Leicester City 1 (Vardy 24’) – (Schweinsteiger 45’) 1 Manchester United
Here’s a sentence I didn’t think I’d need to contemplate 14 weeks ago…
In a top of the table clash, Leicester City faced off against Manchester United, with the Jamie Vardy hype train in a level of ‘full swing’ never seem before by the team in blue.
Vardy’s 11th successive fixture scored in marked the rewriting of a Premier League record set in the 2003 season by United great Ruud Van Nistelrooy – the celebration of which from Vardy was emphatic, as he ran screaming toward the crowd, various lip-readers suggested varieties of “all mine, all f___ing mine” were being screeched by the former carbon-fibre factory worker. Team mate Christian Fuchs’ through ball assist was a thing of beauty, as the new signing indicated centre backs are well and truly capable of threading the needle.
Vardy cements his position in the record books
The remainder of the game was high-paced and fought torridly from end to end, with United retaining the majority of position, Leicester were content employing their devastating brand of counter-attacking football. United’s Bastian Schweinsteiger headed the away team into an equalised position on 45 minutes.
Wayne Rooney was replaced for only the second time this season, as the England forward was substituted in the 67th minute, remaining roughly as successful at growing back a full head of hair as he has been successful in scoring this season in domestic competitions.
Vardy and Leicester’s absurd run of form bodes well for the team long term, as Leicester don’t have the depth-related burden of international club competitions to deplete their roster, with the perceived ‘easier’ string of fixtures approaching the Foxes, this club is a legitimate threat for Champions League qualification, given injuries remain at bay.
The draw sees United drop to 3rd, as Leicester drop to 2nd, providing a prime example of ‘form over fixtures’ when selecting fantasy team players.
Sunderland 2 (van Aanholt 82’, Watmore 84’) – 0 Stoke
A late game flurry of action from Sunderland saw them inch clear of the dreaded relegation zone, as Stoke were reduced to 10 men.
My weekly ode to fantasy football managers worldwide is most prominent in this fixture, regular “dream team” selection Jack Butland had an unpleasant day at the office, conceding two late in proceedings, with a free kick from the edge of the box played short, ultimately doing the damage, as a frustrated Stoke finally cracked after almost an entire half of being undermanned.
Big Sam Allardyce, even with a win against the midfield trio of Bojan, Arnautovic and Shaqiri, was displeased, suggesting his side were still in ‘relegation form’, as the injury concerns surrounding Jermaine Defoe questioned the depth in the Sunderland attacking ranks.
Sunderland’s next few fixtures include the likes of Arsenal, Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea, a near diabolical nightmare that may push the struggling side back toward the depths of the league table.
A late chance from Stoke’s Jonathan Walters was saved at near point-blank range by Sunderland’s Costel Pantilimon (‘helluva name), signalling the closest opportunity Stoke had to scoring, ultimately a side who’s chances were demolished by an early red card.
Manchester City 3 (De Bruyne 9’, Delph 20’, Kolarov 69’) – 1 (Long 49’) Southampton
This was always bound to be a miserable fixture for Southampton, following City’s 4-1 defeat the previous week at the hands of the HeliKloppter, the Pellegrini led side were out for blood, and did not muck about early on.
Kevin De Bruyne continued his thus far brilliant season, justifying his price tag and quieting various journalists who suggested he might need ‘time to reacclimatise’ to the EPL – not a chance.
Sterling’s cross to De Bruyne was headed home early, as City attempted to press Southampton to a point of debilitating frenzy, employing a similar tactic to Liverpool’s high-intensity approach that was so debilitating a week prior, Southampton were flustered by the pressure and spent the better part of 20 minutes trying to remember where they’d gotten off the bus.
Whilst Shane Long did provide a brief bit of resistance in the 49th minute, City never looked stressed, with Aleksander Kolarov topping things off in the 69th minute with a classic defenders goal, evidenced by his brief pause upon controlling the ball, no doubt repeating the mantra ‘do not cock this up’ repeatedly in his head prior to absolutely thumping the ball bottom corner. The most impressive thing about Kolarov’s goal however, was arguably the build-up play, as Sterling, Bony and De Bruyne toyed with Southampton inside their own 18-yard box, with zero tackles made on any of the three City players, Southampton sat back in fear and totally forgot about the lurking Russian waiting dutifully at the back post.
Kolarov’s powerful strike
The win moves City back to top of the league, as Southampton drop to 9th.
Crystal Palace 5 (McArthur 14’, 90’, Bolasie 17’, 47’, Zaha 41’) – 1 (Cisse 10’) Newcastle
Nothing to see here folks, just the continual reappearance of a very poor Newcastle side.
Crystal Palace looked like they were running a training drill against the Under 16 academy side this weekend, barring Papiss Cisse’s early free header, Crystal Palace were dominant, with Cisse’s early goal acting as a reminder of sorts for the Alan Pardew side to switch on.
The fixture was always going to be an egotistically important one, as Pardew’s previously managed side Newcastle appeared to do their best very early on to spoil his return fixture.
Crystal Palace had other plans, as the pairing of Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie performed acts of sorcery upon their respective fullbacks, giving nightmare’s to anyone clumsy enough to stand in their way as the pair of them made rapid runs down both wings.
The low-point of the fixture was the 73rd minute, as Newcastle received sarcastic ‘Ole!’ chants from their own fans as they retained possession inside their own half whilst 4-1 down… finishing that very same play by awkwardly clearing the ball for a goal kick, a properly miserable day at the office.
This loss leaves Newcastle staring down the barrel of an extremely large rifle labelled “relegation”, a threat numerous fans suggested last season may have done the club some good, as Newcastle continue to present a side that appears lethargic and unenthused each week, as the club has conceded the equal highest number of goals in the EPL (30), and their ‘star signing’ Aleksandar Mitrovic failed to make the starting 11 for the Saturday fixture.
Newcastle slump to 19th, 3 points away from escaping the relegation zone clearly, as Crystal Palace leap to 6th.
Bournemouth 3 (Smith 80, Stanislas 87’, 90’) – 3 (Mori 25’, Lukaku 36’, Barkley 90’) Everton
The final 10 minutes of this fixture were nothing short of absolute pandemonium, as both sides forgot how to defend temporarily, yet decided scoring was apparently much simpler in the final 10 minutes than the previous 89 odd minutes fans had sat through.
With an extraordinary 9 minutes of extra time player, this one went down to the final kick, almost exactly.
Until the 80th minute, Everton were 2-0 up and looked well and truly on their way to a well earnt 3 points… Bournemouth’s Adam Smith decided to ask the question on 80 minutes, with a thunderbolt of a strike searing into the back of the net, followed rapidly by a cut-back goal from Stanislas to even things up. Smith was an inspired substitution, spending most of his time in the opposition’s half, even as a defender, pushing the Bournemouth revival at any opportunity he was granted.
I presume Everton’s manager Roberto Martinez had a brief heart attack at this point, then turned about face and starting screeching at anyone in a blue shirt to put that round object in the back of the net.
The ever-dutiful Ross Barkley rushed to the rescue, sweeping in a shot whilst turning in the 95th minute.
One of the most impressive moments of the entertaining fixture was displayed by the ex-Barcelona youngster Gerard Deulofeu, who continues to push his own brand of bone-idle laziness and absolute brilliance onto the Premier League.
The following clip shows Deulofeu receive the ball just past halfway, with an absolute paddock of space to his right, and Everton moving forward as a unit in possession, most wingers turn, see the space, and run for all their soul is feasibly worth to exploit their defender and whip a cross in. That is, unless you’re as blindly confident as young Deulofeu, who pauses on the ball, sees the space to run in and clearly thinks “ahh sod it”, as he waits patiently for Lukaku’s run forward and times an astonishing through ball that effectively beats 4 Bournemouth defenders, and is rightly thumped home by the big Belgian.
Deulofeu defying all expected behaviours
The draw keeps Bournemouth inside the relegation zone, as Everton remain 7th.
Aston Villa 2 (Richards 41’, J Ayew 89’) – (Ighalo 17’, Hutton (og) 69’, Deeney 85’) Watford 3
Aston Villa’s trail of absolute misery this season continues, with a loss to Watford marking their 11th defeat in 14 fixtures, the club is what many would label as “severe strife”.
The result leaves Aston Villa on a grand total of 5 points, a harrowing statistic, as historically, no team has avoided relegation inside a season where they have registered 5 points or less following 13 games.
Watford didn’t escape the game entirely unscathed, losing their keeper Heurelho Gomes to a head injury. However the in-form Odion Ighalo continued to shine, netting his 8th goal for the season.
Whilst Watford were helped by a Hutton own goal, the Hornets made the most of a poor defensive display by Villa, with the first goal from Ighalo a simple case of Villa not clearing their defensive line properly, allowing the clinical striker to slot home from close range.
Swansea’s Andre Ayew’s younger brother Jordan provided a sliver of hope for the Villa faithful, with a proper rocket of a goal indicating the youngster does have a well of talent to be tapped, as the younger Ayew pleaded with fans post-match to “keep the faith” and continue to support a club that has struggled from the very outset of the season.
The loss keeps Villa dead last, as Watford sneak up to 11th spot.
Norwich 1 (Grabban 43’) – 1 (Ozil 30’) Arsenal
The most nerve-wracking element of this fixture was provided from an odd area of the pitch, the touchline camera dugouts. Yes, that’s a particularly baffling sentence, but the small in-ground sections near the Norwich stadium touchline utilised by Sky Sports and the like to broadcast the game were almost the undoing of Arsenal’s fixture, with both Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez tumbling dangerously.
Arsenal fans collectively hold their breath
A goalkeeping error from Paul Ruddy gifted the visitors a chance on the half hour mark, as Arsenal failed to capitalise on an opportunity to draw level with Manchester City at the top of the table.
Norwich snatched a point through a Robbie Brady defence-splitting pass which Grabban found himself on the end of.
Arsenal’s injury woes continued with Laurent Koscielny substituted complaining of hip pain, and the immensely talented Chilean Alexis Sanchez hobbling off with hamstring pain, heightening the anger surrounding the camera dugout “potential push” controversy displayed in the above clip.
Norwich remain 16th, taking a great deal of confidence from stifling a recently successful Arsenal side with Mesut Ozil in masterful form.
Liverpool 1 (Milner 62’) – 0 Swansea
Liverpool’s recent rich vein of form continued, as the Klopp led team in red held the majority of possession and attacking chances in a game that saw the returns of club favourites Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson following lengthy injury spells.
The match got underway at the now “usual” frantic Liverpool pace, with most Swansea players met with 2 or 3 Liverpool players hot on their heels whenever the Welsh side managed to gain possession. Emre Can was on song, controlling the midfield from a slightly deeper position than usual, the German maestro had a number of scything through balls worrying the home side’s defensive line early.
Liverpool were ultimately guilty of not capitalising on their chances up front, as Swansea put on a display that involved 0 shots on target in 90 minutes, indicating the “Gomis or Eder” striker woes are far from over for Gary Monk’s side.
Milner converts from the penalty spot
Klopp cited that the game was “difficult” for the Merseyside team, as high winds did wreak havoc with set pieces, however the Liverpool outfit will have to show more decisive from away from home if their form is to continue, as the penalty granted for a handball in the 62nd minute was the final difference.
Here’s Jefferson Montero having a really tough time reacquainting himself with the round yellow thing.
Montero and the ball are not good friends, poor lad
West Ham 1 (Zarate 17’) – 1 (Reid (og) 50’) West Bromwich Albion
Initially a fixture I’m certain I would’ve avoided watching even with money involved, West Ham were ultimately their own worst enemy, with an Rickie Lambert shot deflecting wickedly and resulting in an own goal robbing them of the three points.
Sincerest thanks to Mauro Zarate for making reviewing this game enjoyable, as his free kick on 17 minutes was a literal example of the often used phrase “couldn’t have placed it better”, as the Argentine curled the ball into the uppermost corner of the net, leaving the usually capably Myhill stranded.
Zarate laughing at the laws of physics and probability
West Ham manager had a cracking bit of post-game interview honest, describing his team as “excellent up until we conceded”, identifying the Hammers recent issue of conceding goals, generally a bad thing when a team wishes to win games, the Hammers have now done so on 9 successive occasions, the worst in the EPL this season.
West Ham remain 8th, as West Brom continue to sit 13th.
Tottenham 0 – 0 Chelsea
Chelsea had one shot on target all game, a superbly saved low strike, calling on Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris to fling himself to the ground to deny an “almost back in something reminiscent of form” Eden Hazard.
Asmir Begovic was kept busier than his opposite number in the first half, as Dembele and Son Heung-min both challenged the Chelsea goal.
The lone point saved from this draw helps Chelsea waddle up to 14th on the ladder, an enjoyable statistic for all those who’ve made a career of disliking Chelsea, namely, the entire Premier League.
Tottenham left frustrated, as the draw keeps them 5th, 2 points behind 4th, a side who look more and more likely to challenge the top 4 as Harry Kane regathers confidence and form.
Tottenham’s man of the match was Toby Alderweireld, as the fullback cleared the ball 15 times, and managed to regain possession on 5 occasions, warranting the mention for best on ground.
The Costa-Mourinho lovers tiff continues
The above clip merrily confirms that John Obi-Mikel might just be my spirit animal, the man is a hugely capable footballer, albeit, a little older and a little slower than in his youth, but here he is sat on the bench, as per usual this season, laughing himself silly at Costa’s petulant antics – someone give this man a medal.
3 to watch this week:
- Chelsea vs Bournemouth – proper bottom the table clash here, if Bournemouth win, the internet may legitimately explode in collective humour
- Everton vs Crystal Palace – In a week of “easier” fixtures for big sides, probably the most evenly contested fixture of the week
- Liverpool vs Newcastle – Following a 6-1 midweek drubbing of Southampton, Liverpool could do some joyous “NSFW” damage to Newcastle here, batten down the hatches Steve Mclaren