Premier League fans did not have long to wait to see their team play again as the league was on a short week between Rounds 13 and 14. 6 of the top 7 won while Spurs’ 2-1 loss at Leicester drops them behind Liverpool and Burnley. Raheem Sterling’s last minute goal against Southampton helped the Sky Blues make history with their longest ever run of consecutive Premier League wins (12 and counting). Towards the bottom of the table, Wayne Rooney’s return to the Everton starting XI proved costly for West Ham as he scored a hat-trick – including a goal from his own half – in a 4-0 victory that puts them 5 points above the relegation zone.
I was going to write about this after the weekend but chose a few other topics instead. That turned out to be the perfect decision following Ashley Young’s brace in Manchester United’s 2-4 win at Watford on Tuesday.
Young and Antonio Valencia have done a fantastic job of keeping themselves relevant through the years at Manchester United. Initially used as wingers, the changes in tactics and formation over the years have limited the need for out-and-out wingers, while the club has brought in players who can work as a hybrid winger/striker or winger/attacking midfielder like Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard. However rather than disappear from the club and move on to pastures new, they have both reinvented themselves by dropping back to the fullback positions. They are both still full of pace despite being in their early 30s and work hard to not be a weak link in defence whilst being a anger going forward with their quality of crosses and shots.
Many teams this season are also choosing to play 3 at the back and look at wing-backs, which benefits these players even more as they have the fitness to run up and down the touchline all game. I would argue that they have quietly gone about their business in becoming some of the best full backs in the league and it is certainly benefiting United.
In the past I have worried that Spurs’ lack of depth could prove costly for them this season and it currently seems to be the case. With Toby Alderweireld injured, Spurs are limited in how much they can change things up at the back and between Europe and the Premier League, the remaining players are tiring and getting caught out. In attack, they are in a similarly bad spot with Fernando Llorente struggling to find the new meaning they must continue to rely on Kane and Alli, who are getting limited chance to rest between their Spurs and England commitments.
Contrast with United who handed a rare start this season to Jesse Lingard against Watford, Chelsea who brought in match-winner Antonio Rüdiger in place of César Azpilicueta, Liverpool who were able to bring top scorer Mo Salah off the bench or City who could start David Silva on the bench despite missing Leroy Sané through illness. Unless they make some quality signings in January, I worry that their current lack of depth could cost them a spot in the top 3 or even, if they continue to progress in the Champions League, the top 4.
Round 15 predictions:
Chelsea v Newcastle United – Chelsea win
Brighton & Hove Albion v Liverpool – Liverpool win
Everton v Huddersfield Town – Everton win
Leicester City v Burnley – Draw
Stoke City v Swansea City – Stoke win
Watford v Tottenham Hotspur – Draw
West Bromwich Albion v Crystal Palace – West Brom win
Arsenal v Manchester United – Draw
AFC Bournemouth v Southampton – Draw
Manchester City v West Ham United – City win