Onside & Offside — October
Time flies when you’re having fun (life must be in slow-motion for Mario Balotelli then), and on the cusp of Round 10 of the Premier League season, there are a trio of teams in the top six that many would say have punched above their weight. Fans begin to dream, whilst some anticipate a nightmare. May the bends and twists in this latest of EPL narratives continue...
After selling a bucket load of their top names in the summer in Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Dejan Lovren, Luke Shaw and Calum Chambers, as well as losing their manager, Southampton’s diagnosis looked grim. Forget the dirty ‘R’ word: ‘Relegation’ and fast forward nine games into the season; this team looks capable of a top 6 finish. They handed out an embarrassing thrashing – putting 8 goals past Sunderland, and followed that up taking three points from Stoke City – thanks to Sadio Mané – who scored his first goal for the Saints after being the sole change Ronald Koeman made to the starting 11 that thrashed Southampton... an inspired inclusion it proved to be.
Yes the doubters will say it's nothing different from last season when the Saints were sitting pretty in fifth after nine games, but something about this side and their manager has me thinking that their momentum will continue to surprise us... and why not?
He is chairman of a team that has managed just one win in eight games this season – glued to the bottom of the table – yet he is still smiling! QPR chairman Tony Fernandes posted a photo of his ‘rig’ on Instagram making light of comments Harry Redknapp made about Adel Taarabt’s weight, and lack of fitness. Good to see he can have a chuckle at himself! He may need to hit the gym though.
One Champions League goal for Liverpool, yet you can't deny he's had more than ample service and opportunity to tap in more. Without sounding like a broken record and regurgitating what has run in the UK rags – and well to be honest across the globe... where is Mario Balotelli? Against Hull his effort was improved – but goals win games and there haven’t been any. Unfortunately for Balotelli, he's worked out as a nice scapegoat for the rest of the Liverpool side to dodge any responsibility for their run of form.
(Ed: Balotelli scored against Swansea in the League Cup this morning, but we're still waiting for that first league goal for Liverpool!)
Poor, poor, poor Vito Mannone. If 8 goals past him weren’t enough, he then gift wrapped a stoppage time goal to his former team, Arsenal the very next week. There are no two ways about it – he will be dropped – and an eager and quality replacement is waiting in the wings: Costel Pantilimon (Joe Hart’s former understudy).
A-League team Western Sydney Wanderers are one game away from becoming the Asian Champions and creating football history in Australia – they face Saudi Arabian giants Al Hilal in the Asian Champions League decider on Saturday November 1!
Tara Rushton is a football presenter for Fox Sports Australia, as well as am ambassador for the upcoming 2015 AFC Asian Cup.