Three wins out of three including potentially tricky ties against Everton & Southampton & suddenly the world has remembered that yes, City are good, and no, Chelsea haven't won the title yet. So Chelsea drop points, not through playing badly I might add, more likely the kind of pure variation you associate with a naturally low scoring game like football and some of the stats line up too. Stats like PDO:
Chelsea meet Man City, Man City meet Chelsea.
Which is all good for the neutral bystander. A three point difference, no more weird interlopers like Southampton to block the way and a straight shoot-out from here on in for the title. Should be good.
They still peg at pretty average to me but as we all know: THIS IS A RESULTS BUSINESS and there's nothing shabby about three wins in a week. Crazy to think that an in-form Andy Carroll gives them three form strikers to choose from; most teams would be happy with just one. And they've had 12 different goalscorers! It's all been coming up roses really & Big Sam is well able to organise a disparate group of players who show a good deal of back-class. Hell, that's all he did at Bolton for years. He'll always split opinion & for a number of reasons large parts of last season were horrible but he's been capable of maximising his team's efficiency in the past & is doing it very well here.
I put up a long scree against QPR in midweek (here) based mainly on them being utterly useless away from home and it was only yesterday when they beat their second relegation rival of the week at home that I saw Redknapp's semi-logic. Never much of a long term planner, he will have seen this week's fixtures & thought 'If we get 6 points from 9, it's job done.'
And that's exactly how it played out. They are still a generally bad team; after all they've conceded a league high number of shots on target but like a football version of Porridge they will continue to look for the little victories & hope to keep their noses fractionally above the relegation water line.
In playing a series of teams you'd like to play, Villa are unbeaten in 5 and no longer look bloody awful. Even their shot totals are creeping upwards, so much so that over those last 5 games they are dead level in shots on target (F/A). They were really bad for much of last year but kept finding a result just when they looked likely to be drawn into trouble & similar is occurring here. Perhaps the departure of Roy Keane has brought back a hitherto repressed joie de vivre.
It is considered bad form to encourage the sacking of managers, akin to waking up your child as you deliver their stocking on Christmas Night uncostumed & reeking of cheap whiskey, but as December continues apace it seems amazing that not one manager has lost their job during this current season. In truth, the fluctuating successes of many of the teams have led to few candidates. Entrenched or successful managers at Arsenal, Liverpool or Everton have built up enough goodwill to weather significant turmoil whereas Tottenham & Man Utd are starting new projects once more. Many of the mid-range sides are doing just fine & real thumb-screwing pressure is happily absent in many clubs.
Amongst the lesser lights there are two teams who appear to have coaches or managers that are more noticeably vulnerable than the others and for differing reasons:
- One goal in five matches
- Progressively worse form
- Those shot totals:
Nigel Pearson's achievement in bringing Leicester to the Premier League should not be understated but his lack of achievement whilst in the Premier League is a stark contrast. There appears to be no 'unlucky' in Leicester's numbers. They are as bad as they seem to be, they've lost 7 in 8, they are bottom of the table, they are entirely porous and their next game is against Man City.
I have some sympathy, Pearson seems like the uncle who sorts out tickets for you and all your mates, but in this brutal world, Leicester just aren't doing enough & if they want to survive they need changes & fast.
Obligatory Tottenham disappointment
A week is a long time in politics/football/Tottenham:
- Run like maniacs to beat Everton.
- Run like hell despite being 2 down against Chelsea
- Have no legs for Palace
In more positive news, Fazio is an absolute find; he's had a good week & had a great game against Palace; he literally headed everything, was composed throughout and the numbers back that up. In a young team, his solidity and experience is absolutely what is needed, but whilst there are areas of defence that are settling down, the attack is still misfiring.
Credit Pochettino: whilst his substitutions don't always seem smart, he knows as well as the fans who isn't performing well & Lamela, Mason and Soldado can have no complaints at their replacement. I'm becoming sceptical whether Mason is gonna last out, he's been very lightweight this last week & the passing central midfield slot is still a problem position. Paulinho may well be pushing for a start here which is something that would have appeared entirely impossible mere weeks ago.
And so 4 points from 9 is about right and still says more about the season than any promising but false dawn. Surely it's as many kids that are qualified in the Europa League squad away for a dead rubber against Besiktas in the week & hopefully a refreshed first team for the trip to Wales on Sunday.
Thanks for reading!
I waded into the 'What the hell was with Alex Ferguson's last Man Utd team?' debate with a detailed piece; worth a look numbers fans! And now i'm quite tired so the long trailed, still unfinished 'unnamned manager piece' may have to wait. But! Please feel free to share anything you like around forums, twitter, wherever. It's always appreciated.