FourFourTwo’s Premier League Picture – Week Nine
FFT’s PLP had a brief hiatus, partly due to the international break and also to fit in a quick trip to Germany to watch Borussia Dortmund. PLP recommends everyone put a trip to Signal Iduna Park on your bucket list. It’s incredible. But we digress…
There were plenty of eyebrows raised following Raheem Sterling’s move from Liverpool to Manchester City in a deal worth in the vicinity of £50 million (S$107m).
Already an England regular at that time, Sterling was an undeniable talent, but most felt the Reds got the better of the deal for a then-inconsistent 20-year-old.
When he was guilty of some missed chances early in his time in Manchester, it led his former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard to state Sterling needed to score more goals if he was to justify his price tag.
It’s fair to say he’s now doing that, Steven. Sterling’s impressive first-half hat-trick against Bournemouth on Saturday helped City to a commanding 5-1 victory and ensured they maintain top spot on the Premier League ladder.
It was achieved despite the considerable absence of Sergio Aguero from the line-up, fresh from his five-goal turn against Newcastle, and led Sterling to declare it his best performance for his new club thus far.
Sterling recently explained to FourFourTwo Performance his tips for running an opposition marker ragged. It seems his looming foes best take note.
Meanwhile over at Sterling’s former club, the much-heralded Jurgen Klopp trophy-dripping coronation began with, um, a 0-0 draw at Tottenham.
Liverpool fans were elated by the signing of the two-time Bundesliga winner, while some in opposition camps – including Sir Alex Ferguson – expressed their concern about what his arrival could mean for the sleeping giants.
Klopp himself declared a first ever Premier League trophy would be possible within four years, words then backed up by his former Dortmund captain, Mats Hummels.
Expectations were at fever pitch then when Klopp selected his first Liverpool line-up for a tricky away trip to White Hart Lane. In a match where both sides had chances, it ultimately finished a slightly disappointing scoreless draw.
Straight after the final whistle, debate immediately started raging about whether the Reds were now a better team under Klopp. OK, can everyone just settle down a tad? He had the grand total of about 11 minutes with his troops before the trip to London. Or more accurately, three days.
Perhaps we can wait a few more weeks, or months, to see what imprint he will leave on a side desperate for the return of Christian Benteke, Jordan Henderson, Roberto Firmino and Co.
Elsewhere, Arsenal and Manchester United both picked up 3-0 victories, away to Watford and Everton respectively, to remain in hot pursuit of City at the Premier League summit.
Surprise packets West Ham and Leicester City continue to lead the chasing pack directly below the big three, while Chelsea picked up a drought-breaking home win over Aston Villa.
That result against a side battling relegation quickly prompted Jose Mourinho to declare his side could win a quadruple this season. Hmmm. We at PLP would probably aim for the top half of the table and an away victory over Champions League group leaders Dynamo Kiev this week before targeting another glut of trophies, but we are certainly not Jose Mourinho.
The other eye-catching display of the weekend came at St James’ Park, where a once-mighty Newcastle United side were still trying to get off the bottom of the table in late October.
Georginio Wijnaldum, come on down. The Dutchman answered the desperate pleas of under-fire manager Steve McLaren with four goals in a 6-2 hammering that lifted the Magpies to the lofty heights of 18th.
It was Newcastle’s first victory at the ninth attempt as Wijnaldum joined Alan Shearer as the only players to score four goals in United’s long history (Shearer actually scored five in a game, but who’s counting).
Team of the week
Six goals in a match for the first time in five years, a first victory of the season and dragging themselves off the foot of the ladder – it has to be Newcastle United. If McLaren can orchestrate a victory away to Sunderland in this week’s Tyne-Wear derby, perhaps he will have a future in the Geordies’ dugout.
‘Big Sam’ sure has his hands full this time around. Sam Allardyce agreed to replace Dick Advocaat in the Sunderland hot seat and immediately demanded his side go on a winning run. Instead, he started off with defeat at West Brom to leave the Black Cats in last place, one point below Villa. Newcastle are showing signs of life, with promoted clubs Bournemouth, Norwich and Watford, plus surprise early strugglers Swansea, all in a spot of bother.
Quote of the week – Steve McLaren
"It's Newcastle – it's impossible to make any sense of it.” We couldn’t agree more, Steve.
Each week FourFourTwo's Managing Editor, Southeast Asia James Dampney will provide his take on the latest results in the English Premier League.