Premier League Ramble – 2017/18 Round 11

Premier League Ramble – 2017/18 Round 11

Week 11 threw up some tantalising clashes towards the top of the table. Chelsea look to have got through their bad patch and picked up the win hat home to Manchester United, Tottenham backed up their amazing midweek win over Real Madrid with a 1-0 victory against Crystal Palace – despite missing a number of regulars and being down to their third-choice keeper – and Manchester City continued with their dominance by beating Arsenal 3-1.

At the other end of the table, Everton and Bournemouth got much-needed victories at home to Watford and away at Newcastle respectively, while West Ham’s 1-4 loss at home to Liverpool marked the end of Slaven Bilic’s tenure.


Changing of the guard

How much longer can City’s unbeaten run last? – From

I wasn’t going to write about West Ham this week as I said everything last week, however with the news that has broken over the last 24 hours, I felt it right to give mention to this. Slaven Bilic has been sacked and, while it is a shame to see such a good manager shown the door, I don’t think recent results and performances left the owners any choice. During his interview after the Liverpool game my overriding thought was that we were listening to a man who knew his time was up. With the speed that David Moyes was named as his replacement, I can’t help but wonder if he had already been told that he would be gone once they had his replacement sorted. But is Moyes the right person for the job? While Moyes is clearly an experienced manager who was known for his sound defence at Everton, it could be argued that they improved after he left, while his stints at United, Real Sociedad and Sunderland have been less than successful (sacked twice and a resignation following Sunderland’s relegation). Moyes looks like he could be a boom or bust decision, for West Ham’s sake, I hope it is the former.

Meanwhile, the gossip columns have Sam Allardyce being linked with the vacant Everton role. Though, like West Ham, they need someone good at shoring up what has been a woeful defence, I do not feel that Allardyce suits the style of play that the Everton owners and fans will want. However, I also feel that interim manager would be right for the job on a permanent basis as he still does not seem to have settled on a team that will work for him – trying Gylfi Sigurdsson as a false 9 was a horrible idea – and lacks the experience that a team like Everton truly needs to make a run back up the table and draw in the required talent in January. I don’t know who would be right for them right now as I think Sean Dyche has too much of a good thing going on at Burnley, but they need to move fast in order to find the right man.

Big losses

Arsenal’s 3-1 loss at the Etihad was not just costly in terms of league position (they are now 12 points behind City) but also a big blot on Arsene Wenger. Over the summer, the Gunners paid a club record £46.5m to sign striker Alexandre Lacazette, yet Wenger decided to start him on the bench against one of the best clubs in England. If he had started Olivier Giroud up front it may have made sense, but Giroud was also on the bench and we were left with Alexis Sanchez leading the line. Not only is Sanchez more of a supporting striker/winger, he also spent the entire transfer window being linked with a move to City! I have said before that I am not sold on City’s defence (though Ederson is a clear upgrade on Claudio Bravo last season) so I think not starting an out-and-out striker was a missed opportunity for Arsenal. When he finally came on, Lacazette’s goal was his sixth in this league campaign. If he continues to be benched for the big games, there will be some awkward questions coming Wenger’s way.

I doubt José Mourinho will have been happy with the success Alvaro Morata had against Chris Smalling – Picture from Flickr – l3o_

Meanwhile, I think Manchester United can probably consider themselves lucky to come away from Stamford Bridge with just a 1-0 loss. Take nothing away from Alvaro Morata’s goal – that was a beautiful header and gave David de Gea no chance – but he was given a free header, despite United playing with 3 centrebacks. Smalling seemed to struggle with Morata all day and on another day could have conceded 2 penalties for holding and pulling back the Spaniard. They may still have the best defensive record in the league – 5 goals conceded, 2 less than Spurs or City – but the danger Chelsea posed in the final third will be of interest to other teams. In the meantime, United now need to pick up 8 points from somewhere to catch up with their intercity rivals… With City’s form, that will be no easy feat!


Week 12 predictions:

Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur – Spurs win

AFC Bournemouth v Huddersfield Town – Draw

Burnley v Swansea City – Burnley win

Crystal Palace v Everton – Everton win

Leicester City v Manchester City – Man City win

Liverpool v Southampton – Liverpool win

West Bromwich Albion v Chelsea – Chelsea win

Manchester United v Newcastle United – Man United win

Watford v West Ham – Draw

Brighton & Hove Albion v Stoke City – Draw

Premier League Ramble – 2017/18 Round 10

Premier League Ramble – 2017/18 Round 10

Week 10 gave us a treat in a top-table clash between Manchester United and Tottenham. Coming into the game, United held second place ahead of Spurs purely on goal difference, but Anthony Martial’s goal allowed United to build a 3-point lead over the Londoners. City meanwhile continued their unbeaten start to the league campaign with a 2-3 victory at West Brom, which leaves them with 28 points from a possible 15. Elsewhere in the table Leicester, with new manager Claude Puel at the helm, pulled away from the relegation zone with a 2-0 victory over managerless Everton.


On the hot seat

West Ham’s owners may have stated last week that they would give manager Slaven Bilic more time to turn the team’s fortunes around, but that time must surely be running out. After coming from 2-0 down to beat Spurs 2-3 midweek in the Carabao Cup, then going into half time at Crystal Palace 2-0 up, it looked like they may have finally turned the corner. However they fell apart in the second half and did not manage the game well enough, allowing Wilfried Zaha to score a crucial equaliser in the 97th minute. Joe Hart – who had earlier made a number of fine saves to keep the Hammers ahead – branded his team’s finish ‘unprofessional’ and he is spot on. Michail Antonio should have kept the ball in the corner but instead crossed it into an empty box, then the players who were forward put no pressure on Palace as they moved it through the first 2 thirds of the pitch, before pedestrian defending gave Zaha the angle to slot past the keeper. They also gave away their 4th penalty of the campaign (a league high) to help palace start their second half fightback.

Everton will be hoping a change of manager helps them climb the table, will West Ham do the same? – Picture from Flickr – Pete

While the last-ditch gain of a point does not greatly improve Palace’s position in the league table, these are a costly 2 points lost for West ham, who could have moved into mid-table but instead find themselves continuing to flirt with the relegation zone. I also feel sorry for Joe Hart, who was visibly upset with the final goal in his post-match interview. With Forster, Pickford, Butland and Heaton (when fit) all playing regularly in the top flight, he suddenly has competition for his England place, yet his defence seem unable to do their job at the moment which has led to him not keeping a clean sheet all month.

Bilic has done so well with the team over the years, but this current squad just isn’t performing for him despite the obvious quality. Leicester and Everton are finding themselves on similar points and have already moved on from their managers as they look to move up the table. With both these teams included in their November fixture list alongside Liverpool (Home) and Watford (Away), West Ham need to change something soon or they could find themselves playing in the Championship next season.

What was different about that?

It may not have affected the result at Anfield, but one incident caught my attention during Liverpool’s 3-0 victory over Huddersfield. Liverpool won a penalty in the first half following a shirt pull by Tommy Smith on Roberto Firmino in the box at a set piece. In a perfect snapshot of Liverpool’s performance in the first half, Mohamed Salah’s penalty was a poor one and saved by the Huddersfield keeper.

What caught my attention is that referee Kevin Friend actually gave a penalty for this. It is 100% a penalty, but we see incidents like this at almost every set piece where the ball is coming into the box. In fact, I’ve seen many worse shirt-pulls or cases where the player’s body is pulled back that have gone unpunished! The officials need to get together and decide whether they let this contact go at set pieces or if they take a zero tolerance approach and give the foul anytime there is contact of this sort. If they choose this, it may lead to penalties galore to start with, but would quickly eradicate the problem.

The right role models?

Premiership footballers are meant to be role models, but if I was a parent I would be shocked at the behaviour of some stars this weekend.

The Premier League table after 10 weeks – From

Troy ‘the Equaliser’ Deeney may be fine going up against a team lacking cojones like Arsenal, but against a more physical defender like Ryan Shawcross his impact was limited. Eventually he boiled over and an innocuous incident between him and Joe Allen ended with his hands around the Welshman’s neck and face. There is no place for that in football and how he only got a yellow card is beyond me! I will be very surprised if he doesn’t receive a ban once the footage is reviewed by the FA.

The one good thing about this incident (if you can call it that) is that kids watching should already know that this is wrong. However I worry that Dele Alli’s antics might not be so obviously wrong to children watching. During Spurs’ 1-0 loss to Manchester United this weekend he earned a free kick by simulating contact with Phil Jones, who replays showed had withdrew his feet and avoided making contact. Back in their win over Huddersfield at the end of September, he was cautioned for diving in the box. He is a young lad full of talent and really does not need to rely on cheating, otherwise it could harm his career. More importantly, it needs to be very clear to children watching their ‘idols’ that simulation is cheating and has no place in the sport.


Week 11 predictions:

Stoke City v Leicester City – Draw

Huddersfield Town v West Bromwich Albion – Draw

Newcastle United v AFC Bournemouth – Draw

Southampton v Burnley – Draw

Swansea City v Brighton & Hove Albion – Swansea win

West Ham United v Liverpool – Liverpool win

Tottenham Hotspur v Crystal Palace – Spurs win

Manchester City v Arsenal – City win

Chelsea v Manchester United – Draw

Everton v Watford – Draw