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

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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.

Who will blink first in race for Premier League title- Manchester City or Liverpool?

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A glance at the Premier League table has champions Manchester City where we all thought they would be in 1st position. In 2nd is Liverpool and in 3rd place is Chelsea. There is just 4 points between the top three, with all of these teams yet to be beaten after 12 games. But just who is emerging as the new champions?

It might be controversial to take this stance but perhaps we can rule out Chelsea for this season. This has nothing to do with having a new manager in Maurizio Sarri, since Antonio Conte won the league with the Blues in his debut season. It’s just that this Chelsea side have more competitive teams around them than they did a couple of seasons ago.

Chelsea have been drawing too many games lately and losing precious points, especially at home and this was underlined this past weekend with a 0-0 draw against Everton.

Manchester City with their superb 3-1 derby win against Manchester United on Sunday pulled 4 points clear of Sarri’s men and it seems evidently clear that City’s main rival this season will be Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. But just who will blink first and start to drop points when it matters?

In some ways City hold the slight advantage. Not only are they 2 points clear of Liverpool but they have played them at Anfield and came away with a draw which was 1 point gained for City and in theory 2 points dropped at home for Liverpool.

It is worth taking a look at each clubs fixtures up to the end of the year. After the international break City will travel to West Ham. Whilst they should get all three points, the Hammers have already proven that they can step up a few gears when playing the best sides in the league and have already drawn with Chelsea at London Stadium and beaten Manchester United.

Next for Pep Guardiola’s team is Bournemouth at home and away to Watford before a crunch match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Then they are at home to Everton, face Palace at home, away to Leicester and then again away to Southampton. At least 20 points can be acquired by City in those matches which would take them to 52 as we welcome in 2019.

For Liverpool the importance of course is staying with City- can they do it? Their fixtures kick off against Watford away and then they face the derby at home to Everton. Two away games come up next against Burnley and Bournemouth. Then in mid December is a massive game at home against Manchester United. Then a trip to tricky Wolves and two home games to round out the year against Newcastle United and Arsenal.

On the face of it Liverpool have a much harder run in. 15 points could be gained, anymore and Liverpool deserve to be genuine title contenders. In theory then at the end of the year Manchester City could have 52 points compared to Liverpool with 45. A 7 point gap to a Pep Guardiola team seems to much to give, and it is Liverpool that may be blinking first as we head into the final straight come January.

Chelsea maintain unbeaten start with victory over Crystal Palace

Chelsea did not have everything their own way in front of their own supporters on Sunday afternoon. Crystal Palace started brightly and probably shaded the opening 20 minutes at Stamford Bridge, while they also enjoyed an excellent spell after half-time in which Andros Townsend fired home an equaliser to cancel out Alvaro Morata’s first-half opener.

In the end, though, the Blues were worthy winners, Morata helping himself to a second in the 65th minute before Pedro Rodriguez got in on the act soon after. Roy Hodgson’s side certainly had their moments and may feel a little aggrieved to have been defeated by a two-goal margin, but a point apiece would not have been an accurate reflection of the game either.

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Phil Neville is very wrong to suggest that Chelsea’s Marco Ianni should be sacked for gesture

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We could hazard a bet that hardly anyone outside of supporting Chelsea had heard of Marco Ianni before the weekend. Now if feels the world has after he ran up to Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho and gestured and pumped his fists as he saw his side claim a last minute equaliser.

Was it wrong to do so? Of course it was 100%. Ianni showed his lack of etiquette- something that Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri was quick to point out. Ianni made what is referred so much in football as a ‘schoolboy error’. But should he lose his job over upsetting Mourinho? Absolutely no way. Had he touched or attacked Mourinho it would be a completely different matter, but that wasn’t the case. What he did was not right but it was in no way worth a sacking, which ex football player Phil Neville has suggested.Neville of course used to play for Manchester United and so his comments seem a little biased.

This is what Neville had to say about the incident. “Whoever that staff member is of Chelsea has just been an absolute disgrace. No class, no humility. He’s gone straight into the face of Jose Mourinho, Michael Carrick and the Manchester United bench and just celebrated in their face. Absolutely disgraceful. He’s [Mourinho] the innocent one in all this. The guy on the Chelsea bench has run straight past him, celebrated in his face. Sarri celebrates. Then it’s this guy here who goes in front of Jose Mourinho. The first one he clenches his fist, and then as he goes back he celebrates again right in front of him. Disgraceful. If I was Maurizio Sarri I’d send that guy in and sack him from the club.”

Ianni, 36 won’t be getting the sack anytime soon as Sarri has spoken to him countless times after the incident and the fact that Ianni himself apologised to Mourinho after the game would have confirmed this. Ianni has worked under Sarri for two years also at Napoli and the two have a strong relationship. Neville’s comment seem knee jerk reaction and wrong. We can all make haphazard mistakes, are some are not nearly as bad as others.

Imagine for example Sarri himself had done exactly what Ianni had done? Would anybody realistically be calling for Sarri to be sacked? What Neville has done is undermine Ianni’s job, he has made one silly error, and in no case here should we be going down Phil Neville’s route of thinking.

 

The heat needs to be taken off Jose Mourinho after latest fiasco

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Had Ross Barkley not scored a last minute equaliser for Chelsea to earn them a draw against Manchester United what followed of course would never have been, but he did and it did, and it is important that we don’t blame Jose Mourinho for this latest football episode.

When Barkley scored to take 2 points from United who were on the verge of an important win, the Chelsea bench very understandably cheered and jumped for excitement. The reaction was quite normal, what wasn’t was when Chelsea’s assistant Marco Ianni celebrated and then turned directly to Mourinho and punched his fists in the air, it was a moment where Mourinho almost lost the plot and stood up to confront the Italian. An alleged scuffle then took place in the tunnel and those are details we do not know yet, but may well come out in the aftermath.

Media were quick to point out another ‘circus’ moment for Mourinho and another moment that could bring shame on his career at United. But we need to step back a bit and analyse this better. It is clear that Ianni wound up Mourinho and certainly seemed to do this on purpose, he himself didn’t want a reaction it was more of a jest, and showed on the face of it adults acting like kids.

The FA will ask for referee Mike Dean’s report before deciding to take action but Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri backed Mourinho in what some could see as a surprise move and said that it was Ianni who was at fault. Ianni apologised to Mourinho and Mourinho accepted this and said that he was once young and made similar mistakes.

This was clearly an incident that was simply in the heat of the moment, and whilst Ianni was right to be happy he shouldn’t have rubbed salt into the wounds, for that moment he turned a professional league in the Premier League into Sunday afternoon football in the park.

This is an incident that should be laid to rest but will the FA let it? Mourinho already faces a charge for swearing into cameras after United’s win against Newcastle earlier this month. Ironically he could have missed sitting in the dug out for this game, had he done so, Ianni wouldn’t have had a target to sneer at. The best thing that can be done from the FA’s point of view is take into account that this was just a rumble not a storm and move on.

Can Chelsea win the Premier League title without a goalscoring centre-forward?

As Saturday’s game against Manchester United ticked into second-half injury time, Chelsea seemed to be on the verge of their first defeat of the season. Two goals from Anthony Martial after the break had turned the match on its head after Antonio Rudiger’s deadlock-breaking header in the 21st minute, and the Blues appeared to have run out of ideas as they pushed for a late leveller.

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Barkley’s improvement shows the importance of hands-on coaching

Eyebrows were raised when Chelsea agreed a £15m deal to sign Ross Barkley from Everton in the January transfer window, and the first few months of the midfielder’s career in west London did little to dispel the sense that this would go down as a poor signing. The 24-year-old made just two starts in the Premier League under Antonio Conte, and although his absence could partly be explained by injuries, many felt he had a made a mistake in moving to Stamford Bridge.

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Ross Barkley can offer something England have lacked in midfield

Maurizio Sarri believes it is time for Ross Barkley to get back into the England squad, “I think he can return to the national team. He is improving week by week.”

Barkley agreed with his manager, he said, “I’m playing a big role in the side at the minute and I believe my performances show I’m capable of being in the England squad.”

Barkley spent the majority of last season recovering from a serious injury. Sarri, even in his first few weeks as Chelsea manager, has shown more interest in the former Everton man than Antonio Conte did last term. Barkley started the Community Shield, has appeared in six of Chelsea’s Premier League matches and played the full 90 minutes as Chelsea beat PAOK in their opening Europa League group match.

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5 wins in a row for Arsenal but stronger tests await Emery

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It’s been a long time since Arsenal felt this good, at least 10 years and every fan will be lapping this up and praising Unai Emery as Arsenal have now won 5 Premier League games in a row. Once we count their Carabao Cup and Europa League match wins that figure turns to 7 games in a row.

There is no question that after losing their first two games of the season against Manchester City and Chelsea respectively that the feel good factor is here and Emery is slowing turning Arsenal’s fortunes around. Players are now responding to what he wants, to play the ball out from the back, have a high line and attack without fear and the constant winning will be leading some fans to wonder who Arsene Wenger was- well at least the last 10 years of his tenure there.

And yet of course Arsenal still have many sterner tests ahead of them. For Emery the board have made it clear that they expect the Gunners back in the Champions League – so that means a top 4 finish. A long run in the cups would be to an advantage but if Arsenal end up with no silverware this season but get the top 4 many will be satisfied with that in Emery’s debut season.

However are Arsenal selling themselves a little short? Look at Chelsea who are clearly going for the league title under new manager Maurizio Sarri. Arsenal have been very positive so far this season but have still come up short in the two real tests that they have had to encounter against Sarri’s Chelsea and also to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. However it seems that this was more of a timing problem than the opposition in question. It’s quite difficult in your first game in England to have to face the champions of the country.

Arsenal look to have a nice path of fixtures for October where they will play Fulham, Leicester and Crystal Palace all matches where we could expect the Gunners to get maximum points or at the very least 7 from 9. Their next big test won’t come until the beginning of November when they will play Liverpool but even that game will be at home. With a good run Arsenal could easily be in the top 3 come the beginning of December and whilst a league challenge does not seem realistic this season, with Emery steering the ship the club look like they are going in the right direction.

Why the Premier League could possibly go to Liverpool or Chelsea

Last Sunday’s display from Chelsea and Liverpool could be christened as the best game so far this season. Both teams exhibited creativity in attack and resilience at the back. The season is still young, but on the evidence of what we witnessed could any of these two beat City to the league title this season?

Liverpool probably made the best recruits in the English Premier league this summer, bolstering their midfield with Naby Keita and Fabinho and another creative option in Xherdan Shaqiri. The Merseysiders have a world class goalkeeper in Allison Becker, who continue to provide great reflexes in the post. Liverpool have enough quality to compete against anyone for the league title this season and they’ve shown that in their last seven league games.

We saw how they conquered Tottenham Hotspurs at Wembley. It wasn’t just about the results, but the football on display has been mesmerizing. And talk of performance their 3-2 victory over Paris Saint Germain was a testament of their mental fortitude.

Not only have Jurgen Klopp reinvigorated the side that lost to Real Madrid in the Champions League finals last season, there seems to be an oomph about them this season. Established players James Milner, Georginio Wijnaldum, Roberto Firmino, and Jordan Henderson et al are playing at a level a notch higher that we saw in the previous campaign.

This season Mohammed Salah is not showing the same sophistication with opportunities that have come his way. The Egyptian has scored three goals from a total of 20 shots on target. But Sadio Mane seems to have taken much of the responsibility when it comes to goals. So far adorning the number 10 jersey has yielded four, with Roberto Firmino on two.

James Milner has proven that he still cut it for the premier league with his tireless work in midfield, but Gini Widnaldum is currently Liverpool’s most improved player so far this season. The Netherlands international is playing with a lot confidence, hardly giving the ball away. And guess what, he doesn’t look flustered by the presence of Naby Keita on the bench.

The decision to bring Daniel Sturridge back from loan has proven to be an astute one. In the absence of Roberto Firmino, Sturridge can step up and play an important part in Liverpool’s campaign this season as we’ve seen him score vital goals against PSG in the Champions League and Chelsea in the league.

One significant decision by Kloop, is the center back partnership between Van Dyke and Gomes. The pair have started all seven of Liverpool league games and have conceded just three so far. They share the tag of the best defense with the league leaders, Manchester City.

Chelsea

The great thing about Chelsea this season is the arrival of Mauricio Sarri. His style of play is one that Eden Hazard thrives in, and the Belgian is currently in red hot form as he is beginning to replicate his 2015 performance that won him the PFA player of the year. Also, Hazard is buoyed up his inclusion in the FIFPro World Eleven. The Chelsea forward had a great World Cup tournament with his country, winning the bronze medal.

Chelsea meanwhile occasionally telegraphs fear at the back as Antonio Rudiger and David Luis sometimes struggle against quicker attackers. But in midfield enforcer Jorginho, Matteo Kovacic and Ngolo Kante, Chelsea should be able to dominate and control games. There are still concerns about how Sarri is using a Kante’ in midfield. Despite the French man’s reputation as being destructive, the Italian manager prefers a ball playing holding midfielder in Jorginho who currently top the charts for the number of passes in the league and the most in a game.

Willian and Pedro are great attacking outlets for Chelsea. The Spanish forward has found the net three times while the Brazilian ability to carve open compact defense is proving crucial for Chelsea in when in search of a goal. Chelsea do not boost a striker with the quality of Sergio Aguero as both Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud are not quite reliable. Sarri may require a proven goal scorer in the January transfer window.

Manchester City are favorite based on their performance last season and Pep Guadiola’s reputation for winning back to back league titles, but the Citizens look beatable this season and it’s hard to envisage them go on a winning run as we saw last season. It will take a Miracle for Manchester United to win the league this season as tensions between Mourinho and Pogba is beginning to have a debilitating effect on the other players. The red devils will probably be fighting a Champions League spot.

Meanwhile Arsenal seems to have turned the corner after their earlier struggles, but despite winning their last four games are not convincing given the defensive vulnerabilities and how wasteful they can be in th attack. Tottenham Hotspur will be hoping to maintain fourth spot by the end of the season.

As it stands Chelsea and Liverpool look set to deny Manchester city a second straight league cup.

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