The Premier League’s fixture computer sure knows how to drive excitement for the League. It is weekend’s like this that sets the Premier League apart from the rest of Europe. Interestingly as Manchester took on the best from London; Merseyside was doing its best to overcome London’s other Premier League teams, whilst it had the edge against London’s second string; Manchester and London shared the spoils in Sunday’s big clashes.
Firstly, I have to say Kevin De Bruyne is the best player in the Premier League; so between the month of January and March, when the ballots for the PFA Player of the year are cast, I see no reason why he shouldn’t be named as such irrespective of what position Manchester City finish in.
So to the games proper; what did both games tell us about the Premier League and the eventual destination of the Premier League title come May, 2018. Manchester City are clearly a few shades ahead of the rest of the pack, but we all know that no one wins trophies or the title in November. I have been a big admirer of the way Napoli play their football, but I have to say Manchester City are not too far off and this is considering that they defeated the Naples side home and away in the Champions League.
Two games of conflicting tactical approaches
In the Chelsea v Manchester United game; you could see both managers approach the game with their big guns, going head to head with their best line up; at the Etihad, whilst Pep Guardiola lined up his best eleven, Arsene Wenger went with a very unlikely and bemusing approach that had no out and out striker; False Nine, you say? I cannot understand the reasoning behind that, I strongly feel City are quite vulnerable defensively especially on the left side occupied by Otamendi and Delph, just watch their games against Liverpool and Napoli. Yes they won those games, however this vulnerability is evident and clear; teams need to focus on breaking this Manchester City’s flexible 3-3-1-3 formation that provides you ample opportunity to punish them.
City’s defensive vulnerability is masked by the performance of their talents upfront, their ability to dominate games for long spells and the number of chances they convert; someone needs to seize the opportunity to hurt them.
No N’golo no Chelsea
For those that criticised Kante’s award as PFA Player of the year last season, the last few weeks showed how much Chelsea are vulnerable without him. With N’golo Kante, the saying ”many a men have humble beginnings” is quite true; signed for peanuts by Leicester a few seasons ago to take the Premier League by storm only to be involved in two title winning teams back to back.
Kante provides balance, covers so much ground, his heat map is probably the most ridiculous and unimaginable thing you would ever see. Just look at how Chelsea have coped over the last few weeks, playing Tiemoue Bakayoko in his role has left Chelsea quite vulnerable with the former Monaco Midfielder unable to keep up with the pace of the game. Kante’s return on Sunday opened things up for him and gave him the freedom to be involved in many of Chelsea’s attacking play.
For Chelsea to remain in the title conversation, N’golo Kante has to be fit and consistent in his performances for the west London team to have a chance at retaining their title.
Can Mourinho be accused of parking the Bus?
Most of the sound bites going into Jose’s upteenth return of Stamford Bridge centered on what is approach would be considering Chelsea had just suffered a 3-0 humbling away at Roma. Most if not all the Pundits were of the opinion he had to attack and play a more open style; this is considering that Jose’s approach to big away games is the worst kept secret. A pragmatic or depending on how much you are willing to bash the Portuguese tactician, a negative style has been his forte and default setting going into games of this nature. I think we need to show a little respect to teams who have been on the negative side of results; they are more buoyed to raise their game and put on a performance when a big team comes calling.
Back to the Bus parking matter, I think Manchester United seized the initiative in the first 10 minutes, before the game settled on a pattern; it was a ding dong affair especially in midfield as both teams sort to gain control of the engine room. Can we honestly say Mourinho packed the bus on this occassion; I will have to say no he didn’t, but I must say the team’s shape looked quite awkward for most part of the game and this was critical in Chelsea scoring the winner.
A tale of two strikers
In pre season it was all about these two strikers, one turned one down, the other his club wasn’t willing to sell as part of a vendetta. Whatever it was; Alvaro Morata is leading on this note with his deadly header of a finish to give Chelsea the three points. Lukaku has had to do a lot more in the last few games, because his support cast have been quite poor, whilst Morata thrived because of those around him and how they applied themselves; the Belgian has suffered these last few weeks as the likes of Mkhitaryan and Rashford have put in poor performances which has affected the entire team from an attacking perspective.
It’s a game of Fine Margins
Michael Oliver should have a look in the mirror this morning and be ashamed of himself; because two poor decisions on his part, ”stole” the game from Arsenal. The penalty call on Raheem Sterling was not a penalty, the England international was going nowhere and he more or less played for it knowing Nacho Monreal was approaching. A very poor call from a referee I expect a lot more from; if that wasn’t bad enough, Oliver and his assistant didn’t signal for an offside that was very clear for me to see from far away Nigeria. Now this was when Arsenal had just pulled one back and were beginning to get into the game, believing they had a chance to claw back the two goal deficit after Alexander Lacazette had pulled one back.
The level of refereeing in the Premier League needs to be looked at critically; I do know that these decisions even out at some point during the season, but then Referees need to be held by a higher standard. If a player puts in poor performance for his team, he gets dropped or suspended for multiple card offenses. It is time to start putting referees through this kind of scrutiny.
With all said and done; here’s my team of the week for the past weekend in a 4-3-3 formation:
*** Pictures Courtesy The Metro, The Sun, wardoon.net, Sky Sports