EPL GW11 Review: Four-midable Champions; Four-ging a Dynasty

Liverpool closed a pulsating weekend of football with a stunning demolition of one of the League’s best defences to prove they’re rightly still favourites to win the Premier League.

When Jurgen Klopp isn’t taking to his lectern and delivering Nuremburg-esque speeches about our abandonment of player welfare, the unfairness of early kick-offs, and raising his troops against what is unfounded evidence of a permanent conspiracy about Liverpool (come on admit it, he looks like someone with film reels of the JFK assassination, press cuttings of that Pentagon missile from 9/11 and a blog subscription to ‘How Gerry McCann Got Away With It), he is clearly still spending quality time on the training field – not just with his Stars – not just with his starting line-up – but the entire Liverpool playing staff because the whole organisation is singing beautifully from the same song sheet – this time against Wolves, seemingly irrelevant to his starting XI, Liverpool rock and rolled for 90 minutes with another clean sheet for the unheard of goalkeeper, inexperienced defence, and the usual mob up top banging in the goals. As with the moon landing, the answer is staring us straight in the face but we just don’t want to admit it… Liverpool are so far ahead of everyone, there’s absolutely no chance of anyone actually getting there… right Conspiracist Klopp?

Match of the Weekend: West Ham 1 Man Utd 3

Pre-game David Moyes had earned himself a lot of column inches having raised West Ham to 5th in the table and hosting a United side that Hammers fans held genuine belief they could / should be taking points from.

Post-game, David Moyes has reminded everyone that there is a stubborn rigidity to his sides and whilst they can be difficult to beat and create chances – they’re predictable, and do not adapt quickly to change. Also, ultimately, they’re West Ham, and do not have hundreds of millions of pounds worth of talent to change a game when it’s not going your way. With David Moyes, you know what you are getting and the limitations of that expression. Whilst they did create chances, and Jared Bowen was excellent in tying up Telles left, right and centre, they’re not dynamic and consistent enough in the final third. What they would give to replace Bowen-Fornals-Haller with Greenwood-Martial-Cavani. If he can maintain a mid-table position for a few years, West Ham fans will be happy – and they can then attempt to build from that base as they have failed previously. Until then… nights like Saturday will come and go, offering Hammers false optimism of taking the lead against the big teams, but not able to see it out often enough to actually give a damn about chasing Europe etc.

As mentioned pre-game about Ole’s United – they’re disjointed – completely unrecognisable as a football side – yet they’re again in the chase for the Top 4 and primed for Champions League knockout football. It left Gary Neville bewildered, in the space of 5 minutes he was angry and passionate about how poor United were, to then laughing about being 2 points off the top of the table. He even suggested early on, the best thing United could do was whack the ball into their own net because somehow it’s the only way they start playing. The other notable change in their tempo was the arrival of Bruno Fernandes at half-time. Without him, United are lost children waiting to be picked off. With him, they’re energetic children on a sugar rush, chasing down everything, running onto everything, and unleashing shots on goal with confidence everything they touch is going to rocket into the back of the net. This bunch of children need something more than a slightly older child babysitting them, but actual leadership and control. Surely Ole’s time is numbered, even if he wins some kind of trophy, this football is not sustainable physically, mentally or financially.

Oh… the Match of the Weekend obviously also came with a new VAR controversy as only the best league in the world can deliver… did Henderson’s clearance leave the field of play before being converted by Fernandes and Pogba? Well… probably. Next season we should have line judges to ensure this doe… linesmen? Nah, they’re a thing of the past. You must mean Referee’s Assistant? Yeah. Can’t be expecting them to just look down the line they run up and down all day and make decisions…

Result of the Weekend: Liverpool 4 Wolves 0

“I think one more week we are top of the League, unless Liverpool win by many – and against Wolves, they don’t win by many” Mourinho post-Arsenal match interview

Gauntlet set. Mourinho wasn’t exactly wrong, Liverpool needed another 5 goals to actually reach the Premier League summit, but the sentiment remains the same. In what is widely regarded as a difficult fixture at home to Wolves – one Mourinho himself lost last season – Liverpool stepped up and dispatched them comfortably 4-0 to re-affirm their position as the best team in the country. It’s been a quiet period for waxing lyrical about Liverpool, the attention for them has been elsewhere on injuries, fixtures and the victim syndrome they have. In this recent time, pundits have focussed on Spurs and Chelsea and the excellent form they’re in. Yesterday, Liverpool set out to steal back the narrative. Their first fixture as Champions with fans in the Kop, this was party time – to celebrate being Champions, to ignite the fuse on becoming Champions again.

They didn’t just win, they put Wolves to the sword. Their weakened team taking to the field, rotation in place up front, the old familiar routine returned. Salah, goal and assist. Big win, clean sheet. The gegenpress putting new England Centre-back Conor Coady under so much pressure that following his error leading to the first goal, he then inextricably dived to win a penalty – a penalty given until VAR correctly overturned it.

If you’re not a fan of Liverpool, or furthermore despise them as most fans from the 80s do… the remainder of the season does not look good. Sky will be absolutely fuming that the big top of the table clash next midweek between Liverpool and Spurs is on Amazon Prime – and the rest of us should be rightly concerned about the bandwidth required for the millions of fans across the globe trying to watch every moment of what could be considered to be a title winning decider down the road. Book it in – Wednesday 16th December at 8pm.

In Form: Normality

No side in the bottom half of the Premier League table picked up a win this weekend, with 11th placed Palace’s 5-1 demolition the closest. Normality is resuming. This can be skewed by which fixtures are occurring, but the league table is also offering signs that the unpredictable results, scorelines, performances, etc are fading out of this season. Also, we’re getting a sense of what is a mad result anyhow, as teams like Arsenal and Sheffield United just show their true colours for being poor sides.

City, United, Chelsea, Leicester, Spurs, Liverpool all won their fixtures and that routine will follow as closely as it can through the winter and into Spring whilst European football takes a backseat. Midweek games will remain as the League continues to fit into its tight schedule, but this will be more unfamiliar to those teams not in Europe and struggling to find form and consistency anyhow.

Big 6 consistency is a gambler’s paradise.

Out of Form: Arsenal / Aubameyang / Arteta

“I want to give words, congratulations to Mikel Arteta because he gave us a very difficult game. Tactically they are very good, very organised. They gave us problems, problems we were able to resolve. They have a good tactical courage and incredible spirt. They are a good team and he is a good coach.” Jose Mourinho, post-Arsenal interview.

A cheap dig, or genuine praise? Either way the Spurs faithful were loving Jose’s praise of Mikel Arteta and his evolution of football at Arsenal. At the start of the season, Arteta’s Arsenal had arrived as FA Cup Winners, knocking out City and Chelsea at Wembley. Then, Community Shield Winners defeating Liverpool. They started with 100% record after 3 games, and everything was rosy in the Garden of Emirates. Then…

Furloughed staff, redundant mascots, Ozil’s exile… Aubameyang’s contract… Aubameyang’s one goal from open play all season… Arsenal’s one win and six defeats in 8 league games…

Wheels truly off – Arsenal Fan TV are already retailing ‘Arteta Out’ t-shirts for £22.

Given that Sheffield United have one point from 11 games, Arsenal have to be pretty disappointing this season for the focus to be on them – and focus it is, particularly when the other half of North London are having their best season for 40 years, Arsenal themselves have not had a worse start to a league campaign since 1981.

Their reliance on Aubameyang to get them out of trouble is trouble itself. His goals last season propelled Arsenal into a false position – and that was only 8th. With his drought coming at a time of transitional development for players such as Saka, Pepe, Martinelli, Willock and others, Arsenal look completely lost in the final third and are more hopeful of clear cut chances than expectant. Sunday was a return to Arsene’s worst periods, when they would repeatedly pass the ball to each other on the edge of the opposition box without ever being clinical with their opportunities. This period happened to be whilst Arteta played under Wenger. This Arsenal form is cyclical.

Roy Keane joked last weekend after the Leeds game that they would have enough to stay up, mocking the fall from grace Arsenal find themselves in – but this week that seems like an even more legitimate point of conversation. Arsenal are not just 15th in the league, but they have also played 3 of the 5 teams below them and you can rightly question where their next points are coming from.

I do believe there will be 3 worse teams than them this season, but on form that is already debateable.

EPL GW10 Review: Are Liverpool being Muscled Out?

Injuries, injuries, injuries… and yet… no-one else seems to be suffering as severely. Perhaps the Gegenpress is not conducive to lockdown football.

“The biggest risk to Jurgen Klopp winning the league again this season is another big injury or two. So, he wants to try and gain that advantage to put some psychological thing into people’s minds. Sir Alex Ferguson did it for 15 or 16 years.” Gary Neville, MNF 01.12.20

Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher again put on a show during Monday Night Football on Sky Sports, fiercely debating Jurgen Klopp, VAR and other points. The particular highlight was the disagreement between them regarding the number of injuries being racked up by Liverpool and Klopp’s persistent arguments that it’s everyone else’s fault but his. Surprisingly, Neville was willing to make the statement that Liverpool will win this league with a canter, if they were not to pick up these injuries. It’s how I feel too. Liverpool look like the strongest team in the league by some distance, have experience of winning, and critically have improved their squad from last season with an on-fire Jota. The biggest challenge to their season is the increasing injury list, and Klopp is making a fanfare of it. Neville senses the similarities between Klopp and Ferguson, who also maintained a squad who should walk the league, knowing only injuries were to impact on their success. The answer, find as many ways to prevent those injuries without taking your foot off the gas. Fergie’s United squad was much more impressive on the whole, and allowed more rotation. Klopp on the other hand is struggling to rotate key individuals, such as Robertson and Alexander-Arnold. For anyone that missed MNF, or generally do not take the time to watch Carra and G. Nev battle it out, start trying to find the time for it. Even if it is a little Liverpool / United biased…

In other news, Feudball’s Preview promoted Match of the Weekend Everton vs Leeds set a new season record for shots in a game. You’re welcome. I mean, I had predicted GOALS GOALS GOALS – and they gave it their all. It’s astonishing that match finished with just the one goal considering the 38 shots on goal – 14 on target.

Equally, the Stalemate of the Bridge played out entirely as expected. Neither team needed to risk defeat in victory and it was hugely apparent as even the ardent fan must have struggled to see the match out. Chelsea edged the game, but it will be Mourinho that left Stamford Bridge the happier – even if he claimed his dressing room was unhappy with just the point.

Finally, we had predicted Nick Pope as Man of the Weekend and what a standout prediction. It turns out… without him Burnley got battered at The Etihad 5-0 for the 4th consecutive season. It was an ambitious shout out to the Burnley #1, especially as he didn’t take to the pitch – but imagine what it could have been if he had played! So… let’s look at what did happen elsewhere.

Match of the Weekend: Southampton 2 Manchester United 3

If like the rest of society you are obsessed with nostalgia, this was the place to find it. Southampton, the bogie team of 90s United, startled the inconsistent Red Devils taking a two goal first half lead. James Ward Prowse, scoring another sublime free-kick, had Beckham comparisons being made all over the internet. Changing goalkeepers at half-time… a thing of the past, but ironically a thing for the future – Dean Henderson’s Man Utd Premier League debut. A lucky United comeback… a centre-forward in the mould of Mark Hughes throwing himself without thought for his own welfare to score the winner… in FERGIE TIME. The best thing about this nostalgic visit, no VAR headlines. All blood and glory left on the pitch. Southampton players, staff and fans could feel rightly hard done by and gutted by the result, but I have a lot of time for Manager Ralph Hussenthal’s comments after the game.

“We hear them celebrating in their dressing room… You know what you have done and how tough you have been because they were celebrating like they had won the Premier League here”. Southampton are not Manchester United, but they should take huge pride in their achievements this season, and all celebrate how far they have come since that 9-0 home Leicester defeat. Also remember they are still without their best player Danny Ings.

Result of the Weekend: Leicester 1 Fulham 2

They can do it! They’re here to stay! We hope…

Fulham set out to out-Leicester Leicester on Monday Night Football and boy did they do it well. It took about 5 minutes for me to consider backing Leicester to win as a mistake. Fulham’s ‘front-three’ looked sharper, harder, faster than the Leicester defence on each counter-attack and it was only a matter of time until the breakthrough occurred. The difficulty from there was in keeping them out at the other end and Fulham held their structure and their nerve through to the 95th minute to take their first away win of the season.

They even scored a penalty! Amazing. Now Scott Parker must make sure this isn’t a one-off, and they can use this to carry momentum into their upcoming fixtures – with Man City away next, it’s important not to lose faith and morale in defeat. But… if they could do it to Leicester, why shouldn’t they back themselves to steal another 3 points?

In Form: Chelsea Defence

Chelsea and Spurs are theoretically the best defences in the Premier League this season, it was no real surprise to see them see out a goalless draw. Lampard has really turned round the fortunes of the Chelsea backline since… well let’s be fair it’s since Mendy arrived to play in goal. But it’s not entirely down to his signing (anyone replacing Kepa was going to bring a confidence boost) as Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell are also successful new purchases this season and Reece James has made the right back position his own. They held Kane and Son at arm’s length, restricting Spurs to barely leaving the bus station.

Chelsea will have greater challenges ahead, but there is belief that this stubborn defence will create the base for winning trophies.

Out of Form: Sheffield United

Last season, Chris Wilder and Sheffield United were winning games, fans, friends, plaudits… they were the Hen laying the golden egg. Everyone wanted to be them, understand how they made it work with overlapping centre-backs etc.

This season, it just isn’t happening. They can argue they have been unlucky in games, they have had close games regularly, but they’re just not clicking and they’re falling too far from safety. One point from 10 league games is relegation form. Wilder remains well spoken, calm and logical about things. They don’t need to set the world alight, they just need to make sure there’s 3 teams below them when the season ends. Can they achieve that? Of course – but it will require them getting wins on the board soon, and regularly.

Klopp Strop is Height of Double Standards on Player Welfare

Whilst Managers repeatedly blame broadcasters, what are they really doing for the mental and physical welfare of their own? And where should the fingers of responsibility really be pointed?

Following his incendiary interview with Sky last week, Jurgen Klopp has followed up with both barrels to Des Kelly, the BT Pitchside journalist in his postgame interview. Klopp had been further incensed by more injuries to his squad, but also a number of disallowed goals and giving away a last minute penalty in a damaging 1-1 draw at Brighton. With emotions high and tension rising, Klopp snapped at Kelly, congratulating him for causing Milner’s injury.

Klopp: Yeah, congratulations.
Kelly: Me, personally?
Klopp: No, but you work for them yeah? Hamstring. Surprise.

Jurgen Klopp has most definitely marked his line in the sand and he’s building a scouse army to follow him – WAR ON BROADCASTERS. Unfortunately for Klopp, Kelly wasn’t taking any shit – and rightly so.

Kelly: Maybe you’re firing at the wrong target. We are broadcasters, we work within Premier League rules, and Premier League makes the rules, that’s the Premier League clubs, so shouldn’t you be talking to Premier League clubs? Shouldn’t you be talking to chief executives.

The thing is… Klopp has absolutely no ground to stand on. Kelly went on to re-iterate this is a Premier League issue, voted on by the Premier League Chairmen, and Klopp’s protests should be with them. If Mourinho was acting the way Klopp was, we would be slamming him with contempt of the game and rightly calling him out for the childish petulance on display.

This is the second wave of controversy for broadcasters this season, having had the finger incorrectly pointed at them for the Pay-Per-View debacle when again – they were acting on the instructions of the Premier League. Now that PPV is out of the way, the middle finger is being pointed at Sky and BT – with most velocity by Klopp – for Saturday 1230pm kick-offs. Does he have a point? Well quite frankly no. The reason for Saturday 1230pm kick offs is a decision made by the Premier League to maximise the value of domestic and international television rights.

The Premier League decide on the available slots not to please those fans that attend the games (we’ve seen scenarios where fans are unable to use public transport because of scheduled fixtures), sometimes not even to please the fans from the UK – but those who wake up in New York, Malaysia or South Korea. They have hand-picked these times for kick-offs, and those are decided by the 20 Premier League representatives sent from each club. Sky take whatever is offered, but have no control over these.

  • The Premier League set the rules on which games can be broadcast and when.
  • The Premier League decided on a weekly Saturday 1230pm kick-off.
  • The Premier League decided any team that plays by Wednesday night can be selected for the Saturday 1230pm kick-off.
  • Clubs RUN the Premier League through Members’ Voting Rights.
  • Premier League Clubs this season have agreed to only 3 Subs, to continue with the TV Scheduling (and they were responsible for the introduction of PPV).

So why is Klopp foaming at the mouth against broadcasters? It’s the same interview tactic recently employed by intellectuals Donald Trump and Boris Johnson. The truth is irrelevant. The most important factor in Klopp’s empassioned interviews is the ability to shout louder and directing anger at something indefensible. What’s incredible, is his actions in ignoring competent and logical arguments and just shouting louder and louder.

Klopp: If someone tells me again about contracts I will go really nuts because the contracts were not made for a Covid season

The truth is Klopp is struggling this season with injuries and decisions going against him. It’s a run that we have not seen Liverpool threatened with previously under the German. He’s consistently been able to rely upon the same solid 15 or 16 players, and a string of VAR / refereeing decisions until this season – this is the Klopp you get when things go awry. With the injuries “piling up”, Klopp’s been forced to use his squad. With decisions going against him, Klopp’s been forced into humility in defeat. What’s apparent, is Klopp’s no better than the rest of us. He’s used typical deflection tactics to avoid accepting that Liverpool are not meeting his expectations.

If not the broadcasters, Klopp also has time to vent at the officials as seen here. On a roll, he’s taking no prisoners in showing his levels of entitlement. Again, this has not been the fault of the officials, but the angry speeches of a old man losing his grip of control on the greatest show on Earth. The Trump comparisons continue…

What about if we were to point the finger at Klopp and Liverpool themselves, and consider how much they care about player welfare? It’s the latest emotional bargaining attempt from the Managers’ Union, and purported by Klopp this time last year.

Klopp: There would be a few solutions possible but there was not one day where Fifa, Uefa, the Premier League, the Football League and the other leagues sit at a table and think about the players and not about their wallet

It’s the height of double standards when Managers make claims of everyone else not having a care for players’ welfare when they themselves have the ultimate responsibility, and are the ones pushing players into injuries. No-one is demanding that James Milner play, no-one insisted that players be rushed back or risked. If it’s such an obvious disaster to play these players at 1230pm on a Saturday, why are YOU playing them?

It’s time for Clubs to be honest, for Managers’ to be honest. If they really cared for players welfare, they themselves would put their welfare first – alas they do not – alas they’re just protecting their own interests. In fact, they’re probably acting more selfishly in pursuit of glory than the rule makers or broadcasters, who are guaranteed their money regardless.

Sane and Salah have both contracted positive Covid-19 Tests. The concern for their welfare? To sit out two weeks training and return straight to the first team. Why Klopp why?! Did Sky force you to play them? Could they have been eased back? Why have Origi and Shaquiri only played a combined 52 minutes this season?! That must be because BT had too many adverts or something as equally as irrelevant to the selection policy at Anfield.

Liverpool are such victims after all, it’s not like Salah was breaching Covid rules and attending a wedding during the international break. No doubt this was somehow Amazon Prime or BBC’s fault.

Solskjaer spoke out previously “We were set up to fail”. Why? Man Utd were set-up to play at 1230pm on a Saturday, no-one forced them to pick injured players. Solskjaer chose the team he did because he is under pressure to win games, collect points, win trophies – please shareholders.

The same can be said for Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola, Frank Lampard, Jose Mourinho, etc etc.

You want evidence that the Clubs / Managers are not putting players welfare at the forefront of their decision making? Take last night’s incident between David Luiz and Jimenez. The loudest CRACK accompanied the contact between them that left Jimenez out cold with a fractured skull. He laid on the ground requiring treatment for 10 minutes before he was taken to hospital. David Luiz, in contrast, was just wrapped up in bandages and despite blood continuing to pour from his skull, he was not taken off or seen too with concern for his welfare until half-time – 30 minutes later. Where’s the concern then?

Managers and Clubs are making their points public but they’re not often making them with credibility. If they shout loud enough about emotive subjects such as player welfare, or the cost of football, and point fingers at the perennial baddie “Broadcasters” they will incite enough hatred to get their voice heard and logic thrown out the window.

The reason Milner was risked by Klopp is his incessant need to win games, not player welfare. Liverpool, as with any Premier League side, is entitled to a squad of 25 players PLUS the ability to use any player U21 – and they have the majority of those available for selection on a weekly basis. Liverpool have ELEVEN available options in defence before including Fabinho and Milner. These “fringe” players have not been used by Klopp, and the consequences of injuries has increased.

David Luiz’s welfare was not considered important enough for Arteta to use a substitution and protect him from serious mental health concerns. Should the FA have concussion subs? Perhaps – but equally we should protect our players welfare irrespective of our pursuit of points, prizes and money. This was even more poignant given the recent media attention on the link between heading the ball and dementia, which has taken the lives of a number of the England ’66 World Cup winning squad – yet David Luiz just got wrapped up and sent back out like a battered soldier on the front line. Where was the concern for his welfare? It’s probably Sky’s fault for the late Sunday night kick-off, I mean… who plays on Sunday nights?!

Look at Spurs, who have played more games in less time than any other team in the Premier League. They have done so quietly, not complaining too much, just getting on with it. They have used more players than any other side, with those players averaging more minutes than any other sides’ squad players. The more players you use in rotation, the more likely you are going to avoid injuries – a system that is effective at White Hart Lane with them top of the League, in the League Cup Semis, and top of their Europa League group. Perhaps actually using your squad is the way forward.

The final note on this saga in its current guise is to call out the unprofessionalism of Jurgen Klopp attempting to name and shame Chris Wilder, making a mockery of Sheffield United’s one point from 9 games, and creating a divisive civil war amongst the Premier League Clubs. Klopp is not getting his way, but his campaign should be behind closed doors with decorum. Instead, he has gone public with an argument short of facts and strong on irrelevant emotional outbursts. If that doesn’t scream “Donald Trump Playbook” I don’t know what does.

Stay classy Anfield.

NB: Player welfare is important, it’s why the Premier League provide the option of a 25 man squad with the addition of youth players to supplement when required. Rest and recuperation is important, which is why the Premier League have rules to prevent two matches occurring within 48 hours (Christmas exceptions aside). Winning trophies is the legacy that Managers and Players will leave, which is why they put their own welfare aside in the pursuit of glory. That’s their choice. No-one’s fault.

EPL GW10 Preview: Showdown or Stalemate at Stamford?

Given Chelsea’s performance at Old Trafford, and Spurs’ at home to Man City, this could be the dullest top of the table / Chelsea vs Spurs match for a lifetime.

The most intriguing, arguably most important match of the weekend no doubt takes place at Stamford Bridge where Chelsea will host Jose Mourinho’s Spurs for the right to sit at the top of the table. By kick-off, Liverpool will no doubt have beaten Brighton therefore only Spurs will be able to reach the summit, but funnily enough the last time Chelsea held Spurs’ title fate in their hands… well… let’s just call it fisticuffs.

The return of Mourinho is no longer of any value to the media, but the Master vs Apprentice storyline of Lampard vs Mourinho does grab their attention. Lampard has had many great managers to learn from, and his style of play does not appear to be that similar to the Portuguese, except of course for that boring 0-0 at Old Trafford recently where Lampard passed his Provisional on Parking the Bus.

Neither side will win the League with victory here, nor will they have any substantial victory to carry a psychological advantage over Liverpool and Man City. However the victory will provide them the pride of London and firmly place the victors at the top of the chasing pack. I expect this one to be on the boring side, perhaps being edged by a moment of brilliance by any of the outstanding talent on display. Sure, you have to watch, but nah… it won’t be a classic. For a more end to end exciting game, I suggest taking a Saturday afternoon trip to Goodison Park.

Match of the Weekend: Everton vs Leeds

GOALS GOALS GOALS. End of. No need for any further clever interpretation required of why these two teams coming together this weekend is going to be worth a watch – above all the other games – just simply… GOALS.

Not enough for you? Okay. Everton score and concede like it’s the aggregate goals of a game that determine who wins the league. Leeds are relentless in their pursuit of the ball and the man, creating chances at one end, giving chances away at the other. Both sides are exciting to watch, with slightly different fortunes heading into December. Expect Carlo Ancelotti’s side to just sneak the advantage being at home, being more experienced in the league, and having proven goal scorers upfront. Also expect violence. Rated 18.

Man of the Weekend: Nick Pope

You don’t need to be a football expert to know what is going to happen this weekend at the Etihad. Burnley, who stuck to their rigid shape and defensive mentality at home to Crystal Palace, are not going to suddenly break free of their shackles and get at the opposition. If they’re not willing to do it at home to Palace, they’re certainly not going to hold the door open away to Man City. Equally, we know that City have struggled to jam open stubborn defences, twice this week facing a parked bus and only scoring once. Given Pope’s ability and recent form, plus his drive to prove himself as England’s #1, he will no doubt be kept busy once again and could star if he’s able to come away from Man City with a point.

Tipped Treble: Odds courtesy of SkyBet

We’re on a roll! We’re in to profit for the season following last week’s 4/1 Treble. A quick warning, this almost certainly means this treble will spark into a ball of flames and bring me crashing down… so I share this with trepidation. Nonetheless, share I will…

@Brighton Away Win 3/5
@Leicester Home Win 1/2
@West Ham Under 3.5 Goals 4/9

Liverpool are looking like a machine once more. Admittedly, not always, as their midweek Champions League defeat to Atalanta will speak volumes for, but despite an infamous injury list they have gone from strength to strength this league season – the blip against Aston Villa the only serious note against an otherwise stellar start to the season. Brighton have impressed without causing too many troubles. Their win last time out against Villa is a step in the right direction, but in all seriousness, they’re some distance short of a good Liverpool side and will need them to turn up cursing a hangover to have a real threat at taking points here.

Leicester were dumbstruck at Anfield last weekend. They have shown this season they’re capable of roughing it with the big boys, but were completely lost, unable to string passes, bring Maddison, Barnes and Vardy into the game and suffered as a consequence. The truth is Liverpool did that to them, and they will come back stronger. If Rodgers could have handpicked a game to return with, it would be home to Fulham. Leicester may prefer to play on the counter-attack, but they do have enough ability to also play on the front foot and dominate possession. Fulham, I like them. We all like them. Being liked will not keep you safe from relegation. I hope for their sakes they do not need to score another penalty this season…

There are a number of ‘third options’ to complete this treble, but I’m backing a lack of goalmouth action at Upton Park the London Stadium. Villa have set pulses racing in the Midlands, there’s genuine optimism creeping in to the Villains that they can sustain this form and achieve European football next season – miraculous from staying up last year? No. Leicester won the whole God damn thing from last minute survival… impressive nonetheless. Whilst they have put teams to the sword, they’ve also had tight affairs too. West Ham have been inconsistent but at the end of the day, they’re a David Moyes side, and David Moyes knows how to neutralise ambition over 90 minutes. Looking at this Villa side, he will be keen to maintain parity in the game, and hope to edge the fixture by the odd goal. Jose Mourinho joked that Moyes had found his new Fellaini in Soucek. This is exactly the type of game that Fellaini would have made his impression felt, let’s see if Jose was right.

EPL GW8 Preview: Understrength and Underdogs

Injuries and form mean City vs Liverpool has lost some of its allure, especially with the battle for the Top 4 at its most competitive ever.

For three years, Man City and Liverpool have been the strongest teams in the Premier League, and arguably Europe. They’ve set unprecedented records, created nerve tingling title run ins, scored buckets and buckets of goals in destroying the rest of the league, and done it all with smiles on their faces. In this recent period both sides have been effectively untouchable and it was only in their head to heads that we got to watch either of them seriously challenged. That allure has dissipated somewhat, whether it’s lockdown, whether it’s injuries, or just the loss of form that sees both teams with heavy losses already. Perhaps it’s more to do with the fact that Everton, Aston Villa, Southampton and others are shaking up the status quo of domestic football. Even if it’s only temporary, we know from Leicester’s title win that these underdogs shouldn’t be ignored. With key games in Everton vs Man Utd, Leicester vs Wolves and Arsenal vs Aston Villa, it no longer seems like there is only one game worth watching. Does that mean it’s not worth watching? Of course not. These two sides are still the runaway favourites to win the title, and this Sunday the majority of us can put our feet up and enjoy.

Match of the Week: Man City vs Liverpool

There’s two particularly exciting factors about this season’s Man City vs Liverpool fixture. Firstly is the more obvious factor that both defences have been inconsistent in both performance and selection. Both defences rely heavily on one individual, van Dijk who is now missing for Liverpool, and Laporte who is now returning from injury for Man City. Along with some calamitous mistakes from Kyle Walker and Joe Gomez – the usual risks taken by both defences, I expect both Managers will believe that the best form of defence is attack. With less faith in keeping clean sheets, a fact true across all Premier League football, the onus will be on outscoring the opposition and that is a wonderful thing for us neutral fans.

Secondly, this match no longer holds the intense level of pressure that previous meetings have suffered from. Players with fear of losing, losing the game, losing the ball, losing the tackle… that fear has stifled some of the Super Sundays we had dreamed of previously. This season with the sides further apart, meeting early in the season, with other teams shining at the top of the table… means players will have more freedom to express themselves and really attempt to impact on the game. There’s not been the drama of Pep vs Klopp, City vs Liverpool, for the Premier League title… no. This one’s for the fans. Keep 430pm on Sunday free, get the beers in the fridge, and enjoy.

Oh – stick a cheeky 50p on 0-0 in case I’m wrong. It will pay for the beers.

Man of the Week: Harry Kane

It feels a little like cheating on this week’s Feudball Preview. Man City vs Liverpool writes itself into the Match of the Week, and predicting Harry Kane for Man of the Week is like calling a Biden victory with just four states to go. You have plenty of information on the internet to tell you Biden / Kane will have a good week without my input, but then… I would be doing myself a disservice not to re-iterate the fact that Harry Kane is not only on fire but he is surrounded by attacking talent determined to prove their worth in a Spurs shirt and starting line-up.

Kane’s determination to become the best in the world is driving him to be involved everywhere, with goals, assists, blocks and clearances on a game by game basis. He’s very rarely out of the game for long, and Spurs are making the most of it with another goal and assist in their midweek win.

The only thing going against backing Kane this week is the extent of hype that has surrounded him and his 200th goal for Tottenham (from just 300 games). Football has a tendency to screw us over when everything points so obviously to him scoring another hat-trick… but then Kane has had to fight this his whole career – with the critics insisting he’s been a one season wonder several times. That tag has gone, and he’s now on a level with Europe’s elite in contributing to goals on a weekly basis. Everyone knows Kane can go all the way to breaking the Spurs, England and Premier League goal scoring records, and it’s games against the likes of West Brom that will catapult him there in record time.

Tipped Treble:

Firstly, let’s celebrate last week’s Feudball Tipped Treble coming in, admittedly it was touch and go, but a return at 2.08 is progress towards a profitable season. In light of this, I’m supporting two bets this weekend, starting with the exciting Friday Night Football!

@Brighton Under 1.5 First Half Goals 4/11
@Southampton Under 1.5 First Half Goals 2/5

I prefer not to back the opening games of a weekend, as a loss can spoil the whole weekend accumulator so I am reserving this bet to just the Friday night action. Risky perhaps, but an opportunity to double your money on what quite frankly looks a no brainer. Brighton and Burnley have had plenty of goals conceded but both have struggled putting the ball in the net. Southampton are on form and scoring goals, but meeting a more robust defensive outfit in Newcastle, who are unbeaten in 5 away games, and missing Danny Ings suggests a blip in their momentum is due. For the rest of the weekend, I’m supporting:

@Chelsea Home Win 2/5
@West Brom Away Win 4/9
@Arsenal Home Win 4/6

Chelsea are on imperious form, scoring plenty of goals and finally balancing their defence with 5 consecutive clean sheets. Everyone in their attacking line-up is contributing meaning they’re a threat with every attack and Sheffield United have so far offered little to nothing to threaten at Stamford Bridge.

Spurs are similarly flying going forwards, having spent much time eulogising over Harry Kane and Heung-min Son, they now travel to West Brom who have conceded 2+ goals in each outing bar fixtures with Brighton and Burnley, where they only managed one goal themselves and that was a late equaliser. West Brom have also conceded more goals in the Premier League than any other team this season. This is Spurs’ last “easy” fixture in the Premier League before a run of games of Man City (h), Chelsea (a) and Arsenal (h). A win is a must to carry this momentum into a serious attack on the Top 4, or even a title challenge.

Arsenal have looked more and more solid under Mikel Arteta, and have every right to be bigger favourites in this match given they have only dropped points against City, Liverpool and Leicester. A surprising win away to a poor Man Utd will have driven belief that this team can fight for the Top 4 and despite an indifferent record at home to Aston Villa that includes 3 defeats in their last 10 home fixtures, overall Arsenal have actually won 11 of their last 14 meetings in all competitions.

Mo’ Money, Mo Salah

Despite an increasingly competitive field, Salah is an unbelievable 4/1 for Top Premier League Goalscorer and should be backed.

Personally, I have never been Mohammed Salah’s biggest fan. His reputation had been tarnished having come to England previously with Chelsea and been mediocre – scoring just twice in 13 appearances. However we have all become too aware that failing at Chelsea as a youngster should not determine your career, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku being a further two great examples of this.

Salah spent 3 years in Italy’s Serie A with Fiorentina then Roma, where he didn’t convince everyone that his 35 goals in 81 games was world class but he had recaptured his confidence and self-belief – and with his style a perfect fit for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool he rightly earned a return to England. This is when he really began to excel.

Mo Salah benefits from a system that allows him several touches in the opposition box, whether played through directly over the top, or chances created as part of arguably the best front three in the world. He has less defensive responsibilities, and less pressure to score every chance – an issue often questioned of him for his efficiency in front of goal.

It’s true that, as Liverpool’s points tally has increased year on year, Salah’s goal haul has gone in the opposite direction; 32 from 36, 22 from 28, 19 from 34. No-one expects Liverpool to be anywhere near as dominant this season, so this trend points towards more goals for him.

More importantly however, is his improved effectiveness in front of goal this season, how sharp is he looking, and how hungry he appears to be to be placed back on the Anfield pedestal that helped earn him the PFA and Football Writers Player of the Year double in 2017/18.

The instinctive finish against Leeds show a player in his prime – not only the reaction time to the ball falling to him, but to then hit the postage stamp with a full speed half volley was beyond imaginable for a regular forward still thinking about getting their feet in the right place.

Similarly against Aston Villa, whilst Liverpool were being POUNDED at one end, Salah was his usual effective self, pouncing on loose balls and emphatically dispatching the ball past the keeper.

Last weekend he was unfortunate not to add to his 6 goals in 6 games, hitting the woodwork and having a marginal offside disallow a goal as part of Liverpool’s chase to take the lead.

Further to the above open play, Salah is the nominated penalty taker at Anfield (and we know how many penalties they’re likely to get at Anfield). He’s occasionally allowed to take free-kicks too! These additional set pieces will benefit Salah in the season long chase for his 3rd Premier League golden boot in 4 seasons.

So I say to you…

Given Mo Salah’s previous history of winning the Golden Boot twice in three seasons… given Liverpool’s expected stay around the top of the League and chances created… given his form and current goals tally (6 goals is only 2 behind leader Heung-min Son)… Odds of 4/1 (SkyBet) are far too generous. With an each-way bet, even if he finishes in the Top 4 Goalscorers you will return your stake so to me – I stress this is not a guarantee – it’s a free bet.

Sure, he could get injured… but with that attitude we’ll never win any money! And if you don’t gamble then… at least get him in your Fantasy Football team.

EPL GW5 Review: Claw Hammers and Sticky Toffees

The mystery mayhem manipulating Premier League matches continues

Another weekend of Premier League football continues to line the pockets of the bookies as no-one really knows what’s going on or why it’s happening but be honest… we fucking love it.

And the mayhem doesn’t stand still – for – one – moment. 26 goals from 8 weekend games, 5 last gasp equalisers across high scoring dramatic draws, a further last minute winner and late drama at Newcastle, Leicester and the only reliable guarantee left in football – Arsenal losing away to the Big 6.

Completing a concise review of the Premier League is getting harder and harder, almost harder than predicting what to bet on in the first place (I’ve only tipped 2 winning selections from 9 thus far – Villa are responsible for 3 of those). Each of these matches could generate thousands of words, but for now let’s keep it short and snappy.

Stand-out Match: Everton 2 Liverpool 2

What happened at White Hart Lane with West Ham coming back from 3-0 down with 82 minutes played is nothing short of a miracle. “That’s Football” Jose Mourinho remarked. However there is a deep truth to what happened at Spurs – they’re Spursy. It’s what Mourinho was brought in to change, and there’s no doubt that this was a slur on his reputation – hence the deflection of in-depth analysis simply to “that’s football”.

Instead we will focus on Goodison Park, where Premier League managers, players, fans… and some board members focussed their attention on the Merseyside Derby to seek answers on two vital questions: Are Everton the real deal for a challenge to the Top 4? Can Liverpool’s 30 point mountain from last season be conquered? The performance, result and Virgil van Dijk’s season threatening injury provided sufficient evidence to believe in both.

Liverpool’s front three – particularly Salah – looked sharp, and will continue to threaten all Premier League defences all season – which means despite any other wheels coming off – they should definitely expect to be title challenging. One major concern is the dramatic drop in goals and assists from Roberto Firmino, he’s now only scored 1 goal in 30 games. A lot is often said of what Firmino brings to Liverpool, allowing them to press from the front and create so many chances – but a return of 9 goals and 10 assists in 43 games since the start of 2018/19 should raise a few eyebrows.

Further concern undoubtedly lies in the expected prolonged absence of van Dijk. Having been in suspicious form this season anyhow, Liverpool’s title defence will be rocked by the loss of their inspirational Dutch leader at the back. It was noticeable, and I cannot be the only one that felt that, both Everton goals – one corner, another deep cross in open play – would both be shining examples of where van Dijk has brought an aerial dominance to this Liverpool side. Without him they were weaker and allowed both Keane and Calvert-Lewin free headers at goal to share the points. The image above shows how unmarked and unchallenged Calvert-Lewin is for 2-2. Other teams will target Matip and Gomez, the latter of which has been below his own standards at a time when he needs to step up the most.

Everton came from behind – twice – to take a point away from a fixture they have not won in 10 years. Their resilience to fight for something out of the game, and quality to achieve both goals and more chances should be praised and give Toffee fans enhanced hope to continue this form throughout the season, challenging the current erratic form of Man Utd, Chelsea, Leicester, Tottenham and Arsenal. You can believe the Toffees will be sticking around.

But a quick note on the incidents that have made the headlines: Pickford was incredibly lucky to stay on the pitch, for what would undoubtedly have been a red card had it not been for an irrelevant offside. It was reckless, dangerous, and he had to go; Richarlison was being Richarlison. Capable of brilliance, but occasionally hot headed and overly aggressive. It was a bad challenge which he admitted, and it was a straight red; the VAR decision to disallow Liverpool’s winner was both hilarious and ludicrous all-in-one. Rightly, albeit a little petulant, Liverpool have demanded answers from Referee HQ as to what the logic was behind this decision when the lines appear to be marked on complete make-belief, and the world seems to see Mane as being onside. With so much controversy surrounding these moments, we’ll pick them up in a separate article.

Stand-out Performance: Timo Werner

I didn’t have the patience to wait for time on Werner, selling him in Fantasy Football a fortnight ago, but after a goal and assist in midweek for Germany he appears to have settled into Premier League life with a brace and assist in Chelsea’s 3-3 draw with Southampton.

Werner’s talent and attitude have never been in question – he’s a machine in the final third, fully capable of running at you from out wide, bringing other players into the game, and deadly infront of goal. If anything, as the spearhead of such an attacking outfit it’s a wonder how it’s taken this long. He should be expected to maintain a higher standard, especially with such creative ability supporting him – it’s just a hope for Chelsea fans they can stop conceding so many goals costing them the win. Even just keeping their opponents down to 2 goals a game would have provided 4 more points, and push Chelsea into 2nd place. Oh how they must long for John Terry (reminder: JT is somehow assisting Villa’s 100% winning record).

In Form: Harry Kane and Heung-min Son

Whilst I can admit to selling Werner before he hit form, I can also celebrate replacing him with Harry Kane who is quite figuratively on fire – ably supported by Heung-min Son – as they continue to push the record books on goalscoring partnerships.

It’s even more impressive and exciting for Spurs fans that Gareth Bale is joining this front two to become arguably the most exciting front line in world football right now (the break-up of Barcelona and Real Madrid assisting this greatly).

Kane’s stats this season in Premier and Europa League are unprecedented and phenomenal. It’s worth noting they have NOT BEEN ENOUGH to see off home games vs Newcastle and West Ham, but he’s really stepped up to lead this new look Spurs:

Played 8 Goals 10 Assists 8

Son is not far behind on an a similarly impressive:

Played 7 Goals 7 Assists 4

With the arrival of Gareth Bale and Vinicius, it will allow more rest and drive more competition amongst Tottenham’s attack and you should expect Kane and Son to keep delivering on goals and assists. Next up, bottom of the table Burnley away.

Out of Form: Newcastle United

This may appear to be harsh, but hear me out. Yes, Newcastle have “impressed” this season, and had gathered 7 points from their 4 Premier League games – but looking at their season in more detail does raise alarm bells.

Their wins, a comprehensive victory on the opening day against West Ham – seems to point more towards the under-cooked Hammers that turned up, and home to Burnley, who are on 100% record of defeats. When dropping points, they were completely outplayed by Brighton, Spurs and Man Utd. In the League Cup, they have been untested with a big victory against Morecambe then relying on Penalties to defeat Newport County.

Some have been tempted to back Newcastle for safety, and perhaps more this year – but with Wolves and Everton to come they really need to pick themselves up and return some fight to the pitch.

EPL GW4 Review

Bookies Cash In on Premier League Laughing Stock

“FOOTBALL IS AMAZING”. That is the text I sent to my friends during the Man Utd vs Spurs match. I sent that message as Spurs scored their equaliser, making it 1-1 after just 5 minutes. Not 5 minutes of actual football, the ball had been in play for about 90 seconds. No-one, literally NO-ONE, could have predicted how the rest of that match nor the rest of the day was going to unfold. What the actual fuck Premier League?

For those yet to hear about the insanity of Super Sunday… here’s the 3 stand out results:

Leicester 0 West Ham 3
Man Utd 1 Spurs 6
Aston Villa 7 Liverpool 2

It’s at times like these that you do not care that your predictions for the weekend are all over the place (Yes, I did predict Utd / Spurs as the game to watch but also predicted Liverpool to win) because this is the ultimate joy of football – anything can happen. We love football for that feeling, that literally anything can happen – take recent events in the Champions League as the best example. It’s almost impossible to identify a single overriding factor to have caused this, but there are certainly a number of elements to consider.

The lack of pre-season is an important factor, but clubs went longer without football between March and July than in between seasons.

The transfer window continuing is important, but that has been the case for decades previously and football had more sense about it.

Covid itself is participating more in the lives of everyone and the mental health of bubble football is worth considering too.

I think the fact is – the world is different – and whilst it’s taken some time to come to fruition within football – that is understandably different too. It doesn’t have to be resolved – hell no! Let’s enjoy this whilst it lasts. The bookies certainly are!

It is a well known fact that bookmakers will make more money when a game is live on TV – Merry Christmas! Every Premier League game is currently broadcast live. It is a well know fact that bookmakers will make more money when the favourite in the market doesn’t win – Happy New Year! Results are not going the way of the favourites, thus has been a mini-cash cow for the industry.

Stand-out Result: Aston Villa 7 Liverpool 2

“It looked like we lost the plot after it went 1-0” Jurgen Klopp.

1-0 occurred in the 4th minute.

In all seriousness, Liverpool did not look very different to normal, but were repeatedly punished by an exciting Aston Villa side who edged a number of close offside calls and showed exactly what you can do to this Liverpool side when you get at them – run at them – drive through them on the break. Jamie Carragher has said a number of times recently that he is uncomfortable with the high line and offside plans Liverpool’s backline have been operating but it’s vital to theirs and City’s intentions to press from the front and play in the opposition’s half. Aston Villa defended solidly enough to capitalise on this, breaking through the press through Barkley, Grealish, McGinn and Trezeguet and getting as many shots off as they could which – through a huge element of fortune – resulted in 7 goals. Hats off to Aston Villa, perhaps they have found a formula to reside at the Premier League table for longer than anticipated given their 3 wins out of 3 but there’s a long way to go, and teams will wake up to their success.

Stand-out Performance: Ollie Watkins

The second time I am writing about a former Brentford striker making a big impact in the Premier League, this time with last season’s top scorer in the Championship. Take a bow Ollie Watkins.

He would have watched, read and listened about how imposing Liverpool’s defence is, how no-one gets passed Virgil van Dijk, and he showed absolutely no fear in not just scoring his first Premier League goal but completing his first Premier League hat-trick – and a perfect hat-trick at that: sliding in left-footed from Adrian’s 4th minute mistake, running Gomez ragged down the flank before a right-footed drive into the top corner, then completing a clever free-kick routine (against a shocking high line) with a 3 yard header into an open net. He couldn’t possibly dream of a performance against the Champions like that – and he should have had more – rattling the crossbar being the most obvious when again Liverpool’s defence was stranded.

Brentford have implemented a very clear business strategy that includes the development and sale of Premier League quality footballers – next on the conveyer belt is Said Benrahma who has been linked with a move to the top flight already – expect a move in January if Brentford are struggling otherwise you will be watching him in the top flight in Brentford colours next season.

In Form: West Ham
When David Moyes contracted Covid I had joked that it would result in a change in fortunes for the Hammers. I re-iterate, I had joked… no-one actually believed it would result in a 4-0 win over Wolves, and a 3-0 away win over Leicester. What the fuck West Ham?!

West Ham’s opening fixtures filled their fans with dread, that they would be chasing points to get out of the relegation zone before November. Somehow they have bagged 6 points against these Top 6 teams from last year and have given their fans genuine belief that they won’t be in a relegation battle come May. Not enough optimism for anything higher than that, but all positive steps given the state of the club over the past 24 months that have included public displays of attention against the board and the Club Captain declaring their frustration at the sale of an Academy star. Enjoy the run Hammers.

Out of Form: Sheffield United
The surprise stars of last season, are again the surprise for this season. 4 games, 4 defeats – in trouble.

No side should overly concern themselves with poor form at this stage but they may have found themselves in an unprecedented position. Sheffield United having earned 3 promotions in 4 seasons have never received such a threat to their momentum, a dent to their confidence, and a position at the bottom of the table. Chris Wilder has set the Premier League alight with his brand of football that includes overlapping centre-backs whipping in crosses for overlapping wingbacks – but he’s in new territory now to instil confidence and find a new way to win points. They came close at the death against Arsenal, and one positive result may kickstart their season. The international break has come at the best possible time for them.