What a difference a week makes.
This time last week, as City prepared for a tricky-looking trip to West Brom, we were saying what a difference a month makes.
Manchester City’s crisis has now developed into full blown euphoria after a 4-0 win at the Hawthorns was followed by a momentous display of attacking verve against Barcelona in midweek. Football is nothing if not unpredictable.
The fabled ten straight wins, followed swiftly by six without success have now morphed again, into two successive wins, seven goals and the feel good vibe back to Guardiola’s team.
As Middlesbrough chug into view, it is now imperative that feet are brought swiftly back to earth and the task of maintaining a slender lead atop the Premier League is given preference.
The next task for City is to keep their feet on the ground and give Middlesbrough in the league on Saturday their full attention. Boro claimed a draw at Arsenal at the end of a week which saw their hosts in Champions League action, and City allowed Southampton to escape with a Premier League point following the 4-0 defeat in Barcelona.
After a Herculean effort to gain a point at Arsenal, Aitor Karanka’s side pulled off a long-awaited home win over Bournemouth to climb into the safety of mid-table last weekend.
It must be incredibly difficult to keep up Champions League levels of effort and concentration for what is ostensibly a more mundane fixture, but the biggest and best teams have to find a way.
Chelsea’s home fixture with Everton on Saturday evening will provide a further measure of success regarding manager Antonio Conte’s revised tactical set up which has seen the Italian adopt the 3-4-3 formation he favoured during his time in charge of Juventus and the Italy national team.
Conte rang the changes following late September’s 3-0 drubbing at Arsenal, and the Blues responded with four straight Premier League wins in October which catapulted the team to fourth place in the table, just one point behind leaders Manchester City.
Coming at the end of a week of Champions League action in which Chelsea have been nothing more than frustrated spectators, with a return to European competition a key priority, Conte will have set his team the objective not only of beating Everton to keep last month’s momentum towards automatic qualification going but also keeping another clean sheet. Everton will provide a stern test but Chelsea have got a spring to their steps these days.
Bob Bradley would have hoped for better from Swansea’s last two matches. The American coach had a tough first assignment in Wales, but managed to guide an unfamiliar squad to a credible 3-2 defeat against Arsenal. Since then, fixtures against Watford and Stoke would have been circled as opportunities to turn a page and get back to winning ways, but somehow the side came up short, and now face a much tougher challenge as Manchester United come to town on Sunday.
Jose Mourinho’s misfiring Manchester United visit the Liberty on Sunday, the last game before another international break brings a chance for reflection and — hopefully — improvement. United have not won in four league games and haven’t scored in their last three. It’s hard to imagine they aren’t already expecting those streaks to end on Sunday.
OK. Mr. David Moyes, I understand you didn’t have the smoothest pre-season nor did the club sign enough bodies to aid your task this summer. A few players in that Sunderland squad are piss-poor and you can’t really do much when your team relies on a 33year old to get the goals. But enough of the excuses now, it’s more than 10 games into the season now and time is running out.
Bournemouth and Hull City in the next two games must provide points on the board or Moyes could be out of a job.
Eddie Howe and his team would be happy to be back in the comfort of their home ground with the 6-1 mauling of Hull City still fresh in their minds. Sunderland would do well to get a point in this game.
Arsenal and Tottenham go into the Derby in contrasting form. The Gunners are unbeaten since the first day of the season while Spurs can’t buy a win to save their lives in their last six games. They have also been struggling in front of goal to compound their malaise.
Alderweireld’s absence would be missed and Dembele keeps the midfield ticking but he limped out in the UCL fixture on Wednesday and he’ll probably sit Sunday out too.
Harry Kane should be back for this fixture but even he would probably be match rusty after been out injured in the last month.
Arsenal are scoring goals and winning freely plus have a couple of key players healing in time from their injuries. I see Arsenal ending Tottenham’s unbeaten run on Sunday.
After a torrid start to the season, Stoke City have fixed their issues and are back to winning ways. Mark Hughes is one of the most underrated Premier League coaches. West Ham looked like they had turned the corner with a string of positive results but lost easily to Everton last weekend. Their Olympic stadium home ground hasn’t provided much home comfort and Stoke City would be looking to seize on any nerves.
Whisper it quietly but Watford are sitted in seventh place on the log. Walter Mazzari has come in and picked up from where his predecessor left. They won’t go down this season but can they conjure up something special to frustrate Liverpool at Anfield? On the basis of the home team’s form, that would be a tall order. Jurgen Klopp is flying under the radar this season as his team is rarely criticised but if they keep this form up for a while, people will take note and probably start taking them serious.
There’s always this kick up the backside when a new manager comes into the team. Players respond to a new reign and see it as a fresh start. But it’s different when the new manager is the guy that was in acting capacity. The accolades from the Hull’s sensational start to the season has dried. Mike Phelan probably wishes he could still be substantive manager. The target is on his head now and only positive results would keep him in a job. Hosting Southampton will be tough on Sunday as the Saints are a tough team to overcome.
Leicester and West Brom complete this round of matches on Monday night. The Champions have found some bit of consistency in their results and would be looking to consolidate on them against West Brom.