#1. Mourinho can’t buy a win in the league; Title challenge over?
When Man United announced that Jose Mourinho would be signing on as manager, the fans all cheered as they had now secured a top manager, a natural born winner.
Add to that the signing of Zlatan, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and the world record signing of Paul Pogba, Utd fans could be excused for thinking they would be right in the mix for this year’s Premier League title. Now over a 3rd of the way through the season, things are not looking as rosy as they would have thought. United currently sit 6th in the league, 11 points off top spot and even 8 points off top 4! Much of this can be out down to United’s recent form, Mourinho it seems cannot buy a league win for love nor money.
The Sunday afternoon draw against West Ham was their 4th draw in a row at home and they haven’t won at home in the league in 9 weeks.
All the problems can be traced back to the home defeat in the Manchester derby on September 10th where United lost 1-2. Prior to that, United had won their first 4 games (if you include the Community Shield), but have only won twice in the 9 games since.
In fact over the last 9 games since the City defeat, United have only scored 12 goals and considering the 2 wins came in a 4-1 and a 3-1 victories, it means only 5 goals were scored in the other 7 games!
More concerning than the 12 goals scored is the 14 goals conceded. This means United have had their worst start to a League season in over 20 years.
Jose Mourinho needs to find his best XI and quickly. The team are actually playing quite well and should have won the last 4 home games. Things will surely click for United if they keep playing like they are, the question is how much ground will be lost by the time they do?
#2. Coutinho injury a problem for Liverpool
Liverpool have had a great start to the season playing some of the most attractive football of all teams in the league. High flying, free scoring and right in the mix at the top of the league things are looking up for Liverpool. However their 2-0 win against Sunderland on the weekend was marred by the Injury to key playmaker Philippe Coutinho.
Couthinho is the only player in the Liverpool side you could argue is World class, up there with some of the best midfield players in the world. His influence on Liverpool is huge and his injury will see him miss between 5 – 6 weeks over a busy Christmas and New Year period.
You can see Coutinho’s quality when compared to some of the other top midfielders in the league. When comparing to Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne, Coutinho more than holds his own.
On average he has more successful passes per game then the other 3 midfielders, and a pass completion % second only to Juan Mata.
In terms of chances created and assists, Coutinho is only 2nd to De Bruyne. Whilst lower than Mata and Hazard in terms of successful take on percentages, he is still in line with De Bruyne. Not bad company to keep.
Liverpool will have to play Everton, Man City, Stoke and Man United in the period Coutinho is predicted to be out for, and this could be a huge problem for Liverpool’s title aspirations.
#3. Leicester, champions to 2 points off relegation
The Leicester City story last season was like a movie plot. The unimaginable happened, and what showed throughout was the team’s togetherness, spirit and hard work. A true team effort, the embodiment of football as a sport.
But as is commonplace, the 2nd album is always much more difficult. This is something Leicester City are finding out the hard way, and really quickly too!
The change in Leicester’s form seems as miraculous as the upturn in form seen last season.
They are currently in 14th place just 2 points off the relegation zone taking just 2 wins in the last 10 games, but 5 losses.
At the same stage last season, Leicester had lost only 1 game, and that was against Arsenal. They had also scored 12 more goals than they have currently and conceded 2 fewer. The fall from grace is quite remarkable.
Largely this can put down to 3 key players. Firstly N’golo Kante leaving the club for Chelsea in the summer has left a huge void in the middle of the park. Secondly the awful season Jamie Vardy has had so far. Vardy has only scored 2 goals in the 13 league games so far this season. At this point last season he had 13 goals in 13 games. Doesn’t take a mathematician to work out those numbers don’t add up.
Finally, much the same as Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, the man linked with mega money deals away from the King Power stadium in the summer has also seen a distinct lack in form. He actually has more goals than Vardy with 3, but after 13 games last season he had 7 goals. He also had higher pass accuracy and a much higher % of duels won at 54% compared to only 38% this season.
Something which confuses the issue even further is the great form they have shown in the Champions League, topping their group and already progressing to the next round.
This could be one of the reasons for the poor league form, but whatever the issue, Claudio Ranieri needs to figure it out quickly, otherwise Leicester could be lumbered with the title of the team that won the league and then got relegated all within 1 year.
#4. Palace lose 5-4, Alan Pardew is in a world of trouble
The game between Swansea and Crystal Palace was a remarkable one for the neutral. Palace took the lead 1-0 in the 19th minute through Wilfred Zaha, but found themselves 3-1 down in the 68th minute, thanks to Leroy Fer’s 2nd of the game. Palace would stage a comeback, culminating in Christian Benteke making it 4-3 in the 84th minute. It seemed as if the visitors would end their five-match losing run in the league, but then up popped substitute Fernando Llorente with two late goals to give Swansea the win 5-4.
In terms of entertainment value, this match gets top marks. But if you look past the score line it was a game that featured truly atrocious defending. Particularly from Palace, with the pressure now mounting on Alan Pardew, he would have been furious that his side conceded 5 goals, especially 2 in the last 3 minutes. Palace defended like amateurs, gave awful free kicks away in dangerous positions, failed to mark at set-pieces and showed a total lack of organisation during crucial phases of the game. The greatest failings were the basic ones.
Pardew is favourite with the bookmakers to be the next Premier League manager to get the chop. What is even more astonishing about this, is Palace were in the FA Cup Final in May, and Pardew had been linked with the England job, following Sam Allardyce’s dismissal.
This is the first time since November 2013 that Palace have lost 6 league games in a row. Pardew also endured a slump with Palace last season when his side had a spell of losing seven games in nine.
Palace have earned 22 points from 32 matches in 2016 – the fewest of any team in the top four divisions in England. However, Pardew must stay positive. He was clearly very disappointed straight after the Swansea game but sometimes as a manager you cannot do anything about a defeat.
He just has to accept what went wrong, keep working hard and hope that, when it comes to stopping set-pieces, the penny will eventually drop for his players.
#5. Chelsea, City & Arsenal all showing real title aspirations, being led by their World-Class frontmen
In order to win the league title, teams have to grind out results and have to show the ability to come back from a losing situation. Both Manchester City and Chelsea found themselves losing 1-0 in their respective games against Burnley and Tottenham on Saturday. However, both teams found themselves winning their games 2-1. While Arsenal found themselves drawing 1-1 with Bournemouth at the Emirates, they fought back to win the game 3-1, also laying down their own title aspirations.
All 3 sides find themselves separated by 3 points and the quality of the players that lead their lines may end up making the difference. Sergio Aguero was able to convert a brace of goals for Man City on Saturday. Aguero is unlikely to score two more scruffy efforts, than the 2 against Burnley
The Argentine’s movement, desire and ability on the ball kept the Burnley defence occupied and he has now scored more than 10 goals in each of his six seasons in the Premier League.
Aguero has now scored against 29 of the 30 different teams that he’s faced in the Premier League, only failing to score against Bolton.
For league leaders Chelsea, there lead man is Diego Costa. While Costa did not score on Saturday, his constant movement up front kept the Spurs defenders on their toes. Diego Costa showed he can fill vital defensive duties for Chelsea in addition to his power up front. The giant Spaniard was a huge influence in the 2-1 win over Tottenham, setting up the winning goal for Victor Moses.
But he also played a key role defending set pieces, winning four towering headers from Spurs corners and also making a clearance. If Chelsea are to win the league, then they’ll need Costa firing on all cylinders.
Alexis Sanchez is Arsenal’s own lead front man, and he chipped in with 2 goals against Bournemouth. Sanchez’s work-rate and threat in front of goal are key to their prospects. He ended a run of four Arsenal games without a goal as he took his league tally to eight for the season. He has taken well to his switch to striker, and much like his other forward men, if Arsenal are to do well in the league this season, they’ll need Sanchez in top form.
By Michael Thatcher and Rich Lee @RichLee2202