Stoke 1 (Arnautovic 53’) – 0 Chelsea
After a week in which oil oligarch and billionaire club owner Roman Abramovich was goaded into confirming that Jose Mourinho did in fact have the total support of the club (see: 30 million pound firing clause), the lads in blue travelled to my favourite venue.
A stadium steeped in poor banter and repetitive meme’s, the Britannia Stadium is often cold, windy, wet and the victim of soul-destroying precipitation.
The already heavily depressed Chelsea side were met with these exact conditions, fans worldwide rejoiced, could a team of Chelsea’s roster quality suffer a repeat defeat against the stoic Stoke side that knocked them out of the Capital One Cup?
Mourinho watched from the team hotel as he served his one-match stadium ban for outrageous behaviour toward officials during the West Ham defeat, his hapless side of multi-million dollar imports put in a horrific shift.
Suffering their 7th defeat in 12, Chelsea slip to 16th on the league table, as the man-bun toting WWE candidate, Austrian Marko Arnautovic, scored in a match where Chelsea’s chanced were limited to Pedro hitting the post, and a contentious stumble from Loic Remy.
Remy’s lack of simulation in the penalty box highlighted the issue caused by refusing to simulate contact, as when Remy attempted to avoid a keeper sliding toward him, his attempted jump and consequent stumble whilst rounding Butland rendered him unable to finish what appeared to be a certain goal.
Had Remy taken the ‘easy’ way out and clattered into Butland, he would’ve most likely been awarded a penalty, which draws the referee’s performance into the spotlight, as Butland’s aggressive slide directly impeded a goal scoring opportunity.
Awarding a penalty would have been technically correct in this case, but Remy’s cries fell on deaf ears.
The superbly organised defensive attempts of Stoke held out Chelsea’s limited attempts, as the club continues to search for answers in a thus far all together baffling season.
West Ham 1 (Lanzini 30’) – 1 Everton (Lukaku 43’)
Lukaku’s good fortune facing the Hammers continued, after an early curling effort from Lanzini put West Ham up 1-0, Lukaku extended his streak of goals scored versus West Ham to 7 successive games, a streak reaching back to late 2013.
A challenging fixture for both clubs, the draw will not be viewed as a major negative by West Ham fans, as the single point pushes them up the table to 5th.
The prominent worry to emerge from the 1-1 draw is the injury of Dimitri Payet, West Ham’s in-form central midfielder, who looks set to spend as long as 3 months sidelined, following a crushing two-footed tackle from James McCarthy.
Payet attempted to ‘walk-off’ the challenge, but had to be replaced 5 minutes into the 2nd half, hobbling off with 47 created chances to his name this season, rivalling the likes of Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil.
Everton’s manager Roberto Martinez mentioned post-match that his team initially struggled to cope with West Ham’s “intensity”, better known as Victor Moses storming down the wing with pace simply unmatched in the Everton defence.
Moses, a player on loan from Chelsea, must certainly be playing his heart out to prolong his return to the point-dropping prison that is Stamford Bridge.
Having struggled to cement a role as a threatening winger at Chelsea, West Ham is proving to be a useful vessel for his combination of pace and aggression, as the Nigerian winger received the ball in an advanced position more times than any team mate versus Everton, as West Ham directed 43% of their attacks down the right wing.
Sunderland 0 – 1 Southampton (Tadic 69’ pen)
Dusan Tadic’s penalty slammed Sunderland into the relegation zone, as Southampton’s 6th league game unbeaten continued to fuel my fantasy-EPL related ire for Graziano Pelle’s brief reprieve from scoring goals.
Put the ball, in the net, you slick-haired imbecile.
Although Sunderland were poor, they weren’t their usual brand of complete utter shite – as two goal line clearances demonstrated a brief glimmer of hope for the miserable Sam Allardyce outfit.
Sunderland’s 1 win in 15 league games is a rather large concern for manager Allardyce, as the man renowned for saving sides from relegation faces a rescue mission usually reserved for Hollywood blockbusters.
A change this week to a more traditional 4-4-2, abandoning the 3-man defence of the previous week, did provide a vague sense of organisation, but with a narrow midfield and limited offensive options, Sunderland struggled to pose a legitimate attacking threat, with one lone goal-scoring opportunity.
Ex-Liverpool dungeon boy Fabio Borini did show the occasional understanding of what the net and white posts represented, well known for falling out of favour with Brendan Rodgers and refusing to move from Liverpool even when he was clearly the bane of Rodgers’ existence.
The Italian striker will need to break his goal drought if Big Sam is to have any chance of resuscitating a flailing Sunderland side.
Norwich 1 (Howson 70’) – 0 Swansea
Standard mid-table fixture this one, often described by the mildly interested sports reporter as “scrappy” or “back and forth”, essentially this fixture brought together two teams who are both in poor form, allowing them both to sling misery at each other for 96 minutes.
Swansea now slump to 5 losses in 8 games, as Norwich halt a loss streak of 4 games, moving the yellow and green men to 15th, placing greater pressure on Swansea manager Gary Monk to survive the worst period of his management career to date.
Norwich only managed 33% of the possession, but in a style typical of lower-end Premier League teams, defended manically and moved forward in brave counter-attacking fashion.
Swansea’s early season performers such as Bafitembi Gomis, Andre Ayew, and Jefferson Montero have gone quiet of late, rendering the Welsh side somewhat toothless going forward, as Gomis blazed 5 shots off target, residing for most of the afternoon in Sebastian Bassong’s pocket, one defender capable of matching Gomis for physical enormity in the Premier League.
A deserved win, as Norwich manager Alex Neil credited the victory to a change in defensive stylings, roughly translated to “we were letting in far too many goals, I briefly remembered that being a bad thing, so I told the lads to stop doing that” – let’s hope he’s prepared for knee-jerk unemployment.
Manchester United 2 (Lingard 52’, Mata 90’ pen) – 0 West Bromwich Albion
Taking a personal interest in this fixture, I substituted the dazzling Frenchman Anthony Martial out of my battling fantasy football line-up, praying to the Mark Pulis defensive gods that the wily youngster wouldn’t score. I was rewarded, for lack of a better term, as United comfortably dispatched with Pulis’ previously impenetrable clean sheet oriented side without a Martial goal or assist.
Jesse Lingard got the home side onto the score sheet in the 52nd minute with an edge of the box effort, the first goal for a player who has achieved an increasingly unusual feat in world football, scoring for the first team side of a club who he has played in the academy of since age 8, a genuine product of the Carrington training facilities.
Louis Van Gaal’s ‘conservative’ approach to football continued throughout the match, as the first half featured a single shot on target from the home side, scintillating stuff. Van Gaal pushed on with his extremely dull brand of football, naming two defensive midfielders and spending the entirety of the first half attempting to pass through a very well organised West Brom outfit.
West Brom hadn’t conceded for 550 minutes prior to their visit to Old Trafford, and will head into the 13th game week without their confidence completely dashed, as their defensive cohesiveness thwarted a side of much greater attacking options for the entire first half, coupled with a late attempt from Saido Berahino that was the smallest of margins away from rewarding the Baggies with a consolation goal.
Rooney goal count: 2 in 11 league matches
Shots on target vs West Brom: 0
May the Shrek powers continue to wane.
Leicester 2 (Kante 52’, Vardy 65’ pen) – 1 Watford (Deeney 75’ pen)
The rapidly growing legend of Jamie Vardy couldn’t be halted by the typically steely defence of Watford, as the English emerging star of 2015 scored in his 9th consecutive league fixture. Now only the great Ruud van Nistelrooy’s record of 10 goals in 10 consecutive games lies ahead.
Vardy was predictably contained by Watford’s compact defensive unit, with brief injury concerns following an awkward fall, Vardy received treatment on the sideline and proceeded to produce for the Foxes. Brought down in the box by Watford keeper Gomes as he ran clear of the defensive line, Leicester’s usual penalty marksman Riyahd Mahrez grinned and handed the ball to Vardy, highlighting the team awareness of Vardy’s record form.
Vardy’s penalty was emphatic, as the home crowd roared in approval, reader’s must recall this is a club many projected to ‘fight for survival’ this season, yet they currently find themselves 3rd on the league table on goal difference, sitting on equal points with 1st and 2nd placed Arsenal and Manchester City.
A loyal home supporter base that has craved a superstar, dreamt of top flight success for decades, with an ex-factory working striker, an Algerian midfielder plucked from the French 2nd division and an eccentric Italian manager – the Foxes are daring to contemplate a proper attack on the usually rigid top order of the English Premier League.
It would be unfair to describe Watford’s performance as poor, as both Leicester goals were the result of goalkeeping ‘howlers’.
Vardy’s record equalling attempt, barring a potential suspension for an obscene gesture to a linesman (standard), will occur after the international break against Newcastle. Barring injury or suspension, Vardy looks set to cement his name amongst the league greats, at least as far as scoring streaks are concerned.
Bournemouth 0 – 1 Newcastle (Perez 27’)
I think this game is best summed up by the manner in which Ayoze Perez netted the eventual winner, a very tame shot in the general direction of Australian keeper Adam Federici trickled in, with Perez the only Newcastle player to record a shot on target… all game… professional footballers allegedly wore Newcastle kits.
Poor old Bournemouth put up a valiant fight in the 2nd half, halted primarily by Newcastle’s 2nd choice keeper Rob Elliot, dragged into the spotlight after Tim Krul’s season ending injury compounded club woes.
Following the 27th minute goal, I probably would’ve recommended the ‘highlights’ option for this one, two teams riddled with injuries and wobbling in the form department, Newcastle were ecstatic to escape with a win that pushes them into 17th.
Newcastle spent the majority of the game defending a slim lead, with Bournemouth controlling the game, maintaining 68% possession throughout the match, the Cherries simply failed to convert the chances afforded to them by a Newcastle team who must return home all too aware of their perceivably ‘stolen’ victory.
Bournemouth slip into the bottom three relegation zone, as young manager Eddie Howe continues to search for attacking replacements to increase the club’s goal tally as a mounting injury list increases managerial strain.
Liverpool (Coutinho 42’) 1 – 2 Crystal Palace (Bolasie 21’, Dann 82’)
The HeliKloppter endured its first loss this game week, with Liverpool’s frenetic counter-pressing tactic adequately managed and defeated by a Palace team laden with wide attacking options.
Crystal Palace employ three individuals currently, all of whom are incredibly quick in moving from point A to point B – however that’s not the main concern, it’s the knowledge all defenders carry internally, that if they allow said individual to gain a step or two on them via poor positioning, barring Alberto Moreno, they are doomed to the depths of a sluggish desperately chasing-back hell.
Yannick Bolasie, Wilfried Zaha and Diafra Sako all made sure Liverpool were aware of this concept, with Zaha alone covering 11 kilometres, terrorising Clyne and Skrtel with his movement both on and off the ball.
Klopp’s first loss in 7 games signals Liverpool’s recurrent issue, an inability to score regularly, as the midfield of Can, Countinho, Milner and at times Firmino are capable of playing the sometimes healthy Benteke through on goal, the striker playing more minutes, Divock Origi, is still coming to terms with the pace of the Premier League.
Liverpool were often confronted by a staunch Crystal Palace defensive line across 18 yards, which unfortunately the team in red attempted to pass its way through, rather than taking a more direct option such as an attacking dribble or shot on target, the lads in white managed to contain these sideways passing excursions on the majority of occasions.
Palace move to 8th on the league table and Liverpool slip to 10th.
Arsenal 1 (Gibbs 77’) – 1 Tottenham (Kane 32’)
The North London derby did not disappoint, with the usual goal and assist merchants of both sides stepping up to produce an entertaining draw.
Tottenham were dominant throughout the first half, with their intensity in forward pressure rewarded through a Harry Kane goal which may signal a return to the form the English forward experienced last season.
Kane visibly paused to collect himself inside 18 yards before confidently striking past Petr Cech, showing no signs of a hurried “collect and shoot” motion that can plague less confident strikers, visibly favouring his own ability to finish under defensive strain.
Tottenham’s performance asserted their claim for a top 4 finish this season, as Arsenal required the services of their German pass-master Mesut Ozil, who connected with Kieran Gibbs late in the 2nd half to snatch a point from Mauricio Pochettino’s outfit.
Arsenal’s midweek 5-1 drubbing at the hands of Bayern Munich highlighted the defensive inefficiencies that remain present at The Emirates Stadium, as Dele Ali and Christian Eriksen proved their effectiveness as a midfield duo.
Tottenham move to 5th, 3 points out of the UEFA Champions League qualifying positions, as Arsenal remain 2nd on goal difference, tied for 1st on points with Manchester City.
Aston Villa 0 – 0 Manchester City
There I was hoping for at least 4 goals to report on, plus at least a handful of Aston Villa defensive mistakes of world-ending proportions, yet the score line remained unusually empty as the league leaders were kept scoreless.
Aston Villa embraced the “new manager” team status and defended fiercely, as Raheem Sterling failed to head home from close range early on.
The arguable highlight of the match came from Rudy Gestede, who during 6 minutes of play nearly caused a volcanic eruption. Throwing the ball back in following Manchester City playing the ball out to allow a Villa player to receive medical treatment, Gestede very clearly signalled to City keeper Joe Hart that he would simply throw the ball out, allowing City a goal kick… One must remember this is Joe Hart, the master of rage-induced psychopathic fits, and more often than not rating his own footwork as similar to that of his Argentinian teammate Sergio Aguero.
Hart attempted to control the particularly strong throw-in from Gestede, however the pace on the ball that Gestede had intended to carry the spherical object out of play resulted in Hart misjudging the ball flight and deflecting it out for a Villa corner.
This shitstorm in a teacup grew, as the gentleman’s agreement would suggest Villa not take advantage of City’s stupidity, yet given Hart was offered the opportunity to politely sod off as Gestede returned possession to the Manchester side, Villa took full advantage and whipped the corner in at full pace with Gestede shooting just over the bar, an action met with a number of angry City fans surrounding the referee in protest.
City remain top of the table, Villa remain dead last.
Enjoy the international break folks, Premier League play returns on the 21st of November.