Kieran Davies on a weekend of fortress-building, bedpost notching, and reality checks.
This week saw the first Monk axed since the middle ages, except this time it was a Welshman wielding the axe and not a Viking. Swansea City like to think of themselves as a club who don’t make knee-jerk reactions, Garry Monk would disagree however. In all fairness to the most successful strawberry blonde in South Wales since Ronald McDonald he achieved good things in his tenure including the club’s first double over Manchester United. The pressures of the Premier League don’t really allow football club owners to be so patient however. The Swans are in a slump and the heavy defeat at home to Leicester City seemed to be the final nail in his coffin. The side find themselves just a point outside of the relegation zone but they now find themselves without a manager, something not indicative to a good run of form. They will need to appoint someone quickly and they need to hit the ground running! A trip to Manchester City today not really the trip any interim manager would pick, given the choice. City will be looking to right some wrongs after being well beaten by Stoke City last weekend.
Table toppers Leicester City get the weekend off as they entertain Chelsea on Monday Night Football. After a humbling defeat at home against Bournemouth last weekend, yet another notch on the bedpost of a poor season, Mourinho needs to make his mark on this game and show that the table does lie in this instance. A lot of people will say ‘the table doesn’t lie’ so Jose will have to do a lot to convince people otherwise. Meanwhile on the back of what would’ve seemed like a cup final win, Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth will still be on cloud nine after their Stamford Bridge victory and will hope to continue their run against ‘mediocre’ Manchester United. This is what the media took from LVG’s press conference where the Dutchman tried to give fans a reality check. It’s a difficult one to analyse this. Most United fans aren’t old enough to remember they were a mediocre cup side before a certain Scotsman arrived at the club, are these times back? Another argument would be after spending a quarter of a billion pounds you would expect better things or at least a town in Syria to be completely flat. Yet many are still saying they could win the league, not without a striker they won’t!
This season does seem to be the most open Premier League since the league took this guise with the form book being turned on its head most weeks. Take last weekend for example, Stoke beating Man City, Bournemouth beating Chelsea and Newcastle beating Liverpool. Jurgen Klopp’s side need to be careful they don’t start replicating West Ham’s feats of beating all the good sides convincingly and losing to sides struggling for survival. Liverpool fans must have been left scratching their heads after defeat at St James’ Park, this isn’t the team that beat Southampton 6-1 only days ago. What was refreshing however was Klopp’s post match comments, refreshingly honest! While Rodgers would talk about ‘what a wonderful group of players he had’ how they were ‘unlucky today’, fans easily tired of Irishman’s constant defence of his negative sideways and backwards style of play. Instead the club’s German coach simply said ‘I would not have paid to watch that!’. He leaves you thinking that the players responsible will feel his wrath and pay for this performance in the week ahead, just what a fan wants to see. West Brom travel to Anfield this weekend and Klopp needs to start making their ground a fortress again as all of their most notable wins this season have come away from home.
Tottenham remained unbeaten since the opening day of the season with a point at The Hawthorns last weekend. It is impressive that Pochettino’s side have found a way to make themselves difficult to beat but the draws are hurting them. The draws have left them in a position they find themselves most seasons, that little slot outside of the Champions League qualification spots. Turning draws into wins is their biggest goal right now, then and only then can they talk about making an impression on the league this season. After all, you could spend the whole season unbeaten, drawing all 38 games, and find yourself relegated. Not so much invincibles territory then is it? With a home game against Newcastle this weekend, this should be the perfect game to start turning these stats around. Two sides who have had glimpses of brilliance this season meet at Upton Park with West Ham facing Stoke City. Both having taken big scalps this season but finding consistency seems to be the problem for both. Things at the bottom are extremely tight with only three points separating Sunderland and Chelsea so a few results can change the tide for any team involved in that dogfight. With Watford visiting Sunderland this weekend, this should be a big enough incentive for performances this afternoon.
Crystal Palace have made a great start to the season finding themselves in sixth position in the league. Southampton are the visitors today, another of Pardew’s old clubs. Koeman will be craving a performance from his side as their form has been patchy at best this season. There is no doubt they have very good players within their squad but they seem to struggle stepping up to the plate week after week. This could be said of many sides this season but the Dutchman will not be concerning himself with other team’s issues. What it does mean as we said before certain areas of the league are extremely tight. A win against Palace for example would see the Saints leapfrog their opponents. One team who are not in a tight position are Aston Villa who are seriously endangering themselves in being left adrift at the bottom of the table. As things stand there will be no Garde of honour for their manager at the end of the season. It is however down to the players to start earning their wages. Arsenal travel to Villa Park this weekend, a venue the Londoners have always done well at in the past. Such are Villa’s struggles this season, I couldn’t seem them winning this game unless Arsenal had both keepers in their match squad sent off. Prove me wrong Remi!