Hello and welcome to the 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.
Winners and Losers for Game week 11
There was little to find fault with Moyes’ team’s performance this week. He got the squad selection spot on with Smallings exceeding expectations as a back-up RB and Kagawa’s inclusion ahead of Januzaj ensuring that the latter’s talent is managed and he is not thrust into high pressure situations so early in his career. Phil Jones to play in midfield was an open secret and his disciplined performance in the middle AND at the back for United explained why he is so highly rated at Old Trafford.
Kagawa’s lack of pace looked to be a concern but with Evra bombing forward to provide an attacking option out wide, it was a weakness hardly exploited by Arsenal. He still gets pushed off the ball and shrugged off during 50-50 challenges far too often for my liking and one suspects, he would be far better playing as the no. 10 role but his performance this weekend was functional if not awe-inspiring and for fans and Kagawa, that is another 90minutes on the field. A great boost for his confidence and an indication his manager is gaining trust in him.
Side note- for United fans, De Gea punching Arsenal crosses 30yards away and confidently jumping into bodies to receive crosses shows the strides he has made since joining. After all, his weakness as a goalkeeper was dealing with crosses and he seems to have sorted that out. He is a quality keeper, perhaps the most naturally gifted keeper in the EPL at the moment and with a consistent back four, United’s defense could be impregnable.
RVP’s goal has been over-analyzed already, as was Rooney’s delivery. It was telling that after the game, Rooney talked about how Moyes had them working on their crosses and deliveries into the box as he wanted to exploit Arsenal’s height disadvantage. A strategy that paid off handsomely. It is in high-pressure moments like this when a manager has his tactics and strategy that he gets the team to trust him more. And for the manager, having players follow the game plan to the latter fosters a feeling of mutual respect. Going forward, Moyes still has his work cut out for him.
United need a quality midfielder. Either that or Fellaini significantly improves his all round play. For all of Kagawa’s recent outings, his situation [i.e. where best to play him] remains unsolved and that’s one that could leave Moyes scratching his head all season long. The last and perhaps most important is forming a team identity. What kind of team will the new United be? All fans want beautiful attacking football but Moyes’ victory shows the potential of being powerful side. Is this the game United turn their season around? Only time will tell but for fans of the EPL, it was a welcome sight seeing a United side play to their potential, the league is better off for it.
Liverpool & Southampton
The only teams in the top 4 before this week’s round of game to win their matches. Liverpool coming off a defeat to Arsenal put 4 past Fulham and Southampton also plundered the Hull defense, winning that game 4-1. Both teams performance should serve as an example to all the ‘top teams’ found wanting this weekend of what to do when you fail to secure all 3 points the previous week.
14 saves that guaranteed Newcastle all 3 points. The only thing that compares to watching a midfielder completely dominate the opposition team or a striker wreak havoc on an opposition’s defense is to witness an imperious goalkeeping display. Spurs played well and have several good chances which they took, it was Krul’s brilliance that stopped them and as the game continued, you begun to suspect that it would take a special kind of goal to sneak one past Krul. Sadly for Spurs, that never arrived.
Fans of the EPL
Bloody football eh? This weekend saw Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchster City fans hoping United beat Arsenal just so they don’t run away with the title. This column tries to stay away from clichés but will make an exception this week, the race for the EPL is wide open. Every title contender has so far shown some weakness to suggest they won’t be holding the trophy come end of season. In fact, based on the results after 11 games, you won’t be chased out of the pub if you said ‘I reckon the Saints could win the title this year’. The EPL scores major points for its unpredictability this week. Want to know the exciting part? This week’s round of upset looks to continue all season long.
He is listed in the winners section not so much for his goal but his celebration. For not doing the ‘not celebrating when I score against my former side’ routine out of respect, this writer applauds a footballer that realizes that he does have an obligation to his current fans, irrespective of how much respect he has for his former side. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, if not celebrating is a sign of respect surely, not scoring in the first place is the ultimate sign of deference to your former teammates and fans. Football is a passionate sport and denying United fans that corner flag celebration with Rooney would have been a crime against a football fans most sacred obligation–rubbing a win in your opponents face.
Talk this week was about how long he had to turn this around for Norwich before he would be given the boot. One imagines if he lost this game, it would have been hard to see him staying past Christmans. His team heard their manager’s rallying cry and were impressive coming back from a goal down to win 3-1. First time they have won since September and scored more than
3 goals this season. Next up is a resurgent Newcastle, Chris Hughton and his team have to find a way to build some momentum if Norwich and indeed their manager are to be treated as a threat.
Sunderland’s win against City gives them 3 HUGE points. They may very well end up being relegated but their performance would suggest that their new coach has other ideas. I guess all that TV watching before he got appointed is paying off [he admitted to watching and analyzing EPL games before being appointed manager to keep himself sharp]. 2 wins already for Poyet and after adding Chelsea’s scalp to that of Newcastle’s, you’d fancy the Blackcats against Stoke in gameweek 12.
Alan Paredew’s Newcastle
They took their sweet time getting into any decent sort of form but with Gouffran finally looking the part and Remy continuing to be a constant source of goals, the Toon Army nation is finally seeing their team’s performance on the pitch match their potential. Alan Pardew possess one of the hardworking midfields in the league and their phenomenal work-rate against Spurs was key in securing a memorable victory. Williamson has been a revelation in the heart of defense after being asked to fill in for the injured Coloccini and one wonders if Pardew can justify benching him on this form. The coach will also be no doubt concerned about his misfiring striker Papiss Cissé. His physical size and style of play gives Pardew an alternative attacking style going forward and Pardew will be hopping the International break does him some good
City’s Away Form
Their away form after 6 games reads: LDLDWLL. Their solitary win came against West Ham. A team with players City have at their disposal should not be over-dependent on a player but it is looking like without Silva, it is a no-show for City. Joe Hart’s poor form, their lack of defensive cover and inability to create goal-scoring chances without Silva are potential season long problems that will keep City from winning the title. Maybe Pellegrini will do what City managers in the recent past have done when face with a lack of quality in the squad, throw money at the problem. The January transfer window is right around the corner but the muted voices are right to question whether by the time City are able to bring in a new goalkeeper, defender and cover for Silva, the title might be out of their grasp.
They suffered their third consecutive loss this season and the only thing left to add to that statement is that their appearance in the relegation zone finally reflects just how poor they have been. Based off their performances thus far, the dominant storylines are going to be:
1. How long before their manager, Martin Jol gets the boot and
2. Will Fulham escape relegation?
They are easily a mid-table side but their performances suggest this could be their last season in the EPL.
Manchester City [A], Manchester United [H], Fulham [A], Sunderland [A] and Liverpool [H]. Their upcoming fixture list is not kind to say the very least. Fulham and Sunderland should be easy wins but with an impotent attack force, Spurs are making hard work of every game they play. Soldado is taking time to adjust and Spurs midfield is yet to deliver consistent offensive production. To be fair, the Spurs team is filled with players still getting familiar with each other’s playing style. As to whether that excuse is a legitimate reason to explain their recent bad results[2W,2L,1D in last 5games], I doubt it. After publicly admonishing the White Hart lane fans for failing to support the team when the play, AVB and his team have conspired to give them little to cheer about. On behalf of all Spurs fans out there to AVB, “Not cool bro”.
The last 2 games have been draws but the upcomming Merseyside derby will change that. It goes without saying but the Toffees let an opportunity pass them by in their draw away to Crystal Palace. Had they won, Roberto Martinez’s team would have been sitting 3rd in the table, with Liverpool ahead just because of goal difference.
In a piece I had written before the game, I that all signs pointed to a United win BUT expected a high-scoring match as I didn’t think an Arsenal midfield of Carzola-Ramsey-Özil could be kept quiet for 90minutes. Coming into Sunday’s game, United has never lost a game at Old Trafford when they lead at half time whiles Arsenal had scored in every game they had played this season. And when United grabbed the lead through the RVP header, it was the case of an unstoppable force [i.e. The Arsenal’s attack] meeting an unmovable object [i.e. United’s 1st Half OT record]. The unstoppable force, it turned out can be neutralized and United did just that.
Wenger’s team looked off the pace, listless and bereft of inspiration. As stated in the aforementioned piece, a loss has the potential to damage Arsenal’s title hopes with a win galvanizing Manchester United. This writer is going to be cautious and ask both set of fans not to read too much into the result other than United still have a say in this EPL season and Arsenal are beatable. What is for certain is that both teams will welcome the international break.
With no Ashley Young starting nor anywhere near the bench, someone had to step up to fall down [get it? ‘Fall down’ as in dive]. Replays show that Ramires was on his way down before he got to the defender and whilst the referee should bear the brunt of WBA anger for making such a bad call, the player deserves to be admonished for what is, to be fair to him, uncharacteristically unfair play. I doubt there are many Chelsea fans proud of salvaging a point under circumstances like this.
This column will be on the lookout all season long for the divers aiming to give Ashely Young a run for his money.
The Guy Poyet-led mini revival lasted exactly one game. 2 wins in 10 games. Sunderland need to find ways to win if they are to remain relevant this season and feature in the 2014/2015 EPL season.
The Happy One
After conceding he made ’11 mistakes’ last week, Mourinho made another 11 this week. WBA deserved to leave the Bridge with all 3points and their coach Steve Clark will feel hard done by the referee’s extra time penalty decision. After losing to Newcastle last week and now drawing with WBA, their next game against West Ham has no clear-cut favorites. Again, Chelsea’s midfield failed to control the game. Mata was dropped as Willian was introduced, you’d suspect to inject some physical presence into the attacking midfield. That plan failed.
The result means its back to the drawing board for Mourinho and it is painfully clear that for all Chelsea’s wealth of attacking midfielders, the coach is unsure of his best player combination are as fans of FIFA 14 who opt to play using Chelsea.
Martin Jol has to start scoring and quick. November is typically when club owners cut lose under-performing managers and Jol, with the run of poor results he has had with Fulham finds his name on the list.
It is difficult to determine which column Swansea fall in. On one hand, they finally got Bony scoring, the team game back from 2 first half goals and were solid without Michu on the pitch. With no disrespect to Stoke, but Swansea were widely tipped to leave with all 3 points so it is difficult to call Swansea ‘winners’ when they left with 2 fewer points than expected. Coming back from2 goals was impressive. Going on to score a 3rd goal to take the lead but surrendering a 96th minute penalty meant all that graft and hard work was for nough. They find themselves in the losers section because of their inconsistent start to the season.
Thanks for reading this week’s edition—As usual, leave your comments and let’s get a discussion going.