FourFourTwo's Premier League Picture – Week Four
So here we are one month into the new season and the top of the Premier League standings has a decidedly consistent look about it. No, it’s not dominated by usual suspects Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United.
This year to make it into the top four, you seemingly need to have the word “City” in your name. Pellegrini’s imperious Manchester City continued on their merry way, easing past Watford 2-0 to maintain their perfect record.
Joining them in the current Champions League qualification places are the unlikely triumvirate of Crystal Palace, Leicester City and Swansea City.
If this keeps up, serious questions will be asked of 14th-placed Norwich City and 18th-ranked Stoke City. OK, probably not…
Palace’s superb form under Alan Pardew continued, underlining a series of shock results over the weekend with a 2-1 victory over champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Claudio Ranieri’s undefeated Foxes ensured they would remain in the top four for another week at least when a late Jamie Vardy penalty gave them a 1-1 draw at Bournemouth.
Swansea then joined the top-four party with Sunday night’s 2-1 victory over Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United.
After the match, Swans manager Garry Monk declared his emerging side was now a Premier League “force”.
On the early evidence so far this season – 2-2 away draw with Chelsea, 2-0 home win over Newcastle, 1-1 away draw with Sunderland and now 2-1 home win over United – it’s difficult to argue with him.
To his credit, Van Gaal – who has now lost three straight matches against Swansea – conceded their change of shape had made things difficult for his troops.
If only Chelsea counterpart Jose Mourinho could be capable of a similarly courteous compliment directed at his opponents. Those that have been following this column would be aware FFT like pointing out Mourinho’s latest ramblings. Basically, they are just too entertaining to ignore.
He had some absolute pearlers following the defeat to Crystal Palace. In one of the more extraordinary stats in the ‘Special One’s’ two stints in charge of the Blues, this was just his second Premier League loss at Stamford Bridge.
Yet in some ways even more remarkable than that stat are the reasons (read: excuses) Mourinho can come up with to explain defeats. It started with the stock standard, all-too common “we did not deserve to lose”.
Of course you didn’t. According to you, Special One, you never deserve to lose. You could lose 9-0 and it would be the fault of the pitch, the alignment of the stars, what the opposing goalkeeper ate for breakfast – anything but a “well played, the opposition was better than us today” or something similar. He then capped off a typically humble, self-effacing press conference by declaring he wished he had a fourth substitute, before realising he didn’t. No really. Damn those pesky rules.
But Mourinho’s second home EPL loss as Chelsea boss wasn’t the most incredible stat of the day. That honour fell to West Ham United, who hadn’t managed a win at Anfield since 1962. That’s 53 years since they had last tasted victory at Liverpool’s famous old ground. Or 41 attempts. Whichever way you want to read it or write, it had been a looooong time.
But that is over now thanks to a deserved 3-0 victory. Prior to the game, Hammers fan Jon High promised on Twitter he would get a tattoo to commemorate the occasion if West Ham won. You can see the results here. Respect, Jon. Something else that is also over? Any delusions over Liverpool’s start to the season. Two 1-0 wins plus a decent 0-0 draw at Arsenal had raised hopes among Reds fans of a bounce back to competitiveness this season. This result, and more importantly the performance, put a significant dent in those hopes. Oh well, it's not all bad – it looks like Fabio Borini has been sold to Sunderland.
Team of the Week
It was a real toss-up this week. Swansea and Crystal Palace would both be extremely deserved recipients, for the reasons stated above. But any team that hasn’t won at a particular venue for over half a century – that’s before the moon landing, before the Beatles had a No.1 hit, heck it’s even before Facebook – that then breaks that record is good enough for us. Hats off, West Ham.
Those promoted teams really must be wondering what the fuss is all about. Who said they are destined for an instant freefall back into the Championship? OK, just about everybody. But so far they’ve chosen not to listen. Bournemouth are currently 11th, Norwich are 14th and Watford sit 17th. Instead, Stoke, Newcastle and Sunderland find themselves in the bottom three. If only the Tyne-Wear Derby was on this weekend (it’s on October 25, for those playing at home).
Quote of the Week – Jose Mourinho
"I blame myself for not changing one of them because I kept him in the game for 90 minutes. When I made the third change I realised that I needed a fourth – and I don't have a fourth."
It’s worth repeating. The quote is just that good.
Each week FourFourTwo's Managing Editor, Southeast Asia James Dampney will provide his take on the Premier League.