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Matchday Wrap Up

Monday Morning Manager - WK9

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

Another drama-filled weekend in the Premier League and, for me, it was all about who was playing and who wasn’t.  There were some critical situations in which managers elected to bench big names and were rewarded and others where they kept the faith with players who were scuffling and got rewarded.  What happened and how is it going to turn out?  Keep reading…


Hazard Sits – The biggest talking point of the weekend is that Jose Mourinho benched last seasons’ player of the season because, apparently, he doesn’t play enough defense.  It was an interesting decision because it isn’t like Hazard is playing any LESS defense than he usually does, he’s just not been as effective attacking.  The quick hitting analysis of this move seems to have been positive in the press because Chelsea won and didn’t concede.  It will be interesting to see how things go when the Blues face actual Premier League opposition.  Next weekend’s trip to East London to face the Hammers will be more instructive.  The last time this happened, Manchester United managed to pry loose a very good player in Juan Mata.  Could this be an opportunity for someone else to pry Hazard loose from Chelsea come next summer?


Rooney Plays – It still wasn’t a spectacular showing from Rooney but at least it gets the media and the drought stories off his back in the short term.  Given that United are pretty much going to have to live with Rooney in some role until at least January it makes sense to keep trying things and letting Rooney play his way out of his slump.  It may work and it may not but United really don’t have much of a choice.


Memphis Sits – Part of the reason that Rooney is going to be necessary to the line-up is that Louis Van Gaal has finally realized that Memphis has been dead weight so far this season and just isn’t ready to be a regular starter at Manchester United.  Amid rumors of a poor attitude and undisciplined lifestyle the core issue is that Memphis just doesn’t seem able to harness his obvious physical gifts into enough productive play to justify his spot even if he were living like a monk and carpeting the staff with pleases and thank yous.  Bringing Memphis along slowly was always the right answer and now LVG has come around to see it.


Ramsey Plays – Despite a lot of options in the attacking roles, Arsene Wenger has seen fit to persist with Aaron Ramsey despite the fact that we were heading into Week 9 and he had yet to record either a goal or an assist.  I’ll grant you that “counting statistics” may be more important to fantasy managers than to real managers but with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott both able to play in the right attacking spot, Wenger’s persistence bordered on stubbornness in the extreme.  It wasn’t just that Ramsey wasn’t scoring or assisting but that opportunities were dying at his feet.  He was shooting high and/or wide.  He was misplacing key passes.  We know that Ramsey can be one of the best midfielders in the Premier League day when he’s at his best but we hadn’t seen much evidence of that this season.  With a goal to finish off Watford, Arsenal could go from strength to strength if Ramsey can use his goal to vault back into his best form. 


Mahrez Sits – For the second straight match, Claudio Ranieri opened a Leicester City match with Riyad Mahrez on the bench.  Whether this week’s version of that decision was tactical or because of his status on returning from international duty with Algeria isn’t entirely clear but it certainly didn’t go well early, did it?  The Foxes seem incapable of defending which makes attack their best (maybe only) form of defense right now.  Depriving themselves of Mahrez, one of the stand-out midfield performers of the season so far across the entire league, has seen them over-run in the early stages of both Week 8 and Week 9.  Most of the post-match headlines probably revolved around yet another Leicester City comeback from multiple goals down to gain points, and that was exciting, but the bigger question should be why Mahrez isn’t the first name on the team sheet each week (OK, maybe second after Jamie Vardy given his form so far this season but, still, you get the idea). 


Redmond Plays – This item isn’t so much about Redmond playing, he’s been the Canaries’ most potent attacking force when he’s been on the pitch, but rather about questionable decision-making from Alex Neil when putting his line-up together.  I’ll grant you that Newcastle has been poor thus far this season but there’s taking an attacking posture on the road and then there’s just being insultingly arrogant to your opponent.  This was clearly the latter.  Fielding an attack-oriented team and pressing high against an opponent who has shown themselves willing to concede on mistakes feels like a tactical error.  I don’t think anyone would have predicted that Newcastle would break out for six goals but that they’d find space to exploit Olsson’s moves into the attacking half and in behind the not-particularly-speedy Steven Whittaker shouldn’t have been a surprise at all.


In general, I don’t put a lot of stock in managers heavily influencing the outcomes of seasons or even matches but in these cases the managers had some big decisions to make.  Some got them right, some got them wrong and others remain to be seen.  Mostly, I’m just happy to have been able to write an introduction that didn’t center around the over-hyped arrival of Jurgen Klopp.  That’s an omission decision that I hope you all can live with.


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


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


Manchester City – Raheem Sterling critics this season have missed the mark.  The “not good enough” storylines are the obvious justification for all of those who were so upset about Sterling having the temerity to leave Liverpool but they’re wide of the mark and Sterling proved it this weekend.  The issue for Sterling, when City’s first choice attack is all healthy at any rate, is one of opportunity.  There are only so many passes, shots, assists and goals to go around.  I wrote about it in the pre-season when downgrading Sterling’s value for fantasy and I’ll repeat it again.  He is a very good player but it is almost unheard of for a fourth or fifth attacking option to have an exceptional season when it comes to goals and/or assists.  It’s hard to look at Aguero, Toure, Silva, and De Bruyne and call Sterling anything other than the fifth option going forward.  Shorn of Aguero and Silva this past weekend, Sterling moved up the pecking order and showed his value.  City are a rich enough club to afford to have him contribute 8 goals and 5 assists if everyone else is healthy and also act as insurance for injuries elsewhere as he did against Bournemouth.  We’ll see if he can do it again at Old Trafford next weekend but let’s not talk ourselves into Sterling being a bad player because we didn’t like the circumstances of his exit from a “big club” like Liverpool.  Sterling is a very good (not great quite yet but very good) player who has the upside to be more than that. 


Arsenal – Two 3-0 results couldn’t have been any more different than Arsenal’s Week 8 and Week 9 efforts against Manchester United and Watford.  In breaking through early against United, Arsenal didn’t give supporters time to worry that they would have another one of THOSE profligate matches where they dominated possession and chances but either couldn’t break though or, worse yet, managed to concede against the run of play.  Against Watford, it looked like the frustrating old Arsenal script coming back to life until Ozil and Cazorla conspired to get Alexis his 10th goal in his last six matches for club and country.  Once the dam broke, Arsenal were always going to score more and, in doing so, ease the worries that supporters surely had that they would take another step back after a great one forward before the international break.


Manchester United – Rooney was back on top.  Martial was playing in the wide left role vacated by the ineffective Memphis.  Everton cooperated by playing an extremely sloppy match.  Rooney scored.  Ander Herrera continued to be excellent when given a chance.  United couldn’t have rebounded any better than they did from the defeat at the Emirates.  The lingering question about United is still whether they can beat a quality opponent.  Next weekend will provide their next opportunity as they host the current league leaders.  Win at home next weekend and United are surely contenders for the title.  Lose and we have to start thinking of them more as we did the Arsenal teams of most of the past ten years – better than the “rest” but just not quite where they need to be to challenge for a title. 


On a side note, it was great to see Morgan Schneiderlin get a goal and a clean sheet.  Not for fantasy purposes because I suspect that every fantasy manager out there has dropped him after the first eight weeks of the season but because he’s a very good player and it hadn’t gone well for him at Old Trafford over the first eight weeks.



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


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.  


Chelsea – The headlines about Hazard’s omission and Chelsea winning despite said omission seem to have overshadowed the obvious post-match talking point.  IT WAS ASTON VILLA AT STAMFORD BRIDGE.  The notion that Chelsea required an incredibly poor performance from Villa to score at all should really be the headline.  Anyone who thinks that this result is indicative of improved play clearly didn’t watch the match.  This may end up being a springboard victory but it will have to achieve that goal as a psychological boost because there was no evidence that Chelsea unlocked the riddle of their poor play.  The first goal came from an inexcusable pass from Brad Guzan to Joleon Lescott that Willian pounced on and slotted to Diego Costa for an easy goal.  The second was a deflection that completely wrong-footed Guzan. 


Look beyond those two fluke-ish goal-scoring plays and what do you see?  Aston Villa won the possession battle 51%-49%!  Chelsea only managed one additional shot on target! And this was the defending champions playing at home against the 19th team in the table and one that hasn’t won since the opening match of the season.  Let’s not start talking about Chelsea being “back in it” quite yet, huh?  Let’s see how they do next weekend at Upton Park and the following one against Liverpool before we decide that Chelsea are even adequate let alone back in the race for a Champions League spot. 


Leicester City – If the Premier League wanted to create a new “appointment viewing” team to market to consumers then they’d just have the Foxes spot each opponent three goals at kick-off and then watch the fireworks as they try to claw back a point or even earn the full three.  They were at it again on Saturday as Jamie Vardy erased the 2-0 lead that the Saints built.  One wonders how sustainable the high wire act is but, unlike last season, they have built up such a strong early reserve of points in their thrilling fashion that there is almost no scenario other than John Carver taking over as caretaker manager that could see them worry about relegation.  Given how last season ended, they’ve already had a great year.  The next key will be keeping hold of their best players come January and seeing if they can build on what they have, perhaps by adding some defensive steel.


Spurs – There were some good signs against a quality, albeit wounded, opponent.  Harry Kane looked lively and but for Simon Mignolet’s smart save, he would have been back on the score sheet.   Christen Eriksen is really good and back in form after missing time due to injury.  Clinton N’Jie clearly has the tools but they need to be refined if he is going to add a third exceptional piece to the Spurs main attacking duo.  At the back, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen have reprised their partnership for Belgium and Ajax to great effect regardless of which of Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb is in front of them.  If the attack gets healthy and comes together you can certainly see a sustained run of success coming from this group.  The only issue is that you could same the same of Liverpool, West Ham, Leicester City (but insert “defense” instead of “attack”), and Crystal Palace.  Maybe even Everton and Southampton.  Oh, and maybe Chelsea can still get their act together.  That’s a lot of competition for that final Champions League spot.  


Crystal Palace – We now have our first bit of evidence that Crystal Palace are more mid-table than “best of the rest” contenders.  Two Mondays ago in this space we talked about the fact that they’d beaten the bad teams in front of them and lost to the good ones and that Chelsea’s “brand value” was really substituting as the quality win that we wanted to see to validate Pardew’s men as contenders.  Well, now we’ve seen them lose to a fellow contender for “best of the rest” in West Ham.  The Hammers are awash in quality wins and, in beating Palace at Selhurst Park, put themselves at the top of the heap that we thought Palace themselves might end up summiting.  I still think that Palace would be dynamite going forward if they had a real forward rather than the parade of “false nines” they’ve been parading out due to the injuries to Connon Wickham and Marouane Chamakh.  Imagine how good they’d be with someone like Troy Deeney taking balls down and creating opportunity for all of those attacking midfielders.  Maybe Wickham can play that role once he’s healthy but until then we’ll have to wonder why they off-loaded Glenn Murray to Bournemouth.


Liverpool – The biggest result of the Jurgen Klopp era so far has been the outpouring of Klopp-related puns on Twitter leading up to and during his debut match.  We’ll find out more about the new manager at Anfield as he gets some of his first choice players back healthy.  It was exciting to see Emre Can playing in midfield because he’s really good at playing midfield and will only get better with actual playing time there.  It’s also slightly disappointing because I was holding out hope that a Rodgers-led set-up would continue to play him out of position only to lose patience with him opening the door for Arsenal to pick him up (he’s EXACTLY the player Arsenal need to compete with Coquelin in the holding role).  Personal aspirations aside, it was a good point at White Hart Lane but decidedly inconclusive for all those looking for validation that Klopp can walk on water/turn water into wine/win Liverpool a title. 


Everton – That was disappointing.  For a group that had quietly played well after the disappointment of last season the Manchester United result will be frustrating on two fronts.  First, and most obviously, the lost rather badly.  Second, and perhaps more worryingly, they played poorly in doing so.  The reputation of Manchester United is such that you can live with losing to them, even at home.  What you can’t live with is helping to gift them that win through poor play and mistakes.  It wasn’t quite the give-away that Aston Villa’s capitulation to Chelsea was but it certainly left Roberto Martinez with some serious work to do in the next week before the Toffees head off to the Emirates to visit the team that whipped Manchester United before the international break. As we noted in the Spurs section, there are a lot of quality teams in the top half jousting for position and performances like that one leave you feeling like Everton are closer to the bottom of that group than the top of it.


Southampton – Things were all looking so promising, weren’t they?  Up 2-0 at halftime over once-defeated Leicester City coming off a big, if over-hyped, win over Chelsea.  Then the wheels came off just a bit. In comes Riyad Mahrez and there goes the lead and the three points.  Objectively, and viewing it from before kickoff, a point against Leicester City isn’t a bad outcome given the form the Foxes have been in.  Looking at it in the 65th minute with a 2-0 lead at home, it must be incredibly frustrating. 


As a side note, Jordy Clasie came on about the time things started to come apart and he committed three fouls and didn’t do much else of note.  Seems like it might take a little time for him to get up to speed in the Premier League. 


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


Sunderland – They should have had a nil-nil draw in my book – it looked like Saido Berahino both fouled Costel Pantilimon and handled the ball on the play where the Baggies scored.  That said, Big Sam Allardyce’s debut was hardly a revelation.  As much as I appreciate what Big Sam accomplished at Bolton back in the day, it seems like a poor fit of manager and roster.  The Black Cats are handing a roster full of attacking midfielder-types to a guy best known for blood-and-guts football.  It’s going to be a hard, hard road to keep this group up and getting bad luck from the referee isn’t going to help. 


Aston Villa – We covered most of this disaster in the Chelsea section.  The velocity of rumors related to David Moyes’ potential arrival seem to have increased significantly.  Quite why Moyes, who will likely have his choice of bottom half jobs when he decides to come back to England, would want to take over this roster and potentially diminish his reputation further by being relegated isn’t clear.  Villa have been an upper level management mess for quite some time with the owners wanting to sell and waffling between selling off players to streamline financials and then building back up for fear of losing Premier League status and the cash flows that go with it.  Not the sort of situation I’d want to say “yes” to if I had choices.


Newcastle United – Well, we didn’t see that coming!  The Georginio Wijnaldum show was quite impressive and Ayoze Perez was a willing and able sidekick to the former PSV man.  Newcastle’s attack is young and talented and appears to be improving.  The defense is still beyond suspect and the loss of Tim Krul for the season means that they’re even more vulnerable at the back.  The derby at the Stadium of Light next weekend will be a second straight opportunity for three points and a move out of the relegation zone assuming Bournemouth lose to Spurs.  This bright outcome along with significant defeats for all three of the newly promoted sides in Week 9 could be a light at the end of a nearly year-long tunnel for the Magpies but let’s not get TOO excited over a single win at home over a newly promoted side.


Norwich City – The Canaries move down on this list because, of the three newly promoted sides, their loss was the worst.  They gave up the most goals and faced the worst opposition.  Up to this point, Alex Neil has had his squad playing sharp football but they really flailed this weekend.  The starting eleven was wrong and the tactics were wrong before the match even started and the Canaries aren’t nearly talented enough to be second best in those areas.


On a side note, Dieumerci Mbokani started, got two shots on target and scored a goal.  That fact might have been lost in the lopsided loss but for fantasy managers looking for a forward, he’s probably not going to be a top or even second tier option but if you’re desperate then his goal plus Cameron Jerome being Cameron Jerome might make him at least serviceable. 


Bournemouth – It was always going to be rough playing the first place side with or without all the injuries that they have sustained.  They got whipped.  Time to move on and see if they can nick a point from Spurs who visit in Week 10.


Watford – They were valiant in their attempt to park the bus and nick a point or even a counterattacking victory over Arsenal.  It worked for two thirds of the match but they just couldn’t sustain it.  It was a match that neutral observers would have expected them to lose so time to regroup and see if they can pick up some points at the Britannia next Saturday.


Follow the RotoWorld_PL team on Twitter: Galin | Jeremy | Neal | Nik | Steve | Ben | Rob



Newcomer of the Year of the Week


You may have heard something about the Player of the Year from Eredivisie Champions PSV coming over to the Premier League season.  No, not that Memphis chap who was benched at Manchester United this past weekend.  No, the Eredivisie Player of the Year last season was Newcastle’s newly minted four-goal-man Georginio Wijnaldum.  After nine weeks it’s safe to dub him the next Yohan Cabaye.  A player Newcastle is lucky to have and may well have to enjoy quickly before a bigger club scoops him up.


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


Young Player of the Year of the Week


If four gets Wijnaldum recognition in our first category then three gets Raheem Sterling his due in this category.  His first may not have been anything to write home about and his third was due to the fact that Jesus Navas is so hopelessly one-footed that he spurned a wide open shot with his off foot in favor of a mediocre one with his good foot that ended up with the ball at Sterling’s feet for a nice goal.  The second one though, oh, that second one.  It was just spectacular and should tell you everything you need to know about why City paid what they paid for the former Liverpool man.


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


Player of the Year of the Week


Tough call between Mesut Ozil and Jamie Vardy (as well as Sterling and Wijnaldum but I’ve already written about them in the previous two sections so we’ll eliminate them from contention for this section in order not to repeat ourselves).  Ozil was spectacular in assisting on both of Arsenal’s first two goals and being dangerous all afternoon.  Despite any potential Arsenal bias though, Vardy is going to get the nod because a) goals trump assists and b) his goals led directly to Leicester City picking up a point whereas you get the feeling that Arsenal would have broken through eventually even minus Ozil.


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


Manager of the Year of the Week


Slaven Bilic is back on top for me with West Ham fourth and having picked up another away victory over a quality opponent in Crystal Palace.  His acquisitions have been spot on and the Hammers should enter their Week 10 match against Chelsea as favorites.  Who would have thought that even given Chelsea’s struggles?


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


My Week in Expert Leagues

It was another big weekend for me on the fantasy soccer front despite the fact that I don’t own either Wijnaldum or Sterling in any of the leagues (including salary cap) that I play in.  I dropped one match in a draft league but won my other four including all three expert leagues and did well in both the Togga Perfect XI and PremierLeague.com salary cap leagues.  All that and a big Arsenal win and it was a happy soccer weekend in my house. 

After a less-than-impressive win last weekend against Andrew Laird in the IEFSA Expert League on Fantrax I came up against fellow Rotoworld-er Steve Rothgeb this time around.  Steve has had a better season by just about every measure so we’ll say I had a little trepidation going into the match-up.  Everything went right from there.  Danny Rose FINALLY started and got me a clean sheet to balance out his Hugo Lloris CS.  I got a goalkeeper CS of my own from Boaz MyhillHector Bellerin kicked in a clean sheet and an assist.  Chris Brunt and Cesc Fabregas got clean sheets from midfield and Glenn Murray contributed a goal in a losing effort for his club.  It was all topped off with substitute Ayoze Perez giving me a goal and an assist.  I even had an Olivier Giroud substitute goal on my bench.  Pretty much everything went right and I got a big win and bragging rights around Rotoworld.com’s (virtual) Premier League headquarters this week.

The wins keep coming in the Togga Premier League Fantasy Expert League as well which is nice since that particular group of experts is pretty active on Twitter over the weekend.  My opponent, Robert Langevin from Razzball, was sitting mid-table going into the match and featured a team that looked better after the draft than it does these days.  Eden Hazard and Olivier Giroud have disappointed.  Seamus Coleman has combined injury and disappointing form.  James Morrison has been great but didn’t win his race against fitness for this week.  Overall, it was a tough weekend for him to be facing a good opponent (that’s me).  With two players – Shaqiri and Sigurdsson – left to play, I have this one in the bag.  I got solid double digit performances from Myhill, Dawson, Mahrez, Tadic and Moses and excellent ones from Hector Bellerin and Ayoze Perez.  I even had two double digit scorers that I didn’t mind leaving on the bench in N’Golo Kante and Glenn Murray and a near double digit guy in Wes Hoolahan.  I’ll move to 7-0-2 and remain in 3rd in the league.   

The Togga Writers League (named such to differentiate it from the Experts League) went even better than the other two.  I faced off with the first place team (tied with four others including me but he had the advantage in points scored so far) and it was a massacre.  My opponent Emmett Ryan, was another one left looking for answers when Eden Hazard was benched for Chelsea.  He was also upended by Daniel Sturridge’s injury and poor outings from Theo Walcott and Juan Mata.  You can see how, on another day, he would have been a difficult opponent.  While that was happening to him, I had 30+ from Vardy and Ozil, 20+ from Bellerin, Monreal, and Cabaye and double digits from Cech, Dawson, M’Vila, and Kouyate.  Wilfried Zaha went negative and Bafetimbi Gomis is yet to play.  Things went so well for this team that I had 20+ point efforts from Smalling and Albrighton and a 10+ effort from Hugo Lloris on my bench and didn’t think twice about losing out on those points.  That’s a strong week.

The good times kept rolling in Perfect XI and PL.com as well.  I flailed by not replacing Gabriel in Perfect XI when word came out that he wouldn’t be starting but I still managed 220.25 with Vardy, Sanchez, Mahrez, Payet, De Bruyne, Ozil, Monreal, and Bellerin all performing spectacularly well while Hart and Amavi were adequate but could have been far better.  In PL.com I’m on 62 points with Andre Ayew still to play.  The key contributors were Petr Cech (CS), Bellerin (CS + Assist), Cabaye (Goal), Payet (c) (Goal), Mahrez (assist), and Vardy (brace).    


Players I’m looking at acquiring: The pickings are certainly getting slim but Clinton N’Jie looks bright and might get a run in the side with Nacer Chadli going off with what looked like a high ankle sprain (presumably that means at least a few weeks on the shelf for Chadli).  In the Togga format N’Golo Kante continues to put together solid low double digit performances and is probably flying enough under the radar that he might be available in your league.  It also seems like Ayoze Perez has solidified his spot in Steve McClaren’s starting line-up and is producing.  He was in and out of the line-up earlier in the season and that may lead to him being available.  Finally, Ander Herrera may be available for the same reason – lack of playing time – but it’s hard to imagine LVG continuing to relegate Herrera to the bench after that performance.   


Players I’m thinking about ditching: You’re not going to drop Memphis but that thought should at least be creeping into your head assuming you’re in a league where all players are dropped at the end of the season.  If you need production that you can count on then he’s your man.  If you can afford to stash a potential second half home run on your bench and get very little from him through December then you should keep him.  Obviously there are injury cases – Ings, Gomez, etc. – who you should be dropping for players who are going to contribute.  

Random Closing Thoughts

My Second Club – Frustrating weekends for both Leicester City and Crystal Palace but we’re going to leave it all to the Neal’s Second Team Derby coming up next weekend.  Look for the huge, Premier League landscape-altering announcement of my second club in next Monday’s edition of this column. 


This Week’s Good Points: Honestly, there were no really surprising outcomes this weekend so no “good” or “bad” points awarded.  The big teams beat the little and mid-table teams.  West Ham winning at Palace was as close as you might come but that was hardly an “upset”.


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: See above – no new bad points awarded this week.


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 – Ozil and Cazorla passing in tight quarters…Simon Mignolet coming up big on shots from N’Jie and Kane…Dimitri Payet’s calm finish…an Andy Carroll sighting wherein he didn’t hurt himself…Raheem Sterling’s dance through the box leaving Cherries sprawled in his wake…Allan Nyom and Etienne Capoue’s valiant efforts against Arsenal…Ander Herrera getting a chance to play and doing so in style…the quartet of Mitrovic, Wijnaldum, Sissoko, and Perez – that could be a fun group if they can do it consistently…the Jamie Vardy good time story continuing…Wilfried Bony lost in the excitement over the Sterling hat trick…Klopp-mania running wild.


My Least Favorite Things – Having spent the time to watch Chelsea and Aston Villa…Brad Guzan with the ball at his feet…Everton’s mistakes…Dwight Gayle’s trio of apparent brain freezes (two yellow cards and forcing Yohan Cabaye to retake his penalty)…the official letting Berahino’s robbery of Pantilimon stand…Pantilimon not being stronger with the ball in the first place…Norwich’s approach to @NEW…Klopp-mania running a little too wild.


What did we find out? Manchester City aren’t going to lose every match they play without David Silva.  Arsenal are looking like legitimate contenders.  Manchester United are at least considering being legitimate contenders.  The next tier of teams is going to be a fun mess that will probably take a long while to sort out.  Chelsea may not rebound back into the position we all assume they will in the top four.  Newcastle have at least some hope as their youngsters find themselves.  Sunderland and Aston Villa look hopeless.


What’s Next? We still have Swansea vs. Stoke City to close out Week 9 but Week 10 is going to be fun.  Sunday brings us a derby at each end of the table with Sunderland hosting Newcastle early and then Manchester United hosting City.  Saturday brings us my made up derby with Leicester City hosting Crystal Palace for the rights to be the second team of my heart for the rest of the 2015-16 season.  Chelsea also travel to West Ham on Saturday to see if they can really sort things out with a decent win.  The weekend concludes late on Sunday with Liverpool hosting Southampton in the HOME DEBUT OF JURGEN KLOPP which will certainly be hyped beyond belief and even more than that if Liverpool actually have some of their preferred first team players back from injury. As always, you can catch it all on the NBC family of networks and digital outlets here in the US. 

Neal Thurman
Neal Thurman manages the Rotoworld'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.