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Premier League: All Hail Harry and Haaland at Halfway

We are at the halfway stage of the Premier League and, after the weekend that was, it’s only right to begin with the focus on two men.

Let me start with the untouchable Erling Braut Haaland.

A total of 25 top flight goals before the end of January – and that is with the World Cup break in between – is simply staggering.

The Norwegian has delivered Premier League 2023 highlights galore since the opening weekend and who knows just how far this phenomenal young talent can go?

After his latest hat-trick saw him surpass the leading scorers of the entirety of last season, attention is now turning to see if he can top the record of 34 top-flight goals in a single campaign set by Andy Cole (1994) and Alan Shearer (1995).

Incidentally, those achievements came in a 42-league match season as opposed to the now 38.

Also incidentally, only Shearer (five in 1995-96) has scored more Premier League hat-tricks in a single season than Haaland (four so far this term).

While Haaland is the world-class young buck, the natural heir to Shearer’s throne right now is England captain Harry Kane.

His clinical finish at Fulham on the stroke of half-time on Monday night ensured he moved level alongside the late, great Jimmy Greaves as Spurs’ leading all-time scorer. And far better than for me to eulogise, acclaimed writer Henry Winter summed it up best of all when he wrote:

‘What Kane’s achieved is fantastic, obviously testament to his THFC team-mates’ support, but also his dedication, endless finishing sessions, focus on diet, marginal gains etc. Supreme professional, role model and fitting that Kane equals Greaves’ record on London soil.’

Antonio Conte’s future in North London may not be certain but his chances of success are certainly enhanced to no end with Kane – reportedly under the watchful eye of Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag – in the ranks.

Elsewhere in the capital, reports suggest this could be Declan Rice’s swansong at West Ham, although he won’t be leaving until the summer – Arsenal, Chelsea and Man Utd have all been strongly linked with the midfielder.

La Liga
Girona FC
Barcelona
1X2 Draw @ 4.10
Barcelona Asian Handicap -1.00 @ 1.95
Over 2.75 @ 1.98
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

The Hammers have got more pressing things on their mind after it emerged new signing Danny Ings suffered a minor knee injury during their victory over Everton on Saturday.

Ings made his debut off the bench in the 2-0 victory but faces a short spell on the sidelines after being caught by a late tackle during the closing stages.

For a club whose goalscoring issues have left them at the wrong end of the table, the frontman was bought for £15 million from Aston Villa to try and solve their lack of ruthlessness

As it stands Michail Antonio, who started against Everton, is the club’s only fit senior striker.

Another player who could be arriving in London this month – this time in west London – is Enzo Fernández.

Chelsea are planning a fresh move after failing to agree a deal for the Benfica midfielder earlier this month.

With a £106 million release clause, Benfica remain reluctant to sell the Argentina international for a lower fee.

Manager Graham Potter wants midfield reinforcements and Chelsea, who are spending heavily under their latest ownership, supposedly had a £55 million bid for Brighton’s Moisés Caicedo rejected last week.

This SBOTOP writer feels the Premier League 2023 betting odds are stacked against them securing a lucrative top-four finish, yet it cannot be ruled out.

Especially with the likes of veteran Thiago Silva at the heart of their rearguard.

Premier League:Thiago Silva put on a class act performance during Chelsea’s 1-1 draw against Liverpool
Chelsea’s Thiago Silva fights for the ball against Liverpool’s Cody Gakpo

In the words of Guardian journalist Andy Hunter, ‘whether floating passes on to the toes of Kai Havertz or ushering Darwin Núñez where he wanted him to go, the 38-year-old defender was imperious at Anfield’ during the weekend’s goalless draw.

As the millions pour in from Chelsea’s new owners, the free signing from Paris Saint-Germain remains vital for Potter and an education for new recruit Benoît Badiashile, who is 17 years Silva’s junior. ‘He’s got a football brain that’s above pretty much everyone,’ the Chelsea manager said.

‘Benoît will benefit from playing alongside Thiago. Everyone benefits from him. He’s a leader on and off the pitch.’

The final two words are saved for Arsenal and Newcastle.

For Arsenal to have gained 50 points during the first half of the season is a fine achievement and they are deserved table toppers.

For Newcastle to possess the Premier League’s meanest defence and to have conceded only 11 goals at this stage, is also a superb achievement for Eddie Howe’s side. The table rarely lies.


 

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