A west London derby. A sluggish performance. A win, no less. And the manager criticizing the home fans for sleeping. It was Halloween, Mou. Let it go. But I will be very scared if I was West Brom. Expect a big booming crowd at Stamford Bridge when you come in next. But back to the week that went by. As always, I will be covering the things that stood out over the last one week. But before I start, can I just say, “Chris Smalling, you idiot!” Haha.
1. The Drog will make a killing this season: Does he even seem like he is 36? Well, he does. He definitely has lost a couple of extra yards of space and clearly if we had a fully fit Costa, I believe we would have scored at least 3 goals against Man Utd. But 3 goals in 3 games in 8 days while playing almost all three games from start to finish. That is only, truly Drogba-esque. He is going to be a handful this season for all defenders and will not make them rest easy. With him being on the pitch, you could also see what a leader the man is. What goes on behind the doors, we rarely ever know. But this guy will make a killing both on and off the field for Chelsea.
2. We have the best midfield in EPL: Yes. That’s a fact. Period. We may not have the best attack with us only playing one striker at a time. We demonstrably do not have the best defense. That title belongs to Southampton (5 goals conceded in 10 games. Wow!). But when it comes to midfield, we have the pace, trickery, experience… you name it. But why do I make the point after a drab game against QPR? Because they say that the champions are defined by if they are able to win the games in which they don’t play well. And our ability to win such games comes from our midfield. We missed a number of chances. Costa was below his best. We even conceded a soft goal. But a collective performance by the midfield got us through, even though they themselves were not at their best.
3. It’s the best time to play at Anfield: It’s officially slump time at Liverpool. I really like how Rodgers had built his team, and it seemed like he will do it differently than AVB at Tottenham. But injuries, bad form and the settling in period haven’t been too kind. They have a massive week ahead, and it didn’t help that they mustered a deplorable performance against Newcastle. Hazard and Fabregas would be looking forward to running that Liverpool defense haggard. At the beginning of the season, I thought this will the tough period but seems like we could sail through at Anfield. Rodgers need to get his side firing quickly, or they face a humiliation against a marauding Chelsea side.
4. City are in it. But for how long?: Another drab performance by Manuel Pellegrini’s team this weekend. They were clearly missing Silva but for a side that has been assembled after spending so much resources, that can’t be an excuse. If Fabregas gets injured at Chelsea, I do not think that amounts to a good excuse for a bad performance. Which is why wins against Crystal Palace, Maribor and QPR and an unfortunate draw against Man U in the absence of Costa is no big deal. City, on the other hand, seem to be losing it. There seems to be no passion and players seem to be demotivated. You could wonder if the last year’s performances were just an effect of a guy like Mancini leaving or was it actually down to Pellegrini because City did trail off towards the end of last season.
5. Sanchez could be the guy to lead Arsenal: Comparisons with Thierry Henry may be premature, but we already have similarities. A winger being converted into a striker by Wenger and proving to be massively successful. He is the only consistent player in the Arsenal squad, and we have seen how others before him have flattered to deceive. Cazorla, Ramsey, Wilshere are just a few names that come to mind. There is nothing to rule out that they may come back and have stellar careers, especially Ramsey and Wilshere who are still young, but it’s the big games that count and that is where likes of them have faltered. Henry was conspicuous not just because of his consistency but also how would impact the big games. Still have to see that from Alexis Sanchez, but the initial signs are good.
6. Can we finally have a top 4 surprise this season?: I am not sure of West Ham, but Southampton is being the dark horse this season. With Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham, Man Utd and Everton all struggling, it has been Koeman’s side that is getting results with surprising consistency. Just to put it in perspective, the Saints have 22 points from the first 10 games which not only 2 points more than City, but also the same number of points as Barcelona. Now that is impressive. The manager himself was talking about the title chances of his team, and it may be a big season for Southampton. It will also be a big spectacle of the competition that EPL is.
7. Louis Van Gaal may have missed a trick: What Smalling did is worthy of the hair dryer treatment of the old boss Fergie. But Van Gaal himself may have missed a trick at Etihad. Going a man down is generally always received with a reaction of a defensive replacement. But to think that Man Utd could play against a City side without conceding with 10 men for over 50 minutes is wishing for too much. City were going to score, and if Man Utd looked like scoring in the later stages, it was only because Pellegrini took the foot off the pedal and decided to save his players for the mid-week CL game.
Instead of removing Januzaj, he could have put a 3 man defense. He had played with it earlier, and the players could have stuck it out. That would be in line with Van Gaal’s style and would have sent out the message that they are here to win. Currently, with Robin van Persie’s celebration at getting a point against Chelsea, it doesn’t seem like this United side fancies its chances too much. Van Gaal had a chance to change that, and he could have with that one act. But he didn’t and Man Utd stand 4 points worse off than they were at this stage last season.