We’re around halfway through the 2022/23 Premier League season…and what a season it’s been so far.
Who could have called last season’s Europa League semi-finalists West Ham battling relegation? Who would have predicted the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool scrapping in mid-table? And who called Arsenal running away with the title?
Probably very, very few.
Some sides have thrived in the first half of the season, negotiating their way around a mid-season World Cup to set themselves up for strong finishes, while others have done nothing but faltered throughout.
But who has found it toughest in the top flight thus far? And what Premier League clubs can look forward to the most difficult run-ins?
Well, evidently, some have found it much harder than others. It’s easy to blame things on the all-seeing fixture computer that’s wheeled out at the start of the season but, in truth, it all comes down to how well you handle what’s in front of you.
The likes of Southampton and Bournemouth might have been dealt cruel hands to kick off the campaign, but intermittent defeats between similarly disappointing results against the likes of Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea for both sides didn’t exactly help their subsequent settling at the foot of the table.
In similar fashion, Everton and Wolves can have very few complaints about their accumulation of defeats, having both failed to overcome the likes of Leeds, Bournemouth, Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest in their opening five fixtures of the season.
Consistency has been missing for Chelsea and Liverpool, who both languish in mid-table.
The Blues were set up for a good season with a friendly run of games against the likes of Everton, Leeds and Southampton but couldn’t make use of those early-season fixtures before stumbling with consecutive meetings against Man Utd, Brighton, Arsenal and Newcastle more recently, taking one point from those four encounters.
Similarly, Liverpool couldn’t build momentum from a 9-0 battering of Bournemouth earlier in the season and, despite getting challenging games against Newcastle, Man Utd and Arsenal over and done with relatively early, have faltered against the likes of Nottignham Forest, Leeds and Brentford since.
As we progress up the table, we find better form but not necessarily easier fixture lists.
Manchester City might have been fortunate with the sparse distribution of their meetings with top sides but have, for the large part, been up to the task when facing them courtesy of the momentum they tend to build with thumping results against struggling teams.
Newcastle and Man Utd have also seen a nice distribution of those tougher games but have similarly made use of their runs against the sides at the lower end of the table. The Red Devils, for example, recently followed up a run of victories against Forest, Wolves and Bournemouth with a 2-1 win in the Manchester derby.
Arsenal haven’t been so fortunate with the proximity of the heavyweight bouts, but have so far sailed through the season regardless. Wins have been forthcoming for Mikel Arteta’s side, who have kept their momentum despite big clashes with Tottenham and Liverpool in October and, more recently, a run of games against Newcastle, Spurs and Man Utd – a run from which they took seven points out of a possible nine.
The difficulty of each team’s fixture list up to this point, however, has no relevance to what’s to come. Every side has to look forward to what they’re yet to face, so what sides are faced with the toughest run-ins?
Arsenal don’t look like dropping momentum but they’ll have to remain stable to get through a tough-looking mini-run close to the end of the season, as they face Man City, Chelsea, Newcastle and Brighton in under three weeks before ending the campaign with games against Forest and Wolves.
The rest of the top four, however, can look forward to evenly spread-out schedules for the remainder of the season, rarely coming up against strong sides in quick succession. Newcastle’s final-day clash with Chelsea could be a cracker, though.
At the other end of the division, the Saints are in for a little bit of hell as the season comes to a close. A mix of stern tests and relegation six-pointers will see them face Arsenal, Bournemouth, Newcastle, Nottingham Forest, Fulham, Brighton and finally Liverpool in their last seven games.
Nathan Jones’ side’s competitors at the foot of the table, however, will enjoy slightly less stressful run-ins at the end of the campaign – although, when the very real possibility of the drop faces you, nothing is really unstressful.
Wolves will have a big final three games against Man Utd, Everton and Arsenal while Bournemouth also come up against the Red Devils before facing the Toffees on the last day – that particular match-up could be an incredibly weighted occasion.
As well as facing the aforementioned two, Everton go up against Man City in their last three fixtures of the season, while West Ham and Leeds face each other around playing the likes of Newcastle, Tottenham, Man Utd and Liverpool respectively at the tail end of the campaign.
A lot will be going on at both ends of the table as we near the final stages of the season and, as always, none of it is to be missed!
For the remainder of the campaign, fans in the UK can catch Premier League action across Sky Sports and BT Sports.
Sky have the rights to fixtures played on Friday night, Saturday evening, Sunday and Monday night, while BT hold the rights to air the Saturday lunchtime Premier League fixtures.
Meanwhile, BBC hold the free-to-air rights for Premier League highlights, which are shown on Match of the Day and Match of the Day 2 every matchweek.