Gameweek 16 is history, and it’s time for reflection. What have we learned? Who stood out this time around? Who will go down and who will grab the top four spots? We’re almost half way done, and we can see some contours of how the season will pan out. This is the latest from the Premier League, from our viewpoint. This is On the Rebound.
1. No strikers, no problem!
As we all know, Sergio Agüero left the pitch in tears after just a few minutes in the 1-0 win against Everton on December 6. This should not cause a ton of problems for a class with such quality as Manchester City, having Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic as backup for their starlet. Well, bad got worse as Dzeko got injured during warm-up to last weekend’s game against Leicester. With Jovetic already out with a hamstring injury, Manuel Pellegrini was forced to start with young and unproven José Pozo up front.
With the treatment room getting crowded at Etihad, it took an old acquaintance to secure the win at King Power Stadium. Frank Lampard, aged 36, is still showing few signs of being on the wane of his career. Lampard has already scored 6 goals in 14 matches for the Sky Blues stepped up and secured 3 points for City, and the relentless Chelsea-chase continues.
It won’t come as a surprise if Pellegrini were to try and extend the loan. Lampard has already secured some crucial points for City, especially the three points this weekend, in addition to the equalizer against Chelsea earlier this season. In fact, there is no Man City player that is more effective than Lampard this season, with only 51 minutes per goal contribution (goals and assists).
What a legend Frank Lampard is!
2. Old fashioned Hull
We’ve come across some interesting research carried out by the Press Association. It showed that only 15 per cent of the players starting their games last round wore black boots. We guess it’s fair to say that the “traditional” boots are getting a bit old fashioned, and at the moment, Hull is the most old fashioned in this regard. We also notice that Tigers have now gone 9 matches without a win in the Premier League, but whether that has anything to do with the colour of their boots, we’ll leave for others to answer.
When Hull faced Chelsea this weekend, it was the meeting between the future and the past. In terms of boot-colours, that is. Hull had 6 players wearing black boots (54.5 %), while Chelsea had zero. The more contemporary side comfortably won the match. Maybe Steve Bruce’s men should consider getting more colourful boots against Swansea this weekend? They surely need to leave no stone unturned when trying to find a way to the winning track.
3. A parachute, a parachute! My kingdom for a parachute!
After a fairy tale-like start to the season and second place on the league table after 11 matches, Southampton is now freefalling. One point from the last five matches, and four defeats in a row makes the best ever start of a Premier League campaign quickly turning into a distant memory. The latest one was inflicted by relegation candidate Burnley, who grabbed only their third win this season. Some argue that Morgan Schneiderlin could be one of the causes of Southampton’s drop in form, but in our opinion there are no excuses for losing against Burnely if they in fact should be top four contenders. To make things even worse, Southampton lost in the quarter final of the Capitol One Cup this midweek, against League One team Sheffield United.
A few weeks back, we predicted Southampton’s downfall to have started. Since then, Saints have zero points. We don’t want to say we said so, but we did say so…
4. A little less conversation, a little more action?
The last 11 matches have resulted in nine losses and no wins for Leicester City. Lots have been said about what needed to be done, and this Sunday they sacked their director of football, Terry Robinson, after just 18 months in the job. When appointed, he was to “provide strategic input to the club’s football operations at all levels, driving the consistent implementation of the club’s football philosophy”, which involved having the final word in questions regarding possible transfer targets.
Leicester has received some level of critique after the summer transfer window, where many potential targets slipped away. The arrivals of Esteban Cambiasso and Leonardo Ulloa have been good ones for the Foxes. However, most players that won the Championship last year have been given a vote of confidence in the Premier League as well, despite the lack of experience on the highest level. Robinson has now been sacrificed for this, but we cannot help but questioning the timing, with the January transfer window just a couple of weeks away.
5. Hero of the day
By looking at the scoresheet from this week’s big encounter, one could easily be led to believe this was a walk in the park for Manchester United against Liverpool. The story has a little more to it though, and the real story is about a deadly effective United, a remarkable in-effective Liverpool and a goalie that just refused to concede. David de Gea had a busy day between the posts, and was put to the test a number of times. In the first half, it was Raheem Sterling who tried his luck three times, and after the half time-break it was Mario Balotelli who got frustrated by the force field that seemingly surrounded the Spaniard. De Gea was nothing but outstanding, and he probably saved the points for United again, which he has done on several occasions this year.
Many people have directed their critique towards the United defence this season, and once again their frailty in the back was exposed. Liverpool kept knocking on the door, but de Gea kept denying them every single time. United, on the other hand, took their chances. Rooney, Mata and van Persie claimed one goal each, and secured three massive points for the Red Devils.
Liverpool fans won’t be too happy with referee Martin Atkinson and his assistant on the line, who overlooked an obvious offside on Juan Mata when he put Manchester United two goals ahead not long before half time. Still, De Gea stole the headlines with his match-winning performance, and United fans must be ecstatic about their goalie these days, being the reason for their six-match winning streak.
6. The re-invention of Stuart Downing
We have spoken about Stuart Downing before, but we feel he deserves another round of praise. After thrilling the crowd at Middlesbrough and Aston Villa for many seasons, his career got a setback after moving to Liverpool in 2011.
Sam Allardyce, though, didn’t accept that Downing was through as a footballer, and picked him up for around £5m last summer. Big Sam’s coaching has made Downing a force to be reckoned with on the left wing, by changing his position a bit. Allardyce has given Downing more freedom to roam to different parts of the pitch to find space and run at the opposing defence. This has given results this season with Downing flourishing, despite turning 30 this summer. 6 assists and his third goal after securing one point for West Ham against drawing specialists Sunderland this weekend. In fact, Downing is only two fantasy points shy of assist king Cesc Fabregas.
That sums it up for today. Have you remembered registering for this weekend’s games?
Stay tuned tomorrow for the last Pick of the week before the Christmas bells are ringing.