Hi all and welcome to this week’s Blog.
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The weekend just gone has seen Premier League teams play their fifth games of the season. A landmark in which teams can start to be judged as to what sort of season they’ll have, I thought it would be a good idea to look at each team (in league position order) and write a few words down on how they’re doing.
- Manchester City – 5 wins, 0 draws, 0 losses, 15 points.
Questions were asked as to how quickly it would take Guardiola and his expensively assembled squad to get into their stride this season. Few would’ve expected them to settle so quickly. Some of the football they played against Bournemouth on Saturday was reminiscent of Pep’s time at Barcelona and Bayern Munich. They will be the team to beat this year to the title.
- Everton – 4 wins, 1 draw, 0 losses, 13 points.
Another team who changed managers in the summer, Everton and Ronald Koeman have started the season fantastically. With Romelu Lukaku staying and signings such as Idrissa Gueye and Yannick Bolasie settling quickly, Everton are playing good football, look confident and are showing their doubters that a top 6 finish is not beyond them this year.
- Tottenham – 3 wins, 2 draws, 0 losses, 11 points.
After the abysmal end to last season, ending with a 5-1 defeat to already relegated Newcastle which resulted in them finishing 3rd behind their arch rivals Arsenal, Spurs and Pochettino went into the beginning of this season wanting to make amends. They have started well, with the contingent of English players who struggled at the Euro 2016 championships looking like they have a point to prove. Tottenham will again be there or thereabouts with a top 4 challenge, but will a title push be too much this time around?
- Arsenal – 3 wins, 1 draw, 1 defeat, 10 points.
With Arsene Wenger coming under more and more pressure every year by Arsenal fans who are fed up with the lack of spending and underachieving in the league and in Europe, losing at home to Liverpool was the worst possible start to the season. However, they have recovered well and with away wins at Hull and Watford, the gunners will be hoping to mount a credible title challenge with a settled and fit squad this season.
- Chelsea – 3 wins, 1 draw, 1 defeat, 10 points.
Antonio Conte joined Chelsea as a serial winner at club level. Coming off the back of an impressive European Championships with Italy, in which they defeated much-fancied Spain in the knockout stages, many people fancy him and his hard-running Chelsea stars to go very close this season. Early signs are good, with Eden Hazard and Diego Costa looking like they are back to their best under the Italian. With no Europe to worry about, they will go close. Top 4 looks a certainty but the defeat against Liverpool Friday night raised concerns about Conte’s Italian tactics in the big games maybe not being as effective as they were in Italy.
- Liverpool – 3 wins, 1 draw, 1 defeat, 10 points.
With a full Klopp pre-season under their belts, no Europe to worry about and signings such as Sadio Mane settling in immediately, big things are expected of Liverpool this season. They have started the campaign well, with the 4-3 win away to Arsenal and 3-1 victory at home to last season’s champions Leicester being the highlights so far. If the squad can fully absorb what Klopp wants from them, they might even be dark horses for the league title. The loss away to Burnley will be a cause for concern, but if they can iron silly defeats like that out, fans should be happy come May.
- Manchester United – 3 wins, 0 draws, 2 losses, 9 points.
I have written in previous articles how the pressure is on Mourinho to deliver immediate results this season after the money spent in the summer. Wins against Bournemouth, Hull and Southampton in the first 3 games backed up many experts’ view that they will be champions at the end of the season. However, 3 defeats in 3 games in the last 2 weeks, both in the League and in the Europa League, including a convincing defeat to Guardiola’s Manchester City has knocked United’s confidence and fans will hope Mourinho can turn it around sooner rather than later. (I saw a stat this weekend that Jose has only won 7 of his last 21 league games. Worrying.)
- Crystal Palace – 2 wins, 1 draw, 2 defeats, 7 points.
With Christian Benteke and Andros Townsend joining in the summer, Crystal Palace fans were hoping to forget about their woeful form towards the end of last season and go well this year. They have started this season well, with a 4-1 thrashing over Stoke on Saturday being the highlight of their campaign so far. With a proven goalscorer in Benteke now leading the line, Alan Pardew will hope he has a squad to secure a top half finish this season. A solid start to the season.
- Watford – 2 wins, 1 draw, 1 defeat, 7 points.
Another season, another new manager at Vicarage Road. On the surface, Quique Sanches Flores did well last season at Watford, seeing his team reach an FA Cup semi final and avoiding relegation with ease. However, the Pozzo family decided to make the change and bring in ex-Napoli manager Walter Mazzarri as manager. Watford, like Palace, have had a solid start to the campaign, with a 3-1 victory over Manchester United being the highlight so far. Watford fans will hope that Mazzarri can build on the promising start to the campaign. Deeney staying fit is crucial.
- West Brom – 2 wins, 1 draw, 2 defeats, 7 points.
Tony Pulis is the Marmite of Football managers. He has made no secret in the past of admitting that his preferred style, whilst aggressive and direct, gets results. He guarantees Premier League survival for WBA, but the style of football is under question more than ever by the fans – the 0-0 at home to Middlesbrough being a prime example of why some fans are losing patience. Keeping Berahino was a huge plus for the Baggies, whilst club-record signing Nacer Chadli may prove to be one of the signings of the summer. Expect them to be rock solid at home and nick a few 1-0’s away from the Hawthorns.
- Leicester City – 2 wins, 1 draw, 2 defeats, 7 points
The defending Premier league champions (still sounds weird) have opened their account this season with a solid start, although the resounding defeat at Anfield will have worried fans. Whilst no one thinks they will successfully defend their title, their signings in this summer’s transfer window suggest they may actually challenge for a top six finish. Club record signing Islam Slimani from Sporting Lisbon looks to be a fantastic signing, bagging a brace on his league debut against Burnley in a 3-0 win on Saturday. With Mahrez and Vardy staying despite huge interest in the summer, boss Claudio Ranieri will hope he can balance Champions League and Premier League and be successful on both fronts.
- Hull City – 2 wins, 1 draw, 2 defeats, 7 points.
No manager, a handful of fit first team players, the owners at war with the fans and given no hope by pretty much everyone before the first game of the season, Hull have surprised everyone and started the season very well, all things considered. Their best result has come in the form of a 2-1 opening day win over Leicester City. Although results have dropped off in the last few weeks, Mike Phelan will be hoping to take on the role of manager in a full time capacity and steer Hull through what will undoubtedly be a turbulent winter.
- Middlesbrough – 1 win, 2 draws, 2 defeats, 5 points.
Fans and boss Karanka will be relatively pleased with how the season has begun. With big name signings in the summer such as Alvaro Negredo and Victor Valdes, Boro will be hoping for a mid-table finish. With a passionate fanbase and good football on display, the season started well, with a 1-1 draw at home followed by an away win at Sunderland. They have struggled recently, with a defeat to Crystal Palace at home and a defeat to Everton away from home, but they should have enough to stay up. I think they should be OK.
- Southampton – 1 win, 2 draws, 2 defeats, 5 points.
It was another busy pre-season at Southampton, with players leaving and joining the club in equal measures. Players such as Victor Wanyama, Sadio Mane and Graziano Pelle leaving the club left fans concerned about what sort of season they would have. They have replaced them well though, with Nathan Redmond, Sofiane Boufal and highly rated youngster Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg coming from Bayern Munich. Their start has been mixed, with disappointing draws to Sunderland and Watford adding to fans concerns about their prospects this season. However, a good win over Swansea has improved their start and they will be hoping to finish in the top half this season.
- Swansea City – 1 win, 1 draw, 3 defeats, 4 points.
With Francesco Guidolin being given the Manager’s job full time over the summer, Swansea have struggled to make a positive start to the season, with their only win coming away from home against Burnley. Signings were made over the summer, Fernando Llorente joining on a free from Sevilla and Borja Baston joining for a club record fee from Atletico Madrid. Fans will be hoping the 2 Spaniards settle quickly and fire them to safety. I predict a struggle for them this season.
- Burnley – 1 win, 1 draw, 3 defeats, 4 points.
It was always going to be a tough season for Burnley. With reportedly one of the smallest budgets in the league and relying on a team built largely on the players that got the team promoted last year, they have started slowly. Andre Gray up front has looked a threat and Steven Defour is a solid midfield shield, but unfortunately they need more. A spirited draw against Hull and an unexpected 2-0 win against Liverpool, there is hope that their home form might see them survive. Dyche has a huge job to keep them up.
- Bournemouth – 1 win, 1 draw, 3 defeats, 4 points.
After an impressive debut season in the Premier League playing attractive attacking football, many have tipped Bournemouth to survive the second season syndrome and become established in the top division. The signing of Jack Wilshere from Arsenal shocked everyone across Europe and, fitness depending, should slot in very well to Eddie Howe’s style of play. They have started slowly, but a win against West Brom at home should give them the confidence to kick on and achieve a mid-table finish this year.
- West Ham – 1 win, 0 draws, 4 defeats, 3 points.
A disaster of a season so far. The ongoing issues at their new stadium is one of the key reasons as to why they have started the campaign so poorly. They seem to be leaking goals – they have lost their last 2 league games 4-2, including going 2-0 up at home against Watford. Bilic needs to get to the bottom of the issues and sort them out before what should have been the start of a glorious new era at the football club turns in to one to forget.
- Sunderland – 0 wins, 1 draw, 4 defeats, 1 point.
There is a diagram which gets thrown around Twitter every season that shows Sunderland’s yearly cycle. It goes like this. START SEASON POORLY -> SACK MANAGER -> GO ON CRAZY RUN OF FORM WHICH SEES CLUB STAY UP -> FANS BECOME OPTIMISTIC IN PRE-SEASON… repeat, repeat. The same thing appears to be happening again this season. Any team which relies on a 34 year old Jermain Defoe as their main source of goals is always going to struggle. Unfortunately for Moyes, the squad he has inherited from Sam Allardyce seems to be lacking in quite a few areas and a long season awaits. The 3-0 home defeat to Everton highlighted all of the issues Moyes faces as manager.
- Stoke City – 0 wins, 1 draw, 4 defeats, 1 point.
Dear oh dear. What has happened to the free flowing, fast paced, defensively solid Stoke City team that finished in the top half of the league last season? What makes this even more surprising is that with signings such as Joe Allen and Wilfried Bony in the summer, they are even stronger than last year. They can’t stop conceding goals, with the 4-1 defeat away to Crystal Palace throwing Hughes, even at this early stage of the season, to the top of the Sack Race odds. They have conceded 4 goals in 3 of their 5 league games this season. That is a recipe for disaster at any football club. Things need to improve and quick.
European round up
Real Madrid make it 16 wins in a row in La Liga with away win at Espanyol to keep them top, Barcelona make up for Alaves defeat with 5-1 demolition of Leganes, Atletico put 5 past Sporting Gijon.
Bayern Munich continue to beat everyone put before them in the Bundesliga with a 3-1 win at the Allianz Arena over Ingolstadt, Borussia Dortmund followed up their 6-0 midweek win over Legia Warsaw in the Champions League with another 6-0 home win over Darmstadt and Schalke lose 2-0 away in the capital to Hertha Berlin.
Mauro Icardi inspires Inter Milan to a 2-1 win over Juventus at the San Siro, Napoli go top of Serie A with a 3-1 win over Bologna and Roma lose to Fiorentina in Florence.
PSG get back on track in Ligue 1 with a 6-0 away win over Caen, Monaco beat Rennes 3-0 at home and Lyon draw 0-0 with fierce rivals Marseille at the Velodrome.
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