Monday, 3 December 2018

Premier League: November Review

The Premier League once again delivered in November with some excellent football, quality goals and the first managerial departure of the season. Manchester City continue to lead at the top with Liverpool hunting them down. While the bottom 3 is made up by Fulham, Southampton and Burnley. Manchester City and Liverpool are still unbeaten after the opening three months of the season while Chelsea lost theirs at Tottenham, so they’ve dropped of the pace at the top. The bottom of the table is extremely tight with just 4 points separating 7 teams.

Another excellent month for Manchester City who collected maximum points from their 3 games and have opened a two-point lead on Liverpool at the top. Guardiola’s men are beginning to find the form that saw them dominant last season and players are slowly finding consistency. However, Guardiola remains unhappy with some performances and despite winning 4-0 at West Ham, Guardiola was largely unhappy with their display. He wants perfection and will be disappointed at dropping 4 points this season overall, but his side are firmly in the groove and are looking imperious right now. Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool continue to tap City lightly on the shoulder but a draw at Arsenal saw the lose ground on City, but they have bounced back with wins over Fulham and Watford. While they aren’t necessarily playing the exciting rock and roll football, Liverpool have become efficient taking their chances and comfortably seeing off their opponents. Virgil Van Dijk has been a terrific addition to their side and was just the solidity and leadership needed in their defence. They continue to hunt Manchester City and they do face City during the festive period. Tottenham lie in 3rd place after collecting maximum points in November and they are slowly building momentum as they look to secure Champions League football once again. Their ambitions for the season were realised during their excellent display against Chelsea. Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Heung-Min Son were on terrific form and Pochettino will hope Spurs have now set their stall out for the season in terms of performances. A crucial December sees them face Arsenal and travel to Barcelona in the Champions League hoping to secure a place in the knockout stages. Chelsea meanwhile have endured a difficult month with Maurizio Sarri’s side winning just 1 league game during November and they ended the month with a miserable defeat at Tottenham. Sarri heavily criticised his team after that display which saw Sarri lose for the first time as Chelsea manager since the community shield defeat to Manchester City. Sarri will demand a response in their crucial west London derby against bitter rivals Fulham which starts a very busy December for Chelsea with Manchester City visiting Stamford Bridge as well as the Carabao Cup quarter finals and the conclusion of the Europa League group stages. Sarri said after 3 months we would see his stamp on Chelsea and if the performance at Spurs is anything to go by, I doubt Sarri will want to be associated with that performance. Despite that, they look a much-improved side on last season.

Sides who enjoyed November included Everton, Huddersfield and Newcastle. Marco Silva is slowly getting his ideas across at Everton and they are looking like a very good side. The introduction of Barcelona signings Andre Gomes and Yerry Mina have taken Everton to another level after months of working them to full fitness. Gomes has slotted into midfield effortlessly alongside Idrissa Gueye and these two are forming a strong partnership at the heart of the Toffees midfield. Meanwhile Colombian Yerry Mina was thrown into his debut at Stamford Bridge and excelled shutting Chelsea out and has kept a clean sheet on home debut against Cardiff. Everton are confident and kick off December with the first Merseyside derby of the season and they will be confident of potentially getting a result. It has been a terrific month for David Wagner and Huddersfield with Terriers collecting 7 points from their 3 matches. Prior to November, Huddersfield had collected just 3 points from their 10 matches. However, terrific wins over Fulham and Wolves and a draw against West Ham has ignited their season and they will believe they can survive relegation. Aaron Mooy has found some form in the heart of midfield with two excellent goals which sank Wolves at Molineux and he is the integral cog in the Huddersfield midfield that makes them tick. Wagner knows Huddersfield are heading in the right direction but need to keep their good run going as they are still severely short on goals. The magpies are absolutely buzzing right now after Newcastle notched a perfect 3 wins from 3 as Newcastle stormed off the bottom and into 14th place. Crucial wins over Watford, Bournemouth and Burnley have finally ignited Newcastle’s season after a woeful start to the season collecting just 3 points from 10 games. Rafa Benitez continues to do an excellent job in difficult circumstances with hostilities between fans and Mike Ashley expected to continue in their opening match of December against West Ham. Benitez knows survival is Newcastle’s aim this season and he will hope their positive momentum continues going into a hectic December.

In contrast, times are proving extremely tough for the bottom 3. Fulham, Southampton and Burnley just cannot find momentum, confidence or wins. Fulham are desperately struggling and consequently have made the first managerial change of the season sacking Slavisa Jokanovic after a run of 5 straight defeats and 1 win in their opening 12 games. The loveable Italian Claudio Ranieri is back in English football nearly two years after leaving Leicester. Ranieri is tasked with keeping Fulham in the league and more importantly sorting out the leakiest defence in the league. His reign kicked off at the end of the month in a crucial six-pointer against Southampton at Craven Cottage which they edged a 3-2 win. Ranieri has already confessed his love for Serbian striker Aleksandar Mitrovic and his brace sealed the win. He will be vital to Fulham’s chances of staying up. He is their most likely goalscorer and to his credit he has 7 goals in a poor side. December brings plenty of games and Ranieri will aim to collect as many points as possible and assess his squad throughout to see what he needs in the January transfer window. Meanwhile, things are no better down on the south coast with Southampton struggling for goals and wins. Mark Hughes’ team have won just once this season and their home form is dreadful with the Saints yet to win at St Marys and overall, they’ve won just once since December 2017. Mark Hughes spent plenty of money in summer signing the likes of Jannik Vestegaard and Mohammed Elyounoussi but neither have found form or at times a place in the team. Southampton are winless in 9 games and Mark Hughes is under pressure from the fans and board to get results and fast. Southampton are also severely short on goals notching just 10 league goals in their 13 league games so far. The axe could fall on Hughes in December if things don’t improve and fast. A year is a very long time in football and Burnley fans know that well. This time last year Burnley sat comfortably in 7th place after a wonderful start to the season. Fast forward 12 months and the Clarets sit in 18th place with just 2 victories this season and are on a run of 5 defeats in 6. The Clarets are usually water tight at the back, but they are proving very easy to score against this season conceding 25 league goals in 13 games comfortably the 2nd worse defence after Fulham. Dyche has admitted his team are not on the levels they were last season but still has faith in his side to turn their side round and they begin December with a crucial six-pointer against Crystal Palace.

Other sides enduring disappointing Novembers included Bournemouth, Brighton and Wolves. Eddie Howe and Bournemouth were the only side to lose all three of their games. In their defence they did face Manchester United and Arsenal, but Howe will be disappointed by their defeat at Newcastle. Despite their disappointing month, Bournemouth lie 8th in the table and are having an excellent season overall. They are still playing good football and did outplay Manchester United in the first half but just couldn’t take their chances and ultimately got punished. They also deserved something out of the Arsenal game but ended up losing after a defence splitting move from the Gunners. Eddie Howe knows Bournemouth are in a tricky set of fixtures but will be confident of improving results in December. Brighton also endured a tough month after a perfect October. Chris Hughton’s team collected just 1 point from their 3 games and they find themselves stuck in 12th. Hughton will be disappointed with their results especially not beating 10-man Leicester at home but he will be pleased with their application and survival is looking good for the Seagulls. Wolves are seemingly stuck in a rut after a terrific opening two months of the season. Nuno’s team have lost 5 of their last 6 games and goals are proving hard to come by. There is some pressure building on Nuno Espirito Santo after a terrific start but 1 win in their last 7 has seen the bubble burst somewhat. Nuno will aim for as many points in December to kick start their season again because they are only 6 points off the Europa League places, so all isn’t lost.

The festive period is always an exciting but crucial time in the Premier League calendar and there is plenty of exciting and crucial games in December including Southampton vs Man Utd, Chelsea vs Fulham, Liverpool vs Everton, Arsenal vs Tottenham, Man Utd vs Arsenal, Brighton vs Crystal Palace, Bournemouth vs Liverpool, Chelsea vs Man City, Fulham vs West Ham, Liverpool vs Man Utd, Bournemouth vs Brighton, Everton vs Tottenham, Leicester vs Man City, Watford vs Chelsea, Fulham vs Huddersfield, Crystal Palace vs Chelsea and Liverpool vs Arsenal. Plenty of festive fun and excitement to come and December sees us reach the halfway stage of the league season. Every manager knows this is a crucial part of the season with games coming thick and fast and plenty of points available. Festive cheer could be in short supply for some, but many will be hoping for good tidings this Christmas.

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