5 Good, 5 Bad
- Every week we think the amazing run is going to come to an end and every they manage to defy the critics with another incredible performance. We looked that the run of fixtures starting with Manchester United at home at the end of November and thought this is where they will come unstuck. They came through that test with a draw but subsequent wins over Swansea, Chelsea and Leicester now sees them top at Xmas and two points clear of nearest challengers Arsenal. Jamie Vardy couldn’t prolong a new streak but he did play a key role in 2 of Leicester goals and again it was Riyad Mahrez who got most of the column inches after bagging a brace at Goodison Park. The only slight concern for Claudio Ranieri is that Jamie Vardy hobbled off on Saturday and is a doubt for the Boxing Day trip to Liverpool. Keeping the England International and Mahrez fit is going to be integral to their title challenge, who thought anyone would be typing that line in August?
- Their win last night over Manchester City reduced the arrears from 5 points to 2 at the top of the Premier League table. They looked pretty comfortable in their performance last night and although sitting 2nd at Xmas, that result has thrown down a marker to the rest of the Premier League. Not discounting the wildcard of Leicester, they will be delighted they have got a 4 point gap over Manchester City at this stage of the season. Alexis Sanchez wasn’t fit enough to return from injury but it didn’t matter all that much as Mesut Ozil chipped in with another brace of assists to take him to 15 for the season. I think the key for Wenger now will be managing the return of Sanchez so that he isn’t rushed back and wrapping Ozil in cotton wool over the busy Xmas period. They can’t afford an injury to him also. With the transfer window set to open in less than a fortnights time, will Wenger get the reinforcements needed to lift Arsenal to their first league title since 2004
- After their unbeaten run ended at home to Newcastle they responded in the best possible way by winning away at Southampton, a result which also sees them move into a coveted Top 4 slot. Harry Kane bagged his 10th goal in 10 games but credit must go to Referee Kevin Friend who played advantage not once but twice in the build up to the goal. Dele Alli’s stock also rose has he got on the scoresheet for the 2nd time in 3 league matches.
Spurs also welcomed back the return of Mousa Dembele and looked a much threatening force with him in Midfield. It seems as if the defeat at White Hart Lane has given the young Spurs side the wake up call they needed as this was their first league win in 4 matches.
Now that the unbeaten run has ended they need to the difficult part of maintain their top 4 position but there could be a bit more freedom in their play now as they can set out to win matches and not just to lose them. Getting an additional striker early in the January window will be a major priority now that Clinton N’Jie has had surgery, if they don’t want their season to fade away then it’s almost a necessity
- Battled to a draw at home to Everton in their previous match but in all fairness that game should have been all wrapped up by The Toffees at half time, no one gave them much hope on Saturday as they travelled to Old Trafford especially as they found themselves in the bottom 3 at the start of the day. But thankfully for Norwich they met United at far from their best. 2-0 up thanks to goals from Cameron Jerome and Alexander Tettey (what a toe punt that was) there was hope of another United revival when Anthony Martial pulled one back but Chris Smalling’s woeful header when presented with the opportunity to equalise summed up United’s afternoon. Norwich won’t care all that much as that win now sees them move out of the drop zone. Can they continue the joy on their travels when they visit White Hart Lane on Boxing Day
- Crystal Palace and Watford – 6th and 7th It’s as almost as if we can only speak about one team which is exceeding expectations this season, therefore Crystal Palace and Watford have seemingly gone under the radar. Palace are on the same points as Spurs in 4th while Watford are only a point off of a Champions League Football. Palace can point their success not only to the talents on the pitch but also their managerial stewarding by Alan Pardew, how smart does his decision to leave Newcastle seem now. While Watford can point to 4 wins in a row and the strike partnership of Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo. Ighalo has already bagged 12 goals this season in what is a throwback to strike partnerships of the 70’s and 80’s. It just goes to show the power that mid table and even newly promoted clubs can wield now, Palace being a perfect example in signing Yohan Cabaye, 4-5 years ago they would never have had the financial muscle to pull off a move like this. Proof apparent that the Premier League is a much more competitive beast now from Top all the way to the Bottom.
- Manchester United. Defeat at home to Norwich now seems them outside of the Champions League places with them not registering a league win in their last 4 matches. That coupled with their Champions League exit last and the pressure is really starting to mount on Louis Van Gaal. That may have not necessarily been the case but a certain Jose Mourinho is waiting in the wings ready to take over if and when the opportunities arises. If you look further back over United’s form then they have only won 3 times in their last 10 league matches. It’s not just the form which is frustrating United fans it’s the way the results or lack of them is coming about. You could make something sacrifices if the style was pragmatic but it was getting you to the top of the table, but right now United have neither. Is Van Gaal on borrowed time?, a trip to Stoke is never easy and defeat there may just see his time run out.
- Manchester City. Defeat last night sees them 6 points adrift from Leicester and 4 points from probable nearest title rivals Arsenal. How City could do with Vincent Kompany that can’t be using his absence as an excuse for defeat last night but they really are a different team without him. 1 goal conceded in the league with him in the side, 18 without him. That really does tell a story. City still looking for their first away win since September when they beat Crystal Palace, if they could string together some decent form they would probably be clear at the top by now. Then again I suppose we should be thankful that they are stuttering as it’s certainly made the title race a lot more interesting and not a repeat of the one horse race of last season. Once City get their spine of Kompany, Silva and Aguero fit and firing on all cylinders they will look more dangerous, they just have to hope they don’t slip too far away in the process
- A Miserable afternoon at Vicarage Road on Sunday was summed up by Adam Bogdan’s early howler which gifted Watford the lead. To be honest Liverpool were never even in the game and it seems as if the new Manager bounce has all but worn off at Liverpool leaving them with the same bad Defence that pushed Brendan Rodgers towards the exit door. Everything just looked so rushed and niggly on Sunday, a nervous Goalkeeper who then exuded that doubt onto the back 4, with Mamadou Sahko looking like he was lost on the M25 after Odion Ighalo spent an Afternoon running rings around him.
It’s not going to be a great Xmas on Merseyside as Liverpool sit 9th and they next play host to league leaders Leicester on Boxing Day, defeat there would see them give up 17 points to the Foxes and further diminish their chances of a Top 4 spot this season. It’s still very much a work in progress at Anfield, only it seems there is going be a lot more work to be done
- Results went against them this weekend as they now find themselves in the bottom 3 and still without a new Manager after Garry Monk’s sacking. Win’s for Norwich and Bournemouth saw the slide down the table continue and that wasn’t helped by a home 0-0 draw against West Ham. It’s now 1 win in 13 for Swansea in what is a retched run of form for The Swans. They will have to get a Manager in soon especially with the transfer window set to re-open, whoever comes in will have to get a few new faces in because right now the squad is slipping to mediocrity and the slide needs to be arrested before it’s too late. The question is will Monk’s sacking mean the grass is greener on the other side
- West Ham. No win since Dimitri Payet picked up an ankler injury and going further back there’s no win in 7 matches. It would be unfair to label them a one man team as they are missing key players throughout the pitch but West Ham are in the midst of a huge slump right now. 2 0-0 draws in a row has seen them slip to 8th in the table and if it wasn’t for the stuttering form of the two Merseyside clubs below them the situation would read much worse. Slaven Bilic must be hoping that he gets some late Xmas presents in the way of returning players otherwise it’s going to be a bleak mid winter for The Hammers.
- James McClean. An absolutely disgusting tackle by a disgusting player
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