Kieran Davies on a weekend of new beginnings and sad passings.
Liverpool fans will today have woken up with a spring in their step more so than all other fans of Premier League teams. The board saw a problem and acted on it and have got rid of the biggest problem at Anfield, Brendan Rodgers. While statisticians will argue his win percentage is second only to Rafa Benitez in the Premier League era, Liverpool have never won the Premier League so that is nothing to be shouting from the rooftops. But all this doom and gloom around Anfield is lifting like an early morning fog, enter the fray Jurgen Klopp. Clearly as a manager Klopp is one of the biggest characters in football and already in only his first week in the job we have seen that enigmatic smile of his often and without being blinded by it, which is also a bonus. Let’s not be deluded it will take time for Klopp to stamp his brand on the squad but he is the right man to try and change Liverpool’s fortunes. While some will say the squad isn’t good enough, Rodgers spent money badly, there is a lot to work with there. Despite his first week throwing the curve balls of both Joe Gomez and Danny Ings damaging cruciate ligaments which has ended their seasons, Klopp will still feel this is a squad he can work with. We all have our own opinions over who is good or not in that squad but Liverpool’s new manager takes the side to White Hart Lane today to face Pochettino’s Tottenham. The Spurs manager only yesterday won the manager of the month award which is sometimes ill fated or even some would say a curse as form tends to take a nosedive after winning this. Whether it does or not, I am sure the current Liverpool manager will be given time by the owners.
Two managers under pressure at different ends of the footballing spectrum meet at Stamford Bridge this afternoon as Chelsea take on Aston Villa. Talk is of who should replace both managers currently with the discontent of fans getting louder and louder. Last time out Koeman’s Southampton humbled Jose and his side beating them quite comfortably. This is a different kind of pressure this time, one that Mourinho is not used to. It seems to some that while Jose is a great manager when things are going well, he struggles when they are not. He is renowned for refusing to do post match interviews, refusing to answer questions and generally moaning like pre-pubescent teen. It really does become tiresome as ‘The Special One’ makes himself seem like ‘The Blinkered One’. Take for example that last game all he could talk about was a penalty they didn’t get that they should of, despite the fact that their opponents were denied TWO clear penalties. Whoever loses this one will be under immense pressure and fearing the dreaded ‘vote of confidence’ from the board which is usually closely followed by a P45. It seems at the moment with the league so wide and open that a lot of clubs have their own problems currently. Manchester United travel to Goodison Park today for what will be a sombre mood amidst news that former player and manager Howard Kendall sadly passed away today. The club will want to this one as a gesture to the man who won the title for the blues. United apparently have left Depay out of their matchday squad, with the player really not endearing himself to fans thus far.
League leaders Manchester City host new boys Bournemouth this weekend. Irrelevant to how well Eddie Howe’s team so far this isn’t a fixture that you would fancy an upset in, especially after Sergio Aguero’s demolition of Newcastle last time out. They do have a few casualties as a result of the international break with both Aguero and Silva due to miss out. Fear not Bournemouth, you will still get to face the likes of De Bruyne, Sterling, Toure, Navas and a rare start for a certain Wildfried Bony also. Palace face West Ham in a London derby today and more surprisingly, as it stands, this is a fourth against sixth battle which is a credit to both teams. West Ham are unpredictable at best this season but they are picking up wins in the most unexpected of places so Pardew and his side need to be weary of this. Southampton on the back of their win at Stamford Bridge take on Leicester at St Mary’s this weekend knowing a win would see them leapfrog the visitors in the table. Koeman’s saints seem to find it easier to raise their game against the bigger clubs this season and inadvertently take their foot off the gas against the teams they are expected to beat. This one could go either way.
What has gone under the radar somewhat due to the high profile appointment of Klopp is that Sunderland have brought in Sam Allardyce to try and change fortunes at the Stadium of Light. This is an interesting appointment as Allardyce had an ill fated stint at St James’ Park and may have a point to prove. I still think the way West Ham let a manager who had done so much for their club go very strange but West Ham’s loss is Sunderland’s gain. They travel to West Brom today in desperate need of points. Like Klopp at Liverpool, Allardyce hasn’t really had much time to work with the squad but no doubt this won’t stop ‘Big Sam’ from setting his side out the way he wants them to play. The three teams who find themselves in the bottom three currently as already falling behind the teams out of the relegation zone so there is no time to bed in, points are needed immediately before teams start finding themselves adrift.
Fellow strugglers Newcastle host Norwich in the Sunday game, although home advantage should make the magpies the favourites, all home advantage has done of late is make for interesting away wins to add to your accumulator to bump up the odds. They will feel the additional pressure of knowing their ex manager has now taken over the reins at Sunderland too. The late kick off today sees Watford take on Arsenal. Arsene Wenger’s team probably had the most productive international break with their players notching the most goals collectively out of the Premier League teams. They will be hoping this rubs of their own plight and that they turn in the sort of performance we recently saw at Leicester City. Watford surprisingly find themselves well adrift of the bottom three in twelfth place and their fans will hope they play with the freedom if not feeling these pressures. Monday Night Football returns live from Wales as Swansea City take on Stoke City. Despite winning at Villa Park last time out Hughes still will not be happy with the return from his players efforts this season and will want to try and find back to back wins on the road by taking all the spoils from the Liberty Stadium. Monk’s side had an entertaining draw with Tottenham last time out and were only hampered by the brilliance of Christian Erikssen, although Harry Kane will hope this is the last time he notches against his own keeper this season.
With new managers looking to find their feet, players looking to reacquaint themselves with club team mates and managers fearing the hangman’s noose, it should be another great weekend of Premier League action.