Week 11 threw up some tantalising clashes towards the top of the table. Chelsea look to have got through their bad patch and picked up the win hat home to Manchester United, Tottenham backed up their amazing midweek win over Real Madrid with a 1-0 victory against Crystal Palace – despite missing a number of regulars and being down to their third-choice keeper – and Manchester City continued with their dominance by beating Arsenal 3-1.
At the other end of the table, Everton and Bournemouth got much-needed victories at home to Watford and away at Newcastle respectively, while West Ham’s 1-4 loss at home to Liverpool marked the end of Slaven Bilic’s tenure.
Changing of the guard
I wasn’t going to write about West Ham this week as I said everything last week, however with the news that has broken over the last 24 hours, I felt it right to give mention to this. Slaven Bilic has been sacked and, while it is a shame to see such a good manager shown the door, I don’t think recent results and performances left the owners any choice. During his interview after the Liverpool game my overriding thought was that we were listening to a man who knew his time was up. With the speed that David Moyes was named as his replacement, I can’t help but wonder if he had already been told that he would be gone once they had his replacement sorted. But is Moyes the right person for the job? While Moyes is clearly an experienced manager who was known for his sound defence at Everton, it could be argued that they improved after he left, while his stints at United, Real Sociedad and Sunderland have been less than successful (sacked twice and a resignation following Sunderland’s relegation). Moyes looks like he could be a boom or bust decision, for West Ham’s sake, I hope it is the former.
Meanwhile, the gossip columns have Sam Allardyce being linked with the vacant Everton role. Though, like West Ham, they need someone good at shoring up what has been a woeful defence, I do not feel that Allardyce suits the style of play that the Everton owners and fans will want. However, I also feel that interim manager would be right for the job on a permanent basis as he still does not seem to have settled on a team that will work for him – trying Gylfi Sigurdsson as a false 9 was a horrible idea – and lacks the experience that a team like Everton truly needs to make a run back up the table and draw in the required talent in January. I don’t know who would be right for them right now as I think Sean Dyche has too much of a good thing going on at Burnley, but they need to move fast in order to find the right man.
Arsenal’s 3-1 loss at the Etihad was not just costly in terms of league position (they are now 12 points behind City) but also a big blot on Arsene Wenger. Over the summer, the Gunners paid a club record £46.5m to sign striker Alexandre Lacazette, yet Wenger decided to start him on the bench against one of the best clubs in England. If he had started Olivier Giroud up front it may have made sense, but Giroud was also on the bench and we were left with Alexis Sanchez leading the line. Not only is Sanchez more of a supporting striker/winger, he also spent the entire transfer window being linked with a move to City! I have said before that I am not sold on City’s defence (though Ederson is a clear upgrade on Claudio Bravo last season) so I think not starting an out-and-out striker was a missed opportunity for Arsenal. When he finally came on, Lacazette’s goal was his sixth in this league campaign. If he continues to be benched for the big games, there will be some awkward questions coming Wenger’s way.
Meanwhile, I think Manchester United can probably consider themselves lucky to come away from Stamford Bridge with just a 1-0 loss. Take nothing away from Alvaro Morata’s goal – that was a beautiful header and gave David de Gea no chance – but he was given a free header, despite United playing with 3 centrebacks. Smalling seemed to struggle with Morata all day and on another day could have conceded 2 penalties for holding and pulling back the Spaniard. They may still have the best defensive record in the league – 5 goals conceded, 2 less than Spurs or City – but the danger Chelsea posed in the final third will be of interest to other teams. In the meantime, United now need to pick up 8 points from somewhere to catch up with their intercity rivals… With City’s form, that will be no easy feat!
Week 12 predictions:
Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur – Spurs win
AFC Bournemouth v Huddersfield Town – Draw
Burnley v Swansea City – Burnley win
Crystal Palace v Everton – Everton win
Leicester City v Manchester City – Man City win
Liverpool v Southampton – Liverpool win
West Bromwich Albion v Chelsea – Chelsea win
Manchester United v Newcastle United – Man United win
Watford v West Ham – Draw
Brighton & Hove Albion v Stoke City – Draw