Kieran Davies steps back from another week of record-breaking, TV appeals, and defensive woes.
Some things you can take as givens during the festive period……….you’ll eat too much, it’s the only time of the year that drinking in the morning is socially acceptable and you will be treated to as bonanza of football. While overpaid players and managers are bemoaning the Christmas period and how often they have to play, for the fans it makes you salivate more than the thought of all that turkey! In all fairness, for in excess of £100k a week, I’d play football all day every day. Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool are playing his ‘heavy metal’ brand of football and their music is giving defences headaches up and down the country. If it weren’t for the fact that their back line has more holes in it than the US Government’s explanation of 9/11 they might actually be giving Pep’s City a run for their money. Well it seems the plumber has quoted £75m to fix the leak, will VDV prove to be the answer to these defensive woes. Throwing away victory at Arsenal in an explosive 3-3 draw, quickly followed by a 5-0 thrashing of Swansea City.
Only a few days lay ahead before the transfer window opens so clubs can look to strengthen their squads. If they are wise they will surely have already pretty much sewn up their business with just announcements to come over the following month. Despite seemingly running away with the league, Pep Guardiola has hinted that he wants to strengthen his table topping side. For a team still left in the Champions League, this makes targets more niche. Ideally, you want to find a player who isn’t cup tied for Europe’s elite competition. This is where Klopp did well in signing Van Dijk although this came at a hefty cost. It’s hard to see where City would need strengthening as they achieved two comfortable wins over the last week without conceding a single goal. Man City have got that winning habit and when you have it, it becomes almost routine. Over on the poor side of Manchester, Jose’s United dropped more points with two draws. Will we see some sort of appeal on TV telling us about the plight of this Portuguese man who only has £300m to spend in a transfer window and how for only £3 per month we can ensure that he can look slightly less like he’s just found out Fellaini has got his daughter pregnant.
Conte’s Chelsea seem hot on the heels of United despite dropping points themselves on the road to Big Sam’s Everton. They don’t seem to be firing on all cylinders but there is enough quality in their side to ensure they are there or thereabouts. The games against sides in and around them will prove more telling no doubt. Thoughts of maybe being in a relegation battle seem far from the minds of Everton fans now as Big Sam has started to steady the ship in this all be it early part of his tenure at the club. No doubt his aim this season would be as top half finish and a good run in the FA Cup. You’d expect that he has been promised money to spend in the window with a striker being at the top of his wish list. Harry Kane broke a Premier League record in emphatic style in the last round of matches and his goals have been so important to Tottenham’s faltering season. Pochettino’s side can’t seem to put a good string of wins together but with an in-form Kane don’t bet against the North London outfit finding a good run sooner or later. After a morale boosting late equaliser against Manchester United, Leicester fans will be disappointed with their defeat at Watford with Schmeichel being culpable for the winner. He will need to be in fine form to keep out Klopp’s ‘Fab Four’ this weekend at Anfield. The one thing they do have are the potent threat of Mahrez and Vardy who can spoil anyone’s party.
Despite having some great results already under David Moyes, West Ham missed chances in both of their last games to get all important points against sides fighting to stay out of the bottom three. This has left them just sat outside of the drop-zone. With no fixture for them this weekend, they may well drop into it by the end of it. With a new manager at the helm, Swansea City will hope for a change of fortunes. With a trip to inconsistent Watford this weekend, the Welsh club will have to up their game considerably from their trip to Anfield. They need to strengthen heavily in the January window but will the owners invest? Considering the ‘low-key’ appointment the new manager would be deemed as, is this because he was happy to work under extremely tight budgets? Since talk of the Everton job came about, Silva’s Watford have slumped into a terrible run of form. West Brom will need to change their form if they want to keep their Premier League status as the appointment of Alan Pardew has yet to bare its fruits and the season is only getting shorter. Just Wenger’s Arsenal standing between them and three points this time out.
GINGER MOURINHO, GINGER MOURINHO they sing from the stands at Burnley currently. I think that is being a little harsh on Dyche as he is always far more upbeat and appeasing with the journalists in the pre and post-match press conferences. His side are having a fantastic season and if the season were to end right now, he would be a good shout for Manager of the Year. Travelling to Huddersfield and having won so many games on the road already this season, Dyche will be expecting to come away with all three points. The problem with that, Huddersfield for been in formidable form at home this season which has led to them finding themselves in 11th place in the league. One place higher than fellow newcomers Brighton. With early season form having got the majority of their points thus far, they need to start winning games again or risk finding themselves back in the bottom three. A trip to out of sorts Newcastle could be just the tonic for Hughton’s side.
Rafa Benitez needs to address The Magpies poor form before he can look forward to spending his riches he has been promised in the transfer window. With his side dangerously close to the relegation zone, he will argue he needs reinforcements for his side to compete in this league. They certainly need goals as this is something they have really been struggling for of late. Facing ex-manager Hughton this weekend, Benitez will be demanding a win form his side. Palace will find it hard to move away from the bottom three this weekend as all conquering Man City come to town. If the obvious does happen and other results don’t go their way, Woy could find his team seeing the New Year in looking up at all the other teams above them. Eddie Howe will be hoping the New Year brings his side a clean slate to build upon. Last season, their home form was immense, this season it is quite the opposite. With Everton visiting this weekend, addressing that problem will not be an easy feat for Howe’s side.
Mark Hughes has been under-fire for the last couple of months now so he must be immune to the speculation by now. I hope so as I don’t see his Stoke team coming away with anything from Stamford Bridge this weekend. More misery ahead for the Welshman. Stoke’s owners resolve will be tested as their finger hovers no doubt over that panic button. A lot of managers seem to be on shaky ground currently with another being Southampton’s Mauricio Pellegrino. Although The Saints find themselves four places outside of the drop zone, this weekend’s trip to Old Trafford seems a bleak prospect in thoughts of coming away with three points. January may not be a welcome sight for all and in particular Arsene Wenger. With a lot of his ‘big hitters’ running down contracts, it makes them prime targets for the vultures circling. Attaining Champions League qualification has to be Wenger’s minimum aim in hope of keeping these players at the club. Currently, he is not showing those players that he can keep to this promise he may have made them. Victory at The Hawthorns is imperative.