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!

This Week’s Definition of the Premier League’s Big Five (Gameweek 2)

It’s a late post that describes how the big guys fared in the second MatchDay of the 2017/2018 Premier League season. Scoring 8 goals and conceding 3 among them, I continue from where I stopped last week by reviewing the performances of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United.

Premier League (Gameweek 2)

 

Arsenal: Sloppy and Standing Still

I have chosen to use the words of Steven Gerrard and some other pundit whose name I either missed out on or I’m forgetting to remember. Sounds harsh? Considering the way Xhaka gave the ball away in the build up to the Stoke City goal and how the Gooners failed to convert those chances, maybe not.

The inclusion of Welbeck by Wenger is still a mystery. Playing three at the back (most of which were full backs) is another mystery too. Selling Gabriel to Valencia? I’ll rather not talk about it. Since a defeat in the first game of the season was avoided, I thought it’d probably come later. Now that one L is on the books, hopefully Liverpool won’t rub salt on their injury this coming weekend.

Chelsea: Still a Team to be Feared

In his post-match analysis, Thierry Henry said, “There was something about Chelsea today. We asked them questions, and they answered.” He said this while he was talking about the way David Luiz took the ball off of Wanyama and started off the move that saw Marcos Alonso grab his second of the day.

Yes, there may be some arguments about Tottenham playing on “unfamiliar grounds.” But after losing to Burnley, Antonio Conte seemed to find a way to revamp his side psychologically. While most thought the Burnley loss was the beginning of the end, Conte found his way around and surprised all, me inclusive.

Yes, I expected Spurs to put the final nail in the blue coffin but the champ has refused to die that easily. I’ll pretend I didn’t see that Batshuayi own goal.

Liverpool: Well MANEd

Just like in their game against Hoffenheim where Mane was at the centre of everything that the Reds had going for them, Mane was the centre of attraction in the game against Crystal Palace.

The difference between the two sides was crystal clear as chance after chance fell to names like Firmino, Salah and Sturridge. Maybe they should have been more clinical than they were but they weren’t wasteful.

Yes, before I forget, there’s the argument that they’re missing Coutinho. Maybe in the game against Watford but not against Benteke and co. Mane proved Liverpool are more than just Coutinho.

 

Manchester City: Great but can be Better

Right after the game against Everton, I mentioned something about how Pep Guardiola’s side and Manchester United were the most deadly sides in the Premier League. And one reason why City appears on the list is this: the number of chances they create in games is mind blowing.

See the number of shots? The last time I saw Manchester City this rampant was they played FC Barcelona and Luis Enrique quipped, “City pressed us to the stands.

For the most part of the game, City dominated but were wasteful – a problem that just won’t go away. The Kyle Walker red seemed to wake the sleeping giant as they played like a side on fire. Sterling, Bernardo Silva and De Bruyne were all amazing.

Yes, they survived the first home game of the 2017/2018 Premier League season with a draw. But some other teams won’t balk like Everton did when they come visiting. They will make Pep pay for making that wrong selection.

Manchester United: On the Rampage

Eight goals in the first two games is not a number to overlook. When you consider the fact that Mourinho’s side have not conceded any goals this season, those numbers carry even more weight.

While the Swans were able to keep the Red Devils at bay for the most part of the first half, they weren’t able to complete the job. One way or the other, Man. Utd managed to score 4 goals on the day – 3 inside the final 10 minutes of the game.

Leicester City must be wondering how to stop them from scoring because this Red Devil is one on a rampage!

 

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 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.

This Week’s Definition of the Premier League’s Big Five

With all the frenzy that the transfer market brought with it this season and the many moves we saw before the season began, it was hard to not anticipate the new Premier League. With banters going on before, player comparisons here and there, you could smell the excitement from miles away.

Add to that the fact that football fans had literally endured – well, let’s just say I’m speaking for myself here – the summer break, then you’ll fully understand the frenzy that gripped most social media channels on Friday as the kick-off between Arsenal and Leicester drew nigh.

A new Premier League season is upon us

10 games, 31 goals and three days later, the football world is still trying to recover from an “Opening Day Experience” like no other the Premier League has ever experienced. From the first class treat at the Emirates to debut goals littering the weekend and of course, the Chelsea loss, it was a season opener to remember.

While fans around the world are already looking forward to Gameweek 2 – and I’m already dreading those international breaks – I introduce to you the first of a series you can look forward to seeing on this blog at the end of every Gameweek.

This Week’s Definition of the Premier League’s Big Five will focus on the weekly performances of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United.

I would have increased the number of teams to focus on especially with a name like Tottenham begging to become the sixth team. But the keyword there is big. Is Tottenham a side big enough to be ranked alongside those clubs listed above? You can resist the temptation to talk about Liverpool and just let me know what you think by leaving me a comment.

After the opening day of the new Premier League season, how did the PL’s Big 5 fare?

Giroud celebrates winner against Leicester City. Phot credit: Telegraph

  1. Arsenal: Game Chasers (Changers too!)

Arsenal and Leicester played the first game of the 2017/2018 Premier League. And they put on quite the show.  7-goal thriller proved again to me the current Arsenal side has not changed much from last season and here’s why.

Typical of Arsenal is the habit of conceding the game’s first goal and then using all that genius and creativity in the squad to chase the game. First, they had to make sure that the scores going into the dressing room at half-time was even.

Then in the second half, they picked up from where they stopped in the first, conceding first, then giving Arsenal fans the usual “high blood pressure treat” before going on to win the game 4-3. Arsenal’s struggle to defend set pieces was pretty evident but more obvious was the impact of the substitutes depth of the Arsenal squad.

Kudos to the Gunners for turning the game around – the banters were already lurking in the corner – but imagine if all that genius was used to dictate the pace of the game instead of having to chase the game the whole 90 minutes.

Premier League MatchDay 1 results

  1. Chelsea: Beaten

In a way, the word “beaten” in football is relative. A team could be thrashed 6-0 while another can lose a game by just a lone goal.

Antonio Conte’s men started the defense of their Premier League title by first conceding 3 first half goals, having two players sent off – Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas – and then practically chasing the game the whole second half. It was a mixed display, even for a neutral like me.

But, in all fairness to both teams, the Chelsea side seemed set up for a defeat, especially with their toothless striker up front and the very weak bench Conte named on the day. The absence of Matic was hugely felt and you begin to wonder how they’ll cope against Tottenham in their next game.

The argument that most of Conte’s regulars were either injured or suspended holds water, in a way. But there’s no denying the obvious: zero points, a goal difference of -1 and a trip to Tottenham’s new home to face a rival that will be SPURred on by the opportunity to make life even more miserable for Chelsea.

Salah celebrates scoring against Watford

  1. Liverpool: Bruised

For all the fuss about Liverpool’s fast and dangerous frontline, you would have been right to see Marcus Silva start his reign as Watford coach with a loss. But, as Premier League fans had found out in the #ARSLEI game the day before, the football gods in charge of the Premier League kind of changed their script writers.

Team Watford started like a team on fire, exhibiting that strange trait that saw Hull beat some top sides last term. Names like Okaka, Amrabat and Doucoure made life difficult for Henderson, Emre Can and Moreno. They dominated the midfield and weren’t afraid to bully the Reds in the entire first half. Did I mention Chalobah?

Klopp’s pep talk during the half time break worked like magic as Liverpool turned the tables around. Salah and Mane woke up from their slumber in time to put Liverpool in front – Firmino was still AWOL at the time – for the most part of the second half… until a lack of a “proper defender” saw them concede a 95th minute goal and share the spoils.

Lessons learnt? Coutinho was sorely missed and a very fine defender is needed. Bruised but unscathed, I look forward to the coming games and how Klopp’s army will cope.

  1. Manchester City: Strange

It’s like the start of last season all over again. Manchester City faithfuls were treated to yet another surprise team set-up and the very strange way the Cityzens played against newly promoted Brighton and Hove Albion.

Pep’s 3-5-2 formation was unmistakable from the blast of the ref’s whistle. I guess it was the one formation that could comfortably accommodate both of his South American strikers. But it meant they had to play through the middle, a path Brighton had already crammed full of players, players whose roles were hard to define.

Sometimes they were four players at the back. At other times, there were six, all moving in a form of synchronization that will make the Chinese army jealous. It was a water-tight defense system set up by a coach who seemed to want to catch Pep’s men on the counter.

But a Sergio Aguero goal and an own goal was enough to separate both sides. City won the game but left most football fans wondering how many versions of Guardiola’s team will be seen this season.

Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku celebrate against West Ham

  1. Manchester United: Dominant

I was aware of the project that Jose Mourinho was looking to show off to the world with his moves for Romelu Lukaku and Matic. His team needed reinforcements and reinforce it he did. The unknown was how his team will fare, especially after losing to Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup.

So, you can understand the surprise of many – even Manchester United faithfuls – when Lukaku grabbed two goals, Matic put on a Man-of-the-Match show which gave Pogba the freedom to roam forward and wreck havoc and Marcus Rashford put on quite the performance.

The West Ham players were overwhelmed by the 7-star performance of Mourinho’s men. Simply put, they stood no chance. And that was because every department of the Manchester United team was functioning so well.

It’s only Gameweek 1 and, like the general consensus states, it’s too early to make any calls. That being said, it was a season-opening weekend that won’t be forgotten in a hurry. And now, we can’t wait for the next Gameweek.

 

 

[BANTER] 6 Talking Points From the Opening Weekend of the Premier League

Banter is a supple term used to describe activities or a chat that is playful, intelligent and original. It is one of the key ingredients for communication amongst rival fans. We all love some good banter, don’t we?

Fantastic Banter

Fantastic Banter

However, just like it is much more pleasurable to give than to receive and not forgetting that givers never lack, I’ve applied same when it comes to banter. One sure thing is that everybody gets a turn and in this article, I take a look at some of those “talking points” from the weekend:

1. Wenger Out?
It can be argued that if the Arsenal team put in the same effort the Arsenal supporters put in during their #WengerOut campaigns, they’d win the league every year. Seven minutes was the time it took from Jamie Vardy’s first and Leicester’s second goal of the night to get #WengerOut trending on twitter barely just 30 minutes to the start of the new season.

After an extraordinary comeback (Arsenal being very good at comebacks don’t mean much), the #WengerOut band would have been delighted again with their manager (except Piers Morgan).

In what could be “their year”, the Arsenal supporters would be happy to finish in the top four, I really mean to win the FA cup and move on.
2. Liverpool Can’t Defend Corners
History merchants couldn’t do the job away at Watford in a display that typifies the club. They conceded after eight minutes from a Stefano Okaka header and conceded the equalizer in added time via a corner.

With the focus being Phil Coutinho’s transfer request, it seems that Liverpool are in need of a Van Dijk (no apologies). Saido Mane says ‘we’ll work harder’ and I’ll say maybe, just maybe next year.

Premier League MatchDay 1 results

Premier League MatchDay 1 results

3. Conte Kante
That would be my answer if you asked me if Antonio Conte could lead Chelsea to a defense of their League title. And with a thin squad and European commitments this season it seems like Chelsea might not enjoy this season.

 

A 2-3 loss to Burnley FC in which captain Gary Cahill and midfielder Cesc Fabregas were given their marching orders and Twitter striker Michy Batshuayi had no impact in the game and was substituted for 70m summer signing Alvaro Morata who immediately helped Chelsea at least finish with some dignity ensured the season started on the right note for Chelsea’s rivals.

With Hazard still not due from injury and suspensions to Cahill, Fabregas and a trip to Tottenham next, one would wonder how much weight Conte would lose.

4. It was just Brighton and Hove Albion
Former Arsenal fans, – sorry I mean Man City fans – shouldn’t get too excited as nobody expected the world’s third most-expensive defense to be breached by Brighton and Hove Albion. It would have been utterly ridiculous and Pep would have been called a fraud. There was nothing to laugh about in their dominant display and maybe the next match against Everton could bring some joy.

5. Mr. Dele
Bantering Tottenham is usually difficult. Not because they are quite exceptional, but you’d have to find their fans first and then get them to speak about any trophy they have won or nearly won or maybe a match day DVD would do then.

On the opening weekend, the verdict is banter postponed, many thanks in part to Jonjo Shelvey as he had to get himself sent off. Dele Alli delivered the first goal after getting on the end of a Christian Eriksen cross in a combination we will see many times this season.

Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku celebrate against West Ham

Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku celebrate against West Ham.

6. Anti-Mourinho United Display
After all summer signings scored on their debuts one would think Romelu Lukaku would feel some pressure. But there was nothing like that as he debuted in red with a brace. In what can be described as an exciting display by Manchester United, fellow new boy Nemaja Matic was equally impressive as Paul Pogba shone against West Ham in a 4-0 victory.

It seemed like an uncharacteristic pattern for Mourinho’s United charges – United under Mourinho have never won 4-0 in the Premier League and the last time they scored four was against Leicester City 4-1 at home last season. There would be plenty of time to laugh and call Pogba a “dabbing Mulumbu” but this week’s banter has been postponed.

Author

Awolope Kolawole

Arsenal 4-3 Leicester City: Premier League Back With a Bang!

Boom!

The Premier League is back and boy what a start! 85 seconds into the game and we were reminded why the beautiful game of football excites us. The entertaining opener reminds fans all over the world what the PL is about as substitutes Aaron Ramsey and Oliver Giroud seal an exciting come back.

Record signing Alexandre Lacazette put Arsenal ahead just 85 seconds into the game in a start they woul have wanted before Shinji Okazaki levelled things with a header and a Jamie Vardy brace on both sides of half time kept Arsenal second best after Danny Welbeck levelled things on the stroke of half time.

Giroud celebrates winner against Leicester City. Phot credit: Telegraph

However, a double change by Arsene Wenger saw Arsenal emerge victorious after Ramsey and super-sub Giroud banged in a header that hit the bar and bounced into the net five minutes left of normal time.

“We conceded three goals, yes but we scored four goals as well and the game was of quality”

“Overall we could say we were punished on every single mistake by a Leicester team who were very efficient going forward” said Wenger.

The result spared Arsenal a fourth consecutive defeat in five seasons and saw the gunners record a victory for the first time in eight years in the opening fixture of the EPL.

It took only 23 minutes for the ‘Wenger Out’ band to find their voice and 30 minutes to get it trending on twitter as Vardy gave Leicester the lead making Arsenal supporters seriously doubt this was their year.

Lacazette didn’t disappoint on what was his competitive debut at the emirates deftly glancing a header from an Elneny first time cross past Kasper Schmeichel into the net before enjoying the acclaim from the crowd at the Emirates with his arms spread wide.

Three minutes later, the mood was dampened as Okazaki leapt to nod home after a deep cross from Marc Albrighton was headed across goal by Harry Maguire in what looked like a well perfected routine from training.

Schemichel made saves from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and debutant Sead Kolasinac as they stepped things up in search of a goal to get the advantage but it was their carelessness in possession that helped Leicester go in front before the half hour.

A sloppy pass from Granit Xhaka was picked up by Albrighton who continued down the left flank to bend in a sublime cross for Vardy to meet with a rousing finish. They almost had a third after Okazaki’s header from a Christian Fuchs’s cross bounced just wide of the left hand of Cech’s post/

However, Arsenal were to level things up after Daniel Welbeck tapped in from a Kolasinac’s square pass after Lacazette’s shot was blocked. Leicester must have had it coming though as Wilfred Ndidi only just survived a penalty shout for handball.

Arsenal began the second half the better team but their inability to effectively deal with set pieces again saw Vardy complete a brace from an in-swinging corner from the right in a moment when Xhaka was punished for ball watching.

Schmeichel again looked to keep things as they were after denying Oxlade-Chamberlain and Bellerin before Wenger sought inspiration from the bench in the 67th minute bring in Ramsey and Giroud in place of Elneny and Rob Holding.

It seemed very likely Wenger took a gamble as Arsenal were left with Chamberlain at right back, Bellerin aat left back and left backs Kolasinac and Nacho Monreal in central defence.

However the move paid off as Ramsey controlled a Xhaka pass to drill in a shot that took Arsenal level and 2 minutes later, Giroud’s header from Xhaka’s corner completed the turnaround in a sweet fashion as the header hit the post before bouncing over the line.

Manager Craig Shakespeare concluded “we are not going to be too downhearted” after he admitted disappointment at scoring three and coming away with a defeat.

 

Author: Awolope Kolawole

Football This Past Week: The Notes…

The fever that grips every football fan when he/she wakes up on a Friday morning is one of joy, like that of an animal freed from its cage, a man liberated, from the horrors of the conventional 8-5.

I, on my part, get Goosebumps, like a man going on his first date. My love for football isn’t mutual, it is an obsession. And just like that, the liberation I felt this past Friday was immense, smacking my lips at the action that awaited football purists over the next few weeks. This was the start point of that action.

However, if there is anything we purists do, we are more of critics just as we appreciate our football and this weekend’s action brought about a few points worthy of note round the world…

  • THE REAL BATTLE IS IN BETWEEN. 

In England, all hands are on deck. As of three weeks ago, Chelsea were sleepwalking to the Premier League title. It was a foregone conclusion; the only battle was at the bottom.

That was before Sam Allardyce and Mamadou Sakho intervened.

The Blues have since lost two of their last three games while Spurs have kept up their winning streak. It was unimaginable that we would reach this stage in the league. But they brought it upon themselves.

The Blues were nowhere near their usual dominant selves in those defeats and while Sakho and Herrera put in man-of-the-match performances, Ngolo Kante and David Luiz had their performances and roles brought into question.

Spurs, on the other hand, continue to march on, and the joy in the white half of North London is in deep contrast to the emotions in the red half of the city. Mauricio Pochettino’s men have looked imperious, certain and played with a swagger and brute unlike the cowardly, uncertain and aimless football Wenger’s boys have served up since the turn of the spring.

They look like ‘WENGER’s INVINCINBLES’ right now and not the ‘INVISIBLES’ receiving instructions from the Frenchman. The desire, passion, joy and willingness to die for the shirt is there.

As for the Gunners? Not so much. For the first time, in Wenger’s time at the Emirates, Arsenal may not make the Champions league. Not because of anything, but rather because their rivals aren’t dropping points. Liverpool showed fight to down West Brom at the Hawthorns, completing the double against a team they traditionally struggle against.

Vincent Kompany showed why he is still the best centre back in the league, commandeering City and giving them the assuredness and confidence the defence has lacked in his absence.

At the other end, Sam Allardyce continued his resurgence of Palace with a draw, while Swansea are in real danger of been cut adrift at the bottom.

Only a meagre nine points separate eleventh from eighteenth, and while there is still hope, teams must look to win the war and not the battle. The attitude needed for both isn’t the same.

 

  • THE CLASICO? WE HAVE A RELEGATION FIGHT IN LA LIGA… AND IT GETS BETTER. 

If there is anygame I always mark on my calendar first once the fixture lists are released, it’s the clasico. However, while many are talking about the fact that Neymar will miss Spain’s ‘biggest game,’ it is infact at the bottom that the biggest games are taking place.

Granada and Osasuna are especially fighting for their lives. Granada’s attempt at a new approach backfired dramatically against Celta where the players did more of dancing than playing, just like their interim coach while Leganes, despite showing fight and spirit still lost to Espanyol.

The Catalans are locked in a desperate battle with the two Basque outfits as well as Villareal for a place in Europe and while the top two are well ahead of the others, a photo finish isn’t out of the picture either.

 

  •  INTER AND MILAN HAVE ONE PROBLEM: THEMSELVES. 

The Nerazurri and the Rossoneri are currently two underachieving teams. And while on Saturday they served up a fascinating game, it brought back memories of why both sides are being left behind by the two Roman sides, Juventus and Napoli.

The manner in which Inter threw away a two-goal lead was baffling and astonishing. They left a position where they could have easily seen out the game and put themselves in deep trouble. Worse still, they conceded the equalizer with the last kick of the game.

A side that lacks that mental fortitude should be nowhere near Europe’s elite. Many did praise Milan for the comeback, but it was only due to their rivals weakness that brought them back in the game. They were passive for long periods and relied heavily on the influence of Gerard Deulofeu and Suso to keep them in the game. They are miles behind Lazio, let alone the top three.

The problem at Inter is mental and psychological, in Milan? Cluelessness

 

  • THE CAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE & CONFEDERATIONS CUP NEW FORMAT CAN BE WORKED ON.

It’s the first time 16 teams will participate in the CAF club competitions. However, it may be better they increase it to 32 from next year. Only diehard fans of African football have followed the qualifiers and while the group stage action doesn’t start till May, it can be restructured.

The coefficients system can be readjusted. It’s sad if we cannot see fascinating football from a larger pool of teams. The two club competitions have lost top teams in this qualification stage due to reasons varying amongst themselves.

Bidvest Wits are one of them, Enugu Rangers another. Smouha and Zesco will only be playing in the CAF Confederations Cup. It is time we have teams that would of a surety reach the group stage than have a three-tier tedious qualification system. This can be facilitated by using national team coefficients, which could even see an increase in the competition at international level.

Take South Africa for instance. They have one of the best leagues in Africa; the last three South African representatives in CAF club competitions have reached the semi finals at least.

Achievements like that can be rewarded with three or four slots the following season. That’s enough motivation, one that would spur other countries on.

African football has stayed in the shadows long enough. Issa Hayatou’s heralded exit would be meaningless if changes aren’t visible from 2018 onward

What a Weekend! Profligacy, ConSIXtency and a League on Fire

Courtesy Bleacher

From the NPFL, to the Premier League, the weekend served up too much to describe in one line or sentence. So, maybe I’d be justified if this post were without a title.

But that would mean that you the reader will be going in blind if you eventually choose to read a title-less (or vaguely-titled) post. So, I dug deep within and came up with that title.

The international break is upon us. The highly dreaded break that rids a football fan of all the excitement that club football offers. But the different clubs in Europe put on fabulous displays to leave us wondering what April will look like when club football returns.
So, while you’re preparing to miss action from club football, how about a review of what went down over the past weekend?

1. The NPFL is on Fire!

Things are heating up in Nigeria’s Premier football league. While the reigning champs are desperate to repeat the surprise by a certain Leicester, some other clubs have taken the bull by its horns, and they’re trying to create space between themselves and whatever club that may want to join the chasing pack.

Chasing pack or not? MFM climbed up to second after their win over Plateau United.

One such club turning heads in the country with their amazing performances week in week out is MFM FC. I tell you first hand: The league has not seen so much talent inside one football club… in a very long time!

I may sound like I’ve just sugar-coated how exciting the Olukoya boys have been. But, dis one no be seresere o, this ones fear no foe!

A breakdown

And this was evident in their beautiful performance against league leaders, Plateau United. Before the game, it was the table-topping Jos-based side up against the third-placed Lasgidi side. By the time the ref – who is a clergyman – called time on the game, MFM FC had beaten their opponents… and moved up to second on the log.

Names like Onuwa, Sikiru Olatunbosun, Odey were repeatedly on the commentators’ lips. And, why not?

The man of the moment, Stephen Odey.

Onuwa mesmerized, Sikiru dragged his opposing player – sometimes players – mercilessly and continuously. Odey? The league’s top goalscorer took his tally to 10 goals in 10 games.
Now you understand why the NPFL is on fire. Olukoya’s boys are too busy setting new standards for the league. If you can take a quick peek at the table above, you’ll see them topping the away table. There aren’t far from the summit of the Home table too!

If they continue like this, maybe they’ll be travelling to see the Pyramids of Egypt next year no thanks to finishing top or second on the table this season.

2. Super Sunday

Or should I say Super Weekend? Lukaku, Arsene Wenger, Jose Mourinho and others all made it another Premier League weekend to not to forget in a long while.

You would have thought that Man. Utd would find life difficult without their star man, Zlatan Ibrahomovic. But players like Rashford and Mata and co stepped up to the plate and helped Manchester United out of their conSIXtent spot.

United also got some help from West Brom and Everton who both connived to cause a mild earthquake at the top of the table which sent Arsenal tumbling down the table.

Chelsea seem to have won the Premier League title. That’s the word on the street. Another win at Stoke put them in full control of their destiny. Spurs kept up the chase with a win over the Saints – who painfully lost Gabbiadini (somebody check that spelling) to groin injury.

What of City and Liverpool? While analysing the game on the Premier League show on The Beat 97.9 FM, I anticipated the clash and spoke of City’s danger trio: Sterling, Aguero and Sane.

While all three were guilty of profligacy, – Lallana, Milner and Firmino too – the game did not fail to live up to expectations. End-to-end stuff, shots on target and expectably, controversies.

3. The Leaders and the Chasing Pack

From Juventus to Bayern Munich to Celtic, some things just don’t change. I heard Celtic are on a 36-game unbeaten run and may be crowned champs in the first week of April. SMH?

The La Liga is still wide open – between just two teams – but things seem as good as done and dusted with in Italy’s Serie A and the German Bundesliga. I’m not sure if this is good for football or maybe it isn’t. You decide.

Time to stop here and see if I can scribble something about the connection between the recent schedule reshuffling in the Premier League and the ‘Early Pull Out‘ of some players.

I’ve never been a fan of international friendlies and the likes. But then again, it is what it is and we have to live with it. So, enjoy watching your favourite players strut their stuff in their national colours. Or better still, go for the Formula 1 which kicks off this weekend in Australia.

About Author

Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst on The Beat FM 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

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

Thoughts on the First Set of Premier League Games in 2017

Arrrggghhhhhh: Alexis Sanchez is seen expreesing his frustration during Arsenal's 3-3 draw against Bournemouth

Arrrggghhhhhh: Alex’s Sanchez is seen expreesing his frustration during Arsenal’s 3-3 draw against Bournemouth

January kicked off in grand style. While it’s safe to say the race for the title has started, there was quite the drama on display in the first Premier League games of the year. Some teams did a good job in starting the season on a high while some others stuttered even though it may not mean much if they can bounce back from the points already dropped.

In this piece, we’ll be looking at the various talking points and goals that made those Youtube highlights worth watching.

 

Watford v Tottenham – 1-4 (Jan 1): Two English sensations turned up to give us quite a show. Going into the game, there really wasn’t any doubt considering how both teams have fared this season . Pochettino got the team sheet right this time, making four changes, something that is always hard to do to an already set side. Dele Alli is always a joy to watch especially when he hits top gear and in my opinion, Kane is becoming too good for Spurs (I could be wrong but it’ll be fun to see how his career grows).

Spurs resting in fourth and leapfrogging Man. City, is only a forecast of the things to come over the second half of the chase to the Premier League title. Watford, on the other hand, need a lot of work to be done. You kind of get the feeling that their fairytale season is slowly coming to an end. They may not relegate but then again, they’re much trouble anymore, unlike the Watford that was a year ago.

 

Arsenal v Crystal Palace – 2- 0 (Jan 1): Yet another North London side doing what was expected of them, with Olivier scoring a potential goal of the season and the wonderkid Iwobi getting on the score sheet. The Gunners started quite well as they hope to get their title-winning hunt back on track. Still 9 points behind league leaders Chelsea, it’ll be a thing of joy to actually see how Wenger and his army can overturn that and get something off a season that has been full of surprises.

I still tip Arsenal to go far this season; a second/third placed finish probably, but it’ll be more fun if they can get in the mix and at least get Conte’s men to eat a little bit of their heart. Palace on the other hand, well their woes just keeps on getting compounded and honestly I doubt if the “ Big Sam to the rescue” method would work this season else, they just might be joining Swansea in the bottom mix.

 

WestBrom v Hull City – 3-1 (Jan 2): Lol, not the scoreline I expected, even though I expected the win. But it must be said, Tony Pulis and the Baggies have sprung a few surprises this season. Although it’s too soon to say they are turning their season around but, if that is what they’re up to, way to go! Even though they started slow in the game against Hull City, even even letting Hull take the lead, it was nice seeing a few tweaks and tricks and then the rain of the goals (that’s their second consecutive comeback victory).

Seeing them in eighth and the way they’re playing, maybe an European spot is not as far as we think again, provided they can keep this momentum. But then, the reality check is: The Premier League is harsh and you can never tell. You just might be riding high only to crash hard. Hull City really need a to get a grip, a brightly powered team is really draining, I gave them no chance at the beginning of the season, but when I saw them unlocking defenses and doing things, I felt they were here to pull another Leicester on. But with Phelan now sacked, maybe they need to start planning for football under new management, something that could go either ways (see Swansea and that American coach, can’t remember his name).

 

Sunderland vs Liverpool —- 2-2( Jan 2): Okay, this one had me turning my phone up, down, sideways just to see if I was not reading the wrong scorline. This is not what you would expect from a title contender. Surely some points will be dropped but then again you have to be wary of when you drop it.. As mentioned earlier, the Premier League is harsh, but notwithstanding, certain teams are meant to be chew out and spit out other teams.

I must confess, at some point seeing Liverpool playing ding dong with Sunderland was really annoying. On the bright side, it was great to see Sturridge getting his groove back. That being said, if Klopp has any plans of getting to the top, he has to first find a solution to the back 5 (keeper + 4 defenders). The middle pack looks okay but sometimes I blame the men from Anfield for lack of concentration. Sometimes I feel the problem with Liverpool is the confidence in knowing that they can score when they want and how much they want.

As for the black cats, oh well, Moyes has really surprised me so far. I actually felt that by now, he would be out of the job. But he’s done a good job feeding Defoe from the fountain of youth and even though he has been given very little to work with he has made a decent turn around at the Stadium of Light.

 

Joyous Pep: Pep Guardiola seen celebrating

Joyous Pep: Pep Guardiola seen celebrating

Manchester City vs. Burnley —- 2-1 (Jan 2):  Wasn’t able to see the game, just the highlights and the first question that popped was, “Dear Pep, what were you thinking with that lineup?” For the Spaniard, it has been a strange run of few games happening in fewer days than normal. And maybe that’s why Pep decided to rest certain players. But then again, there some times when you dare not rest certain players, no matter the log of fixtures lying in wait for you.

As for the Fernandinho part of the story, maybe it’s time he’s let off the hook by City. He is becoming a menace to a coach for whom one of his top priorities is fair play. City with all that money can easily find their way into the mart ang get a decent replacement for him. City are gradually losing touch with the leaders and if they are not careful, they just might be out of the title race, considering the steady improvement of their next door neighbours.

Well Burnley did well and they deserved at least a point from the Etihad, but then again that’s football, if you don’t score, you can’t win and they had a lot of chances begging to be buried. Well it was nice seeing a rare Clichy goal. I’ve always liked the lad.

 

Everton v Southhampton —– 3-0 (Jan 2): An inspiring one man show from Enner Valencia and a joy to watch. Truth be told, this game was a pain to watch until Valencia came on. Everton have been disappointing this season, looking at the table, considering how this season has been and how fun it has been to watch, you would think they’d be in the top 5 or 6 mix by now (they ain’t far behind but still not expecting them to be keeping West Brom at bay either).

But then again, giving that a host of other teams have been disappointing this season, maybe the Everton case is understandable. I feel Koeman still has a lot of decisions to make considering team selections and he needs to be rash sometimes as a lot of folks need to be benched while a lot need to go.

The Dutch man has been too merciful and that has cost him very dearly this season.  Southampton on the other hand, is another team that hasn’t been much of a joy to watch. Even though they started this season brightly, it seems as if their light has just faded away. Maybe Dirk and Redmond have been the few who have been exceptional others are not just in tune this season. Both teams need to get a grip least dey get dragged further down.

 

Boro vs Leicester – 0-0 (Jan 2): The dullest game in this article save for the last 10 minutes. There’s actually not much to say on this one… so I’ll just move on.

West Ham vs Manchester United – 0-2 (Jan. 2 ): Probably the most controversial match of the season so far as regards refereeing calls, officiating, and tempers flaring . I felt the game would have been much more interesting for Hammers if Feghouli hadn’t been sent off inside 15 minutes, a sending off that caused West Ham to lose touch and balance in the game.

Mike Dean has been in the headlines for the wrong reasons this season, and the FA really has to start checking and rechecking all the officiating officers. Some re-orientation has to be done. That kung-fu-like Zlatan’s goal should have stood. But it was great to see United getting back on track, level with Spurs on fifth and one behind Arsenal in 4th.

Maybe it’s safe to say José and his men are back in the mix. Maybe it’s too soon to say but if that’s the plan (to be back in the mix), then they are on the right course. The Hammers on one hand, are another disappointing daddies. Looking back at last season, one won’t be faulted for tipping them as European football contenders this season, but Bilic can’t seem to find the solution to their problems, and time is running out fast.

 

Bournemouth 3-3 Arsenal (Jan 3): One of the games of the season. The Gunners failed to pick up three points when it mattered again and often times it is these games that determine who wins what. Alexis Sanchez’s body language said more than enough, He was disappointed. For 70minutes, the Cherries ran them ragged and gave them a solid run for their money.

This kind of mentality, the one that saw Olivier Giroud slide away like they had just earned three points when he netted the equalizer is not one Champions exhibit, it’s for mediocre. And Arsenal must not think that way. The solution might probably have lying in the opposition dugout as Eddie Howe is doing the unthinkable. Bournemouth have earned their spur against all top teams in their two seasons in the Premier League and it is the never-say-die, bullish, we-can-beat-anybody attitude that has helped them thus far. Anyone who thinks Bournemouth will be relegated needs to think again.

 

Fun time: It was hard to resist the urge to make some fun out of Chelsea after their winning streak came to an end.

Fun time: It was hard to resist the urge to make some fun out of Chelsea after their winning streak came to an end.

Spurs vs Chelsea – 2-0 (Jan 4):  Had a tiny argument with my dad on this one. The old man had facts but I just couldn’t see how Chelsea was going to lose this. 13 and counting, it seemed like a sure 14th for me. I’d even predicted a 1-3 scoreline, but alas, I had to eat my words. I have watched the game twice and streamed highlights off youtube, trying to see what went wrong.

They (Chelsea), on the day, seemed to have forgotten their scoring boots, as they misplaced passes, and at some point I could have sworn I saw a few moments when they ran out of steam. Although insignificant, the loss is bitter to swallow and they have got to pick up and dust themselves. They’re still on top as regards who will win this year’s Premier League title as they’ve done well so far this season.

But if they lose the next game, (it’s a bad thing to lose when you’re on an amazing run of form) then maybe the Blues faithful can start worrying. Kudos to Mauricio who got things right. Walker and Rose were wonderful marking out Alonso and Moses. Eriksen was a beauty to behold, with all those mathematically-calculated passes and dare I mention Alli.

This spurs team have been impressive for the 3rd year running, and it’s high time they begin to be recognized as title contenders. It’ll be fun to see how they see out the rest of this season. But I tip them to be around for a while.

 

About Author

Bamgboye Ayodele, is a freelance writer who writes for ForTheGoals. You can catch up with him on twitter Lord_obote.