With the 12th round of fixtures in the Premier League now done and dusted, it’s time to take a look at which strikers performed the best on top flight pitches up and down England.
Dave returns to the hotseat to discuss exactly what he feels has gone wrong with the Dutch national team, the lads speculate about Tony Pulis’ next role after his sacking from West Brom and discuss Callum Wilson’s fine performance at the weekend.
Plus – Jamie reveals that he likes Eddie Howe, but tells the story of why Eddie Howe doesn’t like him.
Strikers in the Premier League may not have had a particularly lethal weekend, but there were plenty with enough clinical awareness to find themselves on the scoresheet. Continue reading
Jamie welcomes guest host Sean Terry to step in for jet setting Dave, and the lads discuss Gianluigi Buffon’s impending retirement and Mo Salah’s difference as a player at Liverpool.
Manchester United were crowned English Premier League champions in 2013. Since 2013, United had just one top four finish. In the Premier League era, beginning with 1992, United have not previously endured such an extended spell of struggling to challenge for the league title.
Under the guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson, only on three occasions out of 21 seasons, did the club finish outside of the EPL’s top two spots. Each time, Manchester finished third. United’s league performances have witnessed a visible decline following Ferguson’s departure. The Scotsman had an innate ability to inspire his team to victory, even when his players were not performing close to their best. There were a few examples of that during his final season at the club.
Whereas second place Manchester City (and despite beating United 2-1 at Old Trafford) lost away games against Sunderland, Southampton, Everton and Tottenham, not to mention a disappointing 0-0 draw with last place Queens Park Rangers, United showed more resolve on their travels. They did not lose a single away fixture during the second half of the season.
Narrow victories over Fulham, QPR, Stoke and Sunderland earned United the points which were ultimately vital in winning the title. A steely determination, instilled by an inspirational manager was one of the main catalysts for United’s uncanny ability to win tricky away fixtures. All has changed since Ferguson’s departure with United struggling for away wins.
Of 57 away games, United have lost 21, with several of those defeats coming against mediocre teams and not just their biggest rivals. The away struggles were particularly magnified when United was managed by Louis Van Gaal. A significant number of draws throughout the Dutchman’s first season in charge, eight in total, was followed by a disastrous away form during the next campaign. Swansea, Bournemouth, Stoke, Sunderland, West Brom, Tottenham and West Ham, all defeated United, to dent the club’s chances of qualifying for the Champions League. United eventually failed to do so as goal difference ruled in Manchester City’s favor.
Although they performed much better on their travels during the 2016-17 season when Jose Mourinho improved an insecure defensive line which had conceded 26 goals away from Old Trafford during the previous campaign, United once again finished outside the top four. The reason for that was disappointing home form, winning less than half – eight – of 18 games. Only one surprise away defeat, a 3-1 loss to Watford, was endured.
Mourinho’s art of setting his team up to contain and prevent opposition teams from playing, made United a far more balanced side. They have continued to improve this season. Their progress has however been slowed by a surprise defeat to Huddersfield. United’s away form so far has been less than convincing. Mourinho appeared to settle for a dire 0-0 draw at Anfield by setting up his team in a defensive manner before even kicking a ball against hosts Liverpool.
To challenge for the title, United will have to run some risks, in particular away from Old Trafford. The question is whether Mourinho will opt to play a more adventurous lineup, perhaps demand from his players to attack in bigger numbers, or if he will resort to negative tactics such as “Park the Bus” as infamously terms by his detractors.
We are pleased to welcome one of our former writers Vincent Van Genechten who has extensive knowledge on both Belgian and Italian football. In Part I of this Q & A, we will be discussing the Belgian national team, in particular manager Roberto Martinez and his approach.
Q1) What do you make of Belgian manager Martinez? Some are skeptical about him being the right man for the job.
It has been nothing less than a successful reign for Martinez since he took over from Marc Wilmots. Is he special in his approach? Yes. I mean, who leaves out a world class player like Radja Nainggolan just to make a point? But that has been pretty much the only point of criticism I can give Martinez so far. He was able to guide Belgium to tough away wins against Bosnia and Greece, when his team finally showcased a sense of urgency, fighting spirit and finishing ability against good defenders. Continue reading
Turf Moor is a stadium where most visiting teams leave either bruised physically or with little in terms of result. The visitors tend to be aware that they will be involved in a highly competitive game.
When they were promoted to the English Premier League in 2016 as champions of the English League Football Championship, Burnley lost just two of their 23 home games, whilst collecting 51 points. They continued that fine form through the 2016/17 season in the Premier League. Out of 19 matches at Turf Moor, Burnley collected 33 points after winning 10 home matches. Mind you they finished the season with a total of 40 points. Thus, there away form was miserable and just yielded 7 points.
On their travels, Burnley not only struggled but could not get more than a single win. The solitary win was secured at Selhurst Park against Crystal Palace. They did however earn a point by holding Manchester United to a goalless draw at Old Trafford. Despite their disappointing return of points from away fixtures, they still retained their place in the top tier of English football.
This season, they have already won two away games and secured a draw in two other games. From five away matches played during the current campaign, Burnley have amassed one more point than the number – seven – they did in the entire 2016/17 season.
By guiding his team to wins over both Chelsea and Everton, whilst also drawing against Tottenham and Liverpool, manager Sean Dyche has succeeded in getting the best out of his squad and managed to rebuild their confidence away from home.
He has created a well-balanced team, made up of the same defenders who helped the club win the Championship along with some astute midfield and attack-minded signings. While Ashley Barnes and Sam Vokes remain the forward options for Dyche, with the pair scoring 17 goals between them last season, Chris Wood has been recruited to strengthen Burnley’s attack. The 26-year-old Wood has seamlessly integrated into Dyche’s side and been on the receiving end of some quality service, with players such as Scott Arfield, Robbie Brady and Steven Defour delivering the passes.
Burnley aim to continue in this fine form and rather than battling against relegation, it may sound realistic to aim for a top 10 finish in EPL. This of course is based on their early season form. Last season, any points earned away from home were treated as an unexpected bonus, particularly since they lost 14 of their 19 games away from Turf Moor.
Now Burnely’s players are proving to be part of a team capable of competing with the bigger clubs in the English Premier League, as seen in the win over Chelsea and confirmed by the draws against Tottenham and Liverpool. Perhaps the big question is where will Burnley finish at the end of the Premier League season, but one thing is for sure- the aim is to sustain this promising start at all costs.
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The Premier League steam train continued to roll on as the 10th round of fixtures took place on pitches across England. Continue reading