Hey all! Once again, apologies for how late this is, I get that we’re over halfway through November but it’s been a busy couple of months!
What a month October was! Liverpool kicked took big steps towards a league title with a draw at home to Manchester City and huge wins away at Watford and Manchester United, before giving away a 2-goal lead to draw against Brighton. It was a mixed month for City, whose draw at Anfield accompanied losses to Leicester and Crystal Palace and wins against Burnley and Brighton. Ahead of both these teams by the end of the month was Chelsea, whose 100% record in the month leaves them top of the table with 25 points.
At the other end of the table, Norwich earned their first points with draws against Burnley and Brighton, but any hope was soon gone following a 7-0 humiliation at Stamford Bridge and they remain bottom of the table, just behind Newcastle, who finally got rid of Mike Ashley but ended the month without a manager and with just 1 point more than they started. Meanwhile Burnley may still fill the final spot in the drop zone, but earned 5 points during the month to edge closer to the teams above them.
The race is on!
The race for the Golden Boot: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – 10 goals; Jamie Vardy (Leicester City) – 7 goals; Sadio Mané & Michail Antonio (West Ham) – 6 goals
The race for Playmaker of the Season: Paul Pogba (Manchester United) – 7 assists; Mo Salah (Liverpool) – 6 assists; Mateo Kovacic (Chelsea) & Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City) – 5 assists
The race for the Golden Glove: Édouard Mendy (Chelsea) – 6 clean sheets; Alisson (Liverpool) & Ederson (Manchester City) – 5 clean sheets; Alex McCarthy (Southampton), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal) & Robert Sánchez (Brighton & Hove Albion) – 4 clean sheets
A new era
It finally happened! After years of being ruined by Mike Ashley, October saw Newcastle finally taken over by new ownership. While it’s obviously not been their ideal start to their era—Steve Bruce sacked after 1 more game; then a protracted search for a new manager that included Unai Emery pulling out after news of his appointment breaking prematurely, before Eddie Howe was finally announced earlier this month; 1 point from their first 3 matches—but this ownership needs to learn, and it will take a little while for the rot of the Ashley era to fully go away, but things are going in the right direction.
The atmosphere at St James’ Park in that first match after the sale was incredible, and it certainly seemed that the players were buoyed by this, scoring almost immediately against Spurs. They have some quality players like Allan Saint-Maximin, Jonjo Shelvey, Callum Wilson, Jamaal Lascelles and Joe Willock, while the appointment of Howe a the start of the international break gives him tie to start working with the majority of his squad before his first match, while still having a couple of weeks in November and all of December’s fixtures to assess what he needs to bring in this January, and while it’s probably too early to imagine the club bringing in the world class players that many have been imagining, the new ownership should at least be looking to make a statement in their first transfer window and give Howe the financial support to bring in who he can.
With just 5 points and a goal difference of -12 (at time of writing) it’s not going to be easy for the Magpies to escape the drop, especially considering the potential quality of some of the teams just above them and Southampton’s recent run of results—10 points from 4 matches has left them with 14 points—but a year down in the Championship to begin a rebuild under new ownership would be far from the worst thing.
If nothing else, the future feels more promising than it has for a long time.
It’s no secret in the past that I have been critical under Graham Potter. The Seagulls have often been far from impressive in the past, earning enough results to avoid the drop in seasons where there were significantly less impressive teams. However, despite this year’s league looking tighter on the whole, they found themselves finishing the month not just in the top half of the table, but in 7ᵗʰ, behind just the Big 5 and West Ham!
The main reason for it is their defence. At time of writing, they have conceded just 12 goals in 11 games, which can only be bettered by 3 teams. This was also the case last season, where their 46 goals conceded was bettered by only 6 teams. In fact, only Manchester City and Chelsea have kept more clean sheets than Brighton’s 13 in this calendar year. Last year however, they seriously struggled with goals, as a constantly rotating front line struggled for consistency. Well this year it has been much more consistent and though 12 goals may still not sound much, it is a 1:1 ratio, whereas last year they ended up conceding more than they scored.
It may just be small changes in the numbers, but it makes a massive difference. Last season they won 9, drew 14 and lost 15 in the league, whereas they find themselves on 4 wins, 5 draws and 2 defeats to date this season. With just a small change in the number of goals, they have turned losses into draws and draws into victories, making a drastic change to the to the most important number: the points earned.
A high-scoring offence and leaky defence will only work for so long, until defences find a way to nullify you, but by going the route Graham Potter has by building on a strong defence, he is giving the team a chance for a much longer term success.
While Liverpool’s 0-5 win at Watford may have been most notable for the game being Claudio Ranieri’s first game in charge of the Hornets, there was also a goal that was of real note to me.
With the score at 0-2, Andrew Robertson sent in a cross towards Mo Salah, who was in an offside position. The cross was cut out by Craig Cathcart, but in doing so the ball was directed goalward and needed to be saved by Ben Foster, allowing Roberto Firmino to tap in the rebound for his second goal of the match. He would go on to complete his hat-trick.
Now granted the offside rule has already become more harsh over the years, with daylight originally needed between the striker and defender, and now one out of place strand of facial hair is enough to condemn a striker, however I think further amendment needs making. Much as a player is considered offside if they are in an offside position that obstructs the sight of a keeper—as we have seen a number of times—I feel that a player should be considered offside in situations like this, when the ball is played in their direction and a defender is forced to account for them, as they are interfering with play by forcing the defender to stop the ball coming to them. You could perhaps argue that the defender should just let the ball go to this player, but that is too big a risk in case they have missed someone playing them on, or if the ball stays in play and is ignored by the offside player, allowing a supporting player to come from an onside position to take the ball.
Will the rule change? Probably not, but I think will argue that situations like this need looking at.
Team of the Month
I’ve already mentioned their 100% record this month, so it’s probably not much of a surprise to see the Blues get the pick here. Thomas Tuchel’s men finished the month with 4 wins from 4, scoring 14 goals and conceding just 1. Granted 2 of these wins came against the bottom two sides in the table, Newcastle and Norwich (which accounted for 10 of the goals), but when you consider that these 2 games were played without a recognised striker, it becomes more impressive.
The defence has improved under Tuchel, and Romelu Lukaku has shown that he was one of the missing pieces of the puzzle, while partnering him with Timo Werner has helped get the best out of the German, who often played well but was just lacking the goals last season. Meanwhile, they have a range of attacking talents to create chances for the strikes, and arguably 2 of the form fullbacks going forward or back in Ben Chilwell and Reece James.
It’s been 4 years since Chelsea’s last title, with performances like this, that could all be about to change.