the Premier League, Everton can occasionally approach games in autopilot only to get a rude awakening – as recent defeats at Brighton and Leicester show. Perhaps a little extra pressure and scrutiny is exactly what both Silva and his Everton players need after drifting through Christmas.
FULHAM… keep feeding Mitrović
Claudio Ranieri deserves credit for tightening up Fulham’s defence with the Cottagers securing two clean sheets over the festive period – but in truth, it’s their goalscoring ability that will most likely move the dial in terms of their likely survival hopes this season. Fulham have the best attacking options of any of the sides in the relegation dogfight, and keeping ‘Mitro’ in the goals – particularly at home – will probably be the Cottagers’ easiest path to secure a great escape that looked unlikely just a few weeks ago.
HUDDERSFIELD… score a goal, any goal
Things are starting to look desperate for the Terriers, who are now in danger of becoming marooned at the bottom of the Premier League table after seven straight defeats.
Frustratingly for David Wagner, his side always looks competitive in spells during games, but with little or no killer instinct, inevitably the Terriers have no reply if they fall behind in games. Given their current plight, they may find it hard to add genuine Premier League attacking quality to their ranks to help salvage their season – but without any extra firepower, they will surely be the first side to drop.