Welcome to the Premier League Review for Sept. 25th – 27th, and what a Premier League weekend it’s been. Brentford have continued to impress, Man City have moved into a threatening position in the title race, and the other three top teams have all slipped up. So without further ado, let’s get into all the going on’s from those three days.
Chelsea 0 Man City 1
The weekend kicked off with one of the biggest games on the calendar as the seemingly unstoppable Chelsea – a completely different outfit under the guidance of Thomas Tuchel – faced off against a Man City side who had already stumbled twice so far in six games. Surely, this would be where Chelsea laid down a marker as a warning to the other teams in the top four that they were serious title contenders? After all, City hasn’t been anywhere near their best so far this season, so they were ripe for the taking. Right? Well, no. City dominated this game and made Chelsea look like a team who would’ve happily taken one point if it was offered to them before kick-off. Tuchel’s tactics had more than a whiff of Jose-era Chelsea about them and it was reflected in the fact that they could hardly muster a shot on target in the entire 90 minutes. I don’t know if he got it wrong, or if his players just couldn’t be bothered to show up, but City dominated, and – in all honesty – 1-0 was a flattering scoreline for the boys from Stamford Bridge. In truth, it wasn’t a very exciting game overall, but it did go to show that when City starts firing on all cylinders then they are going to be almost impossible to stop.
Man Utd 0 Aston Villa 1
Alright, I admit it. It is was unprofessional of me to have laughed as hard as I did when Bruno Fernandes sent his 95th-minute penalty into orbit, but considering that Solskjær had gone out of his way in his pre-match press conference to lean as hard as he could on the referee to make sure that he’d give Utd a penalty if the opportunity arose, this was the kind of swift karmic kick to the happy sacks that I live for. The match was a hell of a spectacle with both teams throwing everything and the kitchen sink at each other, and even after Hausse had nodded Villa in front in the 88th minute, you just knew that there was still a twist in its tale. On came Cavanni, Hausse went from hero to villain – pun intended – and up stepped the usually very reliable Fernandes to launch his penalty out of Old Trafford. Hang on…what’s that? I’m getting reports that the ball has finally landed somewhere in the arctic circle. I can tell you this, there’s no way, no way, that Ronaldo isn’t taking every spot-kick from now on.
Everton 2 Norwich 0
A pretty easy win for Everton and more proof, if it were needed, that Norwich are doomed. I’m sorry, Canaries, I like your team, I really do. Your attacking brand of football in the Championship is a joy to behold, but this ain’t the Championship. To try and play the same way in a league that will eat you alive at the slightest mistake – especially when you don’t have the quality of players within your ranks to do so – is idiotic and stubborn. Unless Farke is willing to adapt to the situation he finds himself in and play a more defensive-minded direct style of play, you’re not only getting relegated, but you’re going down with zero points to your name. If he manages to make it to the New Year before getting fired, I’ll get my legs waxed and film it so you can all laugh at me. Which he won’t and you’re going to find yourself under Big Sam’s regime of lumping balls into the box and hoping that your squad reacts to him better than the WBA one did. As for Everton, another good display shows that Rafa is building something that is a lot stronger than the paper-thin Blues of old. Give him time and he’ll bring you trophies. A special shout out to Demari Gray who I’m convinced is a clone of the player that left Leicester a few seasons ago. That can be the only way you can explain his – seemingly – miraculous transformation from a blind alley runner, into a highly aware professional footballer.
Leeds 1 West Ham 2
I worry for Leeds. They seem to be suffering from Sheffield Utd second season syndrome. They couldn’t buy a win if their lives depended on it and this one had to hurt more than catching yourself in your flies. They should’ve put this game to bed, had plenty of chances to do so, and not only did West Ham pull level they managed to smash and grab when Antonio found himself through on goal. He was never going to miss. West Ham got lucky, make no mistake, but those fans out there who were predicting that last year was a fluke under Moyes – due to a recent run of poor form – need to get their heads out of their posteriors. They might not threaten the top four this time out, but The Hammers are easily at the business end of the best of the rest. I fully expect them to secure more European Football for next season.
Leicester City 2 Burnley 2
Jamie Vardy banged in another hat-trick, but considering one of those was in his own net I doubt very much that he collected the match ball at full-time. With four goals on offer, this was another top-quality match, but I think Burnley fans should be a little worried. They seem to be really struggling this season and haven’t won a Premier League match in 15 attempts. Not since they beat Everton 2-1 last March. If it had been any other club and any other manager, the fans would be screaming for Sean Dyche’s head by now, not applauding him getting a new four-year contract. Sometimes familiarity breeds contempt, and maybe it’s time that all parties concerned part ways? As for Leicester, is it just me or do they seem a little…off? The Foxes don’t seem to have woken up fully this season and have put in some incredibly erratic performances. Maybe it’s a hangover from winning two trophies back to back – even if one of those was the Community Shield – but Brendan’s boys need to snap out of it pretty sharpish or they’re going to find themselves out of the race for the Champions League spots before Christmas.
Watford 1 Newcastle 1
Until Mike Ashley finally gets overthrown and Steve Bruce is shown the door, this is how Newcastle’s season is going to go. Get spanked by the big teams, struggle against the mid-table ones, and fail to score against those in a relegation battle with them. Also, Allan Saint-Maximin is gone in January. Sorry Toon Army, but you know it’s true. If anyone comes in with a decent enough bid for that fat bastard who runs your club to buy himself more pies, then he’s going to take it and you’re going down. He’s the only brightness in the dark that you have and he’s going to be sold. As for Watford, I’m predicting them to go down anyway, with a new manager in place after their current one gets the chop. Probably, next Wednesday. And, with the way things are playing out, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Newcastle follow them into the Championship, either.
Brentford 3 Liverpool 3
This was easily the match of the weekend. It’s as if both sets of players got together before the game and said “You know, screw it, let’s forget about defending and see who can score the most. First to five wins, yeah?” Brentford have impressed me no end this season. They have no fear and attack with the kind of freedom that belies the fact that this is their first-ever season in the Premier League. Short of a serious injury to Ivan Toney – who deserves an England call-up on his current form – The Bees will be fine and should match Leeds ninth-place finish last time out, if not better it. Liverpool started the day moving to the top of Premier League, thanks to Man City beating Chelsea earlier in the day, and really should’ve opened a three-point gap on the chasing pack. Sadly, they forgot how to defend, which made for one of the best games so far this season, though top-quality entertainment might be of little solace if the title slips through their fingers by two dropped points.
Southampton 0 Wolves 1
It was the feel-good moment that we’d all been craving. The injury that Raul Jimenez suffered against Arsenal last year – though nobody’s fault – was one of the most horrific things I’ve ever seen on a football pitch. In fact, Jimenez himself has said that the doctors treating him told him he was lucky to be alive. So when he slotted home his first goal since the accident, everyone on planet earth cheered and celebrated along with him. Well, maybe not the Southampton fans, but still. It was a true something-in-my-eye moment and one that Wolves desperately needed after such a rocky start to this campaign. The Saints, on the other hand, don’t seem to have any good fortune heading their way. Not replacing Danny Ings in the summer – after his shock move to Villa – is going to prove to be a costly mistake and it’s one that I can see forcing them into a battle for survival. If The Saints do manage to stay up, it’s not going to be because of anything they do, it will be because Newcastle sells Allan Saint-Maximin and lose their only threat. After all, goals win games, and at least with him in their side, The Toon Army still has a fighting chance. Southampton currently has none.
Arsenal 3 Tottenham 1
Hand up who saw this performance coming? LIARS! ALL OF YOU! Nobody saw this performance coming. Arsenal tore through Spurs in the opening 45 minutes in a way that made me think of the glory days of The Gooners, when Henry and co just steamrolled over every opposition. This leads to the question, has Arteta finally turned it around? Or – as I truly suspect – are Tottenham on a steep decline? As good as Arsenal were – and they were – Spurs were bloody awful. This group of players seems to have already thrown in the towel after a few recent poor performances. Nuno will be out the door within two months, Kane will sulk around the pitch until he forces through the move to Man City he wants, and – if there’s any justice in the world – the rest of them will be sold off as dog food filler. If Arsenal can build on this demolition of their hated rivals, then they should easily be able to pick up 15 points out of the next 15, as – looking at their fixtures list – they don’t have a real test until late November when they travel to Anfield. So watch as they go to Brighton next week and get gubbed 4-0.
Crystal Palace 1 Brighton 1
For a game that had a dramatic last-minute equalizer, this match was pretty boring. The most interesting thing about it was that if Brighton had won, they’d have gone top of the league. Standard fair between the two, really. Not a classic by any means. Palace will be fine, Brighton will be fine. Both midtable at best come the end of the season.