Hey guys apologies for how late this article is, I was away last weekend so it had taken me forever to catch up on the weekend’s action… good job there were no Premier League games this weekend!
Round 27 was an awful one for Manchester United, whose 1-0 loss at Newcastle allowed their chasers to catch up. Chelsea got back to winning ways against strugglers West Brom, and Liverpool beat a disappointing Southampton 0-2, while Spurs are now only 4 points off 2nd following their 1-0 victory over Arsenal. Further down the table, Huddersfield earned their first points of 2018 with a 4-1 victory of Bournemouth.
One of the benefits of the delay in getting this post done is that I have been able to see a few more stories beyond the matches themselves. And what a week to see stories as news has come out to say that 4 senior West Brom players broke a curfew and stole a taxi when away in Barcelona. This is the sort of crap that I would expect from academy lads or players who have recently made it into the first team squad, rather than 4 experienced players. I was shocked when I heard the news and even more so when I saw the names – Jonny Evans, Gareth Barry, Jake Livermore and Boaz Myhill. These players aren’t just senior players, they are 4 of the most senior players in the squad (Livermore is the youngest at 28 years old) and Evans and Barry have both played for title-winning sides. These are the players that should be setting an example, yet they are the ones causing issues and distractions. It is questionable whether West Brom have the quality to stay up anyway – though they have improved under Pardew they are still not getting enough results – but if some of the most senior players including the club captain are acting like this then I think we can guarantee West Brom’s place in the Championship next season.
Sad story, happy ending?
Away from the games this week, it has also been announced that Hull midfielder Ryan Mason has been forced to retire from football following recovery from a fractured skull suffered in a challenge with Gary Cahill just over a year ago. It is a shame to hear this as he was a talented midfielder but the injury was such a serious one, the risk is so high in a sport that includes heading the ball.
It looks like there could be a happy ending to the story though as reports suggest that Spurs have already contacted Mason about returning to his former club in a coaching role. It is great to see that they are giving Mason this chance considering he had left the club in August 2016 and I think that they have taken into account the fact that he had been with the club since he joined the academy aged 8 and only left due to not being a big part of the plans moving forward.
I wish him all the best in his future activities, whether he takes up Spurs’ offer or not.
Wrong call from Puel?
Claude Puel has had a lot to deal with in recent weeks with the Riyad Mahrez saga so deserves some sympathy, but I think he made a tactical blunder at the Etihad on Saturday. Leicester started the game with 5 at the back and though they conceded within the opening few minutes they improved after this and drew level through Jamie Vardy’s 24th minute goal. However with the score at 1-1, Puel chose to change things up in the second half and go to 4 at the back, replacing Danny Simpson with Adrien Silva. Did this work? Well City ran out 5-1 winners with 4 second half goals from Sergio Aguero, so you be the judge!
City have consistently showed this season how dangerous they are in the final third, so I think Leicester would have had a better chance of victory clogging the space at the back and hitting City on the bench or capitalising on errors as Vardy did for his goal. Unfortunately for the Foxes, changing to 4 at the back against them was always going to give players like Aguero and De Bruyne the space to work their magic, and they did exactly that.
Chris Smalling had an absolute shocker on Sunday against Newcastle. His performance was characterised by missed passes and poor positioning and he was also lucky to not concede a penalty as he brought down Dwight Gayle just inside the box. But by far the worst moment though was his dive.
Centrebacks have often been some of the hardest players on the pitch – just think of Tony Adams or, more recently, Nemanja Vidic – so to see him diving under no contact is embarrassing. And to make things even worse, Newcastle scored the only goal of the game from the resulting free kick! People who regularly read these posts will know how much I hate diving, so I’m sure you can imagine how disgusted I am by his performance. Smalling was one of the few players who seemed to impress under Louis van Gaal, but he has appeared to regress since Mourinho arrived and I think a replacement should be a priority for United this summer, as David de Gea is arguably making this defence look better than it really is.
Round 28 predictions:
Leicester City v Stoke City – Leicester win
AFC Bournemouth v Newcastle United – Draw
Brighton & Hove Albion v Swansea City – Swansea win
Burnley v Southampton – Burnley win
Liverpool v West Ham United – Liverpool win
West Bromwich Albion v Huddersfield Town – Huddersfield win
Watford v Everton – Everton win
Manchester United v Chelsea – United win
Crystal Palace v Tottenham Hotspur – Spurs win
Arsenal v Manchester City – City win