EPL GW9 Review; Contenders and Pretenders

As Spurs perform perfect parallel parking of the bus, inconsistency around them continues and a leading pack begins to develop.

You heard it here first… SkyBet are offering 25/1 on the Premier League season ending with Spurs, Liverpool and Chelsea the Top 3 in any order. With current form, strength in depth, attacking flair and now a dependable solid backbone running through each side… how can you possibly conceive anyone breaking their grip on the title race?

Spurs are doing everything correctly in proving doubters wrong, proving themselves wrong, and possibly proving their fans wrong. Mourinho has always been recognised as a serial winner by ‘any means necessary’, something that many were sceptical he could achieve with this ‘Spursy’ group. However their performance in working harder, faster and more effective than Man City shows they’re a serious threat to Liverpool’s title defence. They can go one step further when they visit Stamford Bridge next weekend which is guaranteed to be the one to watch on Sunday at 430pm.

Chelsea are on fire. No side has kept as many clean sheets, no side has scored more. Chelsea are by no means the finished product, but the distance they have come so quickly, and with the electric potential all around their youthful squad, means if they can keep it together defensively long enough – per game – over the season… they will certainly be there or thereabouts. I reserve the same questions over Lampard for a successful season, however no-one below them looks like putting a run of games together sufficiently to settle in the Top 3. Selecting both Abraham and Werner, they added another assist and goal combo to see off a stubbornly boring Newcastle side this weekend.

It’s not too early to get excited about a mouth watering, table topping, fiery London derby…

Finally Liverpool, who despite injuries racking up across their line-up, looked like a machine once more. The personnel almost becomes irrelevant when the system is in working order. Take Milner for example, not only comfortably slotting in at right back in the place of Alexander-Arnold, but he also added two assists to make up for the missing wingback. No Salah, no problem – then consider how good this 3 week rest must be for the elite striker – to return to the Liverpool side with the likelihood of them being top of the tree at the start of December. Matip and Fabinho at the back is reassuringly secure, they didn’t have too much to do against a seriously disappointing Leicester side, but they did it well and consistently.

Who out of the rest of the pack could ultimately break this threesome up? City again looked poor, this is their worst start for over a decade, and they’ve scored only 10 goals from 8 games. Take the ‘Man City’ label aside, and they’re on the kind of form that made us initially question whether Pep could do it in England. City will improve, but they have a long way to go to be consistent enough for a title challenge in my opinion and suddenly look good at 4/1 to miss out on the Top 4.

Leicester, Aston Villa, Everton, Southampton, Wolves, Man Utd, Arsenal… do me a favour. Leicester were the most disappointing outfit of the weekend. They have suffered a few defensive injuries this term, but it was their inability to find forward players, move the ball, and one dimensional football that concerns me about them competing at the top. Villa – do not trust them – that is all. Everton improved, will continue to improve, but are too reliant on key individuals that when they do not perform, the team does not perform, and they concede too many goals currently not seeing games out. The rest are all capable of beating anyone on their day, but when push comes to shove, probably do not have enough killer instinct.

So I re-iterate… 25/1 for Spurs, Liverpool and Chelsea to finish Top 3 in any order.

Wow. Now all that’s been said… let’s get to the real meat of the weekend.

Tipped Treble:

A quick shout out to my Tipped Treble portion of the Feudball Preview Show. Another successful showing means that if you have followed my Trebles this season for £10 stakes, you would be up… £8.40!!

Taking Aston Villa Trebles out of the equation (I have backed their games 4 times and lost every time) you would be up… £48.40!!

More importantly here at Feudball in the last 3 weeks we have predicted 3 out of 4 winning tips, so well worth keeping an eye on in the lead up to Christmas.

Match of the Weekend: Fulham vs Everton

If for no other reason… Fulham’s Penalty nightmare is reason enough to be invested in their live matches! It’s now 3 misses from 3 games by 3 different players, and what could be more comical than missing a last minute penalty for a draw? It’s obviously falling over whilst taking said penalty and kicking it twice resulting in a free-kick. It’s no laughing matter at the Cottage, theoretically that goal would have earned another point.

What they did bring was open spaces, as predicted in the Over Goals market, and it’s expected that will continue for both sides. Fulham do not look full of goals and yet… they’ve now equalled Arsenal and Wolves – doubling Sheff Utd and Burnley. Could this momentum infront of goal salvage enough points? Nah…

Everton returned to winning ways, but their drop off in the 2nd half will have raised major concerns. Ancelotti will get consistency in this team, built from organisation and structure, but this weekend with a change of shape they allowed Fulham to get back in the game. The real treat about all of this was it being shown live on the BBC meaning more people than ever were tuned in and it didn’t disappoint the neutrals.

Man of the Weekend: Jose Mourinho

Jose deserves all the attention and plaudits for the result against City this weekend, but he was equally right to point that credit to his full squad of players who put the graft in to achieve the performance. Everyone knows how Jose works in specialist games like this, that the whole event is broken down into opportunities for success and failure and he knows that comes down to the individuals to win individual battles. What is more impressive is how he has built this collection of players into more than just a team, but a military unit, that fights for one another, fights for the badge, fights for the win. He now has another – arguably more difficult – proposition next weekend, not that he would be drawn on it until the Thursday night fixture has been completed in their pursuit of all 4 trophies available?!

Result of the Weekend: Sheff Utd 0 West Ham 1

Here’s why Sheff Utd are in the shit. They no longer have any confidence to string passes together, to get shots on goal, nor to prevent the opposition the space to create their own chances. Then there’s not enough time between games to shake that lack of confidence. As predicted before, this is not a situation Chris Wilder has ever been in with Sheff Utd and will lead to further pain.

Losing at home to West Ham is another disappointment and another loss to a bottom half side that will re-enforce their imposter syndrome that they actually do not belong in the Premier League. The worst possible thing to happen to Sheff Utd has been lockdown, as they’re by far the worst team on record playing without fans.

One thing they definitely should not do, is remove Chris Wilder from his job. They should look to get away on a clean break, to reset. If that fails, just accept the inevitable and make the necessary actions to return to the Premier League at the earliest opportunity.

In Form: Che Adams

Fair play to Adams, who endured a torrid time settling into Premier League life with Southampton. It took him 20+ Premier League appearances before he was able to find the back of the net, and had been so out of form that occasionally Shane Long was picked ahead of him. Fortunately, that one goal – a lob over Ederson in a Southampton win over City last season – has been a catalyst (within 90 second video below).

He started this season very brightly working alongside Danny Ings, still in the England forward’s shadow, but finding ways to contribute. Now it appears his redemption is complete. Saints fans would have been devastated by the loss of Ings to injury but in the games without him, Adams has 2 assists and one goal in Southampton’s 2 wins and a draw. If he continues this run of form when Ings returns, Southampton will have a goal scoring front 2, which can cause problems against any defence. In the meantime he can continue to work with Theo Walcott who scored his first Saints goal since joining on loan.

Out of Form: Arsenal – again.

It’s over 6 hours since Arsenal scored a League goal in open play. To word this differently… Arsenal have failed to score from open play in all but 4 of their League games, breaching only the Fulham, West Ham and Sheff Utd goal line with match points return. Those victories seemed to be evidence of the positive changes Arteta was making at The Emirates. Fast forward past underwhelming football boredom against Liverpool, Man City, Leicester, Man Utd, Aston Villa and Leeds and you have a side struggling.

Whilst those sides are arguably the better of the Premier League, Arsenal head into the North London Derby in a fortnight with only a tough Wolves match to prepare – in which they will almost certainly draw a blank again. They say form is temporary, class is permanent. Is there any class there? Remember this is a side that has been full of class in utilising furlough, letting staff go, keeping Ozil on but refusing to play him, in-house arguing about their football mascot… Arsenal fans could find out too late that the class has gone too. The hope in their favour is in having met most of the big sides and turning round wins against the bottom half of the table.

Death of the Gentleman at White Hart Lane

Erik Lamela theatrics direct from Jose’s need for Spurs to be ‘Intelligent Cunts’

Amazon’s All or Nothing documentary series has brought us incredible insight into both Manchester City’s record 2017/18 season, and this summer they opened the doors to Tottenham Hotspur’s chaotic 2019/20 – and what a show. If you have seen neither I strongly recommend them.

One of the major takeaways from White Hart Lane last season was the introduction of Jose Mourinho, replacing a dishevelled Pochettino in an ambitious move by Daniel Levy to bring success to the club. Jose has an undeniable record of winning trophies – the exact jigsaw puzzle missing from a Spursy team unable to get over the line in the domestic league, domestic cups, and very notably the Champions League final.

His arrival was divisive. Spurs fans were definitely split on his appointment. On one hand, Tottenham had not attracted a world class Manager (and very few players) in their living history. It was a landmark announcement, a Manager with proven pedigree and trophy success (lest not forget Poch has never won a trophy) and a sign of the huge growth Tottenham have made on the world stage.

However, Jose is a problem Manager. Arguably he had lost his way from the young ‘Special One’ that arrived at Chelsea to set them on their journey to stardom. Sacked from Real Madrid having failed to win the Champions League and some rather distasteful scenes including a brawl with the Barcelona bench. Sacked from Chelsea following poor form and distasteful comments about the Physio team. Sacked from Man Utd following poor form and distasteful comments about players – particularly Luke Shaw.

However you looked at it, it was controversial, it was dramatic, and it was going to be different. Spurs needed to be different. The All or Nothing documentary showed an early briefing where Mourinho explained to the team that they were too nice, and that on the field – for 90 minutes – they could not be nice. They needed to be cunts. Later in the series, during half-time of the Manchester City league match at White Hart Lane, he re-iterated the point to be ‘intelligent cunts’, in the below video:

If Jose has been brought in to drive Tottenham forward from their completely justified ‘Spursy’ tag to become winners – this is what Daniel Levy has bought into. Jose has a way. He knows how to bully, and expects that from his players on the pitch. Players like Didier Drogba and Diego Costa knew how to be ‘intelligent cunts’. John Terry knew how to bully. Jose is attempting to manufacture that winning mentality into his Spurs side and, this weekend we saw it come to fruition with perfect execution. Step forward Erik Lamela.

Firsly, Lamela pushes his arm into Martial’s neck. Then receiving a light strike from Martial, he feigns injury and goes down – incensing all of the United players, and invoking a red card from the referee (at this stage I would like to question why the referee does not consult the technology before issuing the red card but that is a VAR debate for another day).

Love him or hate him – this is Jose Mourinho, and this is how he wins. It’s not pretty, it’s not desirable, but it is effective. He demands that his players are suspicious and opportunists, to ensure they do not let the opposition gain any advantage – and to maximise all possible advantages for yourself.

Understandably the incident and Jose’s presence in the Spurs dugout is still somewhat divisive, as this post clearly shows:

No-one openly admits to wanting to win dirty, least of all Spurs fans that have prided themselves on playing a certain “nice” way. However, above all we do enjoy winning. Man Utd fans will talk of all the glory from Eric Cantona but reluctantly gloss over and avoid all of the dirt that be brought with him – the same could be said for Mark Hughes, Roy Keane etc. ‘Shithousery’ is often forgotten from the record books. Lamela’s actions will not be discussed again when the memory of this result appears in our timelines.

In the heat of the moment, this ability – to be an ‘intelligent cunt’ – is a key part of the modern game, but arguably high level sport as long as it has existed. Dennis Wise was a master of pulling the hairs on legs following a slide tackle. Vinny Jones may have been less subtle, but his brand of football brought an advantage over the opposition. Winners need to be that little bit more intelligent to take advantage of opportunities that can lead to 3 points or a knockout win.

I don’t condone play acting, I don’t condone violence, and I certainly do not condone Lamela’s actions – I want to watch the beautiful game, 11 versus 11, exquisite passing and long range screamers. But if you want to win, and hire a serial winner with the reputation that Jose has, do not be alarmed by these tactics – and do not believe they are held to just characters like Jose Mourinho. The game is full of this wide ranging ‘shithousery’, it just depends where you’re willing to draw your line in the sand – or which team you support at the time.