Premier League 2020/21: February

Premier League 2020/21: February

What a crazy season this is turning into! Having started the season so horribly that they looked completely out of the title race, a return to form for City has seen them gone on a run of unbeaten games stretching back a couple of months to finish February overwhelming favourites for the title with a 12 point lead. Of course it hasn’t been just their good form, but also the stuttering form of their rivals, as the goals dried up for Liverpool and their umpteenth centreback combination of the season saw team go on a run of losses, while Manchester United will have wished that they had spread the goals from their 9-0 win over Southampton more evenly through the month and Leicester have had to adapt to a growing injury list that had claimed star attackers Harvey Barnes and James Maddison by the end of the month. Meanwhile at the bottom of the table, Fulham followed up a 0-2 loss to Leicester with an unbeaten run that puled them within 3 points of safety, but Sheffield and West Brom remain in serious danger despite both picking up a win during the month.


The race is on!

The race for the Golden Boot: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – 17 goals; Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United) – 15 goals; Harry Kane (Tottenham) – 14 goals

The race for Playmaker of the Season: Harry Kane (Tottenham) & Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City) – 11 assists; Bruno Fernandes & Jack Grealish (Aston Villa) – 10 assists; Son Heung-Min (Tottenham) – 8 assists

The race for the Golden Glove: Ederson (Manchester City) – 15 clean sheets; Emiliano Martínez (Aston Villa) – 13 clean sheets; Édouard Mendy (Chelsea) – 11 clean sheets


Revitalised

Jesse Lingard became something of a joke figure at Manchester United, with his lack of goals and assists in recent seasons making a mockery of his role as an attacking midfielder at one of the biggest clubs in the world. With the way United have increase the quality of their attack in recent years, there has not appeared to be a spot for him, and he was understandably sent out on loan to West Ham at the end of February.

Since then, he has been revitalised in a new environment and will surely be looking to make the move permanent. He has immediately slotted into the West Ham midfield and been not just involved, but a key part of February’s success, scoring a brace on his debut against Aston Villa and another goal in their 2-1 win against Spurs, while he has also been heavily involved in many of West Ham’s best chances and won the penalty against Sheffield United.

We see it all the time that sometimes a player just needs a change of scenery, just look at how Mo Salah was a bust at Chelsea but then a superstar for Roma and Liverpool. Sometimes it is just a chance to reset and take the weight of a poor spell off your shoulders, while sometimes a drop to a smaller club can take pressure off you as there is less pressure away from the trophy hunt and less superstars overshadowing you.

Right now it feels like making the loan move permanent is a great result for everyone. United get a player off their books who was failing to produce up to expectations, West Ham get a player who has improved their attacking options and Lingard gets the chance to rebuild after a difficult couple of years. This deal feels like a matter of “when” rather than “if”.

King Kevin

If you want another example of a player whose career was revitalised by a move, look no further than Kevin De Bruyne. The Belgian midfielder was highly touted when moving to Chelsea but only made 3 appearances for the club, but was revitalised by a move to Wolfsburg and came back to the Premier League just a few years later to star for Manchester City. And during February’s 2-1 win over West Ham, he made it onto the Top 10 list for Premier League assists with a beautiful ball into Rúben Dias.

Obviously, having so many world-class players around you and a squad deeper than any other team in the league certainly helps you climb that high in just 6 seasons, but there is more to it than that. De Bruyne is one of those players that even as an opposing fan, you just can’t help but enjoy watching him play, with his range of passes meaning that he seems to have an answer for every situation.

And at just 29, there is no reason that this can’t continue for another 4 or 5 years – at least! On 77 assists at the time of writing, James Milner’s 8ᵗʰ place (85 assists) looks easily beatable by the end of the season given City’s current form. And by the end of his Premier League career, Cesc Fabregas’s 2ⁿᵈ-place tally of 111 looks a distinct possibility. Can he reach Ryan Giggs’ 162? Only time will tell.

Free kick farce

Another month, another absolute shambles of officiating.

The setting this time was Brighton’s trip to West Brom – a vital match with the Baggies in the relegation zone and Brighton dropping perilously close. West Brom led 1-0 but Brighton had just won a free kick on the edge of their opponent’s box. Brighton’s Lewis Dunk asked referee Lee Mason if he could take a quick free kick rather than wait for the wall to be set back 10 yards, to which Mason assented. Mason blew the whistle to allow play to resume and Dunk – having seen keeper Sam Johnstone still on his near post organising the wall – calmly slotted the ball in at the far post. It was a wonderfully clever goal… or should have been, except that Lee Mason also saw the keeper out of position at the last moment and – in a blind panic – took the law into his own hands, blowing the whistle again to stop play. Of course, by the time anyone accounted for the second whistle, the ball was in the net, so Mason chose to say that Dunk had taken the free kick before he blew to restart play, disallowing the goal and ordering the free kick be retaken. Someone involved with VAR must have jumped in to confirm that Dunk had waited until after the whistle, as Mason suddenly reversed his decision and awarded the gaol, but then VAR was forced to intervene and deny the goal as Mason’s second whistle stopped play before the ball entered the goal. With this whole shambles finally resulting in a retaken free kick, the chance unsurprisingly came to nothing and the Baggies held on for a 1-0 victory.

Now first things first, while Brighton were clearly wronged here, I have limited sympathy for them as both Pascal Groß and Danny Welbeck wasted penalties that should have given them a 1-2 victory despite the free kick shambles. However, this is yet another example of the best football league in the world being let down by inept officiating.

What I don’t understand though is why the game needs to be slowed down by having the free kick taker wait for the referee’s whistle. The other team has committed an act of foul play and yet they are given the chance for their keeper to arrange a wall to defend his near post and position himself to perfectly defend his goal – so what advantage are the team who were fouled getting here? Dunk’s quick free kick was a moment of quick thinking and exploiting an opportunity within the laws of the game, and that should not be discouraged.

As I write this, my mind drifts back to a disallowed goal for Manchester United against Chelsea in 2009, where Wayne Rooney placed the ball for a corner before appearing to leave it for Ryan Giggs, though just knocking it out of the zone. Giggs, knowing the ball was live, did not return the ball to the corner flag but instead immediately crossed it in for Cristiano Ronaldo to head home – only for the goal to not be given as the linesman was not paying attention and adjudged that the corner was never taken. Both of these were wonderful, inventive moments that will teach defences to stay on their toes. The big gripe about bringing in VAR was the way that it would slow down the game, so why are we OK with these quick set pieces being disallowed?

The quality of officiating needs to improve quickly, or else it may be time to start removing underachievers for their roles.


Team of the Month

West Ham

It would have been easy to pick City again this month after they won all of their games, but that would just be boring. Instead, I have gone for West Ham. Despite a lack of big names, they are getting results, with 3 wins, a draw and a loss at the Etihad making up February’s Premier League schedule, with 9 goals scored and 4 conceded (2 of which were to City). Only City and Wolves had a better month, while Leicester matched them for results.

At a point in the season when many teams are going through a slump, West Ham are going under the radar while picking up points consistently, to the point that I was shocked to see they were up to 4ᵗʰ. While they are far from guaranteed European football next season – they are only 6 points ahead of Spurs and Villa in 8ᵗʰ and 9ᵗʰ, both of whom have games in hand – if they can keep up the performances, they are well on track for a best finish since the 2015/16 season.


Premier League Ramble – 2017/18 Round 33

Premier League Ramble – 2017/18 Round 33

Manchester City were denied the opportunity to celebrate winning the title against their fierce rivals Manchester United following a United comeback at the Etihad that saw them go from 2-0 down to 3-2 up. While City will still win the league (though maybe not away at Spurs on Saturday), it will have felt good for United and their fans to escape the title celebrations that would have been at their expense. Despite resting a number of regulars in attack, Arsenal’s 3-2 win over Southampton brings them closer to Chelsea – who could only draw 1-1 at home to West Ham – while the Saints’ loss leaves them 3 points away from safety, but with a game in hand over Crystal Palace.


The Manchester Derby

There was so much that took my attention during United’s 2-3 victory over City, but many of the points wouldn’t join into a coherent post of its own, so I have instead looked discuss my thoughts on the match in a quick-fire fashion:

  • Full credit to United for coming back from 2-0 down at half time and win 2-3. Against a team as good going forwards as City, going 2 goals down in the opening 30 should be terminal as teams would generally have to open themselves up so much to find the goals needed to draw level that they would leave gaps at the back for City to exploit and score more goals. Away from the tactical side of things, to go 2-0 down in 30 minutes away at your local rivals should hit the morale so bad, it is a measure of the quality of the United players that they held their heads high and kept pushing to get back in the game rather than capitulating under the occasion.
  • That said, how City did not get a penalty for Ashley Young’s challenge on Sergio Aguero is beyond me! The days of a challenge being legal as long as the player got the ball first are way back in the past, Young may have got the ball first but his foot then clearly came over the ball and caught Aguero high. There is no doubt in my mind that it was a penalty and in today’s climate I would have found it difficult to argue against a red card for the fullback.

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    A comparison of the keepers who have played 5+ games for clubs in the top 6 this season (stats from the league only)
  • Where would United be without David de Gea? The Spaniard’s distribution may not have been at its best in the build-up to Ilkay Gundogan’s goal, but he more than made up for it with a world-class save from Aguero late on. Only City (24) have conceded less goals than United (25) this season and de Gea’s 16 clean sheets puts him top of the league this season, but these stats do not show the full story. His 103 saves in the league this season is the 4th most of any keeper this season, but you need to go down to 12th in the list to find the next keeper currently playing for a top-6 team. Compared to his fellow top-6 keepers, de Gea is having to make too many saves! Data from Opta suggests that where de Gea has conceded 23 goals (excluding own goals) he would have been expected to concede 37 goals, the highest differential for a keeper in the league this year. This guy is saving United’s season! United need to look at upgrading their defence this summer as they cannot continue to rely on de Gea every season.
  • Following Young’s challenge on Aguero mentioned above, United broke on City but the attack was stopped by a foul on Jesse Lingard. While the foul was clearly stopping a chance to counter against the Sky Blues, Lingard’s decision to roll around on the floor 100 times (only a slight exaggeration) was absolutely pathetic! If the FA are serious about getting simulation out of the game and attempting to deceive an official by exaggerating the effect of a challenge then he has to be banned for this.

The Great Dane

It must be hard when in the same team as Harry Kane, but Christian Eriksen rarely seems to get the love he deserves in the Tottenham attack. Considering the quality of Kane and Alli and the improved form of Son Heung-Min it is understandable, but he is such an important part of the attack. In terms of goals scored he is on pace to have one of his best seasons ever – especially if the FA do award him the second goal against Stoke rather than switch it to Kane – and in recent weeks he has done a great job of keeping Spurs’ attack going while Harry Kane has been injured. His ability to play across the width of the pitch behind the striker allows him to move around and pick up the space that gives his team the best advantage, while he has a great range of passes and is lethal over a dead ball.

Spurs need to improve their depth throughout the squad, but I think they would struggle to adequately replace the Dane if he was out with an injury.


Double trouble

When you’re fighting against relegation, you should be trying to do everything you can to get all your best players on the pitch at the same time. To me, therefore, it is a shock that Javier Hernandez seems to start so rarely for West Ham. With 34 points, they are only 6 points outside the bottom 3 so every goal they can score is vital.

Marko Arnautović has been revitalised since moving from the wide position to the central striker role, but Chicharito is another proven goal scorer and has showed in the past that he is more effective with regular playing time rather than appearances off the bench. With relegation still a threat, I think David Moyes needs to find a way to fit both of these players into the starting XI as a strike partnership. I can’t imagine he’d be able to pick either player next season if West Ham get relegated…


Round 34 predictions:

Southampton v Chelsea – Chelsea win

Burnley v Leicester City – Draw

Crystal Palace v Brighton & Hove Albion – Palace win

Huddersfield Town v Watford – Watford win

Swansea City v Everton – Draw

Liverpool v AFC Bournemouth – Liverpool win

Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City – Draw

Newcastle United v Arsenal – Arsenal win

Manchester United v West Bromwich Albion – United win

West Ham United v Stoke City – West Ham win

Premier League Ramble – 2017/18 Round 30

Premier League Ramble – 2017/18 Round 30

Manchester City took another step closer to winning the title on Monday night with a 0-2 victory over Stoke. This victory means that a win against Everton on 31st March will set up the chance to win the title at home to United on 7th April. United took a great stride towards finishing second by beating Liverpool 2-1 over the weekend, while Spurs’ victory at Bournemouth allowed them to leapfrog the Reds. In London, Chelsea and Arsenal both got back to winning ways with wins over Crystal palace and Watford respectively, but I still find it unlikely either will be able to make up the gap to the top 4. Towards the bottom of the table, Newcastle’s 3-0 win over Southampton brought an end to Mauricio Pellegrino’s time in charge of the Saints with them just 1 point outside the relegation zone.


Too little, too late?

It was a while back now that I suggested Pellegrino’s job could be in danger, so I am surprised they have waited until so late in the season. They don’t have another league match until 31stMarch (at West Ham) so they have a bit of time to get used to a new manager, but the performances have been so poor the extra points earlier in the year would have likely been a big help. Their 8 remaining games include trips to Arsenal, Leicester and Everton and home matches against Chelsea and Man City, so with so few matches remaining there is no guarantee a new manager will be able to save them. Clearly something needs changing as they were dire against Newcastle with the defence not dealing with Kennedy’s run and a simple ball forward for the first goal, while the second goal was far too simple for the Magpies to break downfield following a Southampton corner. They have sold their best players for years and it was always going to catch up with them eventually, I just hope that they are getting a manager who will not run if they don’t avoid the drop.

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Swansea held out for a goalless draw at Huddersfield despite going a man down within 11 minuted – From http://www.premierleague.com


Bad scenes in London

Next time I want to remind myself why I prefer rugby over football, I just need to watch West Ham’s match against Burnley. I can understand that the fans are not happy but there is a way to show it and that was not it! To invade the pitch on multiple occasions not only disrupts the game, I would also argue it disrupted the focus for the West Ham players. The defence were at sixes and sevens for the second goal and I can’t help but wonder if Joe Hart would have dealt better with Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson’s long range shot for the third goal. Not only that, a football match is a family day out, and yet the actions of some fans were so bad, the Burnley players felt they needed to empty the bench to make room for children from the crowd (max respect to them for this). Scenes like this should not be seen at football matches in 2018 and I hope we don’t see a repeat anytime soon. If I was a West Ham player, I would want to get out of that toxic atmosphere as soon as I could!


The good, the bad or the ugly?

Within the space of a few seconds during Leicester’s 1-4 win at Leicester, I saw the best of Jamie Vardy before being reminded why I struggle to like him as much as many people do. His goal to pull Leicester level against the Baggies was a contender for goal of the season! The skill required to volley that ball as it came over his shoulder – with his weaker foot! – and not just get it on target but control it beyond the keeper and into the far corner without taking eyes off the ball was absolutely sublime. Unfortunately the celebration was less sublime as he appeared to goad the fans and front up to someone in the crowd. I can imagine that if someone is hurling abuse from the crowd (again going back to why I prefer rugby) it can be hard not to react, but Vardy often appears to toe the line between celebrating and provoking the fans. If he put that extra effort into playing, then he could perhaps push Harry Kane for a starting spot in the England squad.


Seeing red

There were 2 red cards in this weekend’s matches, but there really should have been 3. Jordan Ayew and Anthony Knockaert both received straight red cards at the weekend for poor challenges with high feet and neither of them have any grounds to argue the decision.

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West Brom are as good as down, who else will be joining them in the Championship? – From http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport

Knockaert appeared to see the red missed having had the ball kicked into his face moments before by Leighton Baines, and then seconds later dived into him and was lucky to not make more of a contact. I can understand that it won’t feel nice taking a football to the face at close range, but that was pathetic!

I have more sympathy for Ayew as I genuinely feel he was reaching for the ball and got his challenge wrong, but he made contact high up Jonathan Hogg’s leg with his studs. Hogg was lucky to not receive a red though as his boot was also off the ground and he did (accidentally in my opinion) stamp on Ayew as they collided, much like Pogba’s sending off against Arsenal earlier this season.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen the tackler and tackle both get sent off before – unless the tackle has reacted and struck out – but in this case a double red would have been warranted. With the incident happening in the 11th minute, I can’t help but wonder what impact that would have had on the game.


Round 31 predictions:

So this will be a bit of an odd round as only 4 games are being played in this round at the moment, with the other games to be played at a later date (still to be confirmed). As injuries and form fluctuations could affect my predictions for those games, I will just be predicting the confirmed games for now and will add in the other games as they come up.

AFC Bournemouth v West Bromwich Albion – Bournemouth win

Huddersfield Town v Crystal Palace – Draw

Stoke City v Everton – Everton win

Liverpool v Watford – Liverpool win

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

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How much longer can City’s unbeaten run last? – From http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport

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.

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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.

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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.

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The Premier League table after 10 weeks – From http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport

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