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Matchday Wrap Up

Monday Morning Manager - WK8

by Neal Thurman
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

It was quite a whirlwind weekend in the Premier League.  The number of talking points is really rather impressive with a solid chance that you may have missed the significance of some of what went on.  Here’s a quick (yeah, right) review of what went on in case you missed it:


1)     David Silva for MVP – There are a number of factors that could have been at work with Manchester City breaking out for six goals against Newcastle.  Aguero was back to his spectacular best.  Kevin De Bruyne is a special attacking player (although whether he plays any defense at all is a worthy question).  Newcastle is really not good at all.  The difference, though, between City over their two stumbles and this weekend’s demolition of the Magpies was the return of David Silva.  He is the fulcrum around which the entire City attack appears to be balanced.  If he can stay healthy for most of the season then City should be back as title favorites.

2)     Wenger Out? – The calls for Wenger to be removed seem to ring out when Arsenal suffer a frustrating loss (like Zagreb, Chelsea, West Ham or Olympiocos so far this season) so the question is whether everyone is feeling the same way in the wake of the dominating win over league-leaders-at-the-time Manchester United on Sunday.  Arsenal’s early attack was excellent and their finishing on point and they more or less cruised to a victory once they were up 3-0.

3)     Walcott the answer – Theo Walcott didn’t score a goal against United and there were a couple of opportunities that I’d have liked to see him do better on. That said, he picked up assists on two of Arsenal’s goals (Ozil’s and Sanchez’s second).  The advantage of starting Olivier Giroud has always theoretically been that he is an excellent distributor at the forward position.  If Walcott consistently adds that to his game then it looks like Giroud will be sitting on the bench on a regular basis.

4)     Rodgers Out – So, how is it that Liverpool and FSG think anything is going to be different with a new manager?  Bredan Rodgers’ record was pretty good when he had a world class player (Luis Suarez) coupled with a bunch of other excellent players at various stages of their development (Sturridge, Sterling, Gerrard, Henderson, etc.).  Rodgers wasn’t nearly as good when Suarez and Sterling were sold and the players brought in to replace them turned out to be not quite as good.  How that differs from presumed replacement Klopp being excellent at Dortmund with Lewandowski, Gotze and others coming up through the ranks and not as excellent once those players were sold and replaced with inferior talent escapes me.  Liverpool have publicly stated that they are committed to the same “transfer team” that has them in the position they find themselves in.  Maybe a new voice will help a little bit but managers are notoriously unable to fix club-wide dysfunction (see also McClaren, Steve, Sherwood, Tim and Advocaat, Dick).  At least there will be a more interesting and better looking guy doing the press conferences.

5)     A Break for Mahrez – In a move that sent reverberations around the fantasy Premier League world, Claudio Ranieri rested Riyad Mahrez against Norwich.  This is notable not because everyone freaked out about the fantasy MVP of the season to date being absent for managers who own him and/or selected him this weekend.  It is mostly notable to me because it shows even more growth in the mid-table in the Premier League.  That a club like Leicester City can rest their best attacking player on the road in a match that they needed is a sign that the mid-table possesses depth that has never existed before below the elite teams. That the Foxes did get the win without Mahrez validates Ranieri’s decision as well as the notion that the mid-table teams are no joke.  

6)     Northeast sinking – It looked so good for Sunderland and Newcastle early in their respective matches.  The Black Cats went up 2-0 and the Magpies went up 1-0 and it should have been more.  Things went downhill from there and fast.  Sunderland at least earned a point for Dick Advocaat on his way out but Newcastle collapsed totally to fall all the way to the bottom.  It’s looking like this fierce rivalry will be contested in the Championship next season.  A shame really given all of the passion wrapped up in these two clubs.

7)     Who will come to the rescue? – With Dick Advocaat resigning after the match, the question becomes who will attempt to be the next man to rescue the sinking ship at the Stadium of Light. Most of the names mentioned leading up to Advocaat’s resignation – Allardyce, Dyche, and Vieira – seem to want no part of this “project” (read, major overhaul) and who could blame them given how poorly this club seems to be run?  Hard to see anyone worth their salt taking on this task.

8)     Chelsea… - They really just aren’t good at all.  With Mourinho basically daring Roman Abramovic to fire him one wonders how things are going to get better.  Unless Mourinho can find a way to get Willian a minimum of five set piece opportunities from the appropriate range then Chelsea look absolutely hopeless (you know, unless they’re playing Arsenal). 


It was a wild weekend and it’s only going to get wilder as the three managerial situations – Liverpool, Sunderland and Chelsea – play themselves out over the international break. 


Check in with Rotoworld.com all summer for transfer analysis and 2015-16 season previews


The Title Race


The Title Race (Ranked from favorites to most likely to miss out on the Champions League)


Manchester City – And they’re back to looking like “Invincibles” – what a performance.  Now they have two weeks to figure out why they were so much better with De Bruyne/Navas on the wings than they were with Sterling involved in the first half. 


Arsenal – The jockeying among the top four continues apace with Arsenal moving ahead of United on the evidence from Sunday.  The concern is that Arsenal need to be more ruthless against the teams they should beat (which, on the rest of the evidence from this season so far includes Chelsea for certain).  If Alexis is back to his best – and five goals in two PL matches say that he is – then Arsenal are well and truly back in contention for a title. 


Manchester United – I spent this space last week discussing the lack of a credible opponent leading up to United’s perch atop the table after Week 7.  That concern seems validated after they no-showed against Arsenal on Sunday.  Louis Van Gaal seemed to get his selection all wrong with the aged and never particularly speedy duo of Schweinsteiger and Carrick tasked with trying to keep the Arsenal attack off of the defense.  Throwing a non-defender (Ashley Young) in as the left back was another poor choice that weakened United at the back.  Guys like Phil Jones, Marouane Fellaini and Chris Smalling have been the heroes against Arsenal in the recent past as they have used their physicality to mute the Gunners’ attempts at a flowing game.  Imagine Morgan Schneiderlin, coveted by Arsenal supporters all summer if not Arsene Wenger, on the bench wondering how things have degenerated so quickly that he wasn’t chosen as United watched the goals fly in.  The good news for United is that being in the title race is about doing the business against the “rest” at least as much as it is about high profile match-ups.  This United group seems good enough to stay very much relevant and in contention although the difference in form heading toward the Manchester Derby at Old Trafford on the 25th is massive after this weekend.



The Second Tier (Ranked from most likely to break into the Champions League to least likely)


Chelsea – It seems unthinkable to move Chelsea out of the “Title Race” category given that they are defending champions, masters of the transfer market, and possessors of bottomless pockets for reinforcements if needs be. There is clearly something that is incredibly broken behind the scenes at the club and given that it isn’t possible to change out the playing squad entirely and replace them with a new group that doesn’t carry the same baggage around the only solution may be to get rid of Mourinho.  He is correct in saying that he’s the best manager the club has ever had but that doesn’t mean that he’s capable of turning this situation around.  The more interesting question is who they might get to replace the Special One.  Jurgen Klopp doesn’t seem like a natural fit at the Bridge and he seems likely to be at Liverpool within the week regardless.  Carlo Ancelotti is the other big name available but that didn’t go particularly well the last time they tried it at Chelsea so you can’t see that happening.  One wonders if they struggle through the rest of this season with either Mourinho limping to the end of the season or with a caretaker manager and then put the full court press on Pep Guardiola over the summer.  Oh, the other big question is whether I’ve moved the Blues far enough down the list.  Right now it’s the brand name and the names on the back of the jerseys rather than anything we’ve seen on the pitch keeping the Blues in our assumptions about who will finish in the Champions/Europa League places.


Leicester City – We talked about the Mahrez rotation in the opening so we’ll use this space to talk about Jamie Vardy who has been amazing leading the Premier League in goals so far this season.  Alexis Sanchez and Sergio Aguero have clearly stated their intent over the last two weeks to put that competition out of reach of the Leicester City man but the mere fact that we’re discussing Vardy in the same sentence with Aguero and Sanchez would have been unthinkable as recently as August.  The right guy in the right place at the right time in great form.  A fantastic story.  Can we maybe find some beetroots in his past to put it over the top?  That’s about the only thing that could top the fact that he’s already outpaced last season’s goal total, achieved in 34 appearances, in eight matches this season.  Who does that?


Spurs – The sort of match that Spurs need to win.  Swansea have been struggling and Spurs have been playing well.  Instead of keeping both trends going, Spurs fumbled their way to a draw.  The Liberty Stadium isn’t an easy place to play by any stretch of the imagination but with a Champions League spot seemingly up for grabs as Chelsea stumbles, Spurs need to pick up all the points they can and will be disappointed that they go into the international break with Harry Kane having failed to build on his goal against Manchester City.  Hard to fault Christen Eriksen and his brace but he needs his partner in crime Kane back at his best for Spurs to start becoming the presumptive favorite for that fourth Champions League spot.


Crystal Palace – Who are these guys? Wins over West Brom (17th), Watford (12th), Chelsea (16th), Aston Villa (18th), and Norwich City (13th) means that they’re a top half club for sure.  Losses to Spurs (8th), City (1st), and Arsenal (2nd) mean that the evidence shows that they haven’t picked up a big win yet.  We gave them credit for Chelsea being that big win earlier in the season but clearly that isn’t the case.  We’ll leave them just a touch below Spurs for now since Spurs have beaten them and there isn’t really a good win here (we don’t just penalize Manchester United for a lack of good wins here at MMM) but we’ll find out more for sure with West Ham, @Leicester City, Manchester United and @Liverpool their next four fixtures.  More than six points from that group of matches and we can comfortably move Alan Pardew’s boys up to the top of this group.  If they can’t manage even the six then they will have been found out to some extent and we’ll drop them down to mid-table.


Everton – The Toffees are quietly putting together results after starting the season slowly.  Because we generally have higher expectations of Everton than we do of maybe Leicester City or Palace or even Southampton the Toffees haven’t been given the same credit for beating Chelsea in narrative circles as those other clubs have.  That’s a credit to how well Everton have done over the years despite a modest budget but a discredit to us as journalists and pundits for overlooking the difficulty inherent in maintaining that level of performance as clubs like Newcastle and Sunderland with similar, if not superior, financial muscle struggle.  That Roberto Martinez is doing this without long-time standout Leighton Baines is even more remarkable.  There is a big pack jostling for position outside of the top three right now and Everton are just as much a part of that group as anyone.


Liverpool – More chaos for a club that seems to be specializing in chaos.  They were OK but decidedly no more than that against Everton in the Merseyside Derby on Sunday.  That got their manager fired and now opens the door for the rest of the season to be tumultuous.  Presumably whomever comes in to fill the managerial gap will want to make some changes in January after two and a half months to evaluate the current squad.  Unless the new manager can immediately start stringing together wins that will put the Reds halfway through the season and still trying to figure out who they are.  Fortunately for them, Chelsea’s implosion means that anyone mid-table and up (and Chelsea) who figures it out for a significant stretch of the season will have at least a chance at a Champions League spot.  No one appears to be running away with 4th right now.


Southampton – We’ll not over-estimate what a win against Chelsea means these days but even if we consider the Blues to be damaged goods, this at least gets the Saints’ trip to Stamford Bridge off the schedule with three points against the possibility that Chelsea figure things out later in the season and that’s not nothing.  Consecutive 3-1 wins against credible opponents has Southampton back in the top half and the attacking group of Tadic, Mane, and Pelle appear to be firing on all cylinders.  With Bertrand back and Van Dijk settling in things appear to be stabilizing at the back as well.  The schedule-maker was kind holding off on matches against top half rivals Leicester City and Liverpool until Ronald Koeman had time to get his group sorted out.


West Ham – They sure know how to play up and down to their competition, don’t they? How a team can beat City, Arsenal and Liverpool while drawing against the wreck that is Sunderland is beyond any logic.  Dimitri Payet continues to be a fantasy point machine but there just isn’t a lot of consistency behind him when the opposition is less than stellar.  As it turns out, there are more mediocre teams than there are really good ones in the Premier League so if the trend is that West Ham are up for the big matches but struggle in the lower profile ones, it’s hard to see more than a mid-table finish.   


The Relegation Battle (Ranked from most likely to be relegated to least)


Sunderland – Newcastle’s result might have been the more unsightly because of the final score but at least they have the excuse of playing the top team in the Premier League.  If it’s possible, Sunderland are an even bigger mess than the Magpies (at least until the “Steve McClaren must go” campaign that surely must happen starts gaining momentum).  Maybe a new manager can start to figure out how to piece a squad that has some talented pieces together but you get the feeling that that’s all that this is, a squad of random pieces that don’t necessarily fit together in the sort of way that you need them to to win at the top flight level.  There’s a definite QPR-under-Redknapp (but without Charlie Austin) feel to this group.


Newcastle United – It certainly looks like this group is going down.  The only hope is that they’re very young and there is still substantial upside to be had.  They played well early against City and could have been up 2 or 3 goals before the Aguero Avalance happened to them.  There’s at least something.  Georgino Wijnaldum has been coming on strong but needs more goals from Mitrovic and/or Perez as well as help from some of the Magpies other summer acquisitions like Thauvin.  Unlike Sunderland who you feel will be a disaster on a number of levels if they dip down to the Championship for a season, this group might actually come out the other end of a season down a level far stronger for the experience.  It would be a great chance to get more success experiences for their young core as well as an excuse to cut some of their more expensive veteran players from the squad.  


Aston Villa – Another home match with another team around them in the standings and another loss.  That’s exactly 1 point since an opening day 1-0 victory over a newly promoted side.  The four point gap between Villa in 18th and West Brom in 17th doesn’t seem like a huge thing until you consider…1) Villa has had a Charmin-soft schedule so far including Stoke City (14th even after two consecutive wins), West Brom (17th), Bournemouth (15th), and Sunderland (20th) with three of those being at home.  @Chelsea, Swansea, @Spurs, City, and @Everton are the next five.  It is insane to realize that @Chelsea might be Tim Sherwood’s best chance for points in that run.  It’s also not unreasonable to think that the gap between Villa and 17th might be significantly more than four points come the November 28th match with Watford at Villa Park. 


Bournemouth – A disappointing 1-1 draw with Watford to say the least.  The bright side is that they picked up a point in a week where no one would begrudge them feeling a little sorry for themselves after their third season ending injury to a significant player.  The down side is that they should have won 2-0.  Ighalo’s goal was an absolute gift from Boruc and Glenn Murray failed from the spot with a chance to redeem his goalkeeper.  Adding to the bad news is that the schedule has been easy so far with Liverpool, Leicester City and West Ham the only two top half sides the Cherries have faced thus far and they only have eight points.  The upside is that Villa, Newcastle and Sunderland are really rotten.


Norwich City – No shame in losing to a Leicester City side that has been excellent so far this season.  The Foxes are more talented and in better form.  It is odd that Alex Neil continues to bring in Nathan Redmond from the bench as he is certainly the Canaries’ most talented attacker but I’m certain there are lessons being taught about playing a total game.  That isn’t uncommon with young players, especially ones that are physically gifted like Redmond is.  The difference is that it’s happening at a newly promoted side that doesn’t have the sort of bench Jose Mourinho did when doing the same thing to Schurrle or LVG might when he eventually figures out he should be doing the same with Memphis.


Watford – You start to worry when they can’t generate much of an attack against fellow newly promoted side Bournemouth.  When you’re playing team that many predicted to go down and the only goal you can muster comes from a horrible error from the opposing goalkeeper, you really have to reconsider how you’re approaching your attack.


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Newcomer of the Year of the Week


Kevin De Bruyne is pretty much a no-brainer for this award this week.  He’s scored a goal or an assist in each of his City appearances thus far and it was a goal and two assists as City put Newcastle to the proverbial sword.


Season Leaders: 1) Dimitri Payet ; 2) Andre Ayew; 3) Kevin De Bruyne; 4) Anthony Martial; 5) Yohan Cabaye 


Young Player of the Year of the Week


Gerard Deulofeu may not feel like he’s that young because he was around two seasons and then out on loan to Sevilla last season and then back again this season.  He’s still only 21-years-old.  He didn’t pick up any “counting stats” (that’s goals or assists) this weekend in the Merseyside Derby but he was dangerous and we’ll give him some credit for the two assists he got on Monday against West Brom that we didn’t get to talk about in last Monday’s column because it happened after the column went online. 


Season Leaders: 1) Nathan Redmond; 2) Anthony Martial; 3) Jordan Amavi; 4) Ross Barkley; 5) Gerard Deulofeu


Player of the Year of the Week


Any questions on why Sergio Aguero gets this one?  Didn’t think so.  In the season-leader board below, you’ll notice that Aguero isn’t present and that’s fair because even if his goal total is now significant, he’s only really influenced one game in a significant way.  Sanchez sneaks in because he’s influenced three (you’ll recall he won the Palace match despite not getting credit for that goal plus he’s pretty much won Arsenal their past two matches). 


Season Leaders: 1) Riyad Mahrez; 2) Dimitri Payet; 3) David Silva; 4) Jamie Vardy; 5) Alexis Sanchez


Manager of the Year of the Week


Claudio Ranieri gets my nod for having the balls to rotate Mahrez and still come out with the three points with a nod to Ronald Koeman who has the Saints back in the conversation despite a second consecutive summer of retooling after losing significant pieces of the squad to bigger clubs.


Season Leaders: 1) Claudio Ranieri 2) Manuel Pellegrini; 3) Slaven Bilic; 4) Alex Neil; 5) Ronald Koeman


My Week in Expert Leagues

This weekend turned out about as well as any fantasy weekend could have.  Despite owning Sergio Aguero in only one format (Togga’s Perfect XI) and owning zero City attackers in any single-ownership league I managed to go undefeated in draft/auction leagues and put up exceptional numbers in the salary cap/multiple ownership leagues. 

My performance in the IEFSA Expert League on Fantrax was the least convincing but it had more to do with my opponent Andrew Laird seeing his squad decimated than it had anything to do with me having an exceptional weekend.  I got my forward spot situation with Glenn Murray delivering well in this scoring system despite his penalty miss.  I got strong outings from Matt Ritchie (assist) and Hector Bellerin (clean sheet) and adequate points from the rest of my group despite less than stellar results for them and their clubs on the real pitch.  Andrew got nothing from Kyle Naughton, Jordan Ibe and Callum Wilson and the limited rosters in this league meant that he didn’t have much reinforcement with Christian Benteke and Jordan Henderson both hurt as well and Pedro not coming on until late.  He could have picked up and extra 4.6 points from Jesus Navas but that wouldn’t have helped much.   This is a tough league in that respect.  Either you have to cut bait on valuable players you have drafted if they’re out injured for a short period or you have suck it up and concede a match or two while you wait out the injuries.     

After closing out my win over @FantasyGaffer in the Togga Premier League Fantasy Expert League last week after going to press with MMM I made it four in a row with a win this week over Jon Hudson from @KICKTV.  Even with Riyad Mahrez on Leicester City’s and my bench for the week I got solid efforts in the form of double digit performances from Bellerin, Gabriel, Victor Moses, and Dusan Tadic and near double digit performances from Myhill, Amavi and Hoolahan.  My talisman at forward, who has continued to surprise all season, was Odion Ighalo who put up 22 points.  His goal may have been a gift more than it was earned but this is fantasy and they all count the same regardless of their quality in real life.  Overall, I’m feeling pretty strong about this league as the 3rd highest scorer overall and only 2 points behind the second place scorer. 

I wrote last Monday about the second Togga Writers League that just completed the third week of competition.  We drafted our teams between the 5th and 6th matches of the Premier League season and have had an entirely different experience because of the fact that we did our drafts with actual evidence from this season rather than just pre-season previews and assumptions about new players and how things would come together in various places. I lost my first match in this league but came back last weekend to even my record and moved easily to 2-1 this weekend.  I was the top scorer in the league for the week and it could have been even more if I hadn’t benched Nacho Monreal for the second weekend running for fear of having too much Arsenal between he, Cech and Hector Bellerin.  As it turned out, going big on the Arsenal defense in Week 8 was a good idea but being over-reliant on one team, especially one playing against the current league leaders, is never a good idea.  Fortunately, I got great matches from my two Gunners, Yann M’Vila (two assists), Yohan Cabaye (goal and an assist), Mesut Ozil (goal and an assist), and Jamie Vardy

I also won my two non-expert leagues (one in Fantrax and one in Togga) and had strong weekends in Perfect XI (in the top 200 or so out of 10,000+ for the season) and the Premier League’s official game (top 5,000 out of 3 million+ for the season).  My NFL fantasy season has turned into a bit of a disaster as has the real world season for my Eagles so Arsenal’s big win over Manchester United and my fantasy teams are going to have to keep me going.  So far that plan is working out pretty well. 


Players I’m looking at acquiring: The big name that I missed out on last weekend was Almen Abdi from Watford.  Despite Watford not playing particularly well he has been racking up the peripheral stats.  If he’s available in your league then you may well want to pick him up.  In the Togga format he’s notched 59.5 points over the past four weeks with no goals or assists to his credit and only two shots on target.  His value may be somewhat tied to the “Chances Created” statistic so his value may be less in league that don’t take that statistic into account but generally when you’re creating chances other things will follow soon enough.  Another player worth taking a serious look at is N’Golo Kante from Leicester City.  He is playing a nice two-way game picking up peripheral stats both attacking and defending. 


Players I’m thinking about ditching: Will we ever hear from Danny Rose again in a meaningful match?  My strategy for the mid-rounds in drafts and after buying high-priced players in auctions was to make bets on players who put up great per/match totals but only played part of last season but looked poised to play more this season.  That meant players like Jamie Vardy and Hector Bellerin showed up a lot in my teams (I’m not sure I have any teams without Bellerin).  It also meant that I was looking at Ander Herrera, Danny Rose, Albert Moreno, Marc Albrighton and a few others.  Albrighton and Moreno have been marginally successful, Herrera has been disappointing but Danny Rose has been the most mysterious.  He was the regular starter last season, linked with Manchester City over the summer and a ghost so far this season.  He has played opposite Kieran Trippier in matches where Spurs are clearly rotating and refreshing.  He seems to be decidedly second team.  I invested in him in my auction league and am reluctant to ditch him but it appears that he’s a lost cause unless and until Ben Davies gets injured or loses his spot.

Random Closing Thoughts

My Second Club – Wins for both Palace and the Foxes with their head-to-head battle for my heart for the rest of the season still looming in late October.


This Week’s Good Points: The ultimate discussion of brand vs. reality – do we give Southampton “good points” for an away win against the defending champions? Certainly yes.  Do we give them “good points” for an away win over the 16th place team in the table? Certainly not.  What happens when that team is the same team?   I’m going to say that we break out of our 2014-15 mindset and not award any good points this weekend.


The Good Points Table:  West Ham United 9; Everton 6; Norwich City 5; Swansea City 4; Crystal Palace 3; Bournemouth 3; Tottenham 3; Manchester City 2; Newcastle 2; Watford 1; Stoke City 1; Sunderland 1;


This Week’s Bad Points: While Southampton don’t deserve any good points for beating a bad team, that bad team certainly deserves “bad points” to reflect how poorly they are doing against the expectations we had for them coming into the season.


The Bad Points Table: Chelsea 13; Manchester City 6; Manchester United 5; West Ham 5; Liverpool 4; Arsenal 3; Southampton 3; Sunderland 3; Swansea 2; Tottenham 2; Chelsea 2; Everton 2 


My Favorite Things – Everything that happened in the first half at the Emirates with special emphasis on Alexis Sanchez’s heel which scored the first goal and flicked the ball to Walcott before he passed it to Ozil for the second, that’s a lot of great stuff for on heel from one player in a few minutes of work…the Jamie Vardy scoring parade continuing on…anything involving Silva, De Bruyne and/or Aguero…Lukaku putting last season behind him…Graziano Pelle being the Italian Jamie Vardy but with far less fanfare because, you know, he’s not English…Sadio Mane getting his revenge for not having a penalty awarded to him by scoring later in the match (maybe Gabriel will note the appropriate response to Chelsea’s sanctioned bullying for future reference)…Matt Ritchie coming around after a slow start…Christen Eriksen standing over a set piece…Willian doing the same…Yann M’Vila resurrecting his career as Sunderland burns around him…Andre Ayew continuing to score with his head despite not being the tallest guy out there, there’s a place for Andre as the Premier League’s honorary Tim Cahill of the season if he keeps it up…the absurdity of Liverpool deciding Brendan Rodgers wasn’t getting it done with the Reds sitting exactly three points out of fourth place…Anthony Martial’s turn and take in the first half followed by…Petr Cech’s trailing leg for the stop.   


My Least Favorite Things – Chelsea’s “defending”…Chelsea’s “attacking”…Jose Mourinho failing to take any of the blame for his team being terrible…Newcastle’s defending…Glenn Murray from the penalty spot…the inability of Memphis, Darmian, and Schweinsteiger to influence the match against Arsenal at all…Morgan Schneiderlin sitting on the bench…Sunderland trying to hold a lead…West Ham’s inability to win the ones that should be easy…West Brom failing at PulisBall for three straight halves…the amount of money Pulis spent on James Chester to not play him very much…Watford’s attacking incompetence…Watford’s poor decision-making in the penalty area (that’s two weeks in a row that they conceded a penalty in a tight match, just because Gomes bailed them out doesn’t mean that they should be let off the hook for committing the penalty in the first place). 


What did we find out? Manchester City are just unbelievable at their best and that can happen with Yaya Toure out of the line-up.  Manchester United have a ways to go before we believe they are really title contenders and had better fix a bunch of things before City visits in a few weeks.  Arsenal could be title contenders if they can stop slipping up against the West Ham’s of the Premier League.  There may be a great fight between Spurs, Liverpool, Leicester City, Crystal Palace, Everton and Southampton for a Champions League spot if Chelsea don’t get their act together fast.  The relegation battle may end up being not battle at all with three established Premier League teams proving that it takes more than bigger TV revenues to do well in the top flight.  Oh, and Chelsea look a lot closer to being a relegation battler than they do fighting with that list of teams above for that fourth Champions League spot.


What’s Next? With a ton of great storylines all over the place we are forced to endure an international break.  For supporters of the USMNT there is the big playoff with Mexico to determine participation in the Confederations Cup in Russia ahead of the next World Cup but really we just want more Premier League.  When we do resume on October 17th the weekend opens with a great clash of teams battling for that fourth place spot with Liverpool traveling south to London to face off with Spurs at White Hart Lane.  Chelsea have a real opportunity to get back on track as Aston Villa come to Stamford Bridge.  I think we can all agree that if Chelsea can’t get three points from that one that Mourinho will be cooked.  We’ll get a little insight into Crystal Palace’s credentials as they host fellow top half squad West Ham at Selhurst Park.  Manchester United get the tough test of trying to rebound at Goodison Park while Leicester City travel to resurgent Southampton.  Sunday only features one match and it’s at the wrong end of the table with Newcastle trying to erase the memories of their hiding by City as they host Norwich.  For some reason, the schedule-makers have decided to give Swansea and Stoke City the entire spotlight on Monday in a match that is unlikely to have much impact at the top or the bottom of the table when all is said and done. 

Neal Thurman

Neal Thurman manages the NBC Sports Edge's Premier League coverage and contributes to Never Manage Alone which he co-founded. He is also a diehard Arsenal supporter. You can find him on Twitter @NealJThurman.