Premier League Ramble – 2017/18 Round 15

Premier League Ramble – 2017/18 Round 15

Round 15 of the Premier League was a good one for the new managers, with Leicester and Everton both climbing the table with wins, while West Brom and Crystal Palace shared the spoils and each earned a point that could prove crucial in the relegation dogfight (Palace have now risen to 18th). West Ham were the only team to have changed their manager this season that did not pick up at least a point, but they put in a good show at the Etihad and led 1-0 at half time before goals from Nicolas Otamendi and David Silva saved City’s blushes. Elsewhere, Liverpool and Chelsea kept up the chase on the Manchester clubs with wins over Brighton and Newcastle respectively, while Arsenal’s 3-1 loss to Manchester United drops them out of the top 4.

He’s a keeper

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David de Gea is arguably now the best keeper in the world – Picture from Flickr – nguyễnlong15

De Gea is arguably one of the best shot stoppers in the world, capable of making reflex saves with hands and feet alike. It will be difficult to name a keeper in the world who on current form is doing better. When you watch him play like this, it is clear why United have the best defensive record in the league (just 9 goals in 15 games).

Perhaps the most incredible thing is when you look at the way he played when he first joined United. Despite having a defence in front of him that contained Ferdinand and Vidic, it took de Gea a while to grow accustomed to the physicality of the league and the amount of aerial balls into the box in comparison with La Liga. However Fergie stuck with him and he has developed into probably the best keeper in the world. This is a great reminder that sometimes a player will take a while to adapt, so if they are given the chance by the manager and the fans, they can overcome a shaky start to become a world-beater.

PL table
The latest Premier League table – From http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport

A chink in the armour

Manchester City may have won their last few games, but if their rivals have been paying close attention they will have noticed a potential weakness. Over the last couple of games, City have looked vulnerable at corners. They conceded from a corner at Huddersfield last weekend and on Sunday against West Ham, while Southampton also failed to capitalise on 2 chances they created from corners.

Vicent Kompany does not currently look the player he was a couple of years ago before a series of injuries, John Stones was improving but is currently out injured, but Otamendi and Eliaquim Mangala have not regularly lived up to expectations since signing for the Sky Blues. In front of the defence, they are not blessed with height  which will also not help them when defending set pieces into the box. While City continue to bang in multiple goals per game they will probably be able to overcome this issue, but if they start struggling to find the net with such regularity then set piece issues could prove costly.

City’s next Premier League match is against Manchester United. The Red Devils may be missing Paul Pogba after his red card against Arsenal, but they still have height up front in Romelu Lukaku and may even draft in Marouane Fellaini and Zlatan Ibrahimovic to give themselves the advantage at set pieces. Jose Mourinho’s team selection for this game will likely give us a good idea of the tactics they will use come kickoff.

PL results
The weekend’s results – From http://www.premierleague.com

On the counter

After Round 13, I wrote about how good the Liverpool attack was doing this season. With Firmino, Coutinho, Mané and Salah, they have the opportunity to rotate their front 3 in order to avoid tiring the players, while also being able to play all 4 in the big games if looking to go super offensive. This attacking capability will only improve with Adam Lallana returning from injury. Against Brighton, Liverpool showed the most effective way to use this attacking quality: on the counter. Glenn Murray’s shot was saved by Simon Mignolet and Liverpool quickly broke the length of the field for Firmino to score their third of the game.

As well as being technically gifted, Liverpool’s attackers are also incredibly pacy, so when they break on a team it is very difficult to defend against. If the Reds can get more solid at the back, then this could be a fantastic tactic for Klopp to use.

 

Round 16 predictions:

West Ham United v Chelsea – Chelsea win

Burnley v Watford – Burnley win

Crystal Palace v AFC Bournemouth – Draw

Huddersfield Town v Brighton & Hove Albion – Draw

Swansea City v West Bromwich Albion – Draw

Tottenham Hotspur v Stoke City – Spurs win

Newcastle United v Leicester City – Leicester win

Southampton v Arsenal – Arsenal win

Liverpool v Everton – Liverpool win

Manchester United v Manchester City – Draw

Premier League Ramble – 2017/18 Round 13

Premier League Ramble – 2017/18 Round 13

Another week down in the Premier League and the idea unlucky number 13 proved to be the case for Burnley who were denied a well-deserved draw courtesy of a late Alexis Sanchez penalty. Elsewhere in the top 7, Mohamed Salah’s goal against his former club was cancelled out by Willian’s cross/shot (definitely a shot despite what he says in interviews!) and Tottenham dropped 2 points at home to mangerless West Brom. Towards the bottom of the table, Crystal Palace got just their second Premier League win of the season to leave themselves just 3 points (and 8 goals) away from safety, while Everton conceded 4 goals at Southampton.

 

Does the punishment fit the crime?

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.

I wrote this last week after the news that Everton’s Oumar Niasse was charged with “successful deception of a match official“. Niasse was given a 2-game ban as it was decided that he “exaggerated the effect of a normal contact to deceive the referee”. So what has the reaction been in this weekend’s league matches?

PL results
Round 13’s results – From http://www.premierleague.com

Burnley’s 0-1 loss to Arsenal came at the hands of a late Alexis Sanchez penalty that had me fuming. As the ball was crossed into the box, James Tarkowski put his hands on he back of Aaron Ramsey. Moments later, Ramsey was lying in a heap on the floor and referee Lee Mason was pointing to the spot. It may have been a foul and it was certainly a big risk for Tarkowski to put hands on Ramsey, but there is no way the contact justified the Welshman’s theatrical fall. If that wasn’t exaggerating the effect of a normal contact, then I don’t know what was! Yet Niasse gets a ban and Ramsey will most likely getaway with this.

Andre Ayew got away with diving during West Ham’s 1-1 draw with Leicester as Martin Atkinso chose to play on, while Fernandinho was shown a yellow card for his dive at Huddersfield. In both these cases they have done the same thing as Niasse (I would even go as far as to say these were more of a dive) yet they will get away with no further punishment as they did not successfully deceive the official.

The ability to retroactively punish a successful dive is a step in the right direction, however to get diving out of the game, I feel this needs to be expanded to include any attempts of diving, whether the referee falls for it, penalises the dive or waves play on. Only once a player knows any dive will result in a ban will we see it become less common in the beautiful game.

A day to forget

Ryan Shawcross will not be looking back on Stoke’s 2-1 loss at Crystal Palace with any fondness at all. Usually such a reliable player, he had a awful game. For years, Shawcross and his fellow Stoke defenders have been know as a well-organised group that are very effective at dealing with balls into the box. Yet both goals they conceded at the weekend came from their defence – and Shawcross in particular – not reading the flight of the ball correctly.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, with the score at 1-1, he had a chance to tap in a cross from a yard out. Rather than going for the ball with his head, he chose to stretch a leg out and eventually made too much contact with the ball, diverting it away from the goal!

Shawcross is a very good Premier League defender, but unfortunately seems to be in a period of poor form. It is poor fortune for Stoke that many of their top players seem to currently find themselves in the same circumstance.

Signs of improvement

They may not be sorted defensively yet, but Liverpool are looking very impressive in attack. New signing Mo Salah has been a revelation for the Reds this season and has already scored more goals than their last 3 top scorers have in the entire season! Mane and Coutinho are always going to be an danger going forward and with other players in the squad like Firmino and Lallana they have enough depth to not need to rely on Daniel Sturridge’s fitness.

table
How the Premier League table looks after 13 rounds – From http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport

After 13 matches, they are behind only the Manchester clubs in the number of goals scored, but they could still improve here if they want to move up the table, especially as they continue to struggle at the back. Firmino does a good job up front for Liverpool but I don’t see him as an out-and-out striker and Daniel Sturridge spends too much time out injured and often seems too selfish in my opinion, so I think that picking up a striker like Olivier Giroud in January – we know he considered a move from Arsenal as Ronald Koeman said they almost signed him at Everton – could help them take the next step.

 

Round 14 predictions:

Brighton & Hove Albion v Crystal Palace – Draw

Leicester City v Tottenham Hotspur – Draw

Watford v Machester United – United win

West Bromwich Albion v Newcastle United – WBA win

Arsenal v Huddersfield Town – Arsenal win

AFC Bournemouth v Burnley – Burnley win

Chelsea v Swansea City – Chelsea win

Everton v West Ham United – Draw

Manchester City v Southampton – City win

Stoke City v Liverpool – Liverpool win