#1. Middlesbrough get their first win in 8 Premiership games
Before Saturdays win over Bournemouth, Middlesbrough had failed to win a game in the Premiership for 69 days, while the home supporters had yet to see a victory in the Premiership this season. However a wonder goal from Gaston Ramirez, and a clean sheet for Boro ticked all the right boxes on Saturday afternoon.
The game against Bournemouth was Aitor Karanka’s 150th in charge of Middlesbrough. Despite the good work Karanka has put in getting Middlesbrough back to the Premiership, there had been some murmurs of discontent with the recent run of form Middlesbrough had found themselves in. So a win against the Cherries was desperately needed, and the goal that set them on their way was the perfect tonic for the Middlesbrough fans.
Gaston Ramirez finally showed signs of his potential with a stunning goal. The Uruguayan forward dispossessed Bournemouth deep into Boro’s half then sprinted a good 80 yards before turning Andrew Surman inside-out and side-footing past Artur Boruc six minutes before half-time. It was a goal that many who were at the game, will talk about seeing it live for long to come.
Ramírez’s time in England has been hit and miss, taking in mixed spells at Southampton and Hull, but he has found his place on Teesside and Karanka sees a player brimming with belief and capable of great moments. Karanka was keen to point this out post-match as well:
“It was no surprise for me. The main thing is he feels confident. When he is confident, he is an amazing player. I wanted him here last season and I said how important he is for this team. It is not a coincidence.”
There is plenty to admire about Middlesbrough’s play in terms of effort, commitment and attitude but, prior to this match, they had struggled in front of goal with only seven goals in nine top-flight matches. Ramirez and Stuart Downing each scored for the first time this term, while the lively Adama Traore, who was denied a first-half penalty, was a constant threat with his pace and powerful running.
The main drawback for Boro from their first home win of the campaign will be the form of striker Negredo, who has not scored since the opening day of the season. The Spaniard cannot be faulted for his work-rate but, when through on goal in the second half, he struck a tame shot which was easily saved.
However, they scored two in a game for the first time since playing Sunderland on the 21st August, their only other win of the season. If they are to avoid dropping down to the Championship, Karanka knows games like this are must-wins, and Ramirez’s solo stunner did the trick.
#2. Jose Mourinho has a Premiership problem
If you look at the Manchester United vs Burnley game in isolation, you would say it was just a bad day at the office for the Reds. 37 shots on goal, the most for United since Opta started recording records back in 2004. United hit the cross bar and post, and former red Tom Heaton had perhaps the game of his life. At one point making a save that has drawn comparisons with ex-United great Peter Schmeichel. United were also dreadfully unlucky to lose Ander Herrera for a second yellow, and had at least 2 penalty shouts turned down.
However in the grand scheme of things this is another terrible result in the Premiership, in a string of them. Burnley had never claimed a point at Old Trafford before Saturday, in the Premiership, and this result means that United have now only won 1 Premier League game in 7, and are now 8 points behind Man City, Liverpool, and Arsenal.
Mourinho, who was sent to the stands after half-time following an argument with referee Mark Clattenburg, will be left scratching his head at how United did not win this game 6 or 7-0. His team could not have done any more, but scoring is becoming a real problem for the reds, as this was the third Premier League game in a row without United scoring. Certainly this is no longer a coincidence and is now becoming a problem. Central to that problem is the form of striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic had more shots – 12 – than any other player against the Clarets but his fruitless run in front of goal continued. Nothing summed up his current form more than the late chance he spurned when Paul Pogba found him unmarked at the back post, but he failed to find the target with the goal gaping.
The 35-year-old Swede has had more shots than any other Premier League player this season, with 57 in 10 games, but he has not scored in this competition in six games since his goal against Manchester City on 10 September, his worst run since his time with Inter Milan in 2007.
He has managed a goal in the Europa League but his record in all competitions is not much better, with just one goal in his last 10 games. The correlation between his form and United’s is surely not a coincidence. The time may have come for Mourinho to drop Ibrahimovic, and give Marcus Rashford a run up front, as United looked a lot livelier after moving Rashford up front in the second half.
Jose Mourinho has issues with player from, his team not scoring, an unsettled formation, and not knowing his best XI. He doesn’t have the time to resolve this, with a run of 6 games coming up in the Premiership, that could dictate where United end the season. Unless Mourinho has a fix for these issues, it may be a long season for United fans, again!
#3. Manchester City end winless run.
Before this game, Manchester City had not won a game in their last 6 matches in all competitions. A winless run that stretched back to the 24th September, a 3-1 win over Swansea, was ended conclusively with an emphatic win over West Brom. Sergio Aguero and Ilkay Gundogan each scored twice as City won their first game in October and ended a run of three straight defeats away from home.
Manchester City needed to end their six-game winless streak to regain confidence, manager Pep Guardiola admitted after the 4-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.
Guardiola said City had been playing well during their poor run of results, but conceded it was a relief to secure the three points to keep his side on top of the Premier League.
“After six games without winning we needed that for the head. The problem when you don’t win a game or lose a game is not the three points, it’s that you miss a little bit of confidence for the next one. And that’s happened in that period because we played quite well but of course when you don’t win your argument about how many good things you did sounds like excuses. When you win you are right and when you don’t win you look for excuses, which is why it is so important to win the game.”
It is probably no coincidence that City’s winless run, also coincided with Aguero ending his own baron run of 6 games without a goal. There had been rumours of a fall out with Guardiola, following the surprising decision to drop him from the Champions League tie with Barcelona. However post-match Guardiola was at pains to point out how important Aguero is to Man City:
“Sergio is a special player, I would like to convince him how important he is for us. We need him, we need him a lot, and when he is in that behaviour, he is hungry, in that moment he is decisive. He is part of the story of this club and we want to help him to be bigger and bigger and part of this fantastic club.”
While most of the praise was reserved for Aguero, Gundogan’s 2 goals were both well taken. The 26-year-old Germany midfielder was excellent throughout, and his first-time finish for City’s fourth capped his best performance since joining from Borussia Dortmund this summer.
Guardiola ended the worst run of his managerial career, with this win, and he lead his players at full time in applauding the away fans. He must be hoping for more of this City, as they face Barcelona on Tuesday.
#4. Tottenham slip up in the league again
When Tottenham beat Manchester City at the start of October, there was a feeling around White Hart Lane that this could be the year for Spurs to make a significant title challenge. The stylish performance, that ended City’s unbeaten run, was cause for confidence as they went within point of leaders City. Ultimately that was the last time Tottenham would win any game in all competitions in October, as the draw with Leicester made it the third Premiership game in a row they have drawn, and a winless run of 5 games in all competitions.
Vincent Janssen gave the hosts the lead at White Hart Lane, scoring his first Premier League goal from the penalty spot after Robert Huth had felled the striker. Spurs twice hit the crossbar, Dele Alli in the first half and Jan Vertonghen after the break. However Leicester deserved their point, and put in a spirted performance.
Ahmed Musa levelled early in the second half and Ranieri celebrated a first away point of the season and a performance much more impressive than the 3-0 capitulation at Chelsea a fortnight before.
Tottenham have been having issues with absent players, as they were without influential defender Toby Alderweireld, and midfielder Eric Lamela, both key players in their form up to the City game. However the biggest absentee in this game was clearly Harry Kane. Spurs are not the same side in the final third without the England international’s dynamism and ruthlessness as the lone striker.
It was difficult not to wonder what Kane, sidelined since September with an ankle injury, would have done with Christian Eriksen’s cross at the near post two yards from goal after Janssen mistimed his shot and swept the ball across the face of the goal. Kane could be available for the North London derby next weekend, and you would expect that Pochettino will be tempted to throw Kane into the game to end Spurs winless league run.
#5. Blue Sunday for Chelsea
Chelsea took themselves to 1 point off the top of the league, with a comprehensive 2-0 victory over a good Southampton side at St Marys. The victory was Chelsea’s forth in a row, and the first time they had achieved this feat in the league since April 2015, the last time they won the league.
Both Chelsea goals came from their 2 inform players, who have long banished the poor form from last season, Eden Hazard, and Diego Costa. Hazard only managed 4 goals last season, but with his 6th minute strike, he took his tally for this season to 5 goals. Hazard found himself in the area, turned Steven Davis on the byline and from a tight angle drove a low shot through Fraser Forster’s legs. A goal of real class.
Costa also showed his class, with a brilliant curling strike from outside the area. The striker dropped deep and picked the ball up about 25 yards out and curled home a stunning effort into the far corner.
Since Chelsea were outclassed by Arsenal 3-0, and switching to a back 3 they have taken maximum points and kept 4 clean sheets. With 11 goals scored at the other end. Antonio Conte also appears to have implemented the sort of defending for which his country is famous, as an organised Chelsea denied Southampton’s players any space in or around the penalty area and closed them down with aggression throughout.
These kind of performances are also being put in without captain John Terry. Terry an unused substitute, can only look on as Chelsea put in a title challenge without him. Terry who is most likely in his last season at Stamford Bridge, will be delighted that his team are now capable of challenging for the Premier League title.
Sir Alex Ferguson names Chelsea as 1 of his 5 title contenders, and with form like this, he may end up being right. With Chelsea’s big names in fine form, and only the league and FA Cup to concentrate on this season, Antonio Conte’s men will have a big say in where the Premier League title ends up this season.
by Rich Lee @RichLee2202