Manchester City defender Aymeric Laporte will be out of action until January or February, according to Pep Guardiola. And the absence of the Frenchman in their defence was evident on Saturday evening as they fell to a 3-1 defeat to Norwich City. Continue reading
It is still early days but after four games of the Premier League season, Leicester City are the side who look best equipped to challenge the big six. Brendan Rodgers’ charges are third in the standings heading into this weekend’s trip to Old Trafford, with two wins (against Sheffield United and Bournemouth) and two draws (against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Chelsea) representing a solid start to the new campaign.
The start of the 2019/20 Premier League season is almost a month underway and the early signs are not good for two giants of English football in Manchester United and Chelsea. Both teams have got off to poor starts, even if they have lost just 1 game so far this season.
The nature in how the clubs are struggling to get results is clearly evident. Manchester United’s only win this season has been ironically against Chelsea. The score line was impressive, a 4-0 win which suggested that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had turned a corner with the Red Devils- not so. Since then United have churned out results which only mirror the clubs problems since Sir Alex Ferguson called it a day in 2013.
Look at the evidence. In the teams next game they went to Wolves and couldn’t win. A 1-1 draw was the only score they could get, and yet they had been leading that game and were pegged back. In their next match at home to Crystal Palace, United were massive favourites to win the match. Palace had started average and it seemed that United would win and win big. But they found themselves 1-0 down and heading for defeat. Daniel James who has been impressive with United in his debut season looked to have secured a draw with his goal in the last minute and even then United could not hold on as Palace found another to win. Already they had faced defeat at Old Trafford this season.
This past weekend United had to travel to Southampton, another game where you would expect 3 points, instead they took the lead and were then pegged back as the game finished 1-1. There is a lot of thinking and soul searching to do at United and it doesn’t look like it will get any better soon. The Europa League will be taxing on the current line up, and if United are struggling against mid table teams now, how will they cope when they have to play games every other Thursday in Europe?
As for Chelsea, they have won just once this season also. The 4-0 loss at Manchester United could be excused if only because the Blues played some good football and the final score was flattering on the home side. But something is missing at Chelsea, and it could be that they have the wrong manager in charge.
Frank Lampard will be a good manager just like he was such a terrific player. The problem is he has next to no experience, just one season with Derby in the Championship, that is a massive step up to Chelsea. The question that needs to be posed is, would Chelsea have gone looking for the manager of Derby had it not been Lampard, an ex-Chelsea playing legend? And there is your answer. Still one cannot blame Lampard for accepting the job, rare is it to see a British manager in charge of one of the big 4 teams in the Premier League. He took his chance because he knew it could be the only one he will ever get.
Chelsea like United have played some good football but it is a results game and both are failing. Chelsea only just managed their one win so far against Norwich in a 3-2 victory. But they were pegged back by both Leicester and Sheffield United and these games were at home.
Both clubs should have bright moments during the season, but they wil also have plenty of games where they will keep under achieving. One of these managers could be losing their job this season too, which on this evidence wouldn’t be a surprise.
The hard luck story for fans is that it is going to get worse before it gets better and there is a genuine chance now that neither club will finish in the top 4.
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A glance at the Premier League table shouldn’t hold too many surprises, Liverpool top with a 100% record, Manchester City close behind, whilst Norwich and Watford are struggling. But look closer and you’ll see a team that you wouldn’t expect to be so high up, and that is Leicester City.
True Leicester stunned everybody when they won the league title in 2016, but since then they have reverted back to, well, just being Leicester, a decent team who try to finish in mid table with relegation never quite far away.
However that thought process seems to have changed since the arrival of ex Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers. Rodgers was at Celtic where he had been incredibly successful in Scotland, although with the transistion of Rangers it could be argued that Celtic did not really have any proper competition- still you can only beat what is put out in front of you and Rodgers did do a superb job with the legendary Glasgow team.
What was surprising about Rodgers joining up with Leicester was the timing, he came in February last season and Celtic’s loss has been Leicester’s gain. The Foxes look rejuvenated and started to bring about solid results and ended up finishing the season on a high.
That high has continued and the team are in great confidence going into this season. They currently sit in 3rd place and have not lost a game, only Liverpool and Manchester City are the other unbeaten teams so far.
The statistics are very interesting since Rodgers took over also. He has a 47.5% win rate with the Foxes which doesn’t look that great, but it is a win rate only and so when the club draw that isn’t included. The wider picture is that from 15 games since Rodgers has been in charge the club have only lost 3 times. They have gained 26 points in that time and if we took that as an average throughout the season then Leicester would finish on 65 points, their highest in Premier League history not counting their league win.
There is a good attitude around the club and they won’t be easy to beat this season and won’t be pushovers for the bigger teams. Look at how they came away from Stamford Bridge against Chelsea and got a 1-1 draw. That was impressive given that the team were 1-0 down and it was Chelsea manager Frank Lampard’s first game at home in charge of his beloved team.
That type of spirit shows that this team have a lot of quality this season, and whilst thinking that they can go on to win another title feels too wishful, Rodgers is creating small miracles with the club, and they are aiming to finish high in the league this season with a deep cup run to boot. Back against them at your peril.
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Although the main focus of gameweek four is between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United had a good opportunity to bounce back from the Crystal Palace defeat with the away fixture against Southampton. With the match being the final one just before the ten-day international break, it would have been the ideal chance Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men to get back to winning ways.
The match as a whole, was one-sided in favour of the visitors in terms of the control in possession and the chances created, despite the host piling on the pressure for 20 to 30 minutes of the game before and after the half-time break. United took the lead very early in the 10th minute, through a well-taken shot by Daniel James, who smashed it past Angus Gunn and into the far corner of the net.
However, Southampton were able to get the equaliser in the second half as Jannik Vestergaard leaped above Victor Lindelof to head the ball into the net, leaving David De Gea absolutely hopeless in goal. Ralph Hasenhuttl’s boys continued to look for the winner, though, Kevin Danso went into a poor challenge in the 77th minute and left the referee with no option but to book him once again.
In the end, the Saints did defensively well to hold onto a draw for the last 15 to 20 minutes whilst being down to ten men, but the Red Devils will feel they did not create enough or showed the ideal amount of urgency to turn the single point into the three points they badly needed and required.
Here are the three valuable factors we learnt from United’s latest league fixture…
Daniel James continues to live life at the top
Throughout the game, United’s go-to-man was no one else but Daniel James, someone who was causing Southampton’s backline a serious amount of problems with his dribbling ability and his incredible burst of pace. After making it on the scoresheet once again, he has now scored three league goals in four appearances, equalling Alexis Sanchez’s dire record of the last 18 months.
Despite being utilised on the right flank in recent games, the fixture against Southampton was his first match where he was played in his favourite position, and he went on to play more comfortably and effectively than usual. Not only that, his immense work rate on and off the ball is something to truly highlight, as United’s attacking players in recent years have failed to help the team out as a whole.
United lack clinical quality on both sides of the pitch
One could say Solskjaer had the perfect plan at St Marys Stadium, where they created a decent amount of chances and had hardly concerns over the opposition’s attacking threat. Southampton actually had one shot on target, which was the goal they achieved in the second half, other than that, they were missing a playmaker and a dominant forward to open up United’s defence.
Meanwhile, on the attacking side of the game, the likes of Ashley Young, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford were lacking the intelligence and the required quality in the final third of the pitch to help the side to achieve the winning goal. The trio were failing to do the basics rights and were making mistakes after mistakes, allowing Southampton to sit deep with no rising issues to worry about.
Southampton are expected to go on to big things under Ralph Hasenhuttl
Majority of the English media and the Premier League experts were expecting the Saints to have a difficult season and see themselves experience most of the campaign around the relegation zone. However, that hasn’t been the case, as Ralph Hasenhuttl’s Southampton have proven to do well with their high-pressing style of play and their mentality to constantly break on the counter-attack.
With the club failing to bring in a number of players throughout the summer transfer window, the supporters of Southampton will be hoping that either of the 3-5-2 or 4-2-2-2 setup will get the best out of the current squad. And once the winter window arrives, the manager will surely be hoping that the board and owners are more than able to invest into the team, allowing them to potentially push for a mid-table finish, which they had experienced on a few occasions before the previous season.
Arsenal 5-2 Tottenham (2011/12)
Arsenal, it is fair to say, did not get off to the best of starts in 2011/12. An opening-day draw with Newcastle United was a disappointment but the worst was still to come, with the Gunners following up that stalemate at St James’ Park with a 2-0 home defeat by Liverpool and an infamous 8-2 demolition at the hands of Manchester United.
Everton manager Marco Silva looked incredibly glum at the weekend when Everton were beaten by Premier League newcomers Aston Villa, 2-0 at Villa Park. And after spending over £100m since his arrival in the dugout he had every right to be, with his players but also with himself.
In their defeat to Aston Villa, Everton looked toothless, disjointed and without hardly any attacking imagination. They looked incredibly oridinary for a side that are supposed to be taking forward steps. Whilst Silva can be disappointed with the players, he was the one that chose them and it seemed odd that again he didn’t start the game with Moise Kean the striker they have bought from Juventus.
Once Silva introduced Kean and then Alex Iwobi from the bench, everything seemed to change for the club. There was more pace and zip and in fact with Iwobi only getting just over 20 minutes to prove himself he did more than any other Everton player and was arguably their own personal man of the match. He rounded off a good display by one of his shots hitting the post and whilst Kean looks rusty he set up a great chance late on too.
Surely Silva has to change the team up and start both Iwobi and Kean for Everton’s next match which will take place on Sunday against Wolves. Right now Everton are really underachieving, and it looks like their search for any trophy could be extended to 25 years. The clubs last piece of silverware was the 1995 FA Cup.
Where will it all end for Everton though who despite spending money seem to be staying in with the odd very good result and is Silva really the right man to take charge of the club? A recent financial report suggested that Everton had been the 5th most spending team of the last five years in the Premier League, and yet have not even looked close to winning any trophy, and the league title seems like its light years away.
As for Silva, he has had 6 bad months from his 9 in charge last season and the club limped out of domestic competitions far too easily. They have 4 points from their opening 3 games which already suggests that they are on par for finishing with the same type of points and league position as last season. But judging Silva seems harsh at this early stage, but if he cannot get Everton onto the next level by the end of the year then the pressure will and should mount.
For now Everton aren’t going backwards but they are not going forwards too and that must be quite depressing for any fans of the famous Merseyside club.
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Mauricio Pochettino, the Tottenham manager came out with a suggestion that the transfer window should stay open as long as in the rest of Europe and he is absolutely right.
The window closed on August 8th in England just a couple of days before the Premier League season kicked off. In theory this makes perfect sense. Close the window and start the league, that way no players can feel unsettled- however this is only the case in England. In the major top European leagues their windows do not close until September 2nd, and that means that the likes of Real Madrid can pursue for example Christen Eriksen from Tottenham and Tottenham won’t be able to replace him.
It makes no sense at all that the windows are closing on different dates. One solution could be that foreign clubs cannot buy any players from the Premier League once the window closes in England, but with big money involved you can see clubs going to court about that.
In England the window used to close around September 2nd in line with all other top European leagues and it was only decided a few seasons ago to stop this. The idea being that players feel unsettled starting the season with one club and ending the month at another. But closing the window before the beginning of the season doesn’t make any sense unless all other major European leagues do the same. If not surely England has to revert back to the end of the month?
From a fans perspective what has been good about the window closing early is that we can close the book on any silly rumours flying about- except with European clubs able to take your clubs best players for an additional 3 weeks, you can’t.
In essence closing the window early in England has to go down as one of the biggest mistakes in the history of the Premier League, and this season it could come back and haunt some of the clubs, namely Tottenham and that is why Pochettino is obviously so concerned. But other clubs should be too- it might not be this season that your club is affected, but it could be the next.
Pochettino has voiced his concerns and said that he hopes the Premier League will change their stance. Of course it will be interesting to understand how fans feel about this, but the current situation does seem incredibly wrong.
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Ole Gunnnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United will be travelling down to the Molineux Stadium on Monday to take on Nuno Espirito Santo’s Wolves, a brutal team that managed to pick up a lot important results against the top-six sides last season and are now in the Europa League play-offs.
Although it is only the second gameweek of the Premier League, both sides will be looking to pick up the early three points in the campaign to ensure they move a step forward to reach their aims and objectives. The hosts will have one eye on the match and the other on the upcoming fixture against Torino in the Europa League play-offs, whilst the visitors will have the full focus on this difficult tie.
Now, let’s focus on the Red Devils ahead of their key crucial match on Monday night…
Lack of control within midfield
In their first league game, Manchester United had a lot of tough times in controlling the game within the middle of the pitch and were not able to dominate and overcome Chelsea’s midfield trio. For sure, the 4-0 result in the end is what counts, but on another day, had the opposition had the quality in defence and attack, the final outcome would have been different to what actually happened.
Despite the departure of both Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini, the board and Ed Woodward have failed to bring in the required replacements, leaving Solskjaer with very limited options within the midfield department. Andreas Pereira, Fred and Scott McTominay don’t have the intelligence and quality to start on a regular basis, and Nemanja Matic just happens to be on his last legs.
Not only that, Paul Pogba is the main man to guide the side week in and out, but his lapse in concentration and tendency to take the extra touch or second on the ball does not help the team’s cause. If the team are able to take more control and manage the game from the midfield, they will go on to improve defensively, dominate possession effectively and eventually create more chances.
Contributions from the full-backs
A lot of the talk has recently been about the arrival of summer signing Aaron Wan-Bissaka and current left-back, Luke Shaw, two individuals who are young, full of energy and are expected to be the side’s main full-backs for the next five years or so. With modern football being more advanced and the duties of a full-back being increased, the pair will have to work on their attacking ability.
With the backline being improved massively throughout the summer, the sole focus will be on how consistently they will be able to play out from the back and how often they will play a key role in the final third of the pitch. On that note, both Shaw and Wan-Bissaka will have take part in a lot of attacking drills in training, as their crossing and technical ability will be required during the season.
Having a quick look at the rival teams in Liverpool and Manchester City, they both respectively have the likes of Andrew Robertston, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker, crucial individuals who can run up and down the pitch for the whole game and be the difference maker when needed. United will definitely be in need of this as their style of play can become limited and really rigid, which forces them to play the ball more directly and without a lack of direction.
Marcus Rashford’s movement and positioning
Given the ruthless departure of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez to receive the same outcome very soon, there will be a lot of weight on United’s attackers and the midfielders to come up with the much needed goals. With a lot of pressure being on the likes of Anthony Martial, Daniel James and Paul Pogba for goals and assists, Marcus Rashford has to be the man to personally step up.
Being a local lad that has come through the youth ranks and someone that is widely regarded as a fan favourite, it would be more than ideal for the youngster to lead by example and be seen as the player that can score 25 goals a season. As he is now on free-kick and penalty duties, it shouldn’t be a huge problem for him to reach the required figures and numbers as a first-choice centre-forward.
It is no secret that Rashford isn’t one of the most clinical or ruthless strikers in the league, but if he begins to do the basics right and has the hunger to be in the right place at the right time, then there shouldn’t be no doubts at all in him delivering the goods. And if he goes on to do that and helps the team to be successful in the long run, his name will definitely be up there with the other greats that played for Manchester United Football Club.
As gameweek one has come to an end, a large number of Premier League supporters will have already predicted which teams will have a successful season and which specific individuals will go on to being the game changers compared to the rest of the players in the top flight of English football.
Meanwhile, a small group of young talents are aiming to have a bright season at a personal level and are looking to make a name for themselves. A lot of these youngsters will be looking up to the likes of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, James Maddison and Matteo Guendouzi, players who had their breakout moment over the last 12 months and are now seen as a hot property by their club and manager.
With no further ado, it’s time to look at the three U-23 players to keep an eye on this campaign.
Although he has had a decent amount of first-team experience under Antonio Conte and Maurizio Sarri, Callum Hudson-Odoi will be hoping that the managerial arrival of Frank Lampard will allow him to play on a regular basis. Also, the fact that Eden Hazard left a month ago and the club are not able to bring in any players for another transfer window, it may grant him a couple of chances to prove himself.
Currently on the sidelines after rupturing his Achilles’ tendon at the end of last season, the 19-year-old is expected to return to full training over the next couple of weeks before he begins to feature on the pitch once again. Once he gets going and is back on the pitch, there is no doubt at all that he goes straight into the Chelsea team, as they are currently lack pure quality in the final third of the pitch.
With the side missing a player that can take the game by the scruff of the neck or create something out of nothing, the return of Hudson-Odoi would help the team’s creativity and movement on and off the ball massively whilst the likes of Christian Pulisic and Tammy Abraham will benefit from his presence. For the sure, the departure of Hazard may hurt the Blues mentally in the long run, but they have a player in Hudson-Odoi that can confidently open up a defensive side and come up with the vital contributions.
Reviewing Norwich City’s last year in the Championship, they could have easily fallen down into the play-off area rather than winning the league, if it wasn’t for the crucial shift that Max Aarons had completed on both sides of the pitch. From being a speedy outlet on the flanks as a full-back to completing the required defensive duties, the youngster has it all to be a top player in his specific position.
If he goes on to replicating the same types of performances in the top tier of English football, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see both Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur gain interest in the player once again. However, the standards between both leagues are massively high, as Aarons’ discipline and positional awareness will have to be top notch in what could be his breakout year of his professional career.
Given that the attacking-minded players in Emiliano Buendia and Todd Cantwell are expected to be constantly marked by the opposition, Norwich have a full-back to rely on to make those striding runs down the wings and to put in the inch-perfect crosses into someone like Teemu Pukki. Also, a consistent campaign for the rising talent could see him become one of the best players in his department within the league.
Newcastle United are going through a serious transition period, as they attempt to put the Rafa Benitez era behind themselves as well as produce new memories under manager Steve Bruce. Though, one of the positives that the Toons will have become aware of throughout this year, has been the incredible rise of central-midfielder Sean Longstaff, someone who spent a crucial loan at League one side Blackpool during the 2017-18 season and is now being a regular starter in top flight football.
At the age of 21, the youngster is living the dream that all young English football supporters have of playing in the Premier League and for their local club. And not only that, he received a new four-year deal back in November 2018, and is already expected to receive another huge increase over the next couple of weeks, as Manchester United were regularly interested in the Newcastle-born midfielder in recent months.
If Longstaff can go on to reaching his potential and the expectation of the Newcastle supporters, then the team will surely have stabilised midfield that allows them to push for success in the domestic competition and also aim for a higher finish in the league. If and once that eventually happens, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the club requesting for £50million and over for the player, purely to ward off any interest from other clubs.