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Hello and welcome to the Premier League winners and losers column where we go over this week’s round of games and discuss the teams, players and coaches that should either pat themselves on the back for a job well done or take a hard long look at their recent actions and should perhaps start making drastic life changes.
This column is in the spirit of good fun and as usual, your comments and opinions are welcomed.
Manchester City Home Form
On the evidence of this win, and in fact, their home form this season, City are the best team in the EPL. Negredo and Aguero have struck a deadly partnership and in the game against Spurs this weekend, Nasri looked like the player that convinced Sir Alex to battle City for his signature when he decided to leave Arsenal. In fact, the fact that David Silva was hardly missed is a testament to just how much control City had and the creative influence Nasri exerted over the team in his absence. One city signing that has failed to convince so far this season was Jesús Navas and boy did he put in an amazing performance. Judging by his performance against Spurs, there is enough quality in him to torment premier league defenses. City should be the runaway favorites for this season but their away form in the EPL suggests otherwise.
City’s defense kept a clean sheet with Costel Pantilimon in goal instead of regular Joe Hart. For now, Pellegrini seems to have his goalkeeping situation under control and in a week full of bad goalkeeping decisions, maybe Hart was glad to avoid the spotlight—despite it being a comfortable 6-0 spanking.
The sign of a great team is that they collect the necessary 3 pts needed even when the team fails to play well. Gooners will adamantly proclaim that they would have beaten Southampton regardless of the ‘Boruc-inspired goal‘ in the first half but the fact remains that the visitors were left chasing the game early on in the first half at the Emirates. Özil clearly looked like his injury from the international break was hampering his play and he was unable to impose himself on the game.
Overreliance on Giroud remains problem waiting to happen but having Walcott returning to the side injects that extra yard of pace that Wenger and his boys have been missing. He is also on paper a much better substitute for Giroud than Bendtner has proved to be during the few times he has been asked to deputize should Wenger want to rest his main man up front.
As if anyone needed convincing that his allegiance lays at Stamford Bridge and not his boyhood club West Ham, Frank the lad produced a brace at Upton park [check] to secure all 3pts for Chelsea. For his part, Lampard showed that despite growing old and retreating deeper to form the double-pivot for Chelsea with Obi Mikel, he can still be relied upon for the odd goal from the midfield.
Speaking of Chelsea, their 3-0 win against the hammers ensures there was no repeat of last season’s shock loss. The Happy one still has not found his preferred attacking quartet with only Oscar the certain of playing week in, week out. But for a team still figuring itself out, they are not imploding and remain in the hunt for top honors this season.
If you missed this game, it is in your best interest to go find replays and watch it. A 5 minute highlight reel will not do this game justice. This was the best game so far this season as both sides played wonderful attacking football and had their players influence the game with sublime moments of individual skills. In fact, to ensure this review is spoiler-free so readers who missed the game don’t feel cheated.
For a team that have been described as the whipping boys of the season in the EPL thus far, Crystal Palace deviated from their script and not only kept a clean sheet but won the game against Hull City despite having a man sent off in the 2nd half [Keith Millen will be glad to have ended his tenure with a win and sets the tone for incoming manager, Tony Pulis. A rejuvenated Crystal Palace will make the relegation battle interesting and for a league whose season has been full of surprises, having the whipping boys become tough opponents is Christmas come early for fans of football and the EPL.
The new manager is making all the right noise saying he will ensure Crystal Palace survive relegation. He does have the pedigree to back his claim as evidenced by Stoke’s continual survival in the league. And he achieved all this in spite of the major criticism about his team’s style of play.
Finally getting a win in the EPL to halt a run of bad results. The good news is that it was done without last season’s savior, Michu who is still out of the squad with an injury. The cause for worry is that they were unconvincing winners and Laudrup still has some work to do if the Swans are to reclaim the heights they did last season.
Despite Shane’s long 1st half heroics, Paul Lambert was able to mastermind a 2nd half performance that almost saw his team win the game. The kicker? Their star forward, Benteke did not find the back of the net.
Take your pick—Losing out on a top 4 position, failing to move above their noisy neighbors, failing to protect a lead or an honest midfield performance which is a diplomatic way of saying his options are woefully lacking when compared to the quality other teams have at their disposal. Does losing away from home against a newly-promoted side hurt a team’s top-4 credentials? This column is of the opinion that it does and it is for this reason Moyes and his team find themselves starting the countdown in the losers section.
This match was billed as the meeting between the most defensive team [i.e. Spurs—goals allowed stats] and the most attacking team at home [i.e. Man City Goals scored stat]. This column doubts any pundit was brave enough to predict Man City winning and winning so convincingly. AVB introduced 3 new players into his squad with Lamena, Lennon and Holtby coming into the side. The reason AVB finds himself here is because after spending the Bale-money over the, his side is yet to convince others that they are finally ready to make that top 4 push. The fact that Spurs are failing to capitalize on the most open EPL season in recent memory perhaps justifies the moody attitude that stifles the atmosphere at White Hart Lane.
His tactics have failed to utilize the attacking talents at his disposal fully and perhaps his greatest crime, this column suggests is the fact that AVB continues to play Soldado as a lone striker despite it being an open secret that dropping-back to collect the ball from midfield and linkup play are not his strongest suit. Maybe it is time to switch to a 4-4-2 formation and have Adebayor provide support for Soldado and serve as the link between the forwards and the men in the middle.
Let’s talk some more about the Spanish hitman who has failed to banish memories of a certain Gareth Bale among the White Hart lane faithful.
You hate to blame a single player for his team’s woeful performance but if your coach has to resort to recalling a player he banished to play with the reserves, you should know you are under-performing. It could very well be that he is still getting used to the new team and the style of the EPL. It doesn’t help that the attacking trio behind him is inconsistent. With Adebayor’s introduction in the 2nd half, perhaps it points to signs of AVB changing his tactics to bring the nest out of his player.
With the appointment of Rene Meulensteen, Martin Jol finds himself in a no-win scenario. The situation at craven cottage is a Greek tragedy unfolding before our very eyes. Should Martin Jol fail to halt Fulham’s slide, the owners will be justified when they sack him and install Rene Meulensteen as manager. Should Jol however find some way to improve his team’s performances over the course of the season, all the success can easily be attributed to Meulensteen and thus, provide enough justification to fire Jol and install him as the manager. Whether Fulham’s performances improve or gets worse, it will be hard to see Martin Jol as manager next year. It did not help that they lost their home game against Swansea and now find themselves already caught up in a relegation dogfight.
Not a good start Jol. If there is a bright side to Fulham’s current situation, it is that Darren Bent started for the home side. As to why it took so long to be introduced especially when the team needed goals is frankly perplexing. His play was rusty as expected but his instinct and eye for goal have not dulled. How well he plays and how soon he finds the net will determine how many games Fulham win as this season nears the halfway point.
This week saw goalkeepers directly lose games for their respective teams. Boruc’s Southampton never got into the game after his bad attempt at playing footie with Giroud resulted in the Frenchman overpowering him and scoring a goal whilst Hugo Lloris, who by all accounts doubles as a sweeper for Spurs saw two error clearances result in an unforgiving Manchester City attack capitalizing on his mistake. After going down in the first minute of the game due to Lloris pass to Aguero which resulted in a Jesus Nevas goal, Spurs just lost their game plan and never recovered. What was interesting about both games was that the keepers were not under-pressure to clear the ball and rather brought this onto themselves. Maybe the teams of yore were onto something when they instructed their keepers to hoof all balls passed to them wayyy into the opposition half?
Ah the life of a premier league referee. You are one call away from becoming the villain of the story. This week’s round of games saw questionable calls that directly influenced the results of games. Wes Brown’s sending off in the 30th minute against Stoke comes to mind. Maybe we should cut them some slack as they cannot get decisions right all the time but when they make such game-changing decisions, calls for video-technology to review such contentions decisions not only get louder but are becoming impossible to ignore. If human decision making is part of the soul of football, its errors are making the case for why it should be exorcised.