West Brom 2 (Rondon 30’, Lambert (pen) 84’) – 3 Leicester (Mahrez 57’, 64’, Vardy 77’)
A fixture for the purists, both teams began the season as suspected ‘will defend, will be annoying, will counter attack viciously’ teams – however, only one of the above has followed this suggested script.
West Bromwich Albion have stuck with the Pulis trait of being painfully difficult to break down with men behind the ball, whereas Leicester aimed for the other end of the spectrum, goading teams into attacking them, driving directly down the middle of the park like a primary school mum late for drop-off, with no regard for human life!
This subsequently makes Leicester susceptible to conceding, regularly, which they tend to do without concern before proving to other sides this season, “you score 2, we’ll score 3”.
West Brom opened well, with horrific corner defence allowing Rondon to barge through for a near post header like your proverbial freight train.
Defending a corner appears to be a simple mathematical equation – whack two tall individuals on each post, park the goalkeeper in the centre of the goals, ensure everyone else man marks for all they’re worth.
The last element of this equation is the difficult bit, as a man like Solomon Rondon is aggressive as he is rapid, one ill-placed hesitant step from a defender – good night Josephine – and thus West Brom led 1-0.
Pulis appeared to have a proper knee-wobbling orgasm on the spot, 1-0 up inside half an hour? Bus parking activated.
Enter Riyahd “Straight outta Algeria” Mahrez.
Mahrez is the focal point of the Leicester attack, assisting and scoring seemingly at will, which is precisely what he did.
In the space of 7 minutes he had two goals, assisting the 3rd and final goal to none other than Jamie Vardy, who having scored in 8 successive games now lies only behind the great Ruud Van Nistelrooy, who scored in 10 successive games during both the 2002 and 2003 seasons.
Leicester’s destructively direct path of attack was highlighted by Vardy’s 3rd goal, only requiring 3 passes and a fleet footed run into the 18 yard box to put the nail in West Brom’s coffin.
Leicester have scored 17 goals this season, 15 of which have come in the second half.
This result places them 3rd in league standings.
PSA: I might have a bit of a soft spot for Leicester, so I sincerely apologise for any blatant favouritism regarding extra coverage of their current gallant stride into the top echelon of world football.
Watford (Ighalo 39’, 48’) 2 – 0 West Ham
Now, Watford and West Ham, both teams who have challenged their 2014 status quo.
The “breakout” season of Odion Ighalo of Watford is something of a misnomer, the lad is 26 years old and has been grinding his way through a number of loans from his original “big club” Udinese, signing permanently with Watford in 2014.
Hailing from the notorious Lagos slums of Nigeria, Ighalo plays like a man desperate to prove himself on the world stage, making incisive moves inside 18 yards, with impeccable timing and an ability to look particularly serene inside 18 yards as defenders rush at him left and right.
Partnered with Troy Deeney, Ighalo was bound to pose a problem for West Ham.
That he most certainly did, West Ham had a horror start, when what appeared to be a simple clearance was scuffed inside 6 yards by Andy Carroll, the ball was rocketed toward goal by Nathan Ake where Ighalo slid through a tight spot to tip the ball in prior to the panicked West Ham defensive unit managing a clearance.
Ighalo’s second was a well-placed thunderbolt off one step inside the box, demonstrating the calm behaviour that has him scoring (on average) every 34 minutes of play, similar numbers to Harry Kane and Diafra Sakho.
West Ham’s blunder filled day was compounded by James Collins seeing red in the 84th minute, with Watford moving to 9th on the table.
Swansea 0 – 3 Arsenal (Giroud 49’, Koscielny 68’, Campbell 73’)
Anyone with Bafitembi Gomis still loitering in their fantasy team, divert your eyes now!
The out of form big man scuffed the Swans biggest chance of the day when Hector Bellerin put on his best Usain Bolt impersonation and chased back 40 metres, executing a precision slide tackle on the wobbly Gomis as he stood one on one with Petr Cech.
Gomis appealed meekly for a penalty, but the look on his face said it all “absolutely fluffed it”.
Arsenal showed no mercy in the second half, a team sitting atop the Premier League table, continued to assert their dominance, in a season where they have been riddled with injuries to the likes of Ramsey, Walcott, Wilshere and Oxlade-Chamberlain (as per).
Mesut Ozil shouldn’t go without mention; the instrumental German has contributed a goal or an assist in each of Arsenal’s league fixtures this season.
Joel Campbell scored on his Premier League debut, solidifying his position in an already paper-thin line-up in the eyes of Arsene Wenger.
Following a thrilling loan season with Greek giants Panathinaikos, young Costa Rican Campbell may very well be the answer to Arsenal’s injury concerns.
Newcastle 0 – 0 Stoke City
Whilst the nil-nil draw sends most fans for the car park, the meeting between Stokealona and Newcastle was, by all accounts, a competitive back and forth affair…
That said, on a night where Liverpool were away at Stamford Bridge, I’d rather have set my crotch on fire than watched these two do battle.
Both sides are stuck in some serious form woes, struggling to win lose or draw consecutive games, with Newcastle viewing this draw as a victory of sorts, after rollercoaster weeks of form variation.
The blinding positive of this match was Jack Butland’s performance, after Begovic’s departure to Chelsea during the summer, the England international made a number of crucial saves over the course of 90 minutes, proving his midweek penalty shootout heroics against Chelsea were no fluke. His impact on the game was obvious to the point of Newcastle manager Steve McClaren shaking his hand on the pitch post-match.
Butland’s form should worry the likes of Joe Hart, as competition for the international keeping job heats up as Euro 2016 approaches.
Oh, and Charlie Adam got booked again, horrid creature.
Manchester City (Otamendi 67’, Y Toure (pen) 89’) – 1 Norwich (Jerome 83’)
As a mildly obsessive fantasy football manager, this game was nothing short of a nightmare.
The in-form team of the season should’ve massacred Norwich, but were instead met with stiff opposition, as the resolute Canaries decided “ye shall not pass” or something similarly Gandalf-esque.
Joe Hart had a glorious moment of indecision, dropping the ball directly at Jerome’s feet, cue a dramatic final 10 minutes of play where Toure’s penalty saved the day.
Fantasy football managers sobbed worldwide, as the clean sheets of Hart, Sagna and Kolarov went up in smoke, Kolarov blowing a chance for the rare goal scoring defender scenario via a missed late penalty.
Norwich should be congratulated, rebounding off consecutive losses to Bournemouth and Newcastle, the Canaries were well organised and frustrated a particularly lazy City, who did risk a loss through giving a performance suggesting a victory was assumed prior to kick off.
Crystal Palace 0 – 0 Manchester United
Manchester United extended their non-goal scoring period to more than five hours of play.
Here’s a thought for Louis van Gaal, tell that Shrek impersonator to park his ego and remove himself from his recently proclaimed ‘return’ to the lone striking role, hand it over to the 82 million dollar French teenager who’s been tearing a hole in every defence naïve enough to mark him man to man.
Rooney’s persistence of sorts at the striker position has effectively killed United’s creativity, as club legend Paul Scholes expressed post-match that the team ‘lacked creativity’, as pace-laden youngsters Depay and Martial were confined to the wings, Herrera and Rooney skied two perfectly good assists from Martial, doing his best to carry a team avoiding the elephant in the room, a severely out of form Wayne Rooney.
Crystal Palace deserved to win, United had one shot on target all game, the result of a Rooney free kick.
Palace terrorised United with the pace of Bolasie and Zaha, as the United defence blatantly failed to contain their violent runs down both flanks of the pitch.
United’s problems became particularly apparent as the travelling fans began to chant “We’re Man United, we want to attack”, a chant representative of a fan base growing increasingly frustrated by a managerially enforced style of possession heavy play (70% in the first half), and a toothless striker in Rooney who continues to receive the ball with his back to goal.
Chelsea (Ramires 4’) 1 – 3 Liverpool (Coutinho 45’, 74’, Benteke 83’)
The first meeting of Liverpool’s HeliKloppter at Mourinho’s Stamford Bridge was appropriately hyped, with Mourinho’s current managerial standing under severe strain, the club entered the game without victory in 5 matches, including a penalty shootout loss against the mighty Stokealona.
Chelsea struck first through Ramires, as communication issues continued amongst the Liverpool back 4.
With Moreno reintegrating himself into the match day side and Skrtel learning to partner Clyne, Liverpool looked nervous.
Following Ramires’ strike, Chelsea took the highly unusual approach of attempting to park the bus with 86 minutes of play remaining – a tactic which failed miserably, as Mikel, Cahill, Ramires and later on Fabregas all sat deep, giving Liverpool simple passing routes through the middle of the pitch.
This immediately killed the Chelsea “front four” defensive effort, as the first line of Chelsea pressing was evaded by Liverpool through comfortable distribution through a wide open midfield.
Liverpool continued to create chances, as Chelsea’s midfield continued to sit deep leaving large gaps for Liverpool to exploit, as missing persons reports were filed for Eden Hazard and Oscar, both entirely oblivious to any forward movement.
Coutinho’s first goal was straight out of the little Brazilian’s play book, marching toward the 18 yard line, shaking Ramires out of his socks with an inside drag move, followed by a wicked curling shot from the left hand side into the bottom corner – Liverpool were even, and increasingly confident.
Chelsea supporters will complain that the goal was scored 35 seconds after the suggested 2 minutes of extra time – wrongfully, as extra time period is phrased by FIFA as the referee’s estimation of the ‘minimum’ amount of extra time, wherein they are fit to call the half to an end during a non-attacking period of play.
Statistically, the only team this season to have conceded more than 2 goals in more fixtures is Sunderland… Yes, that’s right, Sunderland, the team sitting dead last on the league table.
This pattern continued.
Coutinho struck again with a shot deflected off John Terry, a defensive legend who appeared paranoid and fearful when drawn out of deep positions.
The game was topped off by Benteke’s 83rd minute strike, under pressure in the box, Benteke turned out of danger and rifled the ball into the top corner.
Controversy was afoot as per, with talk of Costa facing a 4 match ban swirling post-match, he and Martin Skrtel met once again with Costa unnecessarily kicking out at Skrtel whilst on the ground.
Last season at this time Hazard had 86 successful dribbles, he currently has 54, similarly Fabregas had 9 assists already last season, he currently has 1, and Diego Costa is yet to get off the mark with a goal, when he had already netted 3 in the league by this point last season.
Chelsea is a club in trouble, whether managerial or player changes are made, something must be done soon.
Southampton (Davis 31’, Pelle 36’) 2 – 0 Bournemouth
In the first top flight meeting of the two south coast sides, Southampton prevailed as in form striker Graziano Pelle contributed with a headed goal following a laser-guided Tadic pass.
Steven Davis struck on 31 minutes with a close-range volley, which set the tone early.
Southampton pressed relentlessly through a front four of Mane, Tadic, Davis and Pelle, effectively imprisoning an injury-riddled Bournemouth inside their own half.
Whilst Bournemouth did pull things together and create chances in the second half, the Cherries slumped to a fourth defeat in five matches, hoping to take positives from an improved second half where a midfield of five was abandoned in shape of a midfield of four, hoping to recover some of the attacking creativity the side showed earlier in the season.
Bournemouth conceded 10 goals in their previous two fixtures, a horror defensive record, thus the mere 2-0 defeat to in-form Southampton may fill the side with some sort of positivity, as the 2nd half saw Pelle fail to touch the ball within 30 yards of the Bournemouth goal, suggesting the recently promoted South coast side has the ability, but potentially lacks organisation and discipline against higher ranked sides.
Everton (Deulofeu 19′, Kone 31′, 62′, 76′, Coates (og) 55′, Lukaku 60′) 6 – 2 Sunderland (Defoe 45′, Fletcher 50′)
At half time, let us all note, Everton led 2-1, after the visiting side had a number of chances deflected only by the woodwork early on.
As a viewer, this game appeared to be competitive, as last placed Sunderland signalled an intent to right a season which has been short on goals and victories.
“Big Sam” Allardyce then met his maker, the man with form about as reliable as Kim Jong Un’s nuclear deproliferation stance, Arouna Kone.
Kone is a player who tends to score in bursts, bursts which can be followed by stints on the bench, games where he’ll go missing, all of the above.
However, on Sunday he found himself in his happiest of happy places, switching on the near telekinetic connection he’s shown at times with Romelu Lukaku, proceeding to absolutely wipe the floor with a lifeless Sunderland defensive unit.
Kone simply scored for fun, with his final goal delivered by a sublime outside of the boot Lukaku cross, as the Belgian club-record signing showed the form that convinced Everton he was worth £28 million pounds.
Kone’s appearance triggered a 12-month contract extension clause, a clause inserted as a safety precaution against his prior ankle injury of near career-ending status, as the Ivorian showed a level of performance sure to fill Toffee’s supporters with confidence heading into a number of ‘easier’ fixtures.
Tottenham (Dembele 3′, Alli 45′, Kane 90′) 3 – 1 Aston Villa (J Ayew 79′)
The final fixture of Game Week 11 saw Tottenham give new Aston Villa boss Remi Garde a rude welcome to Premier League football, as Aston Villa equalled a club worst record of seven successive losses.
Dembele got the welcome party started with the rudest of starts, waltzing in to embarrass Brad Guzan, something that I’m sure had Garde considering catching the next plane out of the sorry football team he had stumbled into.
Alli doubled the Spurs lead from 18 yards out, almost putting the game to bed.
The lone glimmer of hope for Villa was presented by three substitutes, one of whom, Ayew, managed to peg bag the lead by one, having scored in successive fixtures now, an encouraging vein of form for the youngster.
Tottenham are unbeaten in 10 league games, a formidable run of form.
As I warned everyone last week, Kane’s form has continued with a 90th minute goal, leading into the London Derby next week, look out world, this trolley attendant looking simpleton can play football when he builds up enough confidence in that carefully arranged noggin of his.
3 to watch next week:
- Arsenal vs Tottenham – The London Derby, sure to filled with violence.
- Stoke City vs Chelsea – The Capital One Cup rematch – Mourinho sack-worthy loss?
- Aston Villa vs Manchester City – One for the sadistic types, this could be ugly.