The Premier League has turned into a two horse race between Manchester City and Liverpool

zzzzzzzzzz (1) (1)

What, where when? Just when we thought a few weeks ago that there were at least four teams capable of winning the Premier League, everything has all of a sudden opened up. After the midweek games which was the 15th round of matches in England two teams have emerged as possible title winners. The first and in top place is champions Manchester City, the second is Liverpool who have yet to win a Premier League title and have not won England’s top division since 1990.

So how did Chelsea and Tottenham suddenly fall away from contention? Maurizio Sarri’s side have won just 1 game in their past four matches and yet up until the 12th game of the season he had an unbeaten side at his disposal. But first they were exposed by Tottenham at Wembley, easily losing 3-1. They bounced back against Fulham in the west London derby only to lose to Wolves, which was seen as a shock result given how poor Wolves have been in the past month.

Chelsea are now 10 points behind City and are clinging onto 4th place only on goal difference to Arsenal. Tottenham in beating Southampton are back in 3rd place after being dislodged in the top 4 over the weekend when they lost to eternal nemesis Arsenal by 4-2. But Spurs have bounced back well. But they are still evidently a few levels below City and Liverpool, they have 33 points and are 8 points behind the league leaders.

All of this means of course that the league has turned into a two horse race before Christmas, although the flurry of fixtures could well shake that up. Manchester City will play Chelsea away next and a win for Pep Guardiola’s side will surely signal the end of Chelsea’s title hopes. Games follow against Everton, Crystal Palace, Leicester and Southampton. It is fair to think that from all of those matches City could expect 13 points which would put them on 54 before the year is out.

As for Liverpool who are the romantics choice of league winners giving how it has been 28 years since they won the league they will have to play Bournemouth, Manchester United, Wolves, Newcastle and Arsenal. The Reds seem to have a tougher run and could end up with 11 points which would put them on 50.

It is possible then that only 4 points will separate the two teams. And you can guess which fixture comes after the new year- that’s right these two teams will meet and it will be Manchester City who will be at home in what could be a big step to deciding the title. Still there are plenty of games to be played before then and like a typical Premier League campaign there will be plenty of twists and turns that is for sure.

After 19 games unbeaten, has Emery stepped out of Wenger’s shadow?

zzzzzzzzzz (1)

Unai Emery is being hailed as the new messiah by Arsenal fans after the club convincingly beat their arch rivals Tottenham 4-2 at the weekend.

The Gunners have now gone 19 games in all competitions unbeaten after losing their first two matches of the season. But still question marks remained over the club because they had not beaten a top 4 side- at the weekend that changed with victory over Tottenham, and it was a win to saviour for the Arsenal faithful.

Not only did Arsenal beat the team they most want to beat every season but they also leapfrogged them into 4th place on goal difference, which has been richly deserved this season. This version of Arsenal, Emery’s version is slick, attacking and determined. Sure there is still some naivety at the back which allowed Tottenham back into the game but the team had fighting spirit circa Arsene Wenger’s team from 2004 and it showed this past weekend.

Every fan at the Emirates seems to have forgotten about Wenger, well at least the last couple of seasons version of him and all praise has rightly been aligned to Emery who has been a massive success for the club given that this is his debut season. The fans wanted change and were finally given it and Emery for now seems like the perfect coach to have been chosen. But have the club really improved this season from last?

It may be surprising to note that at least statistically almost nothing has changed at the club from last season. This time last season after 14 games Arsenal had 28 points under Emery they have 30. If this trend was to continue then Arsenal may finish the season with 5 points more than last giving them 68 points and perhaps missing out on  a top 4 place. But this is simply talk and this Arsenal team look like they will kick on.

But of course it is in how the Gunners are playing, and there is a massive change in how the team approach their games under Emery. The belief has been reinstalled and it was interesting to see how they reacted once going 2-1 down after leading the game. That should tell you everything that we needed to know about how Arsenal are playing now under Emery.

The real tests are yet to come, games such as playing Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United away from home. But for now considering Emery is just 4 months into the job, the man deserves respect and 10/10 for effort. Arsenal look like they are going places and that can only be a good thing for a team that have suffered from a lack of confidence for the past decade.

 

Manchester City gear up for busy Christmas period

Pep Guardiola is expected to make changes ahead of Manchester City’s Premier League clash against Bournemouth on Saturday afternoon as the reigning champions enter their Christmas period which includes nine games in December alone.

Gabriel Jesus, Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva all face a race against time to be declared fit and will undergo a late fitness test while Kevin de Bruyne remains on the sidelines with a knee injury he picked up in early November, with Manchester City’s match against Bournemouth coming too soon for the Belgian. Continue reading

EPL Best XI – Leroy Sane leads the way

Leroy Sane

The 13th weekend of the 2018-19 Premier League season saw Manchester City and Liverpool maintain their unbeaten starts, while Chelsea suffered their first defeat of the campaign at the hands of Tottenham. Let’s take a look at the top points scorers from the weekend’s games…

GK: Jonas Lossl, Huddersfield – seven points
Jonas Lossl kept his third clean sheet of the season as Huddersfield won 2-0 away at Wolves on Sunday. The Dane now has 14 points from his last three games.

Continue reading

Lack of finishing touch is punishing West Ham

zzzzzz (6)

Manuel Pellegrini’s decision to got toe-to-toe with Manchester City was a brave or naive one- depending on how you look at it. However, there were two aspects of his side’s performance during the game which made sure the manager’s risk wouldn’t pay off. The first was Arthur Masuaku’s lack of concentration at vital times. The second is more of a problem: a collective inability to finish off chances.

The commentators praised the Chilean’s tactics and enjoyed the open spectacle that it allowed, however, with just three wins all season the Hammers manager would much rather have some extra points on the board and if the Hammers hadn’t been so wasteful in front of goal, especially in the early stages, there is a chance he could have got them.

Instead, his was the sixth game in the Hammers’ 13 league matches so far in which they failed to score. In the past this has been blamed on a lack of creativity, but that certainly wasn’t the case here. Michail Antonio arguably had the best of the chances, but Marko Arnautovic, Pedro Obiang and Fabian Balbuena all had clear opportunities to score which they were unable to convert. West Ham actually had the same number of shots as City during Saturday’s game, they just didn’t manage to force any in while the visitors hit the back of the net four times- David Silva and Raheem Sterling getting one each and Leroy Sane bagging a brace.

It isn’t necessarily a concern that the side were beaten by City, it is the lack of cutting edge in the final third that will lead to worry. The Hammers have a favourable run -they won’t play any of the big six in their next eight games- so there will be pressure for the team to pick up points during the festive period. Now is not the time for shooting boots to go missing.

There have been worries that the Hammers have been too reliant on Arnautovic for their goals in recent times, with the Austrian directly involved in six of the club’s 14 league goals this season. If there is ever a time when he’s having an off-day it rarely seems that there is someone to step up and put the ball in the net, something which must change if West Ham are to climb the table.

West Ham may be 13th in the league, but they currently sit just four points above the relegation zone. There are many who believe that the side’s run between now and the New Year will be decisive in the club’s season, so it’s important that the team learn from matches such as this and start putting the ball into the net. With Grady Diangana having broken into the first team fold and Felipe Anderson showing improvements in his overall game, West Ham are beginning to create a lot more chances than earlier in the campaign. They just need to start putting them away with more regularity now.

 

Do you have what it takes to challenge the best Premier League Fantasy Managers? If you’re up to challenging the best then play www.fantasy-premier.com now!

Back to business for Manchester City

For the mess that Manchester City have been in off the pitch with these Football Leaks allegations, it was business as usual for Pep Guardiola’s team on Saturday afternoon after they made West Ham United look like a Championship club. David Silva, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sané had the Premier League champions 3-0 up inside 35 minutes before the latter added a second in second-half stoppage time.

For the fans of Manchester City, it was a sense of relief. With an international break last weekend, the last two weeks have been torturous for City fans following allegations by Football Leaks suggesting that the club may have conducted itself dishonestly or sought to illegitimately evade financial fair play (FFP) rules, with UEFA officials now examining these allegations before a likely investigation.

These allegations made by German outlet Der Spiegel suggest that Manchester City had tried to cheat FFP rules by City selling image rights of players to a company, Fordham Sports Management, to lower their wage bill. Whether this is true or not, it could be damaging to Manchester City while the consequences could well be severe. Manchester City aren’t the only club involved in these Football Leaks but with the eye of the world watching, Guardiola would have been keen to not let it affect his team.

Their performance against West Ham United on Saturday afternoon suggests that normality has remained on the pitch with Guardiola’s side now two points clear ahead of closest challengers Liverpool following their 4-0 win in London. And while the score line may suggest City were in top form, it certainly wasn’t their best performance with West Ham under par, as has often been the case this season. As one of two remaining undefeated teams, Pep Guardiola’s task will be to keep his players focussed with an important Champions League fixture coming up.

Despite that, Manchester City have scored 21 goals in the first-half of Premier League games this season, more than Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and 13 other clubs have in total, per Manchester Evening News journalist Simon Bajkowski. But while it’s an impressive stat, it still won’t be good enough for Pep Guardiola who rightly always wants more from his players.

“I give a lot of credit to our players for the victory, but it was not the best performance. I think we got a bit lucky. West Ham had a lot of chances and should have scored. But we will have more chances to be a lot better,” Guardiola said in his post-match press conference.

“We are consistent and we are a humble team, today we wasn’t so good but I love the way we run. The Premier League remains tough and we cannot deny this. I didn’t expect after what we achieved last season to have these results.”

Raheem Sterling integral to Manchester City’s season

One of those players that Pep Guardiola wants more of is perhaps Raheem Sterling, despite his impressive stats. Frustrating for England, Pep Guardiola has moulded the 23-year-old into one of the best players in the Premier League. In 44 Premier League fixtures, Sterling has 25 goals and 18 assists but Guardiola surely believes that the youngster can still do better. And maybe that’s just one reason why Manchester City have just extended the contract of Sterling until 2023, worth a potential £300,000 per week.

The understanding that Raheem Sterling has with both Sergio Aguero and Leroy Sané shares the same characteristics as that of Samuel Eto’o, Thierry Henry and Lionel Messi of Guardiola’s Barcelona side in 2009. And although Pep Guardiola has distanced himself from his time at Barcelona, this Manchester City side certainly shares the same philosophy to some degree.

Whether they retain their Premier League title this season, this Manchester City squad is frightening and will no doubt go down as one of the greatest teams in European history. Of course, winning the Champions League is the goal for everyone involved with the club, it’s the trophy that’s eluded them while many suggest winning the European competition eclipses that of winning another Premier League title.

They have the players, the staff and the backing to do so but it will be up to Pep Guardiola to guide them to a Champions League final, something they’ve yet to do.

Play the most challenging Fantasy Premier League game here www.epl-fantasy.com.

EPL Weekend Picks – Round 13

David Silva

The 13th week of the 2018-19 Premier League season sees Manchester City travel to West Ham, while Tottenham host Chelsea in one of the biggest games of the campaign so far. Let’s take a look at 11 players who you should consider for your EPL Fantasy team this weekend…

GK – Rui Patricio (Wolves)
Wolves play two of the Premier League’s lowest-scoring sides — Huddersfield and Cardiff — over the next week, so Rui Patricio is well worth considering. The Portuguese goalkeeper has 18 points so far this season.

Continue reading

Frenkie de Jong: Manchester City hot on Ajax talent

It’s that time of the season again where the international break allows the media to perhaps give fans a false sense of hope with ludicrous transfer rumours. But if they are to be believed then Manchester City could well find themselves ahead of Barcelona and Real Madrid to land Ajax and The Netherlands defender/midfielder Frenkie de Jong.

The Premier League champions are ready to pay £61 million for Frenkie de Jong who could be a likely replacement for the ageing Fernandinho. The 21-year-old has also garnered interest from City’s neighbours, Manchester United however, the prospect of playing under Pep Guardiola as opposed to Jose Mourinho surely is a no brainer for the youngster. Continue reading

David Silva: Manchester City’s greatest ever player?

It did not take long for Manchester United’s resistance to be broken. Their opponents and local rivals, Manchester City, came flying out of the traps in last weekend’s derby at the Etihad Stadium, dominating the early exchanges and deservedly establishing a lead in the 12th minute. It was David Silva who was responsible for the breakthrough goal, the Spaniard latching onto Bernardo Silva’s cut-back and firing the ball past David de Gea after taking a touch to steady himself.

Continue reading

Unai Emery’s Arsenal are losing pace with the favourites in the Premier League

zzzzzzzzzz (1)

There is no doubt that there has been such an uplifting feeling at Arsenal this season, in with the new and out with the old, has seen fans feeling super refreshed about their team. This campaign has already seen the Gunners claim a 10 game in a row batch of wins and the club have remained undefeated in any competition since August. Under new manager Unai Emery the good times seem to have returned to the Emirates, or have they?

After tearing up the league table and claiming a succession of away wins, something that Arsenal under Wenger really struggled for last season the club seem to have hit a wall. Slipping back down to 5th place and currently out of a Champions League position they have drawn their last their last 4 games in all competitions and their last three in the Premier League. The Gunners last win came against Leicester when they won the game 3-1 on October 22nd.

These recent draws have knocked the stuffing out of the team and they are 3 points behind Tottenham in 4th and a massive 8 points behind league leaders Manchester City. Whilst it is true that nobody was realistically expecting Arsenal to challenge for the league, the question should be why not? As we have seen from Maurizio Sarri- also his debut season in the Premier League and yet Chelsea are in 3rd place, just 4 points behind the current champions.

This isn’t to discredit Emery, who has done a fine job after a tough and shaky start that saw his tenure at Arsenal start with 2 losses. But that can be overlooked given that they had to play the last 2 champions of the league in Manchester City and Chelsea. Fans can point to their recent and decent 1-1 draw against Liverpool of proof that this side are getting better and playing better than Arsene Wenger’s team last season.

But of course football is all about moving forward and to do so and keep your job you have to do it rapidly. After 12 games this season it is interesting to see that Arsenal have 24 points. Last season under Wenger at the same amount of games they had won 22. So yes there is an improvement of sorts but for now it is so minimal.

The good news is that the team are playing a different kind of football and are playing with much more confidence, in the long run if Emery is given the time this is a great sign. For now though it might be better if some fans and press in the words of a certain Larry David, curbed their enthusiasm.