Thursday, 1 November 2018

Premier League: October Review

October was another excellent month of Premier League action. Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea remain unbeaten as the top 3 while Arsenal continued their brilliant run and have charged into the top 4. Whereas, Newcastle and Huddersfield remain winless and are firmly the bottom 2 but are joined in the relegation zone by Fulham who are on a torrid run. October brought us quality football and excellent goals and no doubt November will continue in the same vain.

Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea are separated by just 2 points at the top of the table. Both City and Liverpool are locked on 26 points from their first 10 games and of course share a goalless draw this month. Guardiola’s men have enjoyed October drawing at Anfield and beating both Burnley and Tottenham. Riyad Mahrez is beginning to payback his £60 million transfer fee with a series of excellent displays despite his dreadful penalty at Liverpool. Guardiola’s men are also proving difficult to score against with City conceding just 3 goals in 10 games collecting 7 clean sheets. Despite their vibrant attacking style, Guardiola has found a back 4 he is satisfied with. Aymeric Laporte and John Stones are forming an excellent partnership while full backs Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy remain strong attacking forces and solid defenders when necessary. Meanwhile, Liverpool are also proving difficult to score against with Klopp’s men conceding just 4 goals themselves. However, despite their encouraging run of results in October, performances haven’t been the usual rock and roll Liverpool. Just about seeing off strugglers Cardiff and Huddersfield have seen the first struggles we’ve witnessed from the Reds this season. Despite that, Liverpool are looking very good indeed by remain behind City on goal difference.  Chelsea are two points further back but remain unbeaten and have been excellent under Maurizio Sarri so far this season. Sarri is yet to lose in any competition as Chelsea manager and is the first Chelsea manager to go unbeaten in their first 10 league games. Sarri has unlocked Eden Hazard once again with the Belgian flourishing in Sarri’s style of play. However, others like Willian, Jorginho, Marcos Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta are also enjoying their seasons. However, Sarri has managed to get the best out of Ross Barkley who has dazzled throughout October notching 3 league goals and was the beating heart of their recent win at Burnley. Sarri has found Barkley a position in the side and is flourishing and this can only be brilliant news for Gareth Southgate and England.

Sides having excellent October’s included Arsenal, Brighton and Man Utd. The Gunners are flying under Unai Emery unbeaten since their defeat to Chelsea winning 7 of the next 8 league games with that winning sequence only ended by Crystal Palace in their last league game. Emery has got a tune out of the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Mesut Ozil and in particular Alex Iwobi who has taken his game to a new level in recent weeks. Arsenal are turning into a second half side with all 7 league wins secured after being level at half time. Emery is certainly getting his ideas across, but the same defensive vulnerabilities remain with the Gunners still conceding petulant, unnecessary goals. Despite these frailties, Arsenal are playing some magical football at times highlighted with the quality of their goals against Fulham and Leicester. Arsenal are outside title contenders but need to beat their big rivals to really be considered contenders and they kick off November at home to Liverpool.  Jose Mourinho and Man Utd enjoyed a much better October in terms of performances and results. Mourinho’s men seem to have clicked after their brilliant comeback victory over Newcastle and results against Chelsea and Everton have followed. Anthony Martial is enjoying himself right now after stunning displays against Chelsea and Everton. No doubt Mourinho will hope his form continues going into November. While United remain way off the pace overall, it has been a much-improved month for the club. However, one side completely on cloud 9 is Brighton after a perfect October winning all 3 games without conceding. Chris Hughton’s side have three in a row for the first time since their promotion back in 2017. Victories over West Ham, Newcastle and Wolves have soared the seagulls into 11th place. Glenn Murray continues to deliver for Brighton and has enjoyed another wonderful month notching the winner in games against West Ham and Wolves and in the process reached 100 goals for the club. Chris Hughton will hope their terrific form continues going into November starting against inconsistent Everton.

However, Fulham, Newcastle and Huddersfield have endured miserable October’s with all 3 sides struggling with the latter 2 still winless this season. Fulham are enduring a miserable run of form winless in their last 7 overall losing their last 4 in a row including all their October matches. The pressure is mounting on Slavisa Jokanovic having spent £100 million on players and the results are not coming. Fulham have conceded 28 goals in their 10 league games and you cannot win football matches with a ratio that horrendous. Goals are drying up too with Aleksandar Mitrovic misfiring and the rest of the side not taking opportunities when created. Defending is a major issue for Fulham with Jokanovic rotating his defence and goalkeeper on a regular basis meaning a lack of stability and development of relationships between the defence. However, another issue for Jokanovic is his reluctance to change Fulham’s style of play because they are not in the Championship anymore and standard of teams are far better than the Championship. The pressure is mounting on Jokanovic and boos in the recent heavy defeat to Bournemouth have further intensified the pressure on the Serb’s shoulders. The axe could fall on him if things don’t improve starting with a crucial six-pointer against Huddersfield. Speaking of Huddersfield their season hasn’t been much better than Fulham’s with the Terriers collecting just 1 point in October and a poultry 3 overall leaving them rooted to the bottom of the table. 5 defeats in their last 6 and a severe goal shortage has left Huddersfield low on moral and confidence despite some encouraging performances in particular against Liverpool. While David Wagner’s position is relative safe as Huddersfield manager due to his magnificent efforts, the club must find a win and goals from somewhere and fast otherwise relegation will almost become inevitable for the club this season. Newcastle are also struggling for results and confidence with the Magpies stuck on a poultry 3 points losing 7 of their 10 league games including all 5 of their home games. All seems unhappy in the North East with the fans unhappy with performances and Mike Ashley while Rafa Benitez looks increasingly frustrated and unhappy with the performances and the squad overall. The pressure is beginning to increase on Benitez with Ashley becoming more prominent at Newcastle’s matches this season with the unpopular owner being at Newcastle’s recent games against Brighton and Southampton. There has been speculation that Benitez could face the sack with former Monaco boss Leonardo Jardim being linked with the job. While the fans are happy with Benitez, results and performances must drastically improve otherwise Newcastle could be staring at the Championship.

Other sides enduring winless months include Crystal Palace, Southampton, Leicester, Burnley and West Ham. All 5 of these sides sit in the bottom half of the table struggling for form and momentum. Palace, Southampton and Burnley lack goals while Leicester and West Ham are inconsistent with their performances highlighted with the recent draw between the two sides. However, football has become insignificant with the recent helicopter crash after Leicester’s match with West Ham which saw 5 people killed including Leicester chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha. I speak about football in this blog, but football becomes insignificant when incidents like this happen. It is a sad time for the whole city of Leicester and the outer footballing family. Srivaddhanaprabha has done wonderful things for the city of Leicester and its football club including the brilliant title win of 2016 as well as donating millions of pounds into hospitals and universities to improve the city. He will be remembered fondly, and no doubt Leicester will want to play the season as Srivaddhanaprabha would off wanted. He leaves a fantastic legacy at the football club and hopefully he can rest in peace. As said by many people and football fans ‘Every person should always come home after a football match’. RIP Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.

October brought us brilliant football and quality goals, but the tragic events certainly overshadow the football as life is far more important. But life must go on and November will no doubt bring us quality football and some excellent football matches including Arsenal vs Liverpool, Huddersfield vs Fulham, the first Manchester derby of the season between City and United, Chelsea vs Everton and Tottenham vs Chelsea to crown off November. October gives an idea into where seasons could go, but November sees the season really click into gear and no doubt the manager pressure will increase with the axe yet to fall in the Premier League but with many feeling the heat, which club will be first to crack? Only time will tell.

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