Friday, 22 February 2019

Premier League: January Review

2019 has certainly kicked off with a bang with the Premier League firmly clicking into gear with the title race and relegation battle heating up very nicely. Manchester City and Liverpool are locked in a colossial battle for the league while as many as 8 sides are scrapping to avoid the drop into the Championship. While one club has waved goodbye to their manager as David Wagner leaves a hero despite Huddersfield's very bleak situation.

Liverpool's unbeaten record was taken away from them in January as they fell to the powers of Manchester City in a sensational match to kick off 2019. However, despite that loss Jurgen Klopp's team remain top of the table and head into February unbeaten in their last 3 league games. Liverpool have bounced back from that disappointing grudge match with City and Klopp will firmly believe that can still lift the title. Manchester City have seemingly got their groove back with goals flowing in the team right now. However, they will start February 5 points adrift of Liverpool after suffering a very poor defeat at Newcastle and while at the time Guardiola conceded the title, Manchester City are still very much in the race as they seek back to back titles. Aymeric Laporte is sparkling at the back with a string of impressive performances while Sergio Aguero continues to deliver the goals and gain the affections of all City fans. Guardiola will head into February seeking an immediate bounce back in the league as well as ensuring safe passages in the cup competitions and the Champions League. The Quadraple is on but Liverpool are in the driving seat. 3 wins from 4 in January has seen Tottenham keep a firm grip on 3rd in the table despite the injuries to key players Harry Kane and Dele Alli. Pochettino is working wonders with Tottenham and head into a crucial February not too far behind Liverpool and City but should they carry on their terrific run, you'd be a fool in ruling them out of the title race. Chelsea make up the top 4 but they are firmly clinging on after a disappointing January which saw them collect a poultry 4 points and they've lost their last 2 which saw a shocking 4-0 defeat to Bournemouth. There is a real air of frustration around the whole football club with the players looking unhappy, Sarri frustrated and the fans confused with 'Sarri-ball' which is not baring the fruit many thought. The pressure is beginning to mount and Chelsea must improve heading into a busy February with the league cup final and the Europa League knockouts on the horizon.

Manchester United are motoring nicely under Ole Gunnar Solksjaer who is firmly enjoying his interim spell in charge. Solksjaer has transformed the entire football club with a much more attack minded style of play and unlocking Paul Pogba's true potential in the United midfield. Unbeaten in his first 7 league games winning 6 of those surpassing the great United managers of the past with Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Matt Busby not reaching those heights. United are hunting the top 4 down and are closing in on Chelsea and Arsenal in the race for a Champions League spot. His unbeaten record almost went at Old Trafford against Burnley but a dramatic fightback from 2-0 down earned them a point and emphasises the real change around the football club. However, Solksjaer will head into a testing February with PSG on the horizon as well as games with Liverpool and Chelsea. Solksjaer has transformed the players with the players seemingly very happy and committing their futures to the club and the standout thus far is Anthony Martial who signed a new five year contract at the club. The players want Solksjaer, the fans want Solksjaer and should this form continue, he will certainly be throwing his hat into the ring. 

Both Southampton and Newcastle have enjoyed their starts to 2019 with both collecting excellent results as they look to pull away from danger. Ralph Hasenhuttl has been an excellent appointment for Southampton with the likeable Austrian transforming the atmosphere around the whole football club and building a philosophy he wants to drill into his players and the fans. The players are certainly taking his advice on board after an unbeaten January which saw them collect 8 points from their 4 games. Its just 3 defeats in 9 league games since Hasenhuttl came in and his decisions to incorporate youngsters like Yan Valery, Kyle Ramsey, Tyreke Johnson and Michael Obafemi is going down well with the board and the fans and shows a new direction Hasenhuttl is taking them in. Newcastle have also enjoyed 2019 thus far with 6 points collected in their 4 league games including a comeback victory over Manchester City. Whats more, after 14 years of waiting, Newcastle fans have finally seen their transfer record broken by disliked owner Mike Ashley as he forked out £20 Million to sign Paraguayan playmaker Miguel Almiron. He will add a much needed spark to the Newcastle attack with goals in short supply for the Geordies this season. While this may be a stunt to keep Rafa Benitez, Mike Ashley has pumped some much needed new blood into the football club.

In contrast, it has been a very disappointing season for Huddersfield with the Terriers notching just 11 points from their 24 league games so far this season and the likeable David Wagner has decided to call time on his three years at the club where he will forever be a club hero and legend for the job he has done. Wagner transformed the entire club when he came in keeping them in the Championship before guiding them to a shock promotion and stabilisation in the Premier League. However, things just haven't gone for them this season with a number of factors coming to play. But their main issue is a severe lack of goals with none of Huddersfield's strikers scoring a Premier League goal this season. Wagner leaves following a goalless draw with fellow strugglers Cardiff and chairman Dean Hoyle has gone down the Borussia Dortmund II route once again with Jan Siewert given the impossible task of keeping Huddersfield in the Premier League. His first game in charge was a narrow home defeat to under performing Everton and while Siewert will have seen positives, its yet another defeat for Huddersfield which now makes them winless in 11 league games losing 10 of those. Big task ahead for the unknown German.

The Premier League delivered plenty of quality football, goals and surprise results in January and no doubt as February draws near there will be more excitement to come. There are plenty of key games to come at the top and bottom including Crystal Palace vs Fulham in a tasty London derby, Chelsea vs Huddersfield, Tottenham vs Newcastle, a six pointer between Burnley and Southampton, Manchester City vs Arsenal, West Ham vs Liverpool, Everton vs Manchester City, a London derby between Crystal Palace and West Ham, a six pointer between Southampton and Cardiff, Marco Silva returns to Watford for the first since his sacking as he brings Everton to Vicarage Road, Manchester City vs Chelsea, Manchester United vs Liverpool, Southampton vs Fulham in a crucial six pointer and a mammoth London derby between Chelsea and Tottenham. A tasty February is on the horizon as the business end of the season approaches. 

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