#1 Chelsea now bookies favourite for the league

The Premier Leagues early kick off was a huge clash at the top of the table that saw Man City host leaders Chelsea. It was a game that was hotly anticipated and did not disappoint.

Man City took the lead through a Gary Cahill own goal, but it took until the 60th minute for Chelsea to grab the equaliser with hitman Diego Costa once again on target. 10 minutes later, Willian finished off a classic counter attack to put the visitor’s in the lead. The game was complete when Hazard scored in the 90th minute, a huge win for Chelsea who now have breathing space at the top of the league with a 3 point gap between them and Arsenal in 2nd.

2

But it was perhaps the fracas towards the end of the game that stole the headlines with an Aguero horror tackle on David Luiz that saw him sent off along with Fernandinho who has some afters with Cesc Fabregas. Aguero has since been banned for 4 games and Fernandinho a 3 match ban.

For Chelsea however it was a huge statement. It is now 8 league games in a row that Chelsea have won showing real title winning form and aspirations.

All major bookies now have Chelsea as clear favourites for the league title and given the way their playing it’s not hard to see why. Add into the equation that fact that they don’t have European football to ‘distract’ them they are certainly looking good for it.

Chelsea now have a decent run of games coming up facing West Brom, Sunderland, Palace and Bournemouth in the next 4 games which could cap off 2016 in style. If you’re top at Christmas, it puts you in a great position for the business end of the season.

 

#2 Bournemouth V Liverpool – Game of the season contender

The first of Sunday’s games was a clash on the south coast with Bournemouth taking on Liverpool. Going into this game Liverpool were the in-form team not losing in the previous 11 games, it was perhaps a foregone conclusion with 3 points going to Merseyside. And that’s the path the game took with Liverpool going 2-0 up within 22 minutes. A Callum Wilson penalty early in the 2nd half gave Bournemouth a little hope but dreams were shattered just 9 minutes later when Emre Can restoring Liverpool’s 2 goal lead. It was at this point as to the pre match script, were looking comfortable to see the last 20 minutes out.

However Bournemouth to their credit did not give up. They kept their heads and kept plugging away. But on the 76th minute, 2 goals within 2 minutes for Bournemouth sent the crowd ecstatic it seemed Eddie Howe’s men had rescued and unlikely point.

3

But with 5 added minutes, Bournemouth didn’t stop and a goalkeeping blunder from Loris Karius, gifted Nathan Ake with a tap in to claim all 3 points for the Cherries.

It was one of those games you tend to only get in the Premier League, 2 sides separated by a vast number of points and quality, but ultimately the team spirit, hard work and belief shone through for Bournemouth.

Much will be said for Liverpool’s defending, a criticism that keeps coming back when questioning their suitability as title contenders.

Jurgen Klopp said:

“We opened the door and they ran through and scored some wonderful goals. So that’s the deserved result.

“It doesn’t feel too good right now but sometimes we need it. Of course this can help us. No road is without rocks and stones.

“It’s three points, no more. You cannot be champions in December”

It was a real great win for Bournemouth who now sit in 10th place, and is one of those games that will make a Premier League highlight reel for years to come. One things for sure, it will have to take some match to beat this in terms of drama and excitement.

 

#3 Defoe must get an England call up

Jermain Defoe has been one of the Premier Leagues top goal scorers, a man who loves scoring in and around the box regardless of who he has played for. He is in the Premier Leagues 150 goals club and in the top 10 for Premier League all-time top goal scorer.

It does leave new England manager with a decision to be made; should he include Defoe in the next England squad?

4

Whilst playing for Sunderland, a team who up until recently had been in very poor form, Jermain Defoe has still scored the most league goals compared to all the other England strikers this season with 8 goals. Harry Kane is in 2nd place with 7 goals.

He also has the 2nd highest average shots per game so far this season with 2.57 shots per game. Harry Kane is 1st with 3 shots per game.

Defoe also has the 2nd highest shot accuracy at 62%, nearly double that of Leicester’s Jamie Vardy on 33%. Harry Kane once again leads the way at 65%.

The 34 year old Defoe also has the 2nd best successful take on percentage at 53% behind Daniel Sturridge on 71%.

Defoe also is joint 2nd with Jamie Vardy in terms of assists, only Man United and England captain Wayne Rooney has more with 4 this season.

So Jermain Defoe has displayed that whilst playing for a struggling Sunderland side he is still either 1st or 2nd in terms of attacking stats when compared to the other England strikers. If Gareth Southgate needs a proven goal scorer in his next squad selection, he needn’t look any further than Jermain Defoe.

 

#4 Palace finally get a win

Crystal Palace have been nothing short of dreadful this season. In fact they have been poor for all of 2016 which gave the Eagles the unwanted title as the worst in English league football in 2016, picking up the lowest points per game ratio.

Palace went in to the weekend on the back of 6 straight defeats not winning in the league since September 24th.

Palace are in trouble and Alan Pardew’s position looking increasingly under threat. Their best chance of late to pick up 3 points was last weekend when Palace’s shocking defensive display lead to a 5-4 defeat to Swansea. Going into the past weekend therefore put them under a great deal of pressure against a useful Southampton side.

5

But Crystal Palace responded in style with a fantastic 3-0 victory, 2 goals for Christian Benteke, but the score line didn’t tell the full picture.

Southampton had 8 more shots than Palace, created 6 more chances, 20 more crosses and 6% better passing percentage. But ultimately, you need to take your chances and that’s what Palace did.

It was a much needed win for the club and Pardew commented on his appreciation for the backing he’s received from the chairman in such a tough time.

Pardew said:

“I’m pleased for the club and it was important we won today. The discipline was good”

“We have a lot of serious investors at the club who perhaps don’t know a lot about football so the chairman has been defending me this week, so I just wanted to say thanks”

Palace really need to go on a run now as they sit just 3 points above relegation, too close for comfort. But they have a tricky run of gamers coming up with Chelsea, Man United and Arsenal all coming up in their next 5 games. The win will be celebrated knowing that more hard work is yet to come.

 

#5 United top 4 finish looking unlikely

Man United fans must be getting bouts of Déjà vu with the results of late in the league. They seem unable to convert domination of a game into goals. Of the last 10 games, United have drawn 6 and only won twice. The biggest problem for United is in 5 of the 6 draws, they have bossed and dominated both possession and chances created. There’s not much wrong with their performances, they are just not killing the game off, some would say a lack of belief and quality.

But Man United had a very impressive front 6 in the starting XI, similar to that who dispatched West Ham so well in the mid-week EFL cup game, but they still couldn’t score more than 1 in the league. It’s now been a month since United have scored more than 1 in a game in the league.

Man United didn’t play as well against Everton as in recent games, especially in the first half with both teams giving the ball away it was a poor half of football. But Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s lovely chipped goal at the end of the first half was just what United needed, something to build on in the 2nd half.

But this wasn’t to be. As United’s tempo increased, their quality in front of goal didn’t, a 1-0 lead is always precarious in the Premier league.

6

So with the game all but won, Jose Mourinho wanted to consolidate the result and sure up the defence as Everton were chucking long ball forward; on steps Marouane Fellani for his 100th game for Man United. It took only 2 minutes to make an impact, and needless to say, for United, it wasn’t a positive one. His clumsy tackle in the box gave away a late penalty that Leighton Baines expertly dispatched claiming an undeserved point for the Toffee’s.

Much will be said for Mourinho’s substitutions on the weekend, however Fellani’s lack of quality was yet again exposed.

It now means Man United stay in 6th place and are closer in points to the relegation zone then they are to the top of the league. United can forget about the title this season, however their target for top 4 should still have been intact. This draw however has seriously called into question Man United’s ability to finish in the top 4 this season as they are 9 points away from the top 4.

Now history dictates that anything can happen in the Premier league. It also shows that with over half a season to go, 9 points is nothing to turn around, in reality that gap could be shortened with a few weeks. The problem for United is they would need 2 of the top 5 to have a blip, which at the moment is unlikely. Even more unlikely is a winning run United will need to start asserting some muscle in the top 4.

Man United face Spurs next in the league, a game they really need to win. A defeat would pretty much kiss goodbye to the top 4 even at this early stage in the season.

If they can finally take the 3 points however they have a decent run of 5 really winnable games against teams toward the bottom of the table that they will need to win in order to get back amongst the top of the pack. The players need to take responsibility and keep plugging away as each game that gets wasted is one game less to claw some points back, another season out of the Champions League unthinkable at the start of the season.

 

By Michael Thatcher

Advertisements