The Premier League isn’t blue, the Premier League isn’t red, but out of the gates, Manchester is king of the English top flight.
With Manchester United and Manchester City currently dead even atop the standings, totaling six points via 10-0 combined scoreline this past weekend and even atop the Premier League table, both teams look like men against boys in the English top flight.
Manchester City is utterly unplayable of late. 31-year-old David Silva looks like the best creator in the league. Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero have formed an unlikely on-field relationship. Nicolas Otamendi is in the best form of any Premier League defender – truly the end of days.
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Meanwhile, their counterparts in red are showing a few cracks but otherwise staying the course. Romelu Lukaku is receiving opportunities in waves and converting at will. David de Gea is as unbeatable as ever. Henrikh Mkhitaryan is a fabulous fit into the Red Devils attack.
Paul Pogba, criticized as a disappointment and possible bust last year by the relentless narrative, is suddenly a debilitating miss after suffering a hamstring injury. It’s nice to see Pogba finally appreciated for his role in this United team, a less flashy but more vital version of his Juventus self. Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera can cover the gap effectively, but Pogba is a big part of United’s title chances.
On the other end of the table, the first manager fired box has been checked off the season list with Frank de Boer out at Crystal Palace. The decision is harsh, as Palace looked by far the better side in his final showing against Burnley despite plenty of bad luck, and the upcoming schedule – HUD(h), MCI(a), MUN(a), CHE(h), NEW(a), WHU(h), TOT(a) – is a brutal way to break in a new manager.
Another manager feeling the heat is Everton’s Ronald Koeman, who felt the brunt of the Manchester United juggernaut this weekend, just days after they were thumped by Spurs, and even Italian side Atalanta piled on midweek. Everton has been outscored 12-0 in its last four matches across all competitions. Their defensive showing against Tottenham over a week ago was utterly hideous, with the 3-0 scoreline generous on the Toffees. Koeman has lots of work to do to save his job, and he’ll have to do it without a quality striker, the biggest hole in the squad they failed to repair in the summer.
Finally, Slaven Bilic continues to struggle with West Ham, and could eventually find himself on the outside looking in should the Hammers continue to flounder. A big reason why they have zero goals in their last three games? Bilic insists on playing Javier Hernandez out on the wing, an absolutely mind-boggling decision that’s resulted in the disappearance of the talented and expensive Mexican striker. Chicharito was a complete non-factor against West Brom, and has been subbed off in his last two Hammers appearances. The presence of Andy Carroll should not deter Bilic from making the most of his new summer signing who started the season so well.
Now it’s time for the fun part, so grab your pint and let’s get started.
–Match Ball to this Barcelona paper for coming up with a totally believable story that paints Philippe Coutinho as a very smart player…
Barcelona paper Sport says Coutinho "monumentally angry" with Liverpool. He will refuse to play in the Champions League. Good luck with that
— Kaveh Solhekol (@SkyKaveh) September 5, 2017
Refuse to play in the Champions League??? Excuse me for a moment while I HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. HAAAA. Ha. Hmm…ok, got that out of my system.
Coutinho on Sunday: “It’s an honor to receive an offer like that, but it’s also an honor to be here. I earned my place during the last four, five years and I’ve never had a problem with anyone here. I’ve always respected the support very much of the groups. The players, the directors, the technical staff. And that hasn’t changed at all. Like I said, whatever job offers you get, some interest you and others don’t.” Doesn’t quite sound “monumentally angry” to me.
-Match ball to Alvaro Morata’s hair, which somehow manages to stay perfect even while atop the best heading striker in the Premier League. Johnny Bravo-esque.
-Match ball to Francis Coquelin for a valiant effort to get the midway line booked for a foul. Sadly, the referee wasn’t biting.
Eden Hazard is back
— ClemDaBoss and 350 (@ClemDaBoss) September 16, 2017
-Match ball to Jordon Ibe who produced two brilliant assists to get Bournemouth 3 vital points and maybe save Eddie Howe’s job
-Speaking of saving jobs, Match Ball to Huddersfield defender Mathias Jorgensen to bail out misfiring West Ham to get Slaven Bilic a monumental 3 points by ducking out of the way of a shot, resulting in said shot cannoning off his back and finding the top corner.
SAVE OF THE COLUMN
There were a ton of great saves in Week 4, including David de Gea on Jese, Asmir Begovic on Mesut Ozil, and Nick Pope on Christian Benteke. But none were better than Aston Villa’s Scott Hogan on Aston Villa’s Conor Hourihane
Hard to look past Scott Hogan for Boro's MOTM. Great performance. pic.twitter.com/IlGMz2SwIC
— Josh Frankland (@_JoshFrankland) September 12, 2017
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Aaron in Iowa: “Even with the dominant win against Everton, Chelsea’s opening day is sticking with me. Is there a chance this is an up and down opening two months for the champs or do you think they’ve sorted it out?”
Well, this question was asked about a week ago, so given their 0-0 draw with Arsenal, it’s possible to assume this is a slightly less venomous Chelsea squad this season than last. A goalless draw with Arsenal is a disappointment given the Gunners’ recent form, and I think the squad has more work to do to develop a better fluidity together.
Colin in Chicago: “Kyle, will Everton ever be fun again?”
Not under Ronald Koeman they won’t. And they need to buy a real striker first, not an old washed up one who puts butts in seats but not balls in nets.
That came out wrong.
Shane in San Diego: “Kyle, more fun: Huddersfield Town or Charlie Adam Blackpool?”
Oh man this is tough. Huddersfield is truly fun, but they never scored a goal from the halfway line against League Two side Accrington Stanley in an empty stadium. So I’ll go with Blackpool.
Anna in Brooklyn: “How does Geoff Cameron look so sharp for my Potters and so poorly for my United States?”
This is utterly mind-boggling, especially of late. Cameron had a truly dire performance against Costa Rica, at home no less, but somehow continues to keep his starting place under Mark Hughes, and not by some voodoo magic. The 32-year-old played well in the Manchester United draw, with Hughes saying he’s “had a bright start to the season.” *shrugs*
SIMON MIGNOLET AWARD
I thought we’d go two weeks without a clear winner here, but in the final match on Sunday, Chelsea defender David Luiz did my job for me. After a fabulous match by Luiz defending Danny Welbeck and Olivier Giroud (which, to be fair, was matched on the other end by Arsenal’s Shkodran Mustafi, who kept Alvaro Morata in his pocket), Luiz had the fortitude to get himself sent off in the final few minutes for a petulant challenge on Sead Kolasinac. It was an iffy call, but no complaints for Luiz who went over the ball with his studs out. Congratulations on your award, Mr. Luiz.
-Yellow card to Mark Hamill for not heeding Admiral Akbar’s famous warning. Luke Skywalker is an accidental Wolves fan. Not entirely sure what to make of that.
3 days ago a tweet asked me if I was a wolves fan-I"liked"it thinking they meant the animal-Now they're my favorite team I'd never heard of. https://t.co/RhraZt8faD
— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) September 10, 2017
-Yellow card to Gabriel Jesus for stealing his first goal vs. Liverpool from David Silva who had made a fabulous run into the box
-Red Card to Jurgen Klopp for turning his back on Liverpool and bringing his infectious personality to The Emirates
— Shkodran Mustafi (@MustafiOfficial) September 17, 2017
-Red Card to Sadio Mane. Literally. He put his boot directly into Ederson’s face. That’s a red card. Stop trying to argue that it’s not, you’re embarrassing yourself.
STATS OF THE COLUMN
WEEK 4: Mark Hughes is only the 2nd manager to go unbeaten in 4 consecutive Premier League games against Jose Mourinho, after Ronald Koeman.
A huge part of Stoke City’s draw with Manchester United was Maxim Choupo-Moting, who was an absolute bully to United’s usually stout defensive pairing of Eric Bailly and Phil Jones for a pair of goals. The 28-year-old Cameroon international looks a solid buy, and while he was less effective against Newcastle, he still looks a solid buy for Hughes this summer and will likely be a factor in Stoke’s top-half push.
WEEK 5: Henrikh Mkhitaryan has already been involved in more goals (6) this season than he was all of last season (5).
It appears Jose Mourinho has remembered why he brought Mkhitaryan to Old Trafford, giving the Armenian much more playing time, and the Red Devils are being rewarded. He is a dynamic player both on and off the ball, and Manchester United will be rewarded for keeping him in the lineup.
MEME OF THE WEEK
Did I do that right?
Spurs can’t get rid of Wembley fast enough. After seemingly exorcising the demons against German club Borussia Dortmund, they end up in a 0-0 draw with Swansea City.
In fact, Spurs is so excited to ditch Wembley, they’ve set up this website solely dedicated to live streaming and video of the new stadium. You can actually sit at your desk and watch Spurs get closer to its Wembley exit. Talk about desperate.
GOAL OF THE COLUMN
Antonio Valencia vs. Everton. What a thunderbolt!!!
WEIRDEST PRESS CONFERENCE MOMENT
Reporter: “Do you think Mark Hughes should have shaken your hand?”
Mourinho: “How dare you insinuate it was my fault” *walks away*
Reporter: “Jose! No, wait, I didn’t mean it like – oh drat”
WHO’S GETTING BANNED THIS WEEK?
This ref, for giving away this absurd penalty. Apparently, he was match-fixing. Hard. So now Sadio Mane and Senegal have to replay their match against South Africa on a random date in November. Good luck with that Liverpool.
Songo will fire 🔥 this man today. https://t.co/LAo3ZGs6TZ
— Nana Sarfo (@kinkypinky88) September 7, 2017
WHAT ARE WE LOOKING FORWARD TO?
This coming weekend, Stoke and Chelsea has potential to be a good match, as it feels like the Potters always give the Blues a run for their money even if they’ve only won two of their last 18 league games against Chelsea. Burnley and Huddersfield will be an entertaining tactical battle, and while there likely won’t be many goals in it, two teams in surprising league position meeting is always interesting.
The following weekend, Chelsea and Manchester City meet in a game that will teach us much about the Blues and how they can hold up against a stellar attacking team, especially without David Luiz. Liverpool and Newcastle have a Sunday meeting, which could prove entertaining, with the potential for lots of goals.