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 GW9 Preview: It’s BACK! And it’s FREE*!

*Pay-Per-View has been disbanded, but multiple pricey subscriptions still apply bar one occasional BBC match.

The irony is not lost on me, using an image of fans celebrating an England goal whilst discussing the end of the international week, but these levels of excitement only occur once every few years – or in the case of Scotland, once in a lifetime.

But the real football is back! And now every minute is free from PPV meaning if you really wanted to… you could watch every minute of every match for approximately £100 per month… I predict now that this will be the next target for the armchair fan – to collectively unionise and demand that subscription prices are made more affordable. We’ll see. There is an underlying truth that there’s too much money in football, and that money is generally provided by the football fan, so who knows what the next wave of lockdowns will bring. There’s only so long furlough can pay those bills… But for now, let’s celebrate what we have with this week’s games!

Match of the Weekend: Spurs vs Man City

Super Saturday sees a modern day classic of a football match, with so many individual battles set to decide the fates of two of the major sides chasing title glory. This game is far more than just Mourinho vs Guardiola, more than just a recall of the infamous Champions League tie of two seasons ago, more than just 90 minutes of football.

Spurs can rightly believe this is their best chance of success in a Premier League campaign, with comparisons being made between this side now and the best they played under Pochettino. They look increasingly more and more exciting going forwards with Bale returning to full fitness, and a midfield behind becoming more accustomed to their roles in supporting the front three. Mourinho’s game winning changes last time out at West Brom also show a sense of determination to win games and keep the pressure on those around them. From 2nd place in the table and a run of tough fixtures against City (h), Chelsea (a) and Arsenal (h), they could seriously consolidate their title credentials with a performance and results against an inconsistent City.

However City themselves will have renewed belief in their own abilities following a draw with Liverpool last time out, the return of Laporte at the heart of their defence, Jesus leading the line in place of a false 9, a midweek hat-trick for Torres and Foden’s first goals for England… they also have much to play for in what could propel them into the Top 4 still with their game in hand from the first round of fixtures.

The game promises entertainment, though its also a real possibility that if the scores are still level in the final quarter, that not losing will become the priority over collecting all 3 points.

I believe there will be a penalty, I believe there will be goals, I believe Spurs are a better shout than the 3/1 being offered by SkyBet.

Man of the Weekend: Jamie Vardy

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock this week (and Liverpool fans will wish Mo Salah had been instead of attending a wedding and contracting Covid), you will be fully aware that Liverpool are suffering an injury crisis in defence. van Dijk’s absence will be prolonged into 2021, but Fabinho, Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold are also carrying injuries. Andrew Robertson gave everything for Scotland to qualify for Euro2020 and suffered a minor injury as a consequence, and to be fair their defence has not been solid this season at the best of times. So who would you not want to be holding a high line against this weekend? Jamie Vardy. As the scourge of so many sides this season, carrying the form from terrorising the Leeds backline and a rest through international week, Vardy – Barnes – Maddison will be pressing and chasing everything in Liverpool’s half causing further chaos to an unsettled defence. I am not necessarily expecting him to get the winning goal, but his contributions this season without the ball and in assists means Leicester will be more than a handful at Anfield and provide ongoing concerns about that backline.

Vardy’s record against the Big 6 is sublime, and against Liverpool reads as 11 games, 7 goals, 1 assist. I 100% believe this will improve this weekend.

Tipped Treble:
@Newcastle Away Win 4/9
@Spurs Double Chance Spurs or Draw EVENS
@Fulham Over 2.5 Goals 4/6

Chelsea are the side in form, and despite the international break, carry so many threats that it’s hard to see an inconsistent Newcastle side keeping pace with them. Following the last return from an international break, Chelsea dominated at home to Southampton before late goals cost them the win – but they went on to concede just one goal in 6 matches that included 4 wins. They’re dangerous, and entertaining. All things do come to an end, and Newcastle will work hard for the points, but they’re yet to fully connect as a unit and this hurdle will be too high for them.

As discussed, Spurs vs Man City should be a rollercoaster of a game, but I do not believe Man City are rightly the favourites being presented. EVEN money will cover the Spurs win or draw in this fixture, and whilst it is always brave to bet against City, this season’s form suggests Spurs are the more likely victors. City, a side normally so full of goals and attacking prowess, are the biggest surprise in goal return – especially with the mayhem of 20/21, only scoring 10 this term from 7 league games. In contrast, Spurs have 19 from 8.

Everton can welcome back Richarlison this weekend, and it’s much needed to stem the loss of points that have occurred in his absence. Richarlison scored midweek for Brazil, and will be hungry for more. As mentioned previously, Everton have not won a game without him since he arrived from Watford. Considering the pre-Richarlison ban form from the Toffees, they had a 100% win record, scored 12 and conceded 5 in 4 matches. They’ll see the visit to the Cottage as an opportunity to return to form. Fulham on the other hand have attempted to tighen up in recent games, but have still found themselves on the losing side. With more pressure on them to get results at home, they’re likely to provide Everton with chances in their pursuit of creating their own. Lookman will have double motivation to prove himself, following his failed Panenka penalty to earn a point last time out, but also because Everton let him go earlier in his career.

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.