Another defeat for West Ham hammers home appointment of David Moyes was poor

Football is here once again, but the misery continues for West Ham.

The Hammers put in a toothless display as they were beaten at home against Wolves 2-0. In truth the game was not flowing enough, perhaps the late warm Saturday afternoon played its part. However it was telling that Wolves were able to find another level to get the win and 3 glorious points.

For West Ham attentions had to quickly turn to Saturday evenings game between Bournemouth and Crystal Palace. The hammers needed Palace to win given that Bournemouth could have dumped them into the relegation zone. As it turned out Eddie Howe’s side lost 2-0. Good news for West Ham.

How much does it say about the club though when they have to look around them and rely on other results? That is a quick fix which in the long run never works out, and as it is West Ham look amongst the favourites to be relegated this season.

Currently the club are in 17th place with 27 points and only goal difference is keeping them from being in the bottom three.

Attention at this time is swung in the direction of David Moyes, a manager who already failed at the club once. In some bizarre twist of fate when the Hammers searched for a new manager they turned once again to the Scotsman. The problem with Moyes is that he hasn’t had his charge or for a better word mojo in a decade when he was manager of Everton. Though the Mersey side team won nothing under him at least they challenged for a European place, even making it as far as the Champions League qualifiers in 2005.

Since then Moyes has had nightmare spells at Manchester United and even Real Sociedad. One could argue that Moyes and West Ham could have been the perfect fit, that would have worked had he not been in charge once before.

The statistics much like the game against Wolves are damning for Moyes. From the 13 games he has managed in his second stint as West Ham manager he has lost 8 of them and currently has a win rate of just 23%. That is 6% lower than his first time in charge of the club.

As for the game West Ham never looked like being a major threat to Wolves and had just 2 shots on target the whole game.

West Ham’s next match is against London rivals Tottenham away on Tuesday. Whilst they have surprised their opponents on a few occasions Tottenham clearly have the stronger squad, and it could be just a matter of time before West Ham see themselves in the bottom three.

The Irons will welcome back striker Sebastien Haller for that game, and Moyes will be hoping that the Frenchman can make the difference in midweek. He may have to as the pressure even without the fans at games is really mounting for the manager.

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This isn’t the Jose Mourinho Tottenham were looking for as season boils down to the FA Cup

So it looks like the season for Tottenham is going to come down to the FA Cup, and they have a manager in Jose Mourinho who wins trophies. Even at his nightmare period with Manchester United Mourinho won silverware and this is the hope that Tottenham cling on too.

In truth has Mourinho’s appointment improved Tottenham as a whole since sacking Mauricio Pochettino last November? Statistically it just about has in Mourinho’s first 12 games in charge he earned 20 points. In Pochettino’s 12 games in charge before being sacked this season he earned 14. But this season under Mourinho Tottenham are on course to earn at least 10 points under what Pochettino earned last season.

Though Tottenham still find themselves in the mix for a top 4 spot, which would mean Champions League football next season, this is not down to how good they have been, but more about how inconsistent Chelsea have been in 4th place. The lack of putting any number of winning games together has given the likes of both Tottenham and Manchester United hope. But the reality is that Tottenham look like they will miss out on Champions League football next season, evidently they are just not a good enough side this season to finish in the top four. That was hammered home again last weekend when they lost 3-2 at home to Wolves, despite being a goal up.

One of the biggest factors in getting Mourinho in and reportedly paying him in the region of £15m a season was that he wins games on a consistent basis and finds a way. His home form in league games is undisputed, but this season under him Tottenham have already lost 3 at home, this under a man who once went 9 years over 150 games without defeat at home. It does feel that Tottenham were looking for the Jose Mourinho of 2005 and have landed with an inferior product.

The Champions League this season is very much in the balance after the club lost the 1st leg against RB Leipzig 1-0. That was a home game and if Leipzig score first in Germany in the return match, Tottenham would need to score at least 2 goals on the night. Tottenham remains a very good side, let’s not forget that they made the Champions League final last year, but they are clearly a few levels below most of the teams left in this seasons competition.

Of course injuries have played their part. Not only did they lose Harry Kane but Heung-Min Son who had found his goal scoring boots is also out injured, and both players are missing months instead of weeks. But something else is missing with the club and it could well be that Mourinho is well past his sell by date, or maybe he just doesn’t have the quality of players at his disposal. Will more money be spent this summer, well you can guarantee it, but then all of the pressure will be under Mourinho with nowhere to escape if the club do not pick up and start challenging for trophies.

This season then looks like it will come down to the FA Cup. And make no mistake if Tottenham did finish outside the top four, but qualified for the Europa League and won the FA Cup the fans would take that. For all of the great play under Pochettino and the memorable wins, the club won nada, nothing, zilch. And fans want to see trophies held aloft at the end of the day.

Today the club will turn to the FA Cup where they will play Norwich in their replay and try to qualify for the quarter finals. Lose that and one senses all momentum could depart a ship that sometimes looks worryingly lost at sea.

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Man Utd 0-0 Wolves: The Red Devils drop points at home again as they move down to sixth place

With both Chelsea and Leicester City dropping two points each in the early kick-off on Saturday afternoon, it gave Manchester United some hope as well as some wishful thinking that a potential victory over Nuno Espirito Santo’s Wolves would allow them to close the gap on the top four positions. However, that was not the case, as the match at Old Trafford ended in a boring stalemate.

The match was expected to be quite a slow-moving and dull fixture on both sides of the pitch, mainly because of Wolves and their pragmatic setup in a back-three system whilst United simply do not have the quality to create the key chances and also convert them. In the end, none of the sides were able to take the game by the scruff of the neck as the points were equally shared by both teams.

This was actually United’s fifth league game of 2020, as the side ended up achieving only four points out of a potential 15 ahead of the winter break, which does raise the question on if the Red Devils are good enough to push for a top four finish. Meanwhile, Wolves are on level for points with United but are just lower than them due to goal difference, as they continue their season in pure silence.

Here are the three things we learnt from United’s latest league game…

Bruno Fernandes produces a bright performance on his Old Trafford debut

For sure, there was no goals or assists produced to complete his performance, but Bruno Fernandes was showing off his quality on and off the ball, as he went onto show his intelligence tactically whilst proving to be a dangerous threat going forward. Although he was playing in a much more deeper role than what he was used to in his days at Sporting Lisbon, he had clearly saw the difficulties the side had with progressing the ball with intensity and decided to take matters into his own hands.

With the likes of Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba expected to return from suspension or injuries after the winter break and towards the end of the month, it would certainly allow the Portuguese international to play high up the pitch and focus on creating chances and scoring from distance, which is what he naturally specialises in. Once the midfield options come back, United will definitely be expected to control and dominates games with ease and no problems.

Lack of intelligence and movement in the attacking department lets United down

When you dominate the possession of the ball by 64%, complete 15 shots in 90 minutes, despite creating only one big chance, the ongoing issues have to be raised on the lack of attacking combinations and patterns that the Old Trafford faithful are witnessing. Sometimes, it feels like the players in the team are playing with one another for the first time, as they are unable to create or complete a progressive rhythm of passes, in order to help the side to build the play up effectively.

United’s go-to-man has been Marcus Rashford this season, someone who has the pace, dribbling ability and movement on and off the ball to cause a number of defenders massive worries, no matter if he is playing on the flanks or through the middle. However, since he has been on the sidelines, the other attackers within the squad have been unable to step up and rise to the occasion, as individuals such as Anthony Martial, Andreas Pereira and Daniel James have been below par.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s in-game management has to improve or he will not last long

When Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made the double substitution of Diogo Dalot and Jesse Lingard for Daniel James and Juan Mata, there were quite a bit of groans and moans around Old Trafford as well as from the Manchester United supporters on social media, purely because of the fact that it took the manager until the 88th minute of the game to make the changes and push for the win. Despite the lack of quality and depth in the squad, Solskjaer has to have a backup plan for him to rely on, and has he does not have a plan A or plan B, it is high unlikely that he will succeed at Manchester United.

Since the arrival of Solskjaer on a permanent basis, there has not been that many players that have actually improved or been taken to the next level, besides the individuals that have been promoted from the youth academy. Not only that, 25 league games into the season, the side have only been able to pick up nine wins and eight draws, as they are currently experiencing a season of a low tally of points, which has not been witnessed even under the likes of David Moyes or Louis Van Gaal.

Liverpool are so far out in front other Premier League teams are now just living in hope

Even when they are not playing their best game, and the ball isn’t falling where they want it to be, Liverpool find a way. It happened last night and it will probably happen when they face West Ham in five days time. Liverpool win games, and no one, at least in the Premier League, can stop them.

Witness how Liverpool were pegged back against Wolves in their last game this week. Pegged back and Liverpool games do not go hand in hand, and this was a strange occurrence. How fitting was it to see firstly that Jordan Henderson had opened the scoring for the Reds. Henderson has been absolutely brilliant especially this season for the club and it felt only fitting that for once the club captain would be on guard to get the goal, a possible winning one and see his team march on to the title with yet another win.

But Wolves would not be contained. They prodded and probed and one could feel that there was a goal in them. When it came in the 2nd half it didn’t feel like a surprise and it was scored by Raul Jimenez, who is on hot form. It was Jimenez that sunk the Saints that are Southampton last weekend scoring 2 goals when his side were 2-0 down and they eventually won 3-2. Wolves fighting spirit is why the English media pundit Charlie Nicolas claimed this week that Wolves would be the first Premier League side in the league to beat Liverpool this season (Aston Villa have already achieved this feat in the Carabao Cup).

Wolves put in a good showing and the match looked set at least to finish 1-1. What an achievement this would have been for the home side and the headlines were ready to be written by the waiting press. Wolves were coming very close to taking points from Liverpool, only the second team to do so, after Manchester United. And then Roberto Firmino erased those columns, and changed history and scored a cracking goal which won Liverpool the game 2-1. It was all over. And that is Liverpool in a nutshell. If Mohamed Salah is struggling, Sadio Mane will score, if Mane is struggling there is Firmino, who has been absolutely brilliant this season and will surely make anyone’s European side of the year. His importance cannot be underestimated.

What one could sense from last night though is how teams in England are resigned to the fact that the league title is Liverpool’s. Let’s face it we’ve known since at least October, we waited for a blip to happen, which hasn’t and doesn’t look like materialising.

No blip, no lack of energy, the machine just keeps on going.

So as a result what has happened and it was evident last night was when Wolves scored or dared, you could say, to score a goal and equalise against the mighty Liverpool. For they have been so utterly dominant that just making the score 1-1 with ten minutes to go would dare to dream. Teams now in the Premier League feel success rests on just taking something from the club. A draw now feels like beating them, and you have to pinch yourself when you see the record so far, 67 points won from a possible 69. It’s Roy of the Rovers stuff for sure, except this is all happening in reality and this side are going to go down in history.

So, it’s now over to West Ham, and no pressure on them. The Hammers need the win too after their 4-1 loss at Leicester and they look like they could be heading for the bottom three faster than a Salah screamer. That game takes place next week on January 29th at London Stadium. But who would bet against Liverpool recording their 23rd win of the league season?

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Unai Emery’s job is under threat at Arsenal

The Arsenal fans have made it clear that Unai Emery is now under severe pressure with some wanting him sacked as manager after just 18 months in charge. This comes after the Gunners have recorded just 2 wins from their past 9 games.

Emery has struggled with Arsenal overall and despite coming to the club with a good resume, winning the Europa League on a few occasions with Sevilla and the French league with PSG it has been difficult for the Spaniard to find the right balance with the team he has. Players on long contracts that he couldn’t sell like Mesut Ozil isn’t his fault and that remains some of the fall out from former manager Arsene Wenger. But fans believe that Emery simply isn’t getting the best out of his players and they could well be right.

What let down Wenger in his final years with the club was not qualifying for the Champions League and their dismal away record and that has continued under Emery. Reaching the Europa League final last season felt like a step in the right direction but what did it matter when they lost 4-1 in the final? No Arsenal fan wants to remember that run after that.

A glance at the Premier League table would see Arsenal in 5th place and wanting your manager sacked for that would seem harsh. But the bigger picture is that the club have slipped 6 points behind Chelsea who have a new young manager in Frank Lampard and have had a transfer ban this past summer.

Whilst the Gunners have only lost two games they have only won 1 game in their past five matches and have gone 3 games without a win. The other damning fact is the way they are losing points at home. Take the Crystal Palace match where they found themselves 2-0 up within 10 minutes. The old Arsenal circa 2005 would have gone on to win that match 5-0. This one let Palace back into the game. Of course one will argue that VAR stopped them from winning 3-2 with a bizarre decision but Arsenal should never have been in that situation in the first place.

Then there was the Wolves game again at home and again winning the match. Wolves were let back in the match and actually could have won it.

This is an Arsenal team who look hollow and without Pierre-Emerick Aubamyang they look devoid of ideas and goals.

The Arsenal fans may want Emery out but the board won’t panic yet. However if the club continue this form he may well be in trouble come the end of the year. Arsenal have a lot of thinking to do as the clubs ‘transition’ period continues for another season.

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Wolves v Man Utd; Three key factors to keep an eye out for on the Red Devils

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.

EPL Weekend Picks – Week 35

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With just a few games left in the Premier League campaign, things are starting to take shape and will continue to do so with this weekend’s round of matches. There is no Friday night fixture this week, but instead we have a big card of games on Saturday with three coming on Sunday and one on Monday evening, with games every day next week except for Thursday as matches in hand are played. Man City taking on Tottenham in Saturday’s lunchtime kickoff looks to be the biggest game of the weekend, but there are plenty of games in store to keep us guessing. Bournemouth host relegated Fulham hoping to build on their impressive 5-0 win at Brighton last weekend, while Newcastle host Southampton in Saturday’s late game. Let’s go for a 4-3-3 here!

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EPL Weekend Picks – Week 34

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This weekend’s Premier League will see the season continuing to take shape as, with just a few games to go, there is still a wide open title race and only one relegation spot left to fill. Liverpool leapfrogged Man City back into top spot last weekend, but the Citizens have a game in hand – just how much of a say will Chelsea and Crystal Palace have on Sunday against the top two? Palace host City while Chelsea travel to Liverpool and so there could well be more twists and turns in this title race yet. Towards the bottom of the table, already-relegated Huddersfield and Fulham both have tricky fixtures, with the Terriers at Tottenham while Fulham host Everton. Let’s take on a 4-3-3 here and see which players will fancy their chances.

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Is the honeymoon period over for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United?

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In his first three months in charge at Old Trafford Ole Gunnar Solskjaer went undefeated and wooed everyone with an attacking brand of football not seen at Manchester United since the days of Sir Alex Ferguson.

All of a sudden there were goals at the club, attacking play, smashing teams and happy players. Solskjaer had built in 90 days what previous managers could not do in 6 years, a fantastic footballing unit. Much of this was down to Solskjaer being an ex United player under Ferguson and admitting that the clubs DNA and philosophy ran through his blood.

His biggest achievements have been United charging into the top 5 and given Tottenham and Arsenal food for thought for Champions League qualification. In December the club had no chance, but now they have every chance. Then there is the Champions League where against all odds and losing 2-0 to PSG in the first leg of the knock out round of 16, United came back in Paris and won 3-1. Now they will play Barcelona in a mouth watering quarter final.

But have the wheels come off of the project? United have lost 3 out of their last 4 games and questions will be asked. It’s unfortunate for the Norwegian who had just signed a 3 year full time contract with the club.

The first loss was being knocked out by Wolves in the FA Cup. Wolves have been brilliant this season and really punched above their weight but this result was still seen as a disappointment for the club who wanted to go further.

Then came the loss against Arsenal, this time 2-0 and a reality check that United still have a long way to go. Although to be fair to the Gunners they have become incredibly tough to beat at the Emirates and have lost only one game their. Still it was at that ground that United had visited a few weeks previously and knocked them out of the FA Cup.

A routine win against Watford followed when United returned home to more familiar territory. But the stench of defeat reared its ugly head again this week when United lost again to Wolves in the league, and by the same score line of 2-1.

The result has left some question marks over United and if they will have enough to finish in the top 4. The suggestion is that they will just miss out. And as harsh as the media can be there will be some growing pressure on Solskjaer- was he really the right man to lead the club full time?

For now we have to believe he is and it will be fascinating to see who he brings into the club in the summer. His philosophy and man management seem spot on and he needs time without pressure to get the right results over the long term, but will he be given it, that’s another question.

Can Manchester City win the quadruple?

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After victory over Cardiff City last night which took Manchester City back to the top of the Premier League, a question must be asked, can they win the quadruple?

City have of course already won the league cup in England, not only are they in 1st place in the league but they are also in the semi finals of the FA Cup. They have also qualified for the Champions League quarter final stage. Everything does look set up for Pep Guardiola’s men although there are some very important matches still to come and very tough weeks ahead.

Of course 20 years ago it was the other half of Manchester that was sweeping up trophies as Manchester United won the treble of the Champions League, The League title and the FA Cup. But their rivals City could go one better this season.

Guardiola has already won the quadruple with Barcelona in 2009, in fact he ended up winning six trophies that year as the team won the super cup and then went on to win the FIFA World Club Cup. But how realistic is it that City could win it?

In the league City are locked in a fierce battle with Liverpool to win it. Though City are a point ahead Liverpool could go back on top on Friday night. Although City hold the slight advantage as they have a game in hand, that extra game is away to Manchester United their biggest rivals, so 3 points are not certain. That fight looks like it will go down to the wire.

In the FA Cup City will face Brighton in the semi finals and they will be big favourites to get through to the final where they will either play Wolves or Watford. On paper you would say City will win, but let’s not forget how well Wolves and Watford have done in the league this season and they have become the best of the rest with some impressive results and remain a threat.

Finally in the Champions League City have got to the last eight where they will face Tottenham. This all English match should be a fantastic spectacle and even though City will be favourites to advance to the semi finals we must remember that Tottenham have been strong in this competition this season and have their brand new stadium to boot.

If City can get past Tottenham they would face either Ajax or Juventus in the semi finals, with the possibility of playing Liverpool or Barcelona in a final if form went the way it could. How ironic for Guardiola if he was to have the chance to win a quadruple to face his former side Barcelona in a final.

City may fall short but they have given themselves a fantastic chance to make some history this season.