Another week, another win for the underdogs. This time Huddersfield have played the role of David as they take down the Goliath that is Manchester United. Elsewhere in the league Chelsea escaped losing 3 league matches in a row with a late surge to beat Watford 4-2, while Manchester City remain unbeaten following a 3-0 victory at home to Burnley. Towards the other end of the table, Leicester – currently without a manager after the sacking of Craig Shakespeare – won 2-1 against Swansea, while Ronald Koeman was shown the door following Everton’s 5-2 loss at home to Arsenal.
Anthony Martial burst onto the Premier League scene in the 2015/16 with 11 goals in 31 league games and was one of the few good points of Louis van Gaal’s reign at Old Trafford. However he has found his chances more limited under Jose Mourinho and has also found it harder to score. Against Huddersfield, he was probably lucky to not be penalised after appearing to lash out following a strong challenge from Tommy Smith. This got me thinking, maybe the issue is that he is not ready for the physical demands of the Premier League.
The Premier League is always touted as being a physical league and England has always been known as a country that is more famous for its physically dominant players like Tony Adams rather than its more skillful players. In that regard, it is almost the exact opposite of La Liga. Even some of the more skillful English players of recent years, like Wayne Rooney, are always noted as being physically strong and you rarely hear of him or Harry Kane being out-muscled. For players who are used to less physical leagues – Ligue 1 and La Liga for example – this would be a big change of style that they may struggle to get used to. Victor Lindelof (signed from Benfica) had a poor afternoon at Huddersfield and was culpable for the second goal due to misjudging the long ball forward. Renato Sanches has also not yet lived up to the hype at Bayern Munich or Swansea and again this could be down to the Premier League and the Bundesliga being more physical than the Primeira Liga that he was used to.
This isn’t even a new phenomenon; so many players have excelled in other leagues but struggled in England – such as Diego Forlan – while even David de Gea initially looked like he could be a bust until he got used to the physicality of the league and the difference in style. As great as a player can look when playing internationally or in other leagues, there is no way to know how they will adapt to the Premier League until they are featuring regularly. I’ve noticed that players who are used to the Bundesliga don’t seem to struggle that much and I think that this is because this is probably the closest of the top European leagues to the Premier League in terms of playing style and physicality. It must also be remembered that there are very few top leagues where the teams towards the bottom can even consider beating the top teams, whereas the Premier League loves to remind us this season that anyone can beat anyone!
We always hear that English players are overpriced, and to be honest when you look at the quality of imports that were brought in for the same money that is often true, but at least with an English player who has spent his career playing in the Premier League and Championship, they are already used to the physical demands of the league. While the ceiling may be higher for an import, the floor may be much lower, so if in doubt, I can see why some clubs would prefer to stick to the more reliable middle ground rather than risk a big money bust.
Chelse may have come out of their game against Watford with all 3 points, but they should consider themselves very lucky. Pedro’s opener was a beautiful strike but should never have stood as replays clearly showed that Eden Hazard was the last to touch the ball before it went out of play, so Chelsea’s corner should have actually been a goal kick. Not only this, but Richarlison missed 2 gilt-edged chances at 1-1 and 1-2 that looked easier to score than to miss! If either one or both of these goals had been scored, then it may have been too much of a mountain for the defending champions to climb in this game.
A season away
How much will Spurs be regretting their slow start to the season right now? 4 league victories on the bounce have left them 3rd in the league, 5 points behind Manchester City and level on points with Manchester United. Their 4-1 demolition of Liverpool at a packed Wembley Stadium showed just how effective the team is. I think that Spurs will be able to finish top 3 – possibly even top 2 – this season, but I don’t think they have quite enough to win the title this year.
They have a very strong starting XI and have probably the best balance between attacking quality and defensive solidity, however I think beyond the starting lineup they are lacking the depth of their title rivals, especially if they are looking to challenge in multiple competitions. Just look at how often this year United’s substitutes have come on to win the game! If Spurs can spend the next 2 transfer windows deepening their squad, then I think next year could see them go all the way in the 2017/18 season.
Week 10 predictions:
Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur – Draw
Arsenal v Swansea City – Arsenal win
Crystal Palace v West Ham United – Draw
Liverpool v Huddersfield Town – Draw
Watford v Stoke City – Watford win
West Bromwich Albion v Manchester City – City win
AFC Bournemouth v Chelsea – Chelsea win
Brighton & Hove Albion v Southampton – Draw
Leicester City v Everton – Everton win
Burnley v Newcastle United – Burnley win