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10 games in – now we can talk about league tables
I have always disliked early season league tables…I’ve never really seen the value in them. Obviously it’s important to get a good start to the season, but who cares who’s top after 3 matches?
I’ve always thought of 10 games as the real start of the league table, we’re 1/4 of the way through, points are starting to add up, each team has played a mix of quality and not-so-quality teams and we get a bit of an idea as to what’s going on and how the season might pan out.
With that in mind, I wanted to share a few thoughts, if you’ll let me, on the season so far:
Top 4 – Liverpool, City, Leicester and Chelsea
Liverpool have had an incredible start, but will lose games at some point. I fancy them to beat City to it this season, but only if they maintain a big enough gap until the Champions league gets real, at which point – with successive titles in the bag already – I think City might lose focus.
Leicester look great, 9-0 aside (an incredible, but freak result), they have a good shout of keeping their heads above United, Spurs and Arsenal, but it will be very, very close. I also think you can see the difference in Brendan Rodgers. He’s set up a really nice system and defensively they look a grade above most of the league. Also think the experience of pushing that Celtic side to such heights and for so long will stand him in good stead at the tail end.
Chelsea look the best of the rest for me though. I think they will finish 3rd. Consistency is not there yet, but they have enough quality.
5-16th – The mess!
Incredibly just 6 points separate Arsenal in 5th and Everton in 16th. That midfield is so congested and I fancy it to stay that way. Despite all the doom and gloom, I still back Utd and Spurs to emerge towards the top of that group, but Arsenal to come out on top of the 3 I think. Just a hunch. I’d also like to see a bit more from West Ham, I think if they don’t finish higher than last season’s 10th it will be a big disappointment for them. I back Villa and Sheff Utd to stay up….but they will get dragged down closer to the bottom 3 as the season goes on. Wolves to finish bottom half, which is no great shame in only their second season back up. Steady seasons for the rest – which will be nice for Brighton after last year.
17-20th – looks bleak already!
Southampton are in what I would call a ‘Sunderland spiral’ – doing just enough for two seasons, not really addressing the problems, then hitting free-fall. Watford look beaten. To stay up looks a fight between Norwich and Newcastle for me. I think Newcastle edge it, just – they can’t score, but Norwich have conceded 24 goals already – it’s tough to grind out points if you can’t keep a clean sheet. Newcastle to survive on draws.
Anyone else with 1/4 season thoughts?
Fred still bedding in
Can I just say, you’re bang right about Fred. I must have been watching a different Man United this season to everyone else. They haven’t been that bad. It’s really fine margins: with better penalty taking and a little more resilience, and they could have taken 8 more points from Wolves, Palace, Arsenal and Liverpool, which would have them a point behind City. What I’ve seen is a young side that keeps the ball pretty well, and is growing together slowly.
There are mitigating circumstances: they’ve had loads of injuries (just having Martial back made them an entirely different proposition against Norwich going forward), the young players have taken time to get to grips with being thrust into the limelight, and, let’s face it, not many Brazilians arrive in northern England and start pulling up trees immediately. Young players also need to play to build confidence: they’re rarely going to be amazing immediately.
The past few games Fred has looked to me like a decent run in the side away from becoming the nearest thing to the player Anderson could have been. He gives the ball away a bit, but he’s still bedding in. He’s tenacious, he has vision, and his engine is ridiculous. He and McTominay look like they’re developing a really decent partnership. Pereira seems a different proposition now after a good run in the side too and that performance against Liverpool. In 18 months people will look at Solskjaer’s options in midfield – those three plus Garner, Gomes and one or two additions – and won’t be laughing anymore.
I have to say that I disagree with Matt Stead on the issue of Fred. While I will always give a new player time to settle into a new team – up to a season can reasonably be written off, depending on the circumstances – I believe that said player still has to show up to some degree during that period. The problem was not that Fred didn’t slot seemlessly into our team, not that he didn’t immediately revolutionise our style of play, not that he didn’t instantly start winning matches on his own; it’s that he was plumbing such depths that “bang average” would have been a remarkable achievement.
I know that I’m not a footballer and how could I really know what it’s like, but I just cannot fathom how a footballer making the kind of transfer that Fred did can affect the most basic of attributes required of a professional. How do unfamiliar surroundings stop a player from being able to make simple passes? How does a lack of confidence prevent players from getting tackled almost every time they get the ball? How does not knowing the language cause a player to forget how to play the game they have literally dedicated their life to?
Nobody was asking or expecting him to have struck up dynamic partnerships with his midfield cohort immediately, or even quickly, given what has been going on at the club. What we were expecting, however, was that a player who was a key component of his former team could at least play better than a Sunday league player.
Sometimes pundits go too far with their critcism, but on this occassion I don’t think that you can really make a case to say that Roy Keane was wrong. Has Fred made United better? No, absolutely not – not by any measure you can think of. Are two half-decent performances enough to make pundits and fans forget what has come before? Again, no. Until there is strong, consistent evidence to indicate that a permanent improvement has been made then I’m afraid he’s just going to have to suffer the criticism. I would be delighted for us all to be proved wrong and for Fred to become a key player for us, but the last two games do not erase a season and a third of utter rubbish.
I must say that I agree with Brian, Wexford, re: Harry Winks.
My brother is a Spurs fan and he ‘really rates’ Winks, saying everything goes through him, blah, blah.
And this seems to be the opinion of others too, saying he can be the answer to England’s midfield for years to come. But for me, I have never seen him ‘do much’. Every game I see him, he just seems to bumble around.
He potters around the centre of the park, laying off pretty simple short balls, which in fairness, most footballers could do. Everything seems to go through him because he is standing in the right place. Maybe that is the point, maybe he is great at standing in the right place, maybe he has amazing positional play?
You never really hear any analysis of him either, he is just an accepted part of the Spurs side. He doesn’t score and he doesn’t assist – I am a little confused. But I suppose if it is a choice between him and Eric Dier, then, well, Winksy it is.
That is also funny, it seems only Spurs fans who are blind to how bad Eric Dier is. I saw him come on against Brighton and literally give the ball away every time he had it. He is just SO bad. How quickly his stock has fallen.
Remember when United wanted to spunk loads of money on him? That was weird. Well, not really, it is Utd, they wanna spunk money on whoever the current player who is ‘trending’.
Anyway, back to Winks, at Anfield on Sunday I only saw him waste time like the rest his teammates. If someone can enlighten me to what he does, that would be great?
Let the referees see it!
I was just reading about the Premier League allowing referees to consult the pitchside monitors “despite meaning longer delays” to the game. Why they’re not doing this already confuses me – surely referees would want to double check their decisions – especially if being told to? What I don’t understand is why this consultation has to lead to further delays – surely just put the replay up on the big screen, let the ref see it again – have a conversation with the VAR and make a decision with better evidence having talked it through? Why does s/he have to run off the pitch and watch this?
I really don’t get why the PL/UEFA etc. (in fact, did I see recently that the Bulgarian FA were fined for showing incidents on the screen?!) are so reluctant for fans in the stadium to see this content – I guess it’s a throwback to hooliganism and treating fans as thugs etc. but surely we’re better than that now? Maybe we’re not, maybe we’re to blame for the whole thing after all.
Mic the refs up, let us hear the conversations with VAR, let them justify their decisions and we’ll get over it. I honestly don’t know why they don’t want people to know this, what purpose does it serve?
Triggered by Tyler and Neville – give me a break!
I had to laugh at John Brannigan’s mail earlier saying he was getting frustrated by Sky’s lack of neutrality.
First of all, Neville’s regularly heaped praise on Liverpool and regularly calls them a brilliant side. Secondly, as a Spurs fan, who do I get to champion Tottenham’s cause? Jamie Carragher is also on the commentary John, being as professional as ever. Was it last season for Liverpool’s winner vs Spurs Carra shouted into the microphone on national TV “GET IN MO SLAH YOU DANCER!” the height of professionalism and lack of bias indeed. Oh lets go to the studio to hear the view of the pundits, what’s that Liverpool legend Graham Souness is there? Oh and Jamie Redknapp? Might as well just finish the job and have Dagleish’s daughter as the presenter instead of Dave Jones.
Oh and one more thing, Phil “Tommo” Thompson is employed by Sky, always a good man for reasonable unbiased debate about Liverpool eh?! Poor Liverpool, they can never catch a break on Sky, eh John.
Bottom 18 just need to take their medicine
Manchester City and Liverpool are just that much better than everyone else. Arsenal, Man. United, and Spurs are doing about as well as should be expected. Everyone calm down and just get on with it, you’re allowed to lose a few games unless you’re one of the top two.
Of VAR and other demons
Is it just me or people have increasingly begun starting their mailbox entries with the phrase ‘is it just me?’.
Is it just me or the VAR solution is a blindingly obvious one i.e. learn from the model that works in another sport i.e. rugby?
Simply put, whatever the decision is, the ref takes both teams’ captains to a side and explains the decision to them in no uncertain terms. The referee would also have a mic and the crowd (and viewers at home) would be able to listen to the explanation, and the same replay that aided the VAR team on the decision be simultaneously played on the big screens.
Mind you, that would still not stop some people whinging, but at least the process would be more transparent.
Shahzad, Arsenal fan stuck in lovely Dublin
A low block is a term to describe when rich teams pack their end and defend.
It’s the same as when teams with little resources and inferior players “park the bus”.
The former was promoted into use by Mourinho, in what I imagine was a way to avoid people using the latter term (which he often threw about) against him.