Hairdryers and halos in our Premier League half-time team talk

The season is at the midway point so Tim Rich dishes out the dressing-room dressing downs and the tributes over tea while pointing out the second-half route to glory

Click to follow
The Independent Football


Their manager is: Still making profits for the football club, still without a trophy since 2005 and desperately in need of a spark from somewhere. His strategy of digging up unknown treasures from abroad now looks exhausted. Mark: 6/10

Their owners are: The subject of abuse. "Ivan Gazidis what the f*** do you do?" sang the away support to their chief executive during a hopelessly one-sided game at Old Trafford last month. They preside over the highest ticket prices in Britain and these profits need to be invested, not banked. 4/10

The first half of the season was: Summed up by the penalty shoot-out at Bradford. That they are still in the Champions League is a fig leaf of sorts and they are still likely to re-qualify for the competition. 5/10

What they need to do: Arsenal have to build on the success of tying up their best British players to long-term contracts and bring in a proven, high-class centre forward. Predicted Mark: 7/10

Aston Villa

Their manager is: In danger of repeating Alex McLeish's trick at Birmingham of winning the League Cup while getting himself relegated. Like McLeish's Birmingham, Villa score very few goals but Paul Lambert's foundations are much stronger. Mark: 6/10

Their owners are: Congratulating themselves on backing Lambert's strategy of bringing in young players from outside the Premier League and wondering how much of their £24m they will get back when Darren Bent comes to be sold. 6/10

The first half of the season was: An absolute rag-bag of thrilling defeats (Manchester United), glorious performances (Liverpool) and utter humiliation (Chelsea). Somewhere in all that lurks the real Aston Villa. 6/10

What they need to do: Keep hold of Christian Benteke, keep faith in their young players and listen to the Holte End that sang Lambert's name during the 4-0 humbling by Tottenham. Predicted Mark: 6/10


Their manager is: No interim coach has looked more interim than Rafael Benitez. Reports he could be at Chelsea "for good", may be on the money but ignore the fact permanence is not one of Roman Abramovich's qualities. Mark: 6/10

Their owner is: Someone who showed his gratitude to the man who finally won him the European Cup by sacking him six months later. 2/10

The first half of the season was: Bizarre. The worst defence of a European Cup since the Champions League was born sparked Roberto Di Matteo's dismissal but Benitez's salvage operations look more skilful than his detractors could possibly have imagined. 6/10

What they need to do: Give away the hopelessly overrated Jon Obi Mikel and trust in what looks like a formidable side with Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Oscar, David Luiz and Fernando Torres. If Benitez cannot catch Manchester United he is a good bet to finish second. Predicted Mark: 8/10


Their manager is: Probably the most impressive figure in the Premier League. The only man who sees the faults and the fouls committed by his own players and condemns them. Clint Eastwood in a tracksuit. Mark: 9/10

Their owner is: Wondering if he can get away with another year of limited spending. It was Bill Kenwright's idea to play "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" for the Hillsborough families that became Christmas No 1. It may be a portent. 8/10

The first half of the season was: Better than it usually is for Everton and an endorsement of the togetherness Moyes has fashioned on a limited budget, turning Goodison into the fortress that Anfield used to be. 8/10

What they need to do: Arsenal and Tottenham will have other opportunities to make the Champions League but Everton may not. If they produce their usual strong finish, they will make it. If they panic, they won't. Predicted Mark: 7/10


Their manager is: "Like a thunderstorm" if his post-match comments after a slovenly 1-1 draw against Southampton are to be believed. Martin Jol did not find Dimitar Berbatov's "Keep Calm and Pass to Me" T-shirt amusing either. Mark: 6/10

Their owner is: Wondering if his expenditure on the new Riverside Stand will attract crowds in the Championship. 6/10

The first half of the season was: Like a cake left out in the rain to quote the lyrics of MacArthur Park. Fulham opened the season with a 5-0 thrashing of Norwich but have won once since 20 October. 5/10

What they need to do: Complete the transfer of Darren Bent, buy Will Hughes from Derby, knuckle down and stop making Martin Jol angry. Predicted Mark: 6/10


Their manager is: David Brent or Bill Shankly circa 1963 depending on whom you believe. Brendan Rodgers' purist approach to football sometimes makes him look like a monk running a brothel. Mark: 6/10

Their owners are: Increasingly unpopular on Merseyside. Having stranded Rodgers by allowing Andy Carroll to leave without arranging a replacement, Fenway put an almost intolerable strain on Luis Suarez. 3/10

The first half of the season was: A one-man show for Suarez who is on course to become footballer of the year. The case for getting rid of Kenny Dalglish has yet to be made. 5/10

What they need to do: Back Rodgers in the January window and remind him of Gary Lineker's remark that even Johan Cruyff, when he was manager of Barcelona sometimes, played the ball long. Predicted Mark: 6/10

Man City

Their manager is: Still deservedly popular at the Etihad Stadium but unable to explain why he is to European football what Sid James was to French art-house cinema. Mark: 7/10

Their owners are: Collecting the Barcelona backroom team on the instalment plan. With Ferran Soriano as chief executive, Txiki Begiristain as director of football, who else could they want? 6/10

The first half of the season was: Death in the Champions League group of death but they have made a better fist of defending the domestic title than Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund or Ajax. 7/10

What they need to do: Mancini has said they will not spend in the transfer window and, if their manager can stop tinkering and decide on his best side, they may yet keep hold of their Premier League title. Predicted Mark: 7/10


Their manager is: Probably not going to retain his manager of the year title. Mark: 5/10

Their owners are: Probably wondering if offering Alan Pardew an eight-year contract was worth giving their management team unprecedented job security. They failed to invest on the pitch and are reaping the consequences. 4/10

The first half of their season was: A major disappointment apart from the Europa League, a hurdle they elegantly surmounted. The 4-3 defeat at Old Trafford showed what Newcastle are capable of but it was their eighth loss in 11 games. 4/10

What they need to do: Accept the £80,000-a-week demands of Demba Ba or let him go and ensure there is cover while Cheick Tioté is at the African Nations Cup. Predicted Mark: 5/10

Man United

Their manager is: A stand at Old Trafford, a statue outside the ground, a hologram in the club museum, 71 on Monday and still the best there is. Mark: 9/10

Their owners are: Preparing for the biggest decision of their lives. This summer, Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola and David Moyes are all likely to be out of contract – the time for change is almost here. The money spent on Robin van Persie has been spectacularly justified. 7/10

The first half of the season was: Like the cartoon series made about the Harlem Globetrotters in the 1970s in which our heroes would fall hopelessly behind, solve a mystery during the interval and win in the last seconds. 8/10

What they need to do: Celebrate the end of an era, a farewell to Scholes, Giggs, Ferdinand and maybe to the man who created the modern Manchester United. Will probably regain the title but have to improve defensively to get anywhere near the European Cup. Predicted Mark: 6/10

Norwich City

Their manager is: Far, far better at his job than most people imagined. Mark: 9/10

Their owners are: Christmas is a lucrative time for Delia Smith and, with 25 points on the board from 19 games, the club's co-owner is contemplating a third successive season in the Premier League for the first time since 1995. The choice of Chris Hughton to succeed Paul Lambert appears inspired. 8/10

The first half of the season: Began with a 5-0 thrashing and climaxed with victories over Arsenal and Manchester United. 8/10

What they need to do: Norwich require more options in attack to support Grant Holt and have been strongly linked with two Brighton and Hove Albion players, striker Craig Mackail-Smith and midfielder Liam Bridcutt. Predicted Mark: 7/10

Queen's Park Rangers

Their manager is: Desperately trying to disassociate himself from the squad he inherited. Redknapp alone inspires confidence in Rangers. Mark: 7/10

Their chairman is: Wondering how little £6.8m gets you these days. That was the amount Tony Fernandes authorised QPR to spend on agents' fees that brought him a group of footballers who looked nothing like a football team. 3/10

The first half of the season was: A ringing endorsement of Mark Hughes' statement after the final match of last season: "We will never be in this position [fourth bottom] again." No, they will be last, plunging towards the Championship at giddying speed. 1/10

The second half will be: A slog against relegation led in the main by hardened English-speaking 30-somethings who have not been signed from Real Madrid and who do not have Kia Joorabchian as their agent. Predicted Mark: 5/10


Their manager is: Pointing to the fact that at this stage of last season, Reading were 6th, 11 points behind Southampton and finished as champions. Mark: 6/10

Their owner is: Recovering from an attack from one of his own players, Jimmy Kébé , that the reason they are last is because Anton Zingarevich has kept his hands out of his pocket. 5/10

The first half of the season was: Proof of Kébé's comments that Reading are: "a good Championship team".5/10

The second half will be: Doing a Blackpool which involves not getting into debt, enjoying your time in the Premier League and being relegated with dignity. Predicted Mark: 4/10


Their manager is: Still in a job, which will surprise most people who know Nigel Adkins' chairman, Nicola Cortese. Mark: 6/10

Their owner is: Beginning to reap the benefits for a rare show of patience after spending big in the summer. Adkins thought he might be gone after a 2-0 defeat at West Bromwich Albion but since then Southampton have lost two in eight. 7/10

The first half of the season was: Southampton's performances have been consistently better than the results – 3-2 defeats by the two Manchester clubs are cases in point – but, then again, some of the results have been awful. 6/10

What they need to do now: Sign a high-quality centre-half. It is not coincidence that it took Southampton until 25 November to keep a clean sheet in the league. Predicted Mark: 5/10


Their manager is: Not the messiah as many on Wearside believed Martin O'Neill to be when he succeeded Steve Bruce a year ago but much better than some of the turgid football he has presided over. Mark: 5/10

Their chairman is: Bored or asleep if he watched any of Sunderland's first 15 games but Ellis Short should be marginally encouraged by the last four. 5/10

The first half of the season: The sporting equivalent of watching a Japanese Noh play or listening to a double album of sitar music – unnaturally and stupefyingly boring. When Sunderland beat Reading on 11 December, it was their league first win against a side that had not been reduced to 10 men. 2/10

What they need to do: Carry on the revival sparked by the win over Reading which has seen them win three of their last four games and provide some support to striker Steven Fletcher. Predicted Mark: 5/10

Stoke City

Their manager is: Still ridiculously dressed on the touchline, still giving the pithiest post-match press conferences and still vastly underrated. Mark: 8/10

Their chairman has: Just parted company with John Rudge, who as director of football has overseen 13 remarkable years at the Britannia Stadium.7/10

The first half of the season was: Pretty dull and, even by Stoke standards, workmanlike. Eighteen goals for, 14 against and 10 draws tell their own story. The 3-1 demolition of Liverpool on Wednesday shows what can be achieved. 7/10

What they need to do now: Only Manchester City have lost fewer games and nobody should be apologising for their muscular style of football. If Pulis can trust himself to play two strikers and go for the jugular, European football might be returning to the Potteries. Predicted Mark: 7/10

Swansea City

Their manager is: One of the best footballers of his generation, ridiculously handsome, multi-lingual and a very good judge of a low-cost, high-achieving footballer. Envious of Michael Laudrup? No, me neither. Mark: 8/10

Their chairman is: Preparing for derbies against Cardiff City and a League Cup semi-final against Chelsea, wondering how the transition from Brendan Rodgers went so smoothly. 8/10

The first half of the season was: Even better than the first half of last season that saw Rodgers' side 14th by the halfway mark. Since Swansea have survived the loss of Joe Allen, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Scott Sinclair, this says a lot. They have even had a run in the League Cup. 9/10

What they need to do: Despite the fact that Michu cost £2m and looks like a young Fernando Torres, Swansea could do with some reinforcement for him up front. Predicted Mark: 7/10


Their manager is: Rebuilding Tottenham with a sight more deftness of touch than his attempted rebuilding of Chelsea. Mark: 7/10

Their chairman is: Less of an arrant fool than he seemed when firing Harry Redknapp for finishing fourth. Daniel Levy has overcome the loss of Luka Modric, signed Dembélé and kept Gareth Bale on board. 8/10

The first half of the season was: Defined by their epic 3-2 win at Old Trafford which ended any suggestion that Andre Villas-Boas might face the kind of dressing-room revolt that did for him at Chelsea – and by the table that said Tottenham would lead the Premier League if games lasted 80 minutes. 7/10

What they need to do: Concentrate for the other 10 minutes and overcome their inhibitions about finishing higher than Arsenal, something they have never done in the Wenger years. Predicted Mark: 7/10

West Ham United

Their manager is: Big Sam doing what Big Sam does best, constructing a side that is the football equivalent of an old Volvo, unlovely, reassuringly solid and unlikely ever to break down. Mark: 8/10

Their owners are: Preparing for the move to Stratford's Olympic Stadium. Holding on to Mohamed Diamé may prove slightly more difficult.7/10

The first half of the season was: A time when it was easy to forget that West Ham, unlike Southampton and Reading, did not win automatic promotion. However, that was true of Allardyce's Bolton when they were promoted in 2001. 7/10

What they need to do: Stop playing James Tomkins as a midfielder, stop worrying whether Allardyce is betraying the West Ham traditions of Brooking and Moore and keep Diamé. Predicted Mark: 7/10

West Bromwich

Their manager is: Doing remarkably well for someone whose only experience of being a manager was overseeing Newcastle's 5-1 defeat at Old Trafford 13 years ago. You have to ask yourself what kind of backroom staff Jose Mourinho assembled at Chelsea that included Rodgers, Villas-Boas and Steve Clarke. Mark: 9/10

Their chairman is: Congratulating himself for choosing Clarke as Roy Hodgson's successor. West Brom have scored more and conceded fewer than they had at the halfway mark under the current England manager. Bringing Romelu Lukaku to the Hawthorns was a neat piece of business. 8/10

The first half of the season was: Inspired by superb performances at the Hawthorns that saw both Merseyside clubs and Chelsea well beaten. 8/10

What they need to do: Maintain momentum which will be difficult because, of all the sides on 33 points West Brom, have the least resources. Predicted Mark: 7/10

Wigan Athletic

Their manager is: Wondering if he should have accepted the offer to take charge of Aston Villa or pushed harder for the Liverpool job. Roberto Martinez obtained a new training ground and more control as his price for staying but was it worth it? Mark: 6/10

Their chairman is: Wondering whether season eight in the Premier League – a ridiculous achievement when you consider it – will be Wigan's last. 5/10

Their first half of the season was: Despite the fact that Martinez argues this is the best side he has managed, it has performed like many other Wigan Athletic teams for the first 19 games. Indifferently. 5/10

What they need to do: Wigan are what Southampton were in the 1990s, a team that flirts continually with relegation before escaping. However, the assumption that they are too good to go down or that there are three worse teams is a very dangerous one. Predicted Mark: 7/10