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.