Given the recent attacks on Paris, including the match between France and Germany at the Stade De France stadium, the English Premier League kicked off this weekend with a different backdrop. In case you missed it, here are 18 conclusions from this weekend’s EPL:
1. Football wins
The French anthem, La Marseillaise was played before every match as the entire country showed solidarity with France. Many of the players involved in the France versus Germany match at Stade De France started this weekend, and it must have been heartening for them to see their colleagues and fans show their support. The terrorists dealt a blow last week but this weekend football won.
If only India and Pakistan can also use sports to come together in the face of tragedy – France and England also fought wars and were arch enemies for centuries.
2. Liverpool 4 – 1 Man City: Klopp brings his best
Brendan Rodgers’s sacking was considered harsh by many after his side came within a whisker of winning the league last year but Liverpool’s sudden reversal in fortune after Klopp’s appointment shows why it was justified.
Klopp’s gegenpressing tactic worked like a charm against Manchester City with Roberto Firmino playing his best match for Liverpool in a False 9 role. The two Brazilians, Firmino and Coutinho, combined brilliantly and Klopp will hope Coutinho’s injury was nothing serious.
3. Man City: Favourites no more
With Chelsea failing miserably in their title defence, Manchester City boasting the best squad in the league were heralded as clear favourites for the title. The 4-1 defeats to Liverpool and Tottenham may have changed that. Both teams pressed Man City high up the pitch and forced them into errors. Other teams may use it as a blueprint to replicate success against them.
4. Arsenal 1 – West Brom 2: Same old for Arsene Wenger
It has been a case of one step forward, two steps back for Arsenal for the past decade. After successive FA Cup victories, this was meant to be the year that Arsenal would really push on for the title. With other teams faltering, this may be Arsene Wenger’s best chance to win it but the same old frailties continue for the gunners – complacency against the smaller teams, a soft under belly and inability to grind out victories against teams playing too physically.
The fact Arsene lost against a Tony Pulis side again will give him no solace.
5. Arsenal lost the title in the summer
The signing of Petr Cech was a clear intention from Arsenal but it was meant to be a start, not the sum total of Arsenal’s investment. Arsenal was the only top club in all of European’s top leagues to not buy a first team outfield player this summer. Francis Coquelin has proved a revelation since January and Walcott has hit the ground running this season but all Arsenal fans were crying for defensive cover and upgrade on Oliver Giroud up top. Arsenal’s loyalty to his players may have cost him a final chance at tasting premier league success this season. With Chelsea, Man City and Manchester United bound to invest heavily in the summer and Klopp becoming more settled in the league, it will only get harder from now on for Arsene.
6. No Favourites this year
With both Arsenal and Manchester City flattering this weekend, Leicester City finds themselves top of the premier league. It is unfathomable that a club bottom of the league this team last year currently sits at number one. The bubble has to burst and the run has to end but for now this season is proving to be one of the most unpredictable one ever. Four teams briefly occupied the number one spot at different times over the weekend.
7. Leicester City 3 – 0 Newcastle: The dream continues
Jamie Vardy has equalled Rudd Van Nistelrooy’s record of scoring in 10 consecutive league matches, and becoming the first person to do it in a single season. Nothing about Leicester City this season makes sense. Barely surviving last year, getting a new manager, losing an iconic legend in the middle of the park, little financial investment, yet they are number one in November.
8. Newcastle will be fine
Newcastle has been flirting with relegation but there seems to be enough about this team to survive this year. Mike Ashley does not seem likely to sack Steve McClaren, and despite his England debacle, he is a quality coach and a manager with a lot of experience.
The last time Newcastle got relegated, the entire season, everyone assumed they were too good to go down and for now the same feeling is persisting. Newcastle is not too big to go down this year but judging by the lack of quality in the teams around them I predict they will survive.
9. Stoke 1 – 0 Southampton
With Leicester City taking Southampton’s spoiler role from last year, Southampton have found their level. They have been slowing improving after a slow start but this is a match they should have won. Playing at home against a direct rival this was a six-pointer for the South London club, who finishes higher out of Stoke and Southampton may be determined by their head to head clashes.
10. Barcelona lite – Not so much
Boasting a couple of former champions league winners and graduates of the famed La Masia academy, Stoke were meant to play like Barcelona Lite this year. Stoke definitely tried playing like an attacking outfit at the beginning of the season but the results did not match their adventurous verve. In recent weeks, Mark Hughes has tightened the defence a lot more leading to more success in the points column. For now at least, Stoke’s Barcelona model seems to have been halted.
11. Everton 4 – 0 Aston Villa
Everton have been in swashbuckling form recently with Kone and Lukaku combining deliciously, and Ross Barkley being given keys to the city to freely roam. It was inevitable that a team would be at the other hand of a trashing and it is little surprise it was Aston Villa. Things never really got going for Everton last year but this year they seem to be playing with much more freedom, and despite injuries in defence and a thin squad, Everton looks solid for another mid table finish.
12. Aston Villa will get relegated
The ‘new manager’ effect earned Aston Villa a shocking point against Man City but there was little that Remi Garde could do to stop the tide against Everton. There seems to be no spark in the way the midlands club plays. The players seem resigned to the fact that they will be relegated this year. It is a pity to see a club that was on the brink of European qualification under Martin O’Neill have fallen from grace so massively.
13. Chelsea 1 – 0 Norwich: Back to the basics of Jose Mourinho
It is unimaginable that Norwich City could be on top of Chelsea in the table come November but Chelsea’s start to the season has been nothing short of an absolute disaster. There has been improvement in recent weeks and it is because of Jose Mourinho going back to the basics. Mourinho takes pride in the defensive area of his coaching and despite his nonsensical press conferences, his pride must have taken a real hit after watching the goals Chelsea have conceded this season.
By going narrower and tighter at the back, Chelsea has now started grinding out results.
14. Hazard shines
Mourinho has alienated many a flair player in his time as a manager, ruthlessly moving Chelsea’s player of the season for two years to a direct rival after a mere six months.
Thankfully on Saturday, we saw Mourinho play a system that put Hazard in a free role and allowed him to flourish. Despite being the best player in the league last year, Hazard is still only 24 and has a lot to learn. For now, Chelsea should let him do what he does best because he can be as good as anyone on his day.
15. Swansea 2 – 2 Bournemouth: Monk in danger
Gary Monk is one of the best young managers in the world. He was recently being touted for the England job. It only shows the fickle nature of the premier league that he is currently in danger of being sacked if Swansea’s form does not improve.
It was an important point for Bournemouth though, unluckily losing their best players to long term injury this year Bournemouth look set for relegation but they are putting up a good fight week in and week out.
16. Tottenham 4 – 1 West Ham
Tottenham can’t win the league this year, surely not? Tottenham has no superstars, Bale and Modric now play for Real Madrid and have been replaced by buys Portugal and League two in mid-field but Tottenham are arguably now a better team than the team that finished fourth under Harry Redknapp.
Pochettino’s high octane style and Tottenham’s young squad seriously puts the players in threat of a burn out but for now Tottenham are one of the most enjoyable teams this year.
17. Man United 2 – 1 Watford
Manchester United can win the league this year, surely? Manchester United has hardly set the world alight this season. The fact that they are one point of the top at this stage with their captain underperforming, their big summer signing struggling, their best defender side-lined with a broken leg, David de Gea’s transfer saga and a 19-year-old leading the line means that if the giant does get its act together this season, they can stroll to the title.
As Sir Alex Ferguson said,
“Attack wins you games, defences wins you titles.”
Van Gaal really seems to have sorted the defence at Manchester United with Chris, or as Van Gaal likes to call him ‘Mike’, Smalling arguably being the best central defender in the league on current form.
18. Rooney does not fit in this team
It is no coincidence that Manchester United is playing some of the best attacking football it has played this season without Wayne Rooney in the team. Wayne Rooney still has the ability to score an odd goal and play perfect 50 yard passes but his age has caught up with him. He looks laboured in possession and always seems to take an extra touch slowing down any attacking move. It frustrated Angel Di Maria last season and it seriously affects the beautiful one touch football Herrera and Mata play.
With a younger squad given freedom to interchange up top, Manchester United looked its most threatening in the attacking third against Watford.
from The Express Tribune Blog http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/30543/18-premier-league-conclusions-which-prove-that-man-utd-could-win-the-title/