This Week’s Definition of the Premier League’s Big Five (Gameweek 3)

The Premier League

Another weekend of Premier League action has now come and gone. The world’s most-watched league is 3-games old and its table is gradually taking shape. Some will try to counter and say it’s still early days. That’s true but then again, there’s something about the early birds, right?

No, I’m not picking favorites to win the league just yet. After all, “nine points after three matches is nothing different… because we did that last season,” a famous manager said over the weekend.

With the Premier League set to take the backseat for international football and the grand finale of the long summer transfer window, I present to you this week’s edition of the definition. I will be taking a closer look at how the big teams in England fared, probably suggest encouragements for the superb ones and “medications” for the ailing ones.

Okay. That was just me joking. Let’s get to the meat of this article.

Ozil reacts after Arsenal lose 4-0 to Liverpool.

  1. Arsenal: Disastrous

Seeing my description of the Gooners, you’d think it’s harsh and unforgiving. But when you think of how others used words like “abject,” and “a bunch of schoolboys,” you’d rethink your judgment of my own description.

It was as if the Arsenal players had never seen Liverpool play. It was a shambolic performance by Arsene Wenger’s men. And some fans are looking past players like Ozil, Sanchez and Chamberlain and pointing accusing fingers at the French gaffer, blaming him for the heavy loss.

Why field players whose hearts are already miles away from the Emirates?” one said to me after the game. Names like Alexis Sanchez may be suspect for a poor showing on the day but, what of Hector Bellerin’s miscue that led to the third goal?  And how do you begin to explain not registering a single shot on target in such an important game?

Arsenal failed to attempt a single shot on target against Liverpool

Thierry Henry was right when he said they were “unwatchable.” Moves have to made, and quickly too, or else, the downward spiral may just have begun.

Chelsea vs Everton: The statistics

  1. Chelsea: Comfortable

What else is more comfy than beating your opponents? Maybe outscoring them on the day and making sure they don’t come anywhere near “your yard.”  And that’s what exactly Chelsea did.

In a bid to put the “blues” of losing to Burnley behind them, Antonio Conte’s side scored two first half goals – for security reasons I guess. It was all Chelsea from then on as the Evertonians could only manage three touches in the opposition box before the 85th minute and four in the final five minutes (and injury time).

Oh, there was little case of Morata setting a Premier League record too.

  1. Liverpool: Fast, Furious and Dangerous

Famed for the blistering fast attack that they boast, names like Mane and Salah didn’t hesitate to put Arsenal to the sword when the chance presented itself. In all honesty, I thought Liverpool and its shaky defense would concede at least a goal.

But the reverse was the case as the stats showed. Jurgen Klopp took full advantage of a dysfunctional side and successfully scored 2 in each half. If it was a case of Arsenal being the worse of the two sides is hard to tell.

But, it was Liverpool’s 3 points on the day. And boy did they win it in some style.

Saved by Sterling

  1. Manchester City: Struggling

For a while now, Pep has been accused of overly complicating things at and for Manchester City. Maybe that’s what made him switch to a back four against Bournemouth, playing a four-man midfield behind Gabriel Jesus.

With all the quality they possess, they still struggled to breakdown the Bournemouth defense and needed a 97th-minute Raheem Sterling goal to seal the deal. Maybe Eddie Howe’s side sat in too deep for City’s comfort. Maybe I can blame Man. City’s poor performance on that.

Bu then again, why did De Bruyne have to play so deep? Why can’t Bernardo Silva play 90 minutes? Can Yaya Toure play more often? These are just some of the questions – plus the others I asked on my Instagram page – that makes it obvious Pep Guardiola’s side are struggling.

Apart from killing games off as quickly as possible, the players need to soak up Pep’s philosophy as quickly as possible. Or maybe Pep should just learn to be flexible and switch his style of play.

But we all know Pep won’t change his style of play.

Jose Mourinho is the man.

  1. Manchester United: Marching On

In his post-match conference, Mourinho said, “I think we played well.” In all honesty, it’s hard to tell whether he was playing down the importance of 3 wins on the bounce or he really meant what he said.

The Red Devils put another foot forward in the right direction with a 2-0 win over Leicester. Unlike their last two games, it wasn’t the most glamorous of wins but then again, 3 points is all that matters, right?

Jose Mourinho’s men are being touted as favorites for the 2017/2018 Premier League title already. Why not? After playing 3 games, scoring 10 goals and keeping three clean sheets, it’s hard to argue about their title-winning chances.

There will be no Premier League games this weekend as it’s time for the international break. I’m looking forward to seeing how the Super Eagles of Nigeria and the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon will fare against each other. Hopefully both games will produce good football and I shall be entertained.

Which of the international games are you looking forward to seeing? Leave me a comment and lets get talking!

Manchester City 1-1 Everton: The Review – and Tweets From Rooney Trolling City Fans

  • Wayne Rooney isn’t finished, yet
  • Kyle Walker sees red in his home debut
  • Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines impressed and goalkeeper Ederson failed his first real test
  • Substitute Raheem Sterling provided the equalizer with eight minutes from time

Two goals in the two opening games for Everton this season and Wayne Rooney is casting doubts on the ‘finished’ tag he was associated with in his later years at Manchester United. As he wheeled away in excitement after putting the ball between Keeper Ederson’s legs and into the net, Rooney celebrated his 200th goal in the Premier League.

Familiar Ground: Wayne Rooney celebrates scoring against Manchester City. Photo credit: Rex Features

Interestingly, his 50th, 150th and now 200th goal were all against the same side.  The goal made him just the second player to score 200 EPL goals, the other being Alan Shearer with 260 goals to his name.

Referee Bobby Madley added controversy to the game as he issued two red cards in what could be called questionable decisions. The first of went to Kyle Walker who on his home debut was adjudged to have fouled Mason Holgate. The second red of the night went to Morgan Schneiderlin for what looked like a second bookable challenge on Sergio Aguero.

This left the Everton coach, Ronald Koeman, implying that the referee was trying to even things up with the second red card of the night against Morgan Schneiderlin. “I was in a better position for the second yellow of Walker and he played the ball. But away at City, sending off a player of City and you know what the referee will do then” the Everton manager said.

Pep was seen in a heated discussion with fourth official Michael Oliver at half-time as City trailed. At the restart, City controlled the game in a manner they were expected to. But they just couldn’t find a breakthrough as the Toffee back four was resilient, with Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines starring.

This coupled with the fact that the home side wasn’t as clinical as they should have been almost added up to make the Cityzens lose their first home game of the 2017/2018 Premier League season.

But Raheem Sterling’s equalizer came in the 82nd minute as he pounced on Holgate’s weak defensive header to rifle a shot into the bottom corner. For all the City push for a winner, it was not to be as Everton held firm for the draw.

The result means the unwanted record continues for Guardiola as he has never beaten Everton since becoming the City manager.

Of course, there was time for some banter after the game.

Author

Awolope Kolawole. You can follow him on twitter @Kopainzy.

There is Something Mysterious About the 2016/2017 Premier League Season

Enigma!

Enigma!

The Premier League, on any good day, is an interesting league, one of the most exciting (if not the most exciting one). One moment, you know what’s coming. The next, you’re left in awe of what just happened.

The Premier League is majorly a standout league for one reason: any club in the league, size and league table position regardless, can come visiting and steal 3 points from right under your nose, sometimes effortlessly, sometimes with the last kick of the game.

This, and not the famous English Fourth Estate (they play their part too) is what makes the league notoriously exciting. But the 2016/2017 season has been different.

No, I’m not talking about that 5000/1 kind of different. I’m talking about the 6th-position-for-months, Conte-nious-table-topping-performances, Pep-ppered-on-all-sides-by-Everton-and-Bravo kind of different.

Chelsea’s rise, Pep’s choice of Bravo despite those dangerously negative statiatics, Arsenal’s ‘upandan‘ season, Spurs, the Leicester blow-up, to mention but a few, have been mysterious and unexplainable!

There’s “almost” been more than enough excitement this season (enigma too!). Every week and matchday seems to have it’s own special surprise for all and sundry.

And in this article, I’ll be focusing on this week’s episode of mysteries served up by a mysterious season.

1. KARMA

It is believed that the world is run by a set of people, that keep the world in balance to prevent her from shutting down. For every good, there must be a bad, For every bad? A good. Its what keeps the world okay. It may seem a farce but, it is a reality which Jose Mourinho must come to terms with.

The 54-year old stormed out of his post-match TV interview apparently disgusted at the result, but it was one which had his own blueprint. Hull sat deep, refused to be bullied and had answers to all the questions United asked of them.

It was a classic Mourinho print, one reminiscent of his Inter days. He shouldn’t have been angry. He was simply being paid with his own kind of coin. His team had done the same earlier this season at Anfield.

Often times, snatching a win could be the sweetest thing in football but you being the victim? Leaves scars. However, it wasn’t the case here. Maybe Mourinho should applaud Hull’s resilience and be proud of them than putting up hypocritical behavior.

Mysterious Record: Welcome to a weird Premier League season

Mysterious Record: Welcome to a weird Premier League season

Have I mentioned the 6th place mystery? It’s been so enigmatic that I’ll just let this infographic emphasize how deep this mystery is.

 

Pep's Strongest Manchester City side yet?

Pep’s Strongest Manchester City side yet?

2. SANE, WILLY & JESUS, Guardiola’s Saviour

It doesn’t come everyday, the chance to say how much a goalkeeper saved Pep Guardiola on a Matchday. It’s usually the Spaniard’s frontment wrecking all the havoc and breaking down barriers.

But in recent times, just like a wardrobe malfunction, a “goalkeeping malfunction” has not saved Pep. It has made him look surprisingly terrible. Don’t get me wrong. The tacts have been fine.

Jesus comes from Brazil, gets a goal, an assist, runs away with the Man of The Match award and comfortably fills in the shoes left by Kun Aguero’s absence – all on his first Premier League start.

Sane’s trickery, run-ins, innovation and youth makes Man. City look alive again! I mean, Sterling is being greatly helped by the young German.

So, It’s obvious the Pep Tacts are intact. But no team can hide, for long, the pain of a bad (actually, terrible’s the word) goalkeeper.
And the Philosopher had been suffering this pain for some time. So, he decides to take a pill to alleviate his pain by replacing Claudio Bravo with Willy Caballero. The result?

Manchester City beat West Ham 0-4! No goals were conceded. Mysterious treatment of that “goalkeeping headache.”


3. THEIR OWN WORST ENEMY

Man is often said to be his own worst enemy. The architect of his downfall. And Arsenal are edging towards that spectrum.

Disastrous decision making in the stands courtesy Arsene Wenger, moments of naivety courtesy the Arsenal defence and a twirl of fate all combined to perfection against Watford. They lost the game

Being Arsenal, a loss to Watford may not entirely be a mystery. But, isn’t the mystery of CONSISTENTLY losing the “title ambitions” steam around this time of the year mysterious enough?

Season after season, the story has been the same: September to November, an Arsenal side that’ll kill all in sight. From Santa’s arrival, to his departure and the first month of the new year inclusive, you have an Arsenal side that just can’t help themselves from caving in.

They often play as if they are scared to win and while they have scored the most late goals this season, they must realize fortune will only favour the brave. It won’t hurt if they grow more cajones and played like champions. They already have the core!


4. ThE OTHER MYSTERIES

Chelsea fans have to forgive me for adding your beloved club to this list, instead of making it a point on it’s own.

Well, it seems no one else is interested in catching up. Since that unbeaten run, the only thing that can be a mystery is Chelsea losing. I’ve adjusted to this “type” of Chelsea. Nothing new to see – erm, can I mention that mysterious David Luiz goal?

Mysteriously, Liverpool were able to slow down that Chelsea train whose next stop sems to be the Premier League title. Mane is back. As such, the poor run of form should stop now.

Peter Crouch is still a prolific scorer. Scoring 100 Premier League goals is a mystery because not many made it that far. But Crouch did and celebrated the feat with his famous Robot Celebration.

Leicester’s season has been so confusing. It’s like the force of overcoming a 5000/1 odds is still with them, but this time, in a negative form.

The relegation cloud is hovering dangerously and that, my friends, is a mystery for a club that is the reigning champ.
Did I omit any other “mysteries”? Do you have some of yours? Please let me know by leaving a comment below. I’d love to talk football with you. 😉
About Author

Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav

Manchester City 2 – Arsenal 1: Wenger’s First Half vs Guardiola’s Second Half

Offside?: Video replays show Leroy Sane in an offside position just before he scores the equalizer for Manchester City. (Photo Credit: Whatsapp)

Offside?: Video replays show Leroy Sane in an offside position just before he scores the equalizer for Manchester City. (Photo Credit: Whatsapp)

Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City squared off against Wenger’s Arsenal in another English Premier League Matchday. Both teams were part of the chasing pack trying desperately to stop (or at least catch up with) Conte’s locomotive.

While it wasn’t sure what to expect from the game, as both teams had contrasting recent forms, it was sure to be a cracker no thanks to the points at stake.

On one hand, there was a certain Manchester City side desperate to return to the days of going several games unbeaten. On the other hand, the clubside from London, who even though had just come off a loss at Everton, wanted to make sure names they kept up pace with the league leaders.

The game ended with Man. City winning the game by a 2-1 scoreline. But as with all games, this one had it’s own storyline. And that’s what you’re about to read in this article.

Arsenal’s First Half

This was the half Arsenal ran the Cityzens ragged. By the fourth minute of the game, the Gunners were already up by a goal thanks to a sleeping City defense and an alert Arsenal forward line who noticed it and took advantage.

In this half, Arsenal enjoyed quite a nunber of things, namely:

A Poor Zabaleta

Zabaleta was a pain to watch for most City faithfuls in the first half of the game. His runs (forward and back) were mostly mis-timed while he did little next to nothing to provide wide support for Man. City’s ‘strikerless’ formation.

He was constantly caught off-guard and wasn’t alert enough to work towards stopping the first goal City conceded. Describing him as a liability to Man. City and a blessing to Arsenal during the first 45 wouldn’t be exaggerating in any way.

Sanchez

After the half, Man. City seemed to boss Arsenal in all areas as regards stats (except the goal of course). But one man was a glimmer of hope for Arsenal throughout the half (and the entire game).

Sanchez is his name and he was the closest to exciting that the Gunners had on offer on the day. Alexis kept chasing after every ball sight and refused to remain passive like Ozil and co.

Most times he got frustrated by how deep the Arsenal players preferred to play, instead of coming out to attack. His enthusiasm was one of the many highlights of the first half of the game (asides the goal and Sterling’s empty-goal-mouth chance that was missed).

Complaints Box?

Complaints Box?: Arsenal fan goes on a rage after dismal performance by Gunners.


Note
:

If I may add, please forget Giroud if you’re a Gunner. Alexis Sanchez is Arsenal’s best hope for a striker.

A Disjointed City

‘A house divided against itself…,” the wise book says. This was another highlight of Arsenal’s 1st half. Even before they conceded that goal, Pep’s men looked at odds with each other.

Yes by halftime they were leading as regards goal attempts and possession and passes completed. But, they only had one shot on target, and were playing like a team at war… with itself! Arsenal took advantage and took a lead into the break.

Manchester City’s Second Half

– The Tactical Change

It was nothing serious. Zabaleta was removed and Sagna was brought on. But it felt like as if a complete overhaul had taken place! 4 minutes into the second half, Leroy Sane scored the equalizer for Man. City.

For the next 15 minutes or thereabout after that goal, Arsenal would go on to feel the full force of a Pep-Guardiola-led side. It was tiki taka as like in the days of old (Hello Barça!)

The Gunners were starved of ball possession and all they were suddenly good at was chasing the ball, unsuccessfully. Few minutes later, they were chasing both ball possession and the game itself, thanks to a goal from Sterling.

It’s not sure what was at work: whether it was Pep’s ‘Pep Talk’ (pun intended) or the deleting of Zabaleta. But either ways, something happened to the Cityzens in the dressing room. And they came out a transformed side.

STATICstics: #Weird

STATICstics: #Weird

Arsenal Played Strangely

Take nothing away from the landlords of the Etihad Stadium. Their 2nd half performance was great. But Arsenal’s strange display made things even easier for the Cityzens.

Arsenal played poorly, without passion and seemed to be more interested in defending, rather than attacking. As mentioned earlier, Sanchez was left to do most of the chasing while the others preferred to wait for the Man. City players to come and have a go at them.

And names like Silva and Yaya and Sterling and KdB certainly enjoyed doing that.

Kevin de Bruyne’s ‘Pass of the Season’

Just before this pass, Man. City players had been struggling with getting the ball into the opposition box successfully. Most times they tried, they failed, woefully.

Then came de Bruyne’s magic:

“Kevin de Bruyne, while stationed on the halfway-line, receives a throw-on, chests it down, and hits one of the best passes you are likely to see all season. An inch-perfect cross-field diagonal pass which stays low and begs Raheem Sterling to run onto it down the right flank. Sterling controls it, drifts into the box, before cutting in on his favoured left foot and squeezing a low shot past Petr Cech’s near post.”

For some, it may just be another EPL game that has come and gone.

But, with City finally beating another ‘Top Four’ team and Arsenal playing ‘as usual‘ whenever Santa’s in town, the chase is on!

<strong>About Author</strong>

Rotimi Daramola is a freelance writer, football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter <a href=”http://twitter.com/rotdav”&gt;@rotdav</a> and on <a href=”https://ng.linkedin.com/in/rotimi-daramola-5b4374a2″>LinkedIn</a&gt;

There’s Something About Pep Guardiola and Second Legs…

“There’s something about Pep Guardiola and second legs…”

Another Class Act in the City: Pep Guardiola reacts from the touchline during his side's 3-1 win over Barcelona. (Photo credits: Mirror.co.uk)

Another Class Act in the City: Pep Guardiola reacts from the touchline during his side’s 3-1 win over Barcelona. (Photo credits: Mirror.co.uk)

… and I’m not saying this because he just “beat the best team in the world.” In all honesty, the Philosopher oozes some kind of intellectual intelligence that kind of gives him an edge over all of his counterparts.

The ones who think Pep was made by Messi and co. will most likely argue with me on this one. “There’s nothing special about a coach who had one of the best of all time play, score and rip other teams apart for him,” they’ll say.

And just maybe they’re right. It’ll take another generation to surpass what Guardiola and Messi did to European and World football in general. And, during the time, while Guardiola was busy shattering all kinds of record, it seemed as if Messi was the middleman between the trophy and Pep. One was handing down trophies to the other.

But history has shown, that it takes a manager with intelligence to manage such an intelligent player like Messi. T. Martino and the previous coaches of the Argentine national team will testify to this. Yes, Messi is a football god! But you need to be another god to manage a god, to know how a god operates, how the god functions.

Conclusion? Maybe Pep was lucky enough to have players like Messi play for him. But it was his best chance to show to the world how good a manager he is. And the world hasn’t recovered from the awe of his managerial abilities. Now, whether you agree with the above argument or not is a personal thing. But the obvious has been stated.

Coming over to Manchester City and shaking things up so fast was a dangerous move for a club competing on all fronts. But Pep is just Pep. “That style of football is the only power I have,” he once said in a post-match interview, after being asked about changing his team’s pattern of play.

Finally! A win over Barcelona... and a night to remember. (Photo credits: Skysports.com)

Finally! A win over Barcelona… and a night to remember. (Photo credits: Skysports.com)

Playing against Barcelona was some sort of baptism of fire for him. To catch a monkey, you have to act like one, the saying goes. But this Catalonian monkey had always outsmarted him everytime he clashed with it. And why not? He had personally trained this monkey. He had taught the monkey most of what it knows. And now, the monkey had become a deadly machine that had its former trainer in its sights.

The first leg ended in a four nil drubbing. It wasn’t a surprise. “That was expected,” most said (myself inclusive). Man. City weren’t exactly outplayed on the night. But they were forced into making errors, a specialty of Barcelona.

I wasn’t expecting much from the second leg. I mean, what’s there to expect after a four nil loss in the first leg and then conceding the first goal of the second? But, as has always been, there’s something about Pep Guardiola and second legs. I think it’s one of the attributes that sets the Philosopher apart.

He knows how to make his team perform better in the return leg. While this is expected of any good football club manager, Pep has an obvious way of pulling his off. He wins in a kind of way that reads: I’VE DONE MY ASSIGNMENT. HERE’S WHERE WE GOT THINGS WRONG THE FIRST TIME. NOW, WE’LL FIX IT AND WIN.

During the pre-match interview of the second leg, Guardiola had talked about how Barcelona force opposing teams into making errors then take advantage of the situations. He had witnessed that strategy first-hand in their first leg clash. He must have been trying to avoid a repeat, being the philosopher that he is.

Are You Seeing What I'm Seeing?: Pep Guardiola passes instructions to his boys from the touchline during Manchester City's 3-1 win over Barcelona. (Photo credits: Mirror.co.uk)

Are You Seeing What I’m Seeing?: Pep Guardiola passes instructions to his boys from the touchline during Manchester City’s 3-1 win over Barcelona. (Photo credits: Mirror.co.uk)

So he decided to beat the grandmasters at their own game by forcing them into making errors too. This involved high-pressing and committing a lot of players going forward, leaving his team vulnerable at the back. Of course they conceded the first goal of the game but ended up winning by a 3-1 scoreline.

It’s hard to score 3 against Barcelona. It’s even harder to score those 3 goals after you’ve conceded the game’s first via the golden left foot of Lionel Messi. Trying to comeback from a goal down by going all out with your players is probably a suicide mission. And one of the hardest things to pull off against Barcelona.

But Pep Guardiola pulled that one stunt off and gave Man. City a first-ever win over the Catalan giants. He said, “Now they will realise that they have beaten the best team. Future generations will see that and know they have to do that again. That is a process.”

This win will be a major boost for the Cityzens. Now they’ll remember what exactly they’re capable of, the kind of firepower in their arsenal. After that winless run, one of the most important results in the history of Manchester City has happened. And it’s all because of Pep and his love for second legs.

Celtic and Borussia Moenchengladbach, be very afraid!

About Author
Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav

Barcelona vs Manchester City: How Will What Has Happened Affect What Will Happen?

image

'Em good old days

In all of the games to be played on the third Matchday of the 2016/2017 UEFA Champions League, I can’t see any other bigger than the Barcelona vs Manchester City clash. And it’s not hard to see the so many reasons why.

Pep Guardiola is returning to his roots, the one place it all started. Where the trophies piled up and records after records tumbled over each other. He’s paying the beast he created a visit. Camp Nou is the destination. And he’s taking his new (latest) project along with him.

Of course, it’s easy to call the bluff of this one game (not easy for a fan like me though). Afterall it’ll be tiki-taka vs tiki-taka, gengen pressing vs the same, high backline vs high backline. So why all the hype? It’ll just be a classic case of who can perform the routine better. Pffftt!

But that’s exactly what makes this Champions League game the one to watch, The One That Must Not Be Missed!

Barcelona, on the one hand, have had their own fair share of ups and downs in the La Liga this season. Some stunning results. Some amazing displays. And some surprising scorelines (Hello Celta!). But in all, they have consistently proved one thing: how deadly they are. How deadly they can be.

I experienced, first hand this season, some of the raw power that this Catalan beast possesses. It was an away game at Leganes, a Saturday mid-day kick off. Leganes flew off the blocks and threw it all at Barcelona! For the first quarter or so, Suarez, Neymar and co. were on the back foot. They seemed rattled, but they coped.

The first half ended with three goals, all scored by Barcelona. I was shocked. “That escalated quickly,” I said to myself. Yes I expected a beating. But with the way the newly-promoted side played early in the game, I didn’t expect it to come so quickly! The game ended 1-5 in favour of You-Know-Who.

I can almost hear you say, “It was only Leganes.” And I quickly agree. But this Leganes is a side with very fast players, all lacking just one thing: goal scoring techniques. It’s the kind of team that’ll make others drop points after 90 minutes. So, how did they end up losing by such a wide margin?

* The MSN Connect.
* A certain Lionel Messi.
* A show-boating Neymar.
* A be-in-the-right-place-at-the-right-time Luis Suarez.
* A different kind of back four.

And with every game, the above-stated reasons grow stronger as seen in their display against Deportivo La Coruna over the weekend. So much to think about for Pep and his Citizens who have been described to be in some sort of crisis.

Judging by Guardiola’s standards, going three games without a win is crisis. A DLD form is not good news. And now, the dreaded visit to Spain. But it’s not all gloom for Man. City is it?

Actually, no. It’s hard to answer that question in the negative with that kind of form staring you in the face. But it’s the truth. And, like I did with Barca, I’ll use one of Man. City’s recent games to point out some of their strengths. Their game against Everton seems to be the perfect pick simply because they were the better team on the day, but still didn’t win.

It was Manchester City from beginning to the end (well, except for the part where Lukaku scored for Everton via a counterattack). It was a rampant Man. City against a well-organized, compact Everton. While De Bruyne and Sane and Sterling and Silva were doing all the playing, Everton was doing all the defending.

City needed Nolito who came off the bech to score for them, after missing two penalties. It was the tale of a team that was ‘Dominant, But Unlucky.’  What then is there to learn from a draw?

* Kevin De Bruyne is a secret weapon.
* Guardiola has an arsenal of weapons at his disposal.
* John Stones is a BETA version of Gerard Pique.
* A Silver Silva.
* Number of chances created.

The Philosopher has started a project in Manchester. So far so good, things are looking up. First on the log ain’t bad, at all.

I’ve discussed Barcelona and I’ve discussed Manchester City, albeit separately. Time to pitch them against each other. Move over boring Liverpool vs Manchester United game! Here’s what you can expect to see in the Barcelona vs Manchester City game:

– Neymar Will Definitely Showboat: It’s becoming a norm in his games these days. And it won’t be a surprise to see him nutmeg a certain Sagna/Zabaleta or give Otamendi a handful of headaches.

P.S: Note to Pep
A recipe for disaster will be to ask Otamendi to take care of Neymar. We both know how clumsy Nico can be. John Stones (that cool-headed lad) will be a more preferable option. That’s if you don’t mind of course.

– The Kevin de Bruyne-X Factor: Pep must have done something to the kid. He seems to have new tricks up his sleeves. He tends to work extra hard too. Players like Pique and Matthieu better be wary.

– Barcelona’s Fragile Backline: I know I’ve made a strong case for the Catalans’ defense. Attack is still the best form of defense. But the way they imploded against Celta Vigo should be a huge boost for Man. City. Then there’s the goalkeeper ish. We dunno which goalkeeper will show up: the really good one or the awkward one?

– The Pep Guardiola Factor: Let’s take a moment to reflect on the words of Everton manager, Ronald Koeman. “They (Manchester City) are the best team in my managerial career that I’ve played against.” With the kind of squad at his disposal, Guardiola can pull more than one rabbit from his hat. He’s that flexible. Hard to predict. That’s something in City’s favour, right?

– Messi the Mesmerizer and Suarez the Biter Fighter: It’s increasingly becoming hard to come up with anything to say about this 8th (or/and 9th) wonder of the world. The word MESSi, in all its literal sense, should be on display. Suarez will most definitely trouble the waters. May be a hat trick. May be a red card. May be a dive in the box. Another racial stunt? Who knows?

– Aguero and ‘Kompany’: After so many words, word play is allowed right? It’s not sure who will get the nod to play and who won’t. Of course e sure for some names. Players who have been STERLING will definitely get the nod over others. Why not? Pep will want to field his best.

So who will win?

Not sure. It all smells Barcelona from here. But with football, everything is crazy. But I can sense there’ll be goals. A handful of ’em. City aren’t the most disciplined side at the back. They seem to love conceding goals. And MSN will be happy to rattle their onion bag once or twice.

It’s not far-fetched to say Manchester City can score too. The only game they’ve failed to score in under Pep Guardiola, is the one against Tottenham.

Papi’s Predictions:
* Both Teams To Score
* Over 2.5 Goals

What do you think? What? You think it’ll end in a bore draw? A Barca win? City win? Let me know what you think. Please leave a comment in the comments section. I’d like to hear from you.

Like a famous man once said, please join me in saying this short prayer:

“Dear god of football, we thank thee, for this sumptuous meal of football we’re about to be served.”

About Author
Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav

Thank Goodness! Club Football Is Back!

There’s something about international football and boredom. They seem to go hand-in-hand. Of course, I may not be speaking for all. Matter of fact, I could be speaking from a point of view that’s wearing a coloured pair of glasses.

Games like the one between Zambia and Nigeria, the Ivory Coast vs Mali game, Venezuela vs Brazil, Colombia against Uruguay amongst others, prove that just maybe, my ‘boredom’ assumption is a wrong one. The above-listed games were amazing, fiery and full of end-to-end action; a football lover’s dream come true.

So maybe international breaks aren’t so terrible after all. But, why do we all dread them? How is that most can’t wait for the end of these breaks to get back to seeing their favourite football clubs in action?

That being said, plenty of club football action is upon us this weekend. For the sake of this post, I’ll be focusing more on the English Premier League.

You’re already forgiven if you, like the rest, had jumped into the conclusion that the league title is headed for either the Mancunian sides or either one of Liverpool or Chelsea. With their market actions, I made the same conclusions too, long before the seadon kicked off.

But after watching Tottenham run Manchester City ragged a couple of weeks back, I’m beginning to have a rethink. Starting off their EPL campaign with six wins in six, Pep Guardiola’s side had increasingly become favourites to pip others to the league title (as if they weren’t before). That was until Mauricio Pochettino’s men came knocking (actually, the Citizens went visiting).

Spurs played amazingly! It was as if Tottenham were the Guardiola-led side. It was fluid football on full display from the White Hart Lane based side. They over-ran Man. City in all areas. It was overwhelming and Pep’s men only managed to make it through the 90 minutes. In the end, Tottenham remained the unbeaten side yet in the EPL.

And that unbeaten EPL side is gradually becoming a force to reckon with in the race to the league title. In reality though, Tottenham Hotspur have always been ‘title contenders.’ They’re usually the ‘Dark Horses’ of the English Premier League. For a while now, they’ve remained a pain in the a** of the league’s Big Boys; a pain that remains to be relieved.

It took a dreams-come-true Leicester and a resurgent Arsenal to deny them a Premier League title last season, a season wherein they benefited from everybody else paying attention to every other team apart from Tottenham. And, as things stand, that advantage is being well-worked by Mauricio and his men, AND FULLY TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF!

Like they’ve usually done, they’re gradually making their way into the area around the top spot which has gradually become a comfort zone for them. And this unbeaten side is not ready to let go anytime soon, the more reason why I’m expecting another Leicester this season, in the form of Tottenham Hotspur (feel free to counter my opinion or call me crazy).

With that in mind, it’s a good thing the Premier League is back. Cheers to a weekend of good football! (with an eye on Red Monday).

This Week’s Definition Of the EPL’s Big Five

This Premier League weekend had too much to offer in terms of action. It was almost impossible to keep up with actions and reactions the world over. How about the big five?

Arsenal: Vintage
The Arsenal win over Chelsea was the classic case of being run over by the better team on the day. Arsenal simply ran Chelsea over, scored those goals via running faster than the sluggish Blues and ran away with the win. You can now understand how the Gunners scored 3 against a Chelsea side, in 45 minutes.

Special Credit to Mesut Ozil (for losing Kante) and Alexis Sanchez for that third goal. Even more special credit to Mustafi and Koscielny for giving it their all to keep a clean sheet. It was an amazing performance which made Conte look so ordinary and sent Kante disappearing. Speaking of Chelsea…

Chelsea: Sixes and Sevens
The last time I saw a Chelsea defense this confused was against PSG. Any Conte-led side is usually known for their water-tight defense. But this side seemed to let open the floodgates between the 10th and the 15th minutes of the first half.

Looking past Cahill’s gift, how about this for a full comprehension of the disarray in the side:

You’ll be wondering what those three Chelsea players were doing attacking just one player in the upper part of that image. You must also be wondering how Chelsea just caved in dramatically, right? I think I’ve got some suggestions.

One: Maybe it’s because Michael Jackson is now the HNIC, not Antonio Conte.

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Two: Maybe because Chelsea, according to Sky Sports, have lost 38% of their games in which John Terry did not play. Or maybe, according to Ivanovic, it was because the players failed to follow the manager’s instructions. Who knows!

Liverpool: Five Star
It’s been said that a team has to make mistakes or errors before the other can win. But what happens when the opposition is just more than you can handle? We’ll have to know what exactly can be too much for a Premier League side to handle. To do that, let’s see the Match Stats via BBC:

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A 74% ball possession by the other team is already headache enough. You can’t do much without the ball. Add to that 32 shots, (the highest total by any side, in a game, in the Premier League this season), and you can already see the big picture! In addition, according to Mirror, Liverpool created 24 chances during the game. Rampant doesn’t get any better than that!

Manchester City: Unfamiliar
Fans of Manchester City must have had a pretty battle on their hands so far, as regards getting to fully understand their new gaffer and his methods so far. Pep has turned City inside out. And this has rattled all sides they’ve played against so far this season. Except Swansea.

Playing against them midweek seemed to give them this strange courage to go all out against the Cityzens. They were bold enough to come back from conceding an early goal, by scoring one of theirs almost immediately. Guardiola’s men were obviously rattled! They looked forlorn. Even though they eventually won, it may just be the beginning of things to come, with Spurs up next weekend and Kevin de Bruyne picking an injury.

Manchester United: Pogba + 4 In One Half
How else do you silence your critics? Those loud bags who have been running their mouth about your bad patch of form? Well, if you’re Jose Mourinho, you just make one hell of a tactical change to your team. Bench your captain then ask the rest of the team to score 4 unreplied goals, in the first half, against the current league champs.

What if you’re a certain Paul Pogba, who has been called just an expensive Seyi Olofinjana? Whose goals seem to have deserted him? Well, you just bully your way through the opposition’s defense, connect your head with your teammate’s corner kick and score your first English Premier League goal via a header. Then you run off to the corner flag, confused at first, on which celebrations to display, before choosing to just stare down those haters.

Then of course, share a dab with a teammate.

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About Author
Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav

Dear Pep Guardiola, You’ve Started A Constant Battle In This Fan’s Head

You see, there’s this constant battle in my head…

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Since this new English Premier League season kicked off, I’ve had this “secret love affair” with Manchester City.

Not that my admiration for the club doesn’t date back to the ages where I watched names like Stephen Ireland in midfield, Richards in defense, SWP and C. Tevez don the sky blue jersey. No.

I’ve been in love with the Citizens since the first time I was opportuned to fully understand the goings-on in the almighty Premier League. Of course, I have that HITV coup on DSTV to thank.

But Liverpool and Manchester United were all struggling for my attention. At the time, I was seeking an English football club as a second love to my dear AC Milan. The EPL was always in my face. Better to choose one and get it over with.

The “noisy neighbours” caught my attention and I picked interest in them, especially when those Arab Boys with their “Arab Money” *in Puff Daddy’s voice* came to town. Alas! The one team I chose to support started winning stuff, and attracting big names… names like Josep “Pep” Guardiola.

When Pep was announced as new manager of the Cityzens in February 2016, I had mixed feelings. “A legend is coming to a club whose history isn’t as trophy-laden as its cross-town rivals’,” I thought to myself. “What will he bring to this English table?” “And how about Granpa Pellegrini?” I had already taken to this South American and his approach. He was old but he was good.

At this time, my love for this Kompany of Blues residing in Manchester, was at an all-time high. I’d be caught at viewing centres, playing the lone wolf, screaming in support of this Mancunian side. Of course other Nigerians found it weird (this is a norm if you’re a Nigerian and you’re not a fan of either Abrahamovic’s Blues or the Gunners or Chelsea or the Reds or the Red Devils or Barca or Real Madrid. Some Rossoneris & Juve faithfuls still find life hard).

“This has got to be the farthest a man can go, as regards loving a football club,” I thought. But I didn’t know (or expect) what the Philosopher was bringing along with him.

Of course I was well acquainted with his Catalan achievements. I saw a little of his exploits in Germany; the tinkering with formations, player positions and all. But I wasn’t well prepared for what happened after his arrival, even though I knew what he was capable of.

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From his first game-in-charge, it was obvious this one has changed the whole system; turned it upside down! The new kids shone brightly, Tasende and co. The goalkeepers now preferred passing the ball to the nearest man, instead of shooting the ball.

New football season, even more changes. The mesmerizers retained their titles; Silva and Kevin de Bruyne were still as slick as ever. But Fernandinho had stopped being the kind of player Yaya Toure used to be. No bombing foward. He was a full time defensive midfielder now. What?

Aguero was now more terrifying. Sterling came alive again. An aggressive Nolito joined the fray. Joe Hart was all of a sudden the third-choice goalie. Yaya Toure disappeared. Names like Nasri, Mangala, Bony became surplus to requirements.

Obviously Pep was more interested in building his own team. This of course irked my curiousity. His first EPL game against Sunderland almost ended in a disaster. And I remember watching Man. City like I’ve never seen the team play before. ALL THE PLAYERS PLAYED STRANGELY! It was so confusing!

That sense of urgency, familiar with Pellegrini’s side was gone. No more counter-attacks. There were now more short passes and a three-man backline. Yaya and Kompany were ably replaced. But no shots from outside the opponent’s 18-yard box.

Now, this is where the constant battle happens: After watching for a while, a team that has been overly dependent on Yaya Toure and Vincent Kompany, “outside” shots, a poor Sterling, sharp counter, it has been a pleasant surprise, disruptive too, to see how much has changed, and how fast they’ve changed!

It still makes my head swirl, Sterling’s newly-installed positioning system. Though I’m still unfazed by Aguero’s lazy man-marking techniques, Kevin de Bruyne’s new-found technical abilities and Kolarov’s flexibility has been overwhelming! What’s more: Pep’s unpredictability just brings even more surprises every matchday.

You see, there’s this constant battle in my head… a battle between the old Manchester City and this new Manchester City. The old one made me fall deeper in love. This new one has had me curiously finding even better ways to love a football club.

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Pep’s report card, for now, has a 10/10 score on it. He hasn’t even drawn any competitive game so far, not to talk of losing one. He has been that good. And when you’re that good, everybody gets bored fast, and quickly start looking forward to the day you’ll drop points.

I’m looking forward to it too!

But until then, Pep Guardiola has started a battle in my head. And it may take a while before one-side will defeat the other. As for my dear head, well, I’m not so sure. This may be the one battle that’ll deepen my love for Manchester City.

City! City!! Manchester City!!!

About Author
Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav

This Week’s Definition Of the EPL’s Big Five

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It’s not very often that derbies, in any football league, end without a trace of controversy in sight after the game. Well, whatever controversy there could be was quashed by the way Pep Guardiola’s men played the first half and how Jose Mourinho’s army responded in the second.

Even though there were more than enough talking points this weekend (the referees stole the show), yes, I had to start with the biggest game of the weekend. The big one.

Liverpool and both Manchester clubs impressed. Arsenal and Chelsea struggled. Now let’s take an in-depth look at each club’s performnaces over the weekend.

Arsenal: Intensive
I think the saying that, “you play at the level of your opponent,” has an iota of truth in it. Southampton came to the Emirates with a fast game plan. Redmond, Jay Rodriguez and Virgil were the fast guys.

The only way to counter them was simple: Play faster… and intensely! The intensity of the Gunners was needed to cope with the pressure of the Saints and also create something going forward. Even though a 93rd-minute penalty was needed to win the game, the Gunners gave the fans an intense display.

Chelsea: Latecomers
And for the umpteenth time this season, the Blues needed an 80-somethingth minute goal to garner points. Let’s just say it’s becoming a habit for Antonio Conte’s men. Maybe it’s some sort of game plan. Who knows!

Yes, the fans had legitimate cries as regards the officiating of this match and the performance of some of their players. That FERocious kick (okay maybe more glaring than ferocious) on Cahill? The dilemna of a bicycle kick to the head of a defender before a goal? What was Courtois thinking? But I’m sure most of them will be happy they’ve got Cesc Fabregas on whom they can always call on.

Liverpool: Spot On
I’m not sure what it is about this Klopp side but, when they turn the switch on, every other thing must bow. Yep, that’s right. I was expecting a tight game against Leicester. But the Reds had other ideas.

Yes I’ll admit I didn’t see the wide margin coming. Firmino, Lallana did run riot. There was the slight case of Sturridge but it didn’t hurt them too much this time around. Hopefully, they won’t be brought back down to earth by another shock away loss next weekend.

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Manchester City: Tireless
The first half of the Manchester derby was entirely dominated by Guardiola’s men. The domination was so severe that the Red Devils needed a Bravo fumble to score. This domination looked simple on T.V.

But no domination comes just like that. Domination of a game this big involves a whole lot of running, (off and on the ball). And Pep’s men did this so effortlessly.Two men in particular gave the game their all: Kevin de Bruyne and Otamendi. Tireless attacking by the former which won a half, tireless defending by the latter which saved the other half.

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Manchester United: Half-Beaten
While the world showers Guardiola with all the praise for beating Mourinho in yet another derby, a Jose Mourinho commendation is due. How he and his boys managed to survive that first half is still a mystery.

His selection let him down the entire first half and he was bold to make changes that paid off immediately in the second half. Rashford’s introduction swung the game’s pendulum in United’s favour. City may have won the game but, Manchester United won the second half by a large margin, even though they still ended the game pointless. Fair or not?

About Author
Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav and on LinkedIn