There were goals galore in this week of the Premier League, with every game having at least 2 goals. Manchester City’s 0-2 win at Leicester keeps them 8 points clear at the top of the table and chasing the accomplishments of the ‘Invincibles’ of Arsenal’s 2003/4 season. Elsewhere, Chelsea’s 0-4 demolition of West Brom proved the end of Tony Pulis’ time in charge whilst also leapfrogging them above Spurs, who lost the North London Derby 2-0 at the Emirates, whilst Liverpool and Burnley made it 3 wins in a row with victories over Southampton and Swansea respectively. And the less said about West Ham, the better!
Diving into the history books
So Oumar Niasse has become the first player in the Premier League to be charged by the FA for “successful deception of a match official” following his dive in the 6th minute of their 2-2 draw at Crystal Palace, which resulted in a penalty scored by Leighton Baines. While it is great to see retroactive punishment being used for dives, which will hopefully lead to more honest play, I wonder if this was deserving of its place in history.
Phil Neville and Alan Shearer were both certain that this was a dive, but there was clearly contact between Niasse and Scott Dann – even if Niasse’s fall was worthy of an Oscar! Discussing this with a colleague at work who plays football regularly for a local club, he echoed my thoughts that strikers are taught to go down under contact, especially in the box. It is one thing to fall theatrically following minimal contact, it is another thing entirely to throw yourself to the floor without being touched. It is still technically a dive, but he has been impeded at least marginally.
Personally I would like to see both incidents like this and actual dives both outlawed, but I think that when there is even slight contact, it can be questionable as to whether this is a dive or a foul, or quite possibly both! I can pretty much guarantee there will be a similar incident each week in the league, if any of them lead to penalties it will be interesting to see if they all result in charges, as the FA have set a precedent now. It will be interesting to see the result of this charge and what impact it has moving forward.
United’s 4-1 victory over Newcastle on Saturday saw the return from injury of 2 fan favourites for the Red Devils. Paul Pogba made his first start after 9 weeks out while Zlatan Ibrahimovic came off the bench for his first appearance since mid-April following a serious knee injury. While Zlatan’s late cameo had a limited impact on the game, he looked sharp and will be putting the rest of the league on warning, but Pogba’s return may have won United the game.
I have never been completely sold on Pogba when I have watched him in the past, but seeing the way United’s title challenge has faltered during his spell out and the way they looked back to their best on Saturday has helped me see the quality that the Frenchman possesses. His play on the edge of the box to make the space to provide the cross for Anthony Martial’s equaliser was so assured for someone who has been out for 2 months, and he had a clear desire to be involved, leading to him making a great run from halfway as United broke downfield and being in the perfect position to receive Marcus Rashford’s cushioned header to score United’s third goal of the game. Romelu Lukaku also seemed to benefit from Pogba’s return and got on the score sheet in the league for the first time since the end of September.
With Pogba & Ibrahimovic’s returns and Lukaku starting to find the net again, United may be able to get back to challenging for the title. They now just need City to drop 8 points somewhere along the line…
It’s gone somewhat under the radar in my posts this season, but how well are Burnley doing?! Sean Dyche’s men have quietly gone about their business this season and find themselves not just in the top half of the table, but behind only the Big 6. Not just that, but they’re currently pushing for Europe as they are only behind Arsenal and Liverpool due to goal difference and trail Spurs by 1 point and Chelsea by 3!
Burnley under Dyche have always been known as a team with a well-organised defence, and that is no different this year as their 9 goals conceded (level with Spurs) puts them behind only Manchester City (7) and United (6). Not bad when you consider Tom Heaton’s injury means they have played most of the season with the previously unknown Nick Pope in goal! But unlike other defensively-oriented teams like those managed by Tony Pulis, Burnley are also playing attractive football, their 12 goals putting them firmly in the middle of the table.
I think that their defence may be good enough to get the odd point against the teams currently above them, but if they want to take the next step they probably need to get another striker who can get 15-20 goals a season. Former Claret Danny Ings has struggled to break into the Liverpool squad since he recovered from injury. I’m sure both parties would benefit from him returning on loan to Turf Moor in January. His goals could push Burnley to the next level while regular football could reignite his Premier League and International career.
Week 13 predictions:
West Ham United v Leicester City – Leicester win
Crystal Palace v Stoke City – Stoke win
Manchester United v Brighton & Hove Albion – United win
Newcastle United v Watford – Draw
Swansea City v AFC Bournemouth – Bournemouth win
Tottenham Hotspur v West Bromwich Albion – Spurs win
Liverpool v Chelsea – Draw
Southampton v Everton – Draw
Burnley v Arsenal – Arsenal win
Huddersfield Town v Manchester City – City win