It’s October 4th, and two clubs are running away with the Premier League. One has 19 points, 22 goals scored, and 2 goals conceded. The other has 19 points, 21 goals scored, and 2 goals conceded. Nobody is within five points, 7 goals scored, and 10 on goal differential. We’re only 7 games in.
They both reside in the same city.
Mark your calendars for December 9 and April 7, because the pair of Manchester derbies could very well decide the Premier League title.
This past weekend, Manchester United obliterated historically bad Crystal Palace, while Manchester City picked up a massive win over Chelsea. Pep Guardiola – a man who has been under fire recently for Manchester City’s barely discernable improvement under Pep’s leadership coming into this season as well as old wounds reopened by the Carlo Ancelotti dismissal – thoroughly outcoached last year’s champion Antonio Conte. The Blues looked up for the challenge, but City held 62% possession and out-shot Chelsea a whopping 17-4, holding an 8-4 corner advantage. City produced 14 key passes to Chelsea’s four. Here’s the heat map:
Domination. That front-left red splotch for Manchester City is the combination of Fabian Delph, Raheem Sterling, and Leroy Sane, plus a bit of Bernardo Silva. The win should bolster the blue half of Manchester as their title belief rises every week.
The loss will peg Chelsea back in their title challenge, but the last few weeks saw the true emergence of Michy Batshuayi. The 24-year-old is maybe the first Chelsea player in years to be brought in solely as a backup and force his way into a significant role in the attack. He has yet to score in league play, but he bagged the late winner against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League. Last season in Premier League play, he scored five goals, three of which earned points. When has a Chelsea player clearly tabbed as a backup made such an impact? He won’t push Morata for a starting spot, but the Belgian has carved out an invaluable niche for himself.
Just a point above the Blues sits Tottenham, largely thanks to an unheralded 20-year-old defender Davinson Sanchez. The young Colombian came from Ajax in late August, costing nearly $50 million and immediately labeled a panic buy after Spurs had failed to complete any deals up to that point. Instead, he’s become a vital part of Spurs’ back line. In the 4 Premier League matches he’s started and played the full 90, his defensive line conceded just two goals, both late to West Ham with Spurs already holding a 3-0 lead.
Not only that, but the youngster has been deployed in Champions League play as well, to just as much success. Sanchez plays in the center of a 3-CB system, comfortable on the ball and gelling well with Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen. It’s too early to label anyone the buy of the season, but Sanchez has already inserted himself on the shortlist.
One dangerous team near the top of the table is Burnley. Will the Clarets finish 6th where they sit now? No, they most certainly will not, or I’ll do [insert stupid thing I will promise to do but eventually find a totally lame excuse not to do when it becomes clear I made a dumb bet here]. However, Sean Dyche has his squad a threat on any given day against any given team, able to hold onto the ball for significant spells unlike last year. Their goal against Everton featured 23 passes, the 2nd most in on a goal this season behind Delph’s stunner for Man City. Underestimate Burnley at your own risk.
Now, the fun part. Crystal Palace. Through seven matches, Crystal Palace is point-less, goalless, and luckless. The Eagles have already sacked Frank de Boer after they became the first team in the history of the English top flight to go five matches without a point or a goal, and then they faced the two Manchester clubs back-to-back, which went about as well as featuring Neymar in a third XXX movie.
The worst part is, they’re not playing that bad. Taking out the two games against historically good Manchester teams, Crystal Palace had an expected goals tally of 5.5 through their first five games of the season. No goals. No points. Now the media attention on the miserable record will only snowball the pressure on the players.
A match ball to Chicharito for scoring and sparking West Ham’s failed comeback against Spurs despite AGAIN being plopped out wide by Slaven Bilic, although this time he at least started at striker before being “forced” out wide after an injury to Michail Antonio. Note to Slaven Bilich: Find. Another. Solution.
Match ball to Man City Women for this awesome fact finder about their new signing Nadia Nadim. Do yourself a favor and spend 60 seconds of your time watching this, because her story is inspiring.
— Man City Women (@ManCityWomen) September 28, 2017
SAVE OF THE COLUMN
Newcastle’s Rob Elliott vs. Brighton in League Cup play. The Magpies lost the game, but the save was still outstanding.
Newcastle kalecisi Rob Elliot’ın, Brighton karşısında yaptığı muhteşem kurtarış.
— FPL Türkiye (@FPLTurkiye) September 25, 2017
Honorable mention to Antonio Rudiger’s face.
— Jason Foster (@JogaBonitoUSA) September 30, 2017
REMEMBER THAT GUY?
Remember Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar? He’s no longer with English club QPR, moving to Portuguese club Benfica in 2014. So let’s check in on how the former Rangers shot-stopper is doing…
— Jason Foster (@JogaBonitoUSA) September 27, 2017
Oh…oh no. He would concede 4 more goals in the match. Ouch.
SIMON MIGNOLET AWARD
I was unable to find a Premier League winner of this prestigious award, but someone else threw their name in the hat, and I bit. Hard. This week’s illustrious winner of the Simon Mignolet Award is Bruce Arena. The American led the US back from a pair of losses to open CONCACAF World Cup qualification to a position where they have a good chance of advancing to Russia. It hasn’t been pretty, it has been far from perfect, but the US still largely controls its own destiny. Then, he went and released his roster for the final two matches, with the necessary points at a premium.
Forget that Bruce left off Lee Nguyen with his 11 goals and 15 assists for New England, instead calling in Benny Feihaber, his five goals and three assists in tow. Forget that Bruce will likely start Graham Zusi over DeAndre Yedlin in at least one game. Forget that Chris Wondolowski is somehow STILL a thing as the fourth striker, instead of guys like Dom Dwyer or CJ Sapong to take the place of injured Jordan Morris.
No, the most egregious decision was leaving Fabian Johnson off the roster, a move that likely even left Jurgen Klinsmann scratching his head. The second-best player in the US player pool has not had the best last few matches, but Arena leaving him off essentially leaves the recent poor results directly at Johnson’s feet. Arena stuck Fabian’s head on a spike, sacrificed to make an example. With the US World Cup lives hanging in the balance, Arena made an inexplicable change to make a point. I feel for Fabian, and I am concerned about the mentality of the US players knowing one of their better players won’t be at their disposal, especially at a position of need. Inexplicable decision.
Yellow card to Fox Soccer for their voodoo magic that ended Real Madrid’s consecutive games scored streak
Look what you did, Fox.
LOOK WHAT YOU DID https://t.co/EMjPt36rIj
— Kyle Bonn (@the_bonnfire) September 20, 2017
Yellow card to anyone surprised that Serge Aurier was sent off in his Premier League debut.
Yellow card to John Stones’ social media team, who also happens to be Gary Cahill’s social media team, and mixed up the accounts
John Stones & Gary Cahill’s PR manager has had a nightmare..
Absolute school-boy!? pic.twitter.com/92QUWqxkGi
— Footy Accumulators (@FootyAccums) September 23, 2017
Red card to Slaven Bilic. The West Ham manager, who deserves credit for his successful first few seasons in charge of the Hammers, also deserves plenty of blame for their awful start to this campaign. Not only is he wasting Chicharito on the wing, but he brought Andy Carroll on in place of the injured Antonio against Tottenham, and the former England striker put forth a miserable performance. His substitutions have been questioned on numerous occasions, and he might not be able to escape the firing squad if they continue to perform below expectations.
Red card to Notts County goalscorer Matt O’Toole for this monstrosity. Get out.
— Channel 5 Sport (@Channel5Sport) September 23, 2017
Red card to the Swansea City CB’s for this schoolboy defending against West Ham, the kind of concentration lapse that gets teams relegated.
(To give Slaven Bilic credit, he brought on Arthur Makuatsu who delivered the cross on that goal. Bilic made sure to point that out in this article begging for people not to blame him for the problems at the club, which is just great man management)
STATS OF THE COLUMN
Week 6: There were 31 passes leading up to Fabian Delph’s rocket vs. Crystal Palace, the most for a Premier League goal since September 2015.
Week 7: Ederson has 6 clean sheets this season with Manchester City. Claudio Bravo had 6 all last year.
Week 7: Harry Kane has 84 Premier League goals in 123 career games. Cristiano Ronaldo reached 84 goals in his first 196 Premier League games. *eyes emoji*
GOALS OF THE COLUMN
Tommer Hemed vs. Newcastle. Not the prettiest of goals, but the free-kick routine was clearly pre-rehearsed and fabulously executed, and I love when planned routines like that work to perfection. Wonderfully designed play.
AND THE OSCAR GOES TO?
Ha! You thought this was going to be a sentence or two on diving! Nope, the Oscar goes to this mouse for living another day
L’Oscar du meilleur acteur 2017 est attribué à : pic.twitter.com/Af7rkQYtY5
— Jason Burne (@Monty_Brogan69) September 25, 2017
WEIRDEST PRESS CONFERENCE MOMENT
Jose Mourinho blames his team’s sub-par performance vs. Southampton on the…good weather? I’m Ron Burgundy?
Honorable mention: this Nigerian reporter who called Carlo Ancelotti’s sacking, which Carlo Ancelotti clearly didn’t take seriously enough.
This Nigerian reporter knew it pic.twitter.com/eSY6H90yfg
— Bayern & Germany (@iMiaSanMia) September 28, 2017
This Arsenal fan from Kosovo named his daughter “Arsena” and his son “Arsenal,” dooming them to a lifetime of high expectations, underachievement, and settling for lesser trophies to save their job status.
— Chris Wheatley (@ChrisWheatley_) September 29, 2017
No mailbag questions this week, because why the heck would anyone read this garbage? So here’s a made up question.
John from Springfield: Is soccer the best?
Yes John, yes it is. Thank you for asking the important question here.
If you’d like to ask a question for the next Premier League Pints, email us at PremierLeaguePints@gmail.com. If you want to ask a question of football savant Tony Romo, he already knows what you’re going to ask so don’t bother.