23 October 2017
By THADDEUS JUDE
MatchDay 9 in the English Premier League, EPL, has come to a close, and once again we were treated to the best of football – with scintillating performances and upsets aplenty. Here are five things we learned from the weekend’s action.
1.MANCHESTER IS STILL BLUE:
This above all else can no longer be doubted, Manchester is firmly blue. Pep Guardiola’s men are in menacing form and are destroying everyone in their path – their latest victims being the usually obdurate Burnley FC. Despite struggling to reach their free flowing best and needing a penalty to kick start things, City still managed to come away with a 3 – 0 victory against a side that had taken points off of Chelsea, Liverpool, Everton and Spurs. What made this victory so impressive was that City never really got out of second gear and still stream rolled a difficult opponent.
On the other hand, their neighbours in red were floundering against newly promoted Huddersfield Town as United could only muster 3 shots on target – less than Huddersfield with 4, for the entire game. After their dour performance against Liverpool that left a lot to be desired, Mourinho’s men were expected to bounce back against the new boys but were unable to sufficiently threaten their goal, and were somewhat lucky that the score line wasn’t worse. They now trail Manchester City by 5 points after just 9 games, leaving us with not doubt that Manchester is firmly blue.
2.KOEMAN AND BILIC ON THE BRINK:
The Premier League is a ruthless place especially for managers; the constant pressure to succeed means that time is a luxury most managers cannot afford as immediate results take centre stage in most clubs’ decision making. For Ronald Koeman and Slaven Bilic, the pressure is on and both managers to deliver good results or face sack. Last season, after Everton finished 7th behind Manchester United, there was genuine optimism at the club that this would be the year they finally broke into that “top 6”, in lieu of that, £156 million was spent in the summer transfer market to bolster the squad and make it more competitive. Unfortunately, things haven’t quite turned out as expected with the Toffees currently sitting in the relegation zone with 8 points from 9 games and a goal difference of -11!
On Sunday, despite taking the lead after just 12 minutes, Everton crumbled in spectacular fashion, conceding 4 in the second and finishing the game with 10 men after Idrissa Gueye was sent off for two bookable offences. None of the summer arrivals except Rooney and Pickford have really turned up so far and despite the Everton chairman saying that Koeman has his full confidence, the pressure is definitely on and they need to deliver results in the next few games if he is to avoid the sack.
At Westham, there was also significant transfer activity with a strong emphasis on bringing experienced players in a bid to avoid the relegation battle they found themselves in last season; Bilic was given time to turn things around and rediscover the form that his team showed in his first season in charge. Again things haven’t turned out as expected with Westham currently sitting in 16th position and only out of the relegation zone on goal difference after losing 3 – 0 at home to newly promoted Brighton FC. Bilic is also in dire need of good results but the trip to Wembley to face Spurs in the league cup will offer no respite, it’s looking increasingly bleak for Bilic and if things don’t go his way soon, he might very well find himself out of job.
3.S.O.L WILL BE KEY FO ARSENAL THIS SEASON:
You’re probably wondering what the acronym is for, it’s Sanchez – Ozil – Lacazette and yes, I just coined it now. Sunday’s game against Everton was the first time all three of time started together in the same match and they gave us a glimpse of what is to come as they absolutely ripped the Toffees apart. All members of the front 3 scored with Ozil and Sanchez both grabbing assists as well. Even before conceding the opening goal, S.O.L were involved in everything good for Arsenal and it took an inspired Jordan Pickford performance to keep them at bay, but not for long.
When Arsenal turned on the style in the second half, Everton couldn’t cope with the pace and movement of those three and as the home side went chasing the game, they were devastating on the counter attack guiding the Gunners to a 5 – 2 victory. If they can stay fit and perform as they did on Sunday, then Arsenal will go far this season.
4.SPURS REALLY IS THE “HARRY KANE TEAM”:
When Pep Guardiola spoke of Tottenham Hotspurs as the Harry Kane team, Pochettino said he was being disrespectful, however, the facts show that while Spurs might not be a one man team, they most certainly are a 10 + 1 man team. Against Liverpool, they once again needed their talisman to carve the Reds apart at Wembley, he scored twice and assisted Son for the goal that made it 2 – 0. He was too hot to handle for Liverpool’s defense as he consistently gave Lovren and Matip a torrid time leading to the substitution of the former.
The Englishman is currently one of the best strikers in the world and his 2 goals took him to the top of the Premier League top scorer rankings. Tottenham have come a long way under Pochettino from Champions League hopefuls to title contenders and Kane is a big part of why they are able to compete at this level; whatever Pochettino may say, Spurs really are the “Harry Kane team”.
5.LIVERPOOL ARE IN TROUBLE:
Last season, Jurgen Klopp was considered to have achieved his set goals with Liverpool by successfully returning them to Champions League football, he then had the summer to bolster his squad and make the next step to push for the title, unfortunately, he wasted the summer and his team are paying dearly for it. The German inexplicably chose not to sign any defensive reinforcements despite their shaky defense costing them valuable points at small teams last season. This season, their defensive frailties have been exposed time and again both by small and big teams. Last season, a huge part of their success was their excellent record against the other top 6 teams, with the Reds going unbeaten against them, this season however, they’ve already been hammered by both Manchester City and Spurs, conceding 9 goals in the process and scoring only 1. On Sunday, Lovren showed why Klopp was so wrong not to sign a centre back as he was beaten very easily by simple balls in behind for the first two goals. His performance was so bad that he was substituted after just 3o minutes and Klopp came out to say that even he with his trainers on would have better defended both goals. But why would he have to do that? Because he made wrong decisions in the summer.
The loss leaves them in 9th position, 12 points behind league leaders Manchester City and 3 points away from the Champions League places, Liverpool need to improve and Klopp would do well to find reinforcements in the January transfer window or they may find themselves in more trouble than they are already in.