Hello and welcome to the winners and losers column where we go over this week’s round of games and discuss the teams, players and coaches that should either pat themselves on the back for a job well done or take a hard long look at their recent actions and should perhaps start making drastic life changes.
This column is in the spirit of good fun and as usual, your comments and opinions are welcomed.
Winners and Losers for Game week 10
The best reaction after losing a game is to win your next game. That is easier said than done, but Pellegrini’s City put in the performance of the week at home to Norwich. It is quite easy to dismiss their performance by attributing it to Norwich’s poor performance. That argument is not without merit but City were very effective at creating goal-scoring opportunities and finishing them as well. This is where the coach deserves commendation as he pushed his team to be positive throughout the game. Asking City to sit back and contain the non-existent Norwich pressure after going 3-0 up [Looking at you Moyes] was expected especially as City have a Champion league clash at home this Tuesday against a lively CSKAMoscow.
City’s defense kept a clean sheet, providing more reasons for their fans to be happy. That might not sound like much against the impotent Norwich attack but make no mistake, this will prove to be a huge psychological boost for the players as well as the coach.
In a week where the league’s in-form striking partnership failed to find the back of the net at the Emirates stadium, Kun Aguero proved that ignoring him is a mistake. His quality strike against PetrCechshows he is not a flat-track bully. The worry is that given how inconsistent City’s performances have been this season, he cannot be dropped in matches City want to win. He is easily a 30+ games a season player but if City are to take advantage of the uncertainty surrounding all the title-contenders this season, he should surely be rested for some ‘easy’ fixtures. City are making that increasingly difficult as losses against teams like Chelsea make ‘easy’ games against teams such as Norwich ‘must-win’ games.
Wenger & His Boys
In game week 5, this column raised questions that suggested Wenger’s side should not be considered as title-contenders yet. During the time that article was written and now, Arsenal havewon 4 games and drawn 1, remain 1st in the EPL and are playing the best football in the league. As for the questions posed, let’s see if my early concerns still merit any considerations.
The first question I asked was what Wenger would do with Wilshere when he comes back from injury. Since then, his frankly average performances when he was selected have made Wenger’s decision to leave him out of the squad understandable. Many Gunners might feel Wilshere is no longer needed but he is talent that the team will need to challenge for trophies and titles this season especially after crashing out of the Capital one cup. This writer’s verdict is that the situation is handling itself and Wenger has been smart to support his player in public as well as suggest that he is prepared to rotate and rest players when the need arises.
Another concern was that Arsenal’s squad was lacking some depth. Now, this question has not been fully addressed but with the January transfer window coming up, there is hardly any reason to worry. Plus, the only department lacking quality reinforcement [i.e. the strike force] expects to have Walcott and Podolski return from injury soon. Bendtner, who it appears is better at playing samurai than providing quality back-up to Giroud is cause for some concern as the Frenchman could very well be burnt out by the time Wenger has the opportunity to buy forwards or when the injured duo of Walcott and Podolski returns. Football is a game of chance and the biggest gamble the Wenger is taking by playing Giroud week in and week out is that he maintains his form and remainshealthy. And they say Wenger plays it safe.
After this week’s dismantling of Liverpool at home, the team resoundingly answered the last question posed which was is it safe to dream. Gooners should rightfully join their coach in talking up their title chances…. BUT losing to quality side such as Dortmund suggest that should City, United and Chelsea play to their potential, Arsenal will struggle to beat them. They successfully claimed Liverpool’s scalp this week and face United next week. Time to go 10pts ahead or is this when cracks start to show?
The Ramsey Show
Speaking of title dreams, when does a player become immune to rotation during a team’s title-chasing season? When he is Aaaron Ramsey. Many analysts are keen to point out that his level of performances will drop as the season progresses. Not that they are projecting him to be a bad player, it is just that his performances thus far will require superhuman effort to maintain all season. Should they prove to be right and his level of performances drop and become average, his early season form should see him be a challenger for major individual awards this season.
After losing the Tyne-Wear derby last week, Pardew was a man with a target on his back. Much has been made about how losing a derby match when your team is playing poorly is a potential career ending one. How do you get the fans back on your side AND remind top-brass management that you are the best person to manage their team? You beat the team that is unbeaten in the 2nd half this season. Pardew deserves the breather this win gives him. He refused to ‘park the bus’ and with 15 chances to Chelsea’s 13, his team was by far the most positive and attacking minded. 2 goals with less than 40% of possession indicates that the Tyneside team was clinical when presented with goal-scoring opportunities.
After 10 games played, Pardew’s side have 4 wins, an equal number of losses and 2 draws. Two seasons ago, they were threatening to break into the top 4 and their performance that season saw Pardew rewarded with a 6year contract. The toon army is right to be impatient after an abysmal last season and Pardew needs more performances like this week to convince fans and management that they he is the right man to manage this team.
I am mindful of the pressures young talents face but if United is to have any form of success this season, it is looking like it will be on the back of the future Belgian/Kosovo/Serbian international. Whisper it quietly but in opting to play Januzaj more often than Zaha, Moyes has made the right decision. The former has proven to be a confident player and is positive and direct in attack. Riether’s attack on Januzaj during the dying minutes at Craven cottage points to growing trend, he is marked man. Now that he has convicned fans and other teams of his talent, opposition teams’ plans will be looking to mark him out during games. His performances when he plays during the next 5 games should show if he made of sterner stuff as he will now be dealing with the extra scrutiny from defenders.
Mata, Hazard and Oscar [i.e. Mazacar] proved to be Chelsea’s undoing at Newcastle. Rarely do you describe a Mourinho team as being weak in midfield or failing to put up a fight but that is the verdict after watching their display this week. For all their possession, they failed provide any creative spark and came up on the losing side in challenges with Tiote, Cabaye and the remaining Newcastle midfield.Mazacar’s inability to find Torres with passes or crosses meant the lone forward had to drop deep to get involved in build-up play and saw his aggressive efforts result in a foul during the first half. Hazard is proving to be a flat-track bully and Mata, despite saying the right things in the media, fails to convince us all that he is best suited for a wide-role or play behind the striker as Mourinho wants. If you haven’t noticed, only the Brazilian Oscar escaped from this game guaranteed to start in GW11 and that is only because his closest competitor, Mata was worse when he was on the field.
I made 11 mistakes, 11 mistakes. I should have picked another 11 and not this one. I made 11 mistakes. It’s the feeling I have. When my team plays so badly, it’s the feeling I have. I’m exaggerating. Of course we had some guys with, I am not saying outstanding, but with some normal, good performances, but the feeling is that I made 11 wrong choices.” said Jose after the match
–There is nothing more I can add that he hasn’t said himself.
Brendan Rogers commitment to his new 3-5-2 formation is impressive. Analysis after the game suggested that his formation let him down as he failed to address Arsenal’s midfield. Perhaps he placed too much faith in his players and his new system but only one team left with their title-chasing credentials strengthened.
This cannot be stressed enough, anything less than top 4 finish would be a disappointment. Watching Suarez opt for goal rather than pass to Sturridge when Liverpool had a glorious chance in the 2nd half was particularly telling. The ‘SAS’ combination is not so much a partnership as it is two individual talents that are playing well. Can SAS be relied upon to pull each other when the team [and themselves] are having a bad game? One game is too small a sample size but I think the answer is no. They can build a partnership during the course of the season but at the moment, all is not well.
For L’Pool fans wanting some good news, Coutinho’s return was a welcome sight. Yes, he was rusty and looked off the pace but still showed flashes of brilliance that should see him return back to his imperious form before his shoulder-injury.
It is worth nothing that Liverpool ended the match against Southampton with the team they should have started with. Enrique should have played instead of fielding a back four of center backs and Sterling’s performance eclipsed Aspas who failed to match the injured Coutinho in terms of creativity and starting attacks.
Back to back wins, the first time this season for United is nothing to scoff at but the reason Moyes finds himself in the losers section is for his failure to manufacture a dominating 90minutes of football as United’s manager. The 1st half at Craven cottage suggested more of the same in the 2nd half but whiles City went on to score more goals, Moyes opted to see out the rest of the game which resulted in sustained Fulham pressure and a failure to keep a clean sheet. The best form of defense is to attack, Moyes must have missed the memo.
One key quality of good managers is the ability to choose the right squad and make changes during the game. Moyes got the first 11 correct but shot himself in the foot with his 2nd half substitutions. In this game, Moyes has not done much to change opinions that he is a defensive-minded coach who is out of his depth at United. With Arsenal coming up this week, this is Moyes’ chance to show his attacking intent and show evidence of what it was Ferguson saw in him to install him as his successor.
So much for the mini-revival that saw him dominate Manchester City during game week 9. To be fair, he was starved of service. Yes he has lost a yard of pace but it is important to remember that at Liverpool, all the offense run through him. At Chelsea, he is contending with midfielders that are eager to get on the score-sheet as well. Passes to Torres were few and far between and he drop deep to attempt to retrieve the ball and be involved in link-up play. In fact, his average position during his time of the field was in the middle of midfield, right next to Mata and Oscar.
The Guy Poyet-led mini revival lasted exactly one game. 2 wins in 10 games. Sunderland need to find ways to win if they are to remain relevant this season and feature in the 2014/2015 EPL season.
3 wins in 10 games, Michu failing to score and Bony still not settled in. Swansea’s domestic form is worrying to say the least. Thinking that their European games are leaving them tired is simplistic but their performance in the first Welsh derby did nothing to dismiss that claim. Some analysts are of the opinion that after playing in Europe [and doing well mind you], playing in the EPL is losing its allure for the players as they are more willing/prepared to give more during their European games than in the EPL. Whatever the case, Swansea is a team that plays fantastic football. Neutrals are being denied good football and they better sort that out quickly. They are not at crisis levels yet, but this was supposed to be an easy run of fixtures. This is worrying.
Martin Jol has to start scoring and quick. November is typically when club owners cut lose under-performing managers and Jol, with the run of poor results he has had with Fulham finds his name on the list.
Playing Norwich, Sunderland and Crystal Palace seems to assure any team of a guaranteed wins. Their fans deserve much better and of the 3, none seem ready to give this season the good old college try. A disturbing development. Sunderland and Palace have already changed coaches. Use that nugget of information as you will
No start for Hart and City win by 7 goals and keep a clean sheet. Should he be worried? A look over at Casillas says yes. No keeper is immune to bad form but recovering your position after a run of bad forms is easier said than done.
Thanks for reading this week’s edition—As usual, leave your comments and lets get a discussion started.