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Friday 28 December 2012

Barclays Premier League half-term report card

Our PLTV pundits reveal their star performers and key moments in the first half of the 2012/13 campaign

  • Robin van Persie opened his Man Utd account with this goal against Fulham

  • Andreas Weimann rounded off a slick move as Villa defeated Liverpool

  • Hatem Ben Arfa scored with a stunning strike against Aston Villa

  • Luis Suarez has scored 11 goals in the Barclays Premier League this season

The Barclays Premier League 2012/13 season has reached the halfway mark, with all but four teams having played 19 matches, and to mark the occasion, premierleague.com asked the experts working at PLTV to assess the campaign so far.

BEST GOAL

Iain Dowie – Robin van Persie v Fulham
From a technical point of view, this goal is the best one so far. It is what he is about. It’s a really difficult skill. It’s like a brush stroke from a master painter. He just caresses the ball away from the keeper. It’s sublime and is just a brilliant finish.

Alan Curbishley – Hatem Ben Arfa v Aston Villa
There have been so many exceptional goals but I am going to have to go for this one as it was just a stunning strike.

Don Hutchison – Luis Suarez v Newcastle United
The way he took the goal was absolutely fantastic. His touch and his technique inside a crowded area and to go around the goalkeeper as well, it was brilliant.

Craig Burley – Andreas Weimann v Liverpool
There was good movement, good passing and it was a fantastically worked goal.

John Scales – Suarez v Newcastle United
I would probably say Suarez for the composure, the technique, the calmness to be able to be able to chest that under the pressure of knowing that a goalkeeper coming out. It's incredibly difficult to pull off. It’s quite a unique piece of skill and very few players can do it. It reminds me of someone like Dennis Bergkamp. Suarez has got exceptional talent.

  • Chris hughton has guided his Norwich City side to 11th in the table

  • West Bromwich Albion had a fine start to the campaign under Steve Clarke

  • David Moyes has been with Everton since 2002

BEST MANAGER

Iain Dowie - Chris Hughton (Norwich City)

He had an unenviable task to take over there. It started with a couple of disappointing results but he put together a tremendous run and for a club of that stature to be where they are, he deserves a huge amount of credit. Chris has gone about his business nice and quietly and he has done an excellent job. They have beaten Manchester United and Arsenal at home and no one wants to play at Norwich at the moment.

Alan Curbishley – David Moyes (Everton)

He generally threatens the top-four places but this might be the season he does it. He has bought well and has got a squad that looks like that it can compete. Moyes’ squads over the years have played the same way so whoever comes into the team, whoever he buys, they know what they are doing. They are very organised, they make it very, very difficult and they have got players that can change games.

John Scales – Steve Clarke (West Bromwich Albion)

He has shown that he has a good blend in the team, they are strong, they play some great football and in Shane Long, Peter Odemwingie and Romelu Lukaku they have got some great attacking options. I have been really impressed with West Brom and that comes from Steve Clarke setting them up well and managing the club in a great way.

Don Hutchison – Hughton

I thought Chris may struggle after the job Paul Lambert did there but he has done a great job in guiding them to where they are now.

Craig Burley - Hughton

After such a disastrous start to the season following on from Paul Lambert it seemed only one way for Chris, and that was down. But they went on a superb run including wins against Arsenal and Manchester United. It’s a fantastic turnaround and I am really pleased for him because he just seems such a genuine guy.

  • Robin van Persie sealed a move from Arsenal to Man Utd in the summer

  • Juan Mata has been in impressive form for Chelsea this season

BEST PLAYER

Iain Dowie – Robin van Persie (Manchester United)
I am going to go for Van Persie, given that he has gone to a club where there’s huge expectation. He has taken to it and coped with it really well. People don’t realise the pressure you are under when you sign for that sort of money at a club like that. It’s massive. He knows he has got good players around him and the understanding between him and Wayne Rooney is almost telepathic and as a result, that could be the difference between United winning the title or not.

Alan Curbishley – Juan Mata (Chelsea)
Whenever he picks the ball up, I expect something to happen, a bit like David Silva last season.  I don’t think Chelsea have been firing on all cylinders but he has been excellent all season. The mark of a player like that is when he is not playing how much a top side miss him and that has been the case with Mata.

Don Hutchison – Van Persie
We all know he can score goals but going into a new club, new environment and manager - he has been brilliant. Sir Alex Ferguson said last season that he was not going to lose the title to City on goal difference again and that’s the main reason they got Van Persie in. Some players who go to Old Trafford struggle because of the expectation. It’s a huge club. You need to have something special and a certain character when you play for the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool and Van Persie has got that.

John Scales – Van Persie
He has had a big move to a big, big club and the pressure is instant but he has taken to it as if he just loves playing on the big stage, playing with that quality of players. To settle in and score the goals he has scored and perform like he has, he has been the outstanding performer of the season so far. He knew what playing at a big club was about but still he has got to go there and prove himself, fit in and deliver the goods. That’s what makes those people stand that much more than maybe some others that don’t quite have the same burden of pressure upon them.

Craig Burley – Van Persie
He was the big headline summer signing and he has carried on from where he has left off last season. There’s always the expectation whenever you go to a big club and that’s the one thing that weighs on players shoulders quite a lot. I never thought it would be a drama for him moving there and he seems to have linked up very nicely with his team-mates, especially about Wayne Rooney, and that could be the sole difference between who picks up the title this season.

  • Miguel Michu leads the scoring charts together with Robin van Persie

  • Christian Benteke joined Aston Villa from Belgian side Genk in August

  • Claudio Yacob has played a key role in West Brom's eye-catching season

BEST NEW SIGNING

Iain Dowie - Christian Benteke (Aston Villa)
He has been brilliant and has almost carried Villa singlehandedly. Benteke has gone to side that is very low on confidence and he found a way to drag them up. He has been top class and the back-heel he produced against Liverpool was out of the top drawer. His game is developing on all fronts.

Alan Curbishley – Michu (Swansea City)
Everybody is desperate for that midfield player that can become the extra striker and he has done it fantastically well. It is difficult for players to come into the Premier League and hit the ground running and he has done that. I have been impressed with his finishing. When he plays in the middle of the park or just off the striker he arrives late, he arrives unmarked, he is powerful in the air, he has got a great left foot and when he is in a goalscoring opportunity, you expect him to score.

Don Hutchison – Claudio Yacob (West Bromwich Albion)
He has been a terrific signing and has done a great job for West Brom. He lets the flair players play. West Brom are a great side going forward but they need that bit of stability at the back just to hold it up and he sits in there and protects the two centre-halves.

John Scales – Michu
The signing was a masterstroke. He has delivered.  It’s remarkable that they have picked him up for £2m. He is an outstanding player. He’s got composure and skill and he has got it in abundance. Michu has adapted straight away to the Premier League and to be able to do that and score that number of goals really is testament to his ability and his character.

Craig Burley – Michu
He has been absolutely fantastic. What a player he is. Physically and technically he is very good and he has got all the attributes for the Premier League. He is big and strong and is relatively quick as you need to be in the modern game. He can play up front and in midfield, just behind the striker, and his best quality for me is the timing of his runs when he arrives in the box.

  • Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas celebrates victory at Old Trafford

  • Robin van Persie sealed a dramatic Manchester derby victory for United

  • Reading and Man Utd played out a seven-goal thriller in December

BEST MATCH

Iain Dowie – Manchester City 2-3 Manchester United
It was an amazing match. In terms of what it meant for the season, you’ve got to say that the Manchester derby tops it all. It had absolutely everything. It was incredible. It had drama, great goals, great counter-attacking and it was a stunning game.

Alan Curbishley - Manchester City 2-3 Manchester United
Sir Alex Ferguson picked a side that was going to cause Manchester City problems. They dominated the first half, went two up, and for Man City to come back showed a lot of character and then there was the turnaround in the last minute, it was the best game and sums up the Barclays Premier League.

John Scales - Manchester United 2-3 Tottenham Hotspur
They hadn't won there in 23 years, way back when Gary Linkeker scored in 1989. Spurs came firing out of the blocks and went at United brilliantly in the first half and then had to withstand the fightback. The performance from Spurs was fantastic. It was a massive result for Andre Villas-Boas to show what he is capable of doing with his team.

Don Hutchison – Manchester City 2-3 Manchester United
It was a superb game of football. For United, stopping City's home record was absolutely brilliant. It will be significant. City did the double over United last year so those two matches proved pivotal and if United do the same this season, they will go on and win the title.

Craig Burley – Reading 3-4 Manchester United
This match encapsulated the Premier League for me. You have got one of the teams that is fighting relegation against the team that is the favourite for the title and they were battering away at each other for 45 minutes. When you get the Readings of this world really competing against the big boys it tells you everything about the competitive nature of the Premier League.

TOP FOUR PREDICTIONS

Iain Dowie - Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal
United to win it because they have won one derby and they defeated Chelsea away. City will lose Yaya Toure to the Africa Cup of Nations and there’s also the Robin van Persie factor.

Alan Curbishley - Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal
United have overcome their injury problems at the back and they are going to get stronger. City are strong enough to still challenge so I see the title out of those two.

Don Hutchison - Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal
I am going for United because of what Van Persie has done. He is the main difference. I'll go for Arsenal for fourth because the fixtures they have got in January and February are quite kind so they could easily put a decent run together.

John Scales - Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal
I've gone for United because of Sir Alex Ferguson, simple as that. He is an incredible manager.

Craig Burley - Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur
A fit Van Persie could be the difference, if you think how close it was last year. Tottenham have got players coming back and if they can keep the likes of Emmanuel Adebayor, Clint Dempsey and Jermain Defoe fit, potentially they are going to be stronger than Arsenal.

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Key Points

  • Barcalys Premier League has reached the halfway point of the season
  • Our PLTV pundits look back at the campaign so far
  • They review the best managers, players, goals, new signings and matches