Arsenal

Optimism is high after the win over Manchester United. But Mikel Arteta knows there are tougher tests ahead, but his side are working harder and playing with real intensity.

There will be bumps in the road until May, but the rookie boss looks like a man with a real plan at the Emirates and if the players are not on board, they will be gone.

Verdict: C

Strengthen

Arteta won’t be fooled, he will know he still needs to add another quality centre back to partner David Luiz. Nathan Ake is 5/1 to join Arsenal in January.

 

Aston Villa

It has been a tough return to the top flight for Villa, but the win at Burnley was a huge boost for under pressure boss Dean Smith.

Villa are a point above the drop zone taking six points from three festive games.

Smith knew it would not be easy despite the £100m outlay, but he would have wanted much more from £22m striker Wesley who has scored just five league goals.

Where would Villa be without skipper Jack Grealish who must be on some of the big boys radar this month or in the summer.

Verdict: B-

Strengthen

Smith will have to do without crocked Wesley and he clearly does not fancy Jonathan Kodjia, so he has to look at drafting in a striker or Villa could be heading back to the Championship. Alfredo Morelos is 4/1 to join Villa in January. 

 

Bournemouth

Eddie Howe’s side are in a real relegation battle after their loss at West Ham.

One win in 10 league games with eight defeats has alarm bells ringing on the south coast and more performances like they put in at the London Stadium will not help.

Nathan Ake’s return cannot come soon enough but the Dutch defender is a wanted man this month and is a short price to leave the club this window.

David Brooks has been a huge miss and when will £17m Dominic Solanke score a goal?

The striker has made 20 appearances this term and cannot buy a goal.

Verdict: C

Strengthen

Where do you start? A New defender if Nathan Ake leaves, but if he stays then another striker alternative to Callum Wilson would be a huge boost.

 

Brighton

This time last year the Seagulls were a point better off under Chris Hughton.

Bur the fans are buying what Graham Potter is selling who was handed a contract extension after four months in charge.

Neal Maupay has brought an energy to a strike force that has relied far too much on Glenn Murray in recent years.

Aaron Mooy has been a joy to watch – the midfielder ran the show in the impressive win at Arsenal.

Verdict: C

Strengthen

It has not happened for forward Alireza Jahanbakhsh, but his strike against Chelsea could be a turning point. If not another forward could be on Potter’s shopping list.

 

Burnley

Defeat at home to Villa condemned the Clarets to a third straight league defeat in a row, the third time it has happened this season.

Sean Dyche has led his troops superbly in the top flight, but at what point does he look to evolve their style of play?

With Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes up front, there is only one way you can play, route one.

And if teams can deal with that, the Clarets have little else to offer.

Verdict: C-

Strengthen

A quality midfielder who can operate behind the strikers and another forward with pace to stretch defences.

 

Chelsea

With the transfer ban imposed, Frank Lampard has exceeded expectations so far.

Top four, into the last 16 of the Champions League and the emergence of a host of youngsters bodes well for Chelsea.

Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori have been excellent with the fans falling back in love with their side and neutrals adapting the Blues as their second team.

But Lampard needs to address the alarming home form – four defeats at Stamford Bridge, only Norwich, Burnley, West Ham and Southampton have worse home records.

Verdict: B-

Strengthen

An alternative to take the load off Tammy Abraham would be ideal, the Blues have been linked with Lyon forward Moussa Dembele.

 

Crystal Palace

To start the year in the top ten is a massive achievement for the Eagles.

Boss Roy Hodgson has worked wonders with a small squad, a refocused Wilfried Zaha is a massive boost, Jordan Ayew’s form has been a welcomed surprise and the addition of Gary Cahill has proved to be a shrewd bit of business.

The historic win at Old Trafford showed they are no pushovers this season and enter the new year looking up the table instead of over their shoulder.

Verdict: B+

Strengthen

Joel Ward has gone back in at full-back following Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s exit and the Eagles have been linked with Derby right-back Jayden Bogle.

 

Everton

After the disaster that was Marco Silva, Everton have asked Carlo Ancelotti to take them forward.

It’s been three wins and three draws since Silva’s exit and the experienced Italian has breathing space.

Gylfi Sigurdsson is enjoying his football again, Richarlison looks a threat and all of a sudden Dominic Calvert-Lewin is starting to fulfil some of his promise with five goals in his last seven games.

Verdict: C-

Strengthen

Ancelotti claims he is happy with the squad but will have to look at bolstering his defence.

The Toffees have been linked with Nottingham Forest defender Joe Worral.

Despite this Real Madrid’s playmaker James Rodriguez is a target according to reports.

The Colombian is Even money to make the switch to Merseyside this month.

 

Leicester City

A dream first half of the campaign for the Foxes.

Yes, they were excellent last season when Brendan Rodgers arrived,  but no one would have thought they would be above Manchester City hoping to capitalise on any Liverpool slip ups in the title race.

Jamie Vardy keeps scoring goals, James Maddison and Youri Tielemans keep controlling games while Caglar Soyuncu has seamlessly replaced Harry Maguire.

Verdict: B+

Strengthen

The only issue could be losing James Maddison for a lengthy spell, so adding a quality midfield operator could be on the agenda.

AC Milan star Hakan Calhanoglu fits the bill and Milan could be willing to let him leave.

 

 

Liverpool

Jurgen Klopp’s side have maintained the high standards set last season – Manchester City have failed to keep up.

Just two points dropped all season and the only question is will Liverpool clinch the title without losing a game?

Under the German, every player seems to be taking their game to new heights, none more than Trent Alexander-Arnold.

The front three have been superb again and Divock Origi has stepped in when needed bagging five goals.

Verdict: A

Strengthen

The one gap of a ball playing midfielder has been filled with the clever signing of Takumi Minamino from Red Bull Salzburg for a bargain £7.25m.