Chris Sutton's team talk ahead of the second half of the season
Arsenal love proving their doubters wrong and Man United have made huge progress, but Liverpool look a shadow of their former selves – CHRIS SUTTON gives all 20 Premier League sides a HALF-TIME TEAM TALK as the season reaches the halfway stage
- Arsenal have proved their doubters wrong to top the table at the halfway mark
- Man United are in the top four and improving all the time under Erik ten Hag
- Liverpool have fallen away badly this season, and could miss out on the top four
- Chris Sutton gives his half-time team talk to all 20 Premier League teams
Everyone got their oranges? Good. It would not be a half-time team talk without those.
Most of the Premier League’s clubs have played 19 games. That means there are 19 to go and we have a big second half ahead.
Sportsmail asked me to deliver a team talk to each club. There will not be any Neil Warnock effing and blinding. But maybe I’ll go full Mike Bassett: England Manager and throw in words of wisdom from a few literary greats. So with my copy of Roger Hargreaves’s Mr Men by my side, here goes.
Chris Sutton offers a half-time team talk to all 20 Premier League sides
Lads, you will have seen Aaron Ramsdale receive a size nine signature from a Spurs fan who wishes his goalkeeper was half as good as yours. What a fool — it isn’t as if you lot need a kick up the backside.
You have had an outstanding first half. Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard, Eddie Nketiah: all fantastic. When Gabriel Jesus is fit again, he will need to be at the top of his game to replace you, Eddie. Mykhailo Mudryk isn’t here but who needs him? You showed your superiority in that win at Spurs.
You may have heard how it’s ‘your title to lose’. Take no notice. There will be blips. It’s more about how you bounce back. At the start of this season, the BBC asked 23 pundits to pick their top four. No one had Arsenal first. Or second. Or third. Aren’t you loving proving us wrong? Don’t lose that and you might just win this.
Arsenal have beaten Tottenham twice and have opened up an eight-point lead at the top
Lads, that’s more like it. You are unbeaten in three and it’s good to see Unai Emery getting his ideas across after that chaotic start to the season under Steven Gerrard.
I see no reason why your unbeaten run cannot continue. You have Southampton and Leicester next.
Emiliano Martinez, you won the World Cup and I can see you are still riding that high, given you are wearing a ‘Kylian Who?’ shirt as we speak. But here’s a challenge: stop Southampton scoring on Saturday. You haven’t kept a clean sheet since October 23.
Lads, that’s eight league losses in nine. That’s not good enough. You have got me feeling sorry for Gary O’Neil.
He did well as caretaker coach, so well that he got the gig full-time. But since that happened, you haven’t won. Scott Parker was sacked because he said you weren’t good enough to stay up. Do you want to prove him right?
Had I said in August that you would be out of the bottom three at the halfway stage, you would have snapped my hand off. But you need to up your game.
Gary O’Neil has struggled since taking the Bournemouth job permanently in November
Lads, not bad for a bus stop in Hounslow, eh? Thomas Frank has a game plan and you are adhering to it perfectly. Nobody knows what will happen to Ivan Toney amid those betting charges from the FA. That’s a concern. But you beat Liverpool 3-1 without Toney and you can beat other teams, too.
There isn’t a club in the league with more character than you. The supporters are singing about European football. Why not let them dream? You can dream, too.
Lads, you will notice Leandro Trossard isn’t here for this team talk. You may need to get used to that. But you beat Everton 4-1 and Liverpool 3-0 without Trossard. You’ll be fine. But Alexis Mac Allister and Moises Caicedo, you are going nowhere because Brighton are European contenders now. You are needed.
I thought Graham Potter did a great job with Brighton. But you are playing better under Roberto De Zerbi. It’s a brilliant brand of football and you should be looking up from seventh, not down.
Lads, don’t worry, I’ve sent Todd Boehly out for some tartan paint and a long weight so it’s just me and you. Although I can’t guarantee he will not come back with former Leeds forward Billy Paynter and James Waite of Newport.
Your owner may be making it up as he goes along, buying everyone, the latest being the signing of Mykhailo Mudryk for £88million.
Graham Potter is under pressure to deliver, and Todd Boehly could look to replace him soon
Away from the strange ownership, I want to see Graham Potter do well and it isn’t all on him that you are 10th. Look at the attacking talent in this room: Mudryk, Felix, Sterling, Havertz, Pulisic, Zyech, Aubameyang, Datro Fofana, Broja. Potter is trying to find his best XI and whoever starts, you need to deliver. If you don’t, your manager may be gone. Boehly does not strike me as the patient type.
Lads, where’s the consistency? You beat Wolves. Then lose to Everton. Beat West Ham. Lose to Forest. You are full of potential and I’m not just talking about Wilfried Zaha.
Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise, you are players I love. Patrick Vieira is nurturing you two well, giving you licence to show your quality. On your day, you are dangerous. I want to see more.
Lads, where to begin? The good news is it can only get better. The bad news is that’s because it can hardly get worse. The board are the main focus of the fans’ anger, but every member of this team needs to show you are fit to wear the shirt.
Anthony Gordon, where’s the talent that attracted a £60million bid from Chelsea? You came off the bench against Southampton then gifted James Ward-Prowse the chance to score that winning free-kick at Goodison Park.
I want to see more from you and everyone else. Frank Lampard is on the brink. I’m surprised he’s lasted this long. It’s time you stood up and were counted.
Frank Lampard is running out of time to turn things around at Goodison Park
Lads, you’re this season’s surprise package. This is your time. Marco Silva has worked wonders to take you to sixth. The aim at the start of the season was to survive. Now it’s shifting towards Europe. There’s nothing wrong with dreaming big.
Aleksandar Mitrovic, you have stuck two fingers up to those who said you wouldn’t score at this level. But everyone, outside — we are practising penalties to see who is going to be our new taker.
Lads, Jesse Marsch is one for positivity. Like how you lost 2-1 at Villa but then he talked about how much he loved the performance. Know what I love more? Points.
Whenever I’m sent to watch you, I’m excited. I enjoy the way you play and the energy of Elland Road. But you need to show more. January reinforcements may help, particularly in defence. You survived on the final day last season. Don’t leave it so late this time.
Lads, where’s that pre-World Cup form? You won four out of five before that break. But since the restart, you have lost four in a row and fans are losing patience. I don’t blame them. Perform as woefully as you have been and Brendan Rodgers goes. Play for him and he stays.
If you do want the boss out, I would be careful. There are worse coaches than Rodgers.
Lads, I know Jurgen Klopp gives you cuddles. But I’m not going to coddle you. This is as poor a patch as I can remember from a Liverpool team. You look like a shadow of yourselves. Where’s the blood and thunder?
I’ve been where you are — I won the title with Blackburn in 1995 and then without warning, I hit difficulties. You need to remember how you got there in the first place. The top four is not out of reach if you recover that feeling of supremacy which saw you sweep so many teams aside in the past.
Jurgen Klopp apologised to the fans after Liverpool’s dismal showing at Brighton on Saturday
Lads, don’t listen to Didi Hamann. He says you were a better team before Erling Haaland arrived. Laughable. Haaland and his 21 league goals are not a problem. But I do think the rest of you could do with chipping in. That includes you, Kevin De Bruyne.
Pep Guardiola said he doesn’t care if City miss out on the title this season. But I’ve seen the holes punched in the wall of his office which say otherwise. What you need to remember is Arsenal don’t have this in the bag. You are City. You won 18 in a row in 2017-18, 15 in a row in 2020-21 and 12 in a row in 2021-22. Do it again. Only morons would write you off.
Erling Haaland is scoring for fun, but needs his team-mates to chip in with some goals as well
LadS, look how far you’ve come since that 6-3 loss at City on October 2. You’ve shown extraordinary improvement under Erik ten Hag.
Casemiro, I described you as a £70m panic purchase but you are proving me wrong. Marcus Rashford, you are terrifying teams with direct running. Alejandro Garnacho, you are showing what a prospect you are. Raphael Varane, you are going about your business quietly and brilliantly.
There’s such belief in Ten Hag that fans are not even questioning the club signing a striker from a Championship team — no offence, Wout Weghorst or Burnley. Now is not the time to crumble just because there’s title talk. Ignore it and take it game by game.
Marcus Rashford and Casemiro have been in inspired form for Man United this season
United have made huge steps forward in recent months under Erik ten Hag
Lads, what do you think Mike Ashley is doing right now? I like to imagine he is sipping a Bovril from his giant Sports Direct mug and wondering what might have been. You are showing your former owner what this club is capable of.
Eddie Howe has worked wonders. You are watertight, with only 11 league goals conceded, and showing good intent going forward. St James’ Park is bouncing.
You have exceeded expectations but just enjoy the ride and see if it does indeed take you into the Champions League.
Lads, I’m not going to do a head count for this team talk because that would take hours. Everyone knows how many signings you made in the summer. That left the manager’s head on the block but the club backed Steve Cooper, handing him a new contract in October despite iffy form.
Now look at you. You are 13th and that is a better position than any of us expected. Keep building, keep listening to the boss, keep growing. It’s Bournemouth up next. Nothing is secure yet.
Lads, you are rock bottom. There’s no escaping that, so embrace it. It’s going to be tricky, what with the Carabao Cup semi-final against Newcastle and an FA Cup-tie against Blackpool coming up. The league is where improvements are needed so that win at Everton was huge.
Your manager Nathan Jones could do with being more level-headed in his comments, but I like seeing James Ward-Prowse at No 10. With the club captain there, this team can pose a threat.
Southampton can stay up if they continue to play James Ward-Prowse as a No 10
Lads, it’s Tottenham. Sorry, force of habit. Look, I’m not Antonio Conte. I’m not going to get out my big book of excuses. I’m not going to say we need another three transfer windows. Our fans want to see front-foot football and that was not on show against Arsenal.
I know you are only doing what your manager tells you but I want to see more intent from all of you, Harry Kane included.
And Hugo Lloris, you’re dropped, one mistake too many. Fraser Forster, grab your gloves.
Antonio Conte needs to get more out of his Tottenham side if they want to make the top four
Lads, do you want David Moyes sacked? He spent £160m in the summer and that’s become a millstone around his neck. Gianluca Scamacca and Lucas Paqueta, I expect more. Same goes for you, Jarrod Bowen.
Moyes needs you all to perform, more than ever. You have exceeded expectations in the last two years but you are better than 18th.
Declan Rice, Michail Antonio, Aaron Cresswell, Angelo Ogbonna — you were there in March 2018 when Burnley won 3-0 and the London Stadium pitch was invaded by fans. We don’t want to see that again. It’s Everton at home on Saturday. Go out there and for the love of God, perform.
David Moyes faces the sack if West Ham don’t start picking up some league wins soon
Lads, you’re on the up under Julen Lopetegui. You have too many talented players to go down. You will be tested in the next few games — Liverpool in the FA Cup tonight, then City and Liverpool again in the league — but Lopetegui has made you much more organised.
It promises to be a hell of a scrap at the bottom. Best get a couple of wins when you play Southampton and Bournemouth in February, if you want to avoid that fight.
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