October 2018 in the Premier League

October 2018 in the Premier League

Just the 3 rounds of football in October as the international break took place after the first week of matches. Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea continue their unbeaten starts to the season with 2 wins and a draw each. City’s results were probably the most impressive of the 3 as they drew with Liverpool (who remain level on points) and won against Burnley and at Spurs. Arsenal matches the results of the teams ahead of them, as did Manchester United – who were denied a win at Stamford Bridge courtesy of a late Ross Barkley goal – and Bournemouth, who continue to surpass expectations and hold onto a spot in the top 6. The only team to win all their games in October was Brighton, who managed 3 consecutive 1-0 victories, while Fulham were the only team not to pick up a single point this month.


The best of football

Football fans don’t always get painted in the best light – often for good reason – but there were some instances this month that really caught my eye and thought were worthy of praise.

The biggest of these has come in circumstances that we wish had not happened, but centres around the reaction to the helicopter crash following Leicester’s 1-1 draw with West Ham that saw 5 people including Leicester owner and chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha. Football fans have not always been the best at showing respect for other clubs’ previous tragedies, but the way that the entire football community has responded to the incident is highly commendable.

On a lighter note, the other moments of class have been related to former players returning to their old home ground with new teams. I remember the shock when Juan Mata was sold to United. Mata was a fan-favourite at Stamford Bridge and has understandably become one at Old Trafford too, so it was wonderful to see both home and away fans give him a standing ovation as he left the pitch during United’s 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge. Similarly, it was great to see Manchester City fans give keeper Joe Hart such a warm welcome on his return to the Etihad with Burnley. He was such a big piece of the club through their early years of success and it never felt right with me the way he was so easily discarded by Pep Guardiola, so it was great to see the fans give him the respect he deserved. It’s just a shame that he was left picking the ball out the back of his net 5 times, especially given a couple of huge decisions from the officials really went in City’s favour during the game.


Kick it out

From some of the best of football to some of the worst.

We quickly find ourselves back at Stamford Bridge and in the final moments of the match as Ross Barkley salvaged a point for Chelsea. While I can understand that emotions would run high at a moment like that, there was no excuse for Chelsea coach Marco Ianni to come running out of the dugout and celebrate not just in front of the United bench, but also to direct his celebration towards them. There is no need whatsoever, it is taunting plain and simple and I have to comment José and the United bench for not reacting the first time. But because they didn’t react, Ianni decided to do it again, sparking ugly scenes at the tunnel. It’s great to see that Sarri apologised and that the FA reacted to the incidents, but a £6,000 fine is pathetically small. This is the Premier League, one of the biggest – if not the biggest – and most popular leagues in the world. Children will be watching Ianni’s actions and thinking that’s acceptable. It isn’t! It was a disgusting and blatant act of disrespect towards Mourinho and the United team and the punishment should have been much more severe.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t it this month as the diving epidemic continued in October. Now first things first, credit to the referees who are coming down hard on the players, with Laurent Depoitre, Aboubakar Kamara and Willian all booked this month for blatant dives, while Alvaro Morata was also cautioned for going down easily during a face-off with a couple of Burnley defenders. Diving is disgusting and needs eliminating from the game. The only problem is that as the referee has picked up on these instances of simulation and given the punishment they can (a yellow card is the maximum punishment on the pitch), the FA cannot give any further punishment. This needs to change if the FA are serious about stamping out diving. If a player knows that they will face a 3-match ban for diving regardless of whether or not they deceive the officials (or better yet get a longer ban if their deception is successful) then after a while players will not want to take the risk as they will know they are putting themselves at risk.


He needs to go!

At almost £90m Paul Pogba was always going to be considered an expensive signing, but I would also call him a costly one. The player has often felt like a distraction in the changing room this season, and if it comes to a matter of someone having to leave Old Trafford and the board picking between Pogba or Mourinho, then I am firmly behind keeping Mourinho.

Pogba has been frustrating on the pitch this season. He has some wonderful moments where he plays beautiful passes, but then he also has plenty of other moments where at best he is anonymous and at worse a liability. He lost his man Antonio Rüdiger far too easy at a corner to allow the German to open the scoring and his showboating lost the ball against Everton, leading to the foul by Chris Smalling that earned a penalty.

And then there’s the penalties. The most pathetic thing I have ever seen on a football pitch. forgoing a run-up for over 20 tiny steps, leaving no power in the shot and making him look stupid if he doesn’t score (he was lucky against Everton that Pickford’s save sent the ball back to him to score on the rebound). With the players in the United squad, there must be someone who can take a proper penalty and if United can get some decent players in January then I will have no problem with them selling Pogba for what will likely be a loss financially.


Attitudes need to change

It was good to see that Glenn Murray made such a quick recovery following Brighton’s win at Newcastle. Murray and Magpies defender Federico Fernández clashed heads competing for an aerial ball and as Murray landed, his body folded and his arms did not protect his fall, leading to his head hitting the floor with sickening force.

Full credit to the players and officials for stopping the game immediately and the medics for their quick actions to stop things from getting worse, but watching Match of the Day, I was shocked to hear commentator Guy Mowbray describe the incident as “something and nothing” as the replays showed Murray’s head hitting the ground. Concussion is a serious worry and this is unfortunately not the first time that the actions of people involved in the Premier League have made it look as if they are not so focused on it. I really hope they prove me wrong.


Top 6 prediction

  1. Manchester City
  2. Liverpool
  3. Chelsea
  4. Arsenal
  5. Tottenham Hotspur
  6. Manchester United

 

Premier League Ramble – 2017/18 Round 12

Premier League Ramble – 2017/18 Round 12

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!

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Round 12’s results – From http://www.premierleague.com

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.

Welcome returns

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“Lions don’t recover like humans” – Picture from Flickr – l3o_

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…

Riding high

table
How the Premier League table looks after 12 rounds – From http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport

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