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Premier League Half Term Report: Man Utd top the class but QPR fail

The New Year marks the beginning of the second half of the 2012/13 Premier League semester and Manchester United top the class despite failing to fully convince the headmaster of their worth, while QPR are anxiously bracing their knuckles for the wrath of the ruler after one spell too many in the dunce's corner.....

Arsenal (5th)
They may be fifth and within touching distance of a top-four finish but Arsene Wenger's side have again mixed brilliance with absolute tripe. They remain breathtakingly brilliant going forward but exasperatingly bad at the back as progress has ground to a halt. A big improvement will be needed in the next five months if they are to avoid failing their final exam.
Half-Term Grade: D

Aston Villa (16th)
Too many of Paul Lambert's players are looking as if the accelerated learning program that saw them skip a year has come too soon. Lambert opted to bring in youth from the lower leagues during the summer but it came to a head at Christmas with successive 8-0, 4-0 and 3-0 thrashings at the hands of the bigger boys Chelsea, Tottenham and Wigan respectively.
Half-Term Grade: E

Chelsea (4th)
A change of tutor has done much to improve the outlook at Stamford Bridge as the unpopular substitute teacher Rafa Benitez replaced the loveable Roberto Di Matteo. Benitez has righted the ship impressively after crashing out of the Champions League and results appear to be improving in a manner that suggests a third place finish should be a minimum target.
Half-Term Grade: C

Everton (6th)
David Moyes continues to work his magic on Merseyside as his team challenge the big boys despite failing to spend as much money on players as their richer rivals. A top-four spot looks to be within reach after a fine opening semester. A model pupil.
Half-Term Grade: B

Fulham (13th)
Pretty much as expected from Fulham, who combine the magic of Dimitar Berbatov with some woeful efforts away from home. Mid-table would appear to be the limit of their ambitions.
Half-Term Grade: C-

Liverpool (10th)
Early optimism under Brendan Rodgers has dissipated away to a sense of realism as Liverpool bid to return to the top of the class. They can't be faulted for effort but quality remains in short supply - Luis Suarez apart - and they appear to have realised that they are no longer the 'big fish in a small pond' they were in primary school.
Half-Term Grade: D

Manchester City (2nd)
Having produced a late spurt to finish top of the class last season, much was expected of Roberto Mancini's charges this term. However, poor signings and some baffling tactical decisions have left them playing catch up as they crashed out of Europe and find themselves seven points adrift of United at the top. Another second half turnaround is needed.
Half-Term Grade: D

Manchester United (1st)
They continue to top the class despite a worrying habit of turning up late for matches. They have shown enough quality to make up for their tardiness as Robin van Persie leads by example up front, although much more will be needed for sterner tests in the Champions League.
Half-Term Grade: B+

Newcastle (15th)
Newcastle's efforts last season were as much a surprise to them as to everyone else as they consistently challenged for honours at the top of the class. However, injuries have taken their toll and much work is needed if they aren't to fail their final exam - particularly if Demba Ba leaves in January.
Half-Term Grade: D-

Norwich (12th)
The dunce's cap was being fitted after their 5-0 defeat to Fulham on the opening day of term but they have turned things around impressively to challenge for the role of school prefect. Chris Hughton has guided them safely to mid-table and that is more than most relegation doom-mongers had predicted.
Half-Term Grade: B-

QPR (20th)
One of the worst pupils to have ever graced the Premier League. A tally of 10 points tells its own story at this stage and even the appointment of Harry Redknapp has failed to stave off the threat of relegation. It is tempting to mark their half-term card as 'ungraded' such has been the poor attendance record and effort of so many of their players but an 'F' at least offers room for improvement.
Half-Term Grade: F

Reading (19th)
Brian McDermott's team were always going to face an uphill task after their promotion last season and despite their best efforts they have come up short so far. Increasingly looking like the foreign exchange student who is only staying for a year.
Half-Term Grade: D

Southampton (18th)
Another of the new boys to the class, Southampton started the term in desperate fashion but they are slowly getting to grips with this level of football and look set to make a decent fist of battling relegation. They have earned admiring glances from male and female supporters alike for their attractive style, although their defenders continue to look as if they spent last night drinking hooch down the local park.
Half-Term Grade: C-

Stoke (9th)
Tony Pulis's side are never going to win awards for style but no-one can match them for sheer consistency. They are the ultimate pupil in terms of making the most of their resources and they are a role model for the more limited Premier League sides.
Half-Term Grade: B-

Sunderland (14th)
The Black Cats have been ghastly to watch at times as they fail to produce anything that might raise even an inkling of excitement. A plethora of early-term draws masked their failings and a relegation dog fight looks to be on the cards.
Half-Term Grade: D-

Swansea (8th)
There was a real concern that the loss of former teacher Brendan Rodgers to Liverpool during the summer could adversely effect results. Thankfully that hasn't proven to be the case as Michael Laudrup has overseen a tremendous upsurge in results that suggests a trophy and a top-half finish isn't beyond the Welsh side.
Half-Term Grade: B

Tottenham (3rd)
Much was made of the appointment of Andre Villas-Boas and a couple of indifferent results at the start of term but critics are quiet now. Injuries were a huge reason for those early worries but a full-strength team has risen into the top-four and a big second-half lies in wait.
Half-Term Grade: B

West Brom (7th)
The Baggies made an outstanding start to the term as they briefly threatened to upset some of the older pupils at the top of the class. That early optimism has given way to a realistic acknowledgement that a top-half finish would represent progress this year.
Half-Term Grade: B

West Ham (11th)
The Hammers were expected to be cast in the role of 'school bully' under Sam Allardyce at the start of the season but they have been a pleasant surprise, both in terms of quality and style. They remain in mid-table which represents a fine effort on their return from the Championship, although they will need to maintain their effort levels to avoid being dragged down the table.
Half-Term Grade: B-

Wigan (17th)
Very much as expected from Wigan as they continue to play the 'class clown' and hover around relegation during the first term. They have turned on the style in the second half of previous seasons and fans will be hoping for more of the same this year.
Half-Term Grade: D

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