Skip to content

Premier League Playback: Title tussle intensifies, while Jack Wilshere has the cigars out

Oct 7, 2013, 10:29 PM EDT

Jack Wilshere Getty Images

UNPREDICTABILITY PROVING A TREAT

The start to this Premier League season has been the most topsy-turvy, enthralling and nerve-wracking start to a campaign since the league began. So many shock results, intense storylines and drama have already consumed the opening seven weeks of play. With 70 games played, the average goal per game ratio is 2.31. Not bad, but not great. However, a distinct lack of goals in the opening few games hasn’t stopped the intrigue, if anything it’s fueled it.

With so many managerial and philosophical changes over the summer, teams are delicately testing each other out. Dissecting the weaknesses, and finding out as they feel their way through games tentatively. Oh, the pressure. Plenty of the bigger teams are frail, and as we’ve already seen, hugely susceptible to shock defeats.

But here comes the kicker, teams like Chelsea, United and City don’t have the ‘new manager’ veil to hide behind anymore. A few bad results in the opening weeks are expected by some when a club goes through a transitional period but after this international break, there’s no room for error. Think of this PL title race like the Kentucky Derby, the thoroughbreds have gone round the first bend and a few have made slip ups and fallen back in the field. Between now and January it’s time to burrow on mercifully and position yourself perfectly for the final bend. Believe it or not, with 31 games to go, the next five matches can make or break a season. An effortless fall from title contenders to Champions League hopefuls is staring a dozen teams in the face. That, right there, shows you how open this PL season is. Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool are all gearing up to take the crown after an incredible even opening.

There are now runaway leaders this season… so, who you got?

MORRISON AND JANUZAJ – ENGLAND INTERNATIONALS IN THE MAKING… NOT SO FAST

Premier League Schedule – Week 7

Result Recap & Highlights
Cardiff 1-2 Newcastle United Recap and watch here
Fulham 1-0 Stoke City Recap and watch here
Hull City 0-0 Aston Villa Recap and watch here
Liverpool 3-1 Crystal Palace Recap and watch here
Manchester City 3-1 Everton Recap and watch here
Norwich 1-3 Chelsea Recap and watch here
Southampton 2-0 Swansea Recap and watch here
Sunderland 1-2 Manchester Utd Recap and watch here
Tottenham 0-3 West Ham Recap and watch here
West Brom 1-1 Arsenal Recap and watch here

Following their sparkling performances on Sunday, Ravel Morrison and Adnan Januzaj are pushing their stock high in the opening months of the Premier League season. Morrison celebrated being called up to England’s U-21 squad by getting the ball in his own half against Tottenham and running past three players before beating Hugo Lloris with a cheeky dink, while Januzaj scored two stunners on his full-debut for Manchester United to grab a crucial comeback win against Sunderland. Those two are being touted as potential England stars for the future, both have their complications.

To say Morrison has a checkered past is an understatement, in and out of courtrooms in Manchester during his days in United’s academy, Sir Alex Ferguson finally sold Morrison to West Ham last January after insisting a move away from his hometown, and trouble, was best for his career.  Sam Allardyce told this story after Morrison scored his wonder goal against Spurs on Sunday. “Sir Alex told me ‘I hope you sort him out because you will have a top-class player.'” It seems as though the penny has dropped. As for Januzaj, no attitude or off field problems there, just an incredibly complicated ethnic identity. He was born in Belgium, his parents are from Kosovo (meaning he could also play for Serbia) and Albania, and his grandparents are Turkish. Rumors that England could cap tie him look to be unfounded, but the skinny, young winger is a tremendous talent. Just watch below.

GRINDING OUT A WIN

Manchester City, Manchester United, and to a certain extent Chelsea… you know who you are. And you know what to do when you face a tricky game. United went behind early against Sunderland, City did the same against Everton (watch below), and Chelsea were pegged back in the second half by Norwich. But all three got the job done. Plenty of top teams have dropped points this season, and as we said, the unpredictability of the Premier League really is making it irresistible this term. But the three aforementioned winners will all want mundane, mediocre, 2-1, 1-0 wins vs. the leagues also-rans to become common place between now and May. Whichever club makes that beautiful mediocrity a reality, wins the title. Simple.

TOP PERFORMERS

Coming up big, once again, Artur Boruc made two tremendous saves from Michu and Wilfried Bony in Saints’ 2-0 win over Swansea. England fans will be hoping the big Pole isn’t in that kind of form at Wembley next Tuesday. Daniel Sturridge was sensational for Liverpool in their first half rout of Crystal Palace. He spun Palace’s defense inside out and struck home a beauty, the striker is in the form of his life. We’ve already discussed his heroics, but 18-year-old Januzaj’s two goals seem him a shoe in for team of the week. Elsewhere, Loic Remy struck twice in Newcastle’s 2-1 win at Cardiff, the Frenchman has five already this season and is coolness personified in front of goal. So is Chelsea’s Brazilian star Oscar, who netted the Blues’ opener and looked in control throughout the win vs. Norwich.

MOURINHO PROVES TACTICAL NOUS

Premier League Star Performers

Player Reason
1. Adnan Januzaj (Man Utd) 2 goals, incredible debut
2. Loic Remy (Newcastle) 2 goals, difference maker
3. Dan Sturridge (Liverpool) 1 goal, sublime first half
4. Oscar (Chelsea) 1 goal, cool as a cucumber
5. Artur Boruc (Saints) 2 great saves, 5 shutouts in 7

Speaking of that, once again Jose Mourinho proved that, no matter what everyone else thinks, he knows best. A tricky trip away to Norwich was handled remarkably well, as the Portuguese manager shuffled his squad superbly and used three key substitutions to land Chelsea the win. In the second half the Canaries drew level through Anthony Pilkington, and Chelsea’s comfortable looking afternoon was in danger of unraveling. Mourinho sparked into life, bringing on attackers Willian, Eden Hazard and Samuel Eto’o to force the issue, and it worked, magnificently.

Hazard and Willian both scored late to seal a superb 3-1 win at Carrow Road. Following Mourinho’s half time switch at Tottenham last week to change the game, bringing Juan Mata on for John Obi Mikel, his decisiveness seems to be coming back. The sharp ruthlessness of his tactical changes are mirroring his first, hugely successful, spell in charge at Chelsea. He’d often make changes in the first half or at the interval if things weren’t working out, and now he’s doing it again. After many doubters have already spun webs of discontent towards Chelsea’s boss, Mourinho is finally showing us why he’s the best coach in the game.

WORST REFEREEING PERFORMANCE? THIS ONE’S UP THERE

Sometimes I really don’t get how the English Football Association decides which referee to send to what game. But it was clear right from the start of Fulham vs. Stoke that referee Roger East was out of his depth. Refs have a hard job, I get it. But I’ve never seen so many pivotal decisions given incorrectly, East was frozen to the spot on four key moments in the opening 45 minutes.

First, he missed Patjim Kasami pushing Erik Pieters in the face in front of the benches. Then, Stoke had two “stonewall penalties” turned down, those are not my words, but Potters manager Mark Hughes. And I have to endorse them. I was sitting in the famous wooden Johnny Haynes Stand on Saturday, with home fans taking deep breaths on two occasions in the first half, as Phillipe Senderos scythed down Stephen Ireland in the box, then Fernando Amorebieta clumsily clambered all over Jonathan Walters. Somehow, Stoke were denied penalties on both occasions. Then Fulham’s Bryan Ruiz was hacked down my Marc Wilson as he tried to wriggle away from the Irishman in the box, East again waved away the PK appeals. The ref struggled to keep control of the match throughout, as the tense affair resulted in tough challenges flying in. He dished out five bookings, there should’ve been more.

Marin Jol’s mammoth man hug on the sidelines when Darren Bent scored the winner said it all, the relief was evident because Stoke should’ve won. Afterwards, Jol was man enough to admit his side struggled but the Cottagers needed a win desperately, and they got it, thanks to a lucky deflection and the ineptitude of East.

SAINTS THE REAL DEAL?

Last Thursday I spoke with Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino and captain Adam Lallana in the build up to Sunday’s clash with Swansea. Pochettino said that he wasn’t keen on the Europa League, and that Saints are aiming for the Champions League.

“The work that’s been happening for the last four years, started with the Chairman,” Pochettino said. “His vision for the club and the way he started building the future of the club, the ideas, the philosophy. The basic idea is to take the club to the top of the league and Europe. That’s our ambition.”

That’s a bold statement for a club that was struggling in League One two years ago. But the South Coast club sit fourth in the PL after seven games — following their 2-0 win over Swansea thanks to Lallana and Rodriguez — conceding just twice and winning three in a row. Granted, their schedule hasn’t been too tough so far, but a trip to Manchester United after the international break will be a true reflection of how they’ll get on this season. Pochettino was nominated for manager of the month, and Polish ‘keeper Artur Boruc for player of the month with five clean sheets from seven. Both believe Southampton can effortlessly climb into the upper echelons. Most Saints fans will be hoping to hit the magic 40-point mark ASAP, then anything else is a bonus.

SMOKING HOT… JACK WILSHERE SCORES EQUALIZER, APOLOGIZES FOR HAVING A CIG

Against West Brom, Arsenal were against the ropes and needed someone to come up with the goods. Cue Mr. Marlboro himself, Jack Wilshere, to coolly slot home a wonderfully flowing move to snatch the Gunners a point. All afternoon Arsenal’s fans had sung, “He smokes when he wants, he smokes when he wants,” following Wilshere’s poor judgement and getting snapped by the British paparazzi smoking outside a London club in midweek. Wilshere said sorry afterwards and insisted he doesn’t smoke. If he keeps scoring goals like the one below, and playing the way he is, I’m not sure Arsenal’s fan will care if he’s on 20 a day.

Latest Posts
  1. Vancouver Whitecaps 1-0 Colorado Rapids: Caps edge Rapids, clinch postseason birth

    Oct 26, 2014, 12:39 AM EDT

    carl_robinson AP

    The Vancouver Whitecaps did themselves well to clinch a late playoff birth, besting the Colorado Rapids, 1-0.

  2. Portland Timbers down FC Dallas, 2-0, to bolster playoff chances

    Oct 25, 2014, 11:44 PM EDT

    Diego Valeri's fifth goal of the season, his second game-winner in a row, gave Portland a 3-2 win in Montréal. (Credit: AP) AP

    The Timbers’ postseason aspirations are hanging in the balance, but this 2-0 win over FC Dallas has certainly put them in a nice spot.

  3. Lee Nguyen’s goal lifts Revs to 1-0 win over Toronto FC

    Oct 25, 2014, 10:31 PM EDT

    Doneil Henry Getty Images

    Final: New England Revolution 1, Toronto FC 0

  4. MLS revives interest in signing AS Roma defender Ashley Cole

    Oct 25, 2014, 9:49 PM EDT

    452343856-490294

    AS Roma defender Ashley Cole has drawn the interest of MLS teams once again.

  5. Ronaldo hails Van Gaal, says Dutchman will make United champions ‘very soon’

    Oct 25, 2014, 8:48 PM EDT

    Cristiano-Ronaldo-513245 Getty Images

    Cristiano Ronaldo praises manager Louis van Gaal and is convinced that the 63-year-old will lead Manchester United to its former glory.

  6. Premier League Saturday recap: West Ham stuns Manchester City, Sanchez braces Arsenal

    Oct 25, 2014, 7:23 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    Short recap and highlights of Saturday’s Round 9 Premier League matches.

  7. Premier League Sunday preview: Manchester United vs. Chelsea headlines

    Oct 25, 2014, 7:08 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    With three games on the slate, here’s what you can look forward to on Sunday.

  8. MLS Snapshot: Montreal Impact 1-1 DC United

    Oct 25, 2014, 6:18 PM EDT

    Marco Di Vaio, Patrice Bernier, AP

    Final: Montreal Impact 1, D.C. United 1

  9. Chicago Fire pleased with former Tottenham Hotspur Jaime O’Hara on trial

    Oct 25, 2014, 5:23 PM EDT

    ohara_1496113c Getty Images

    The Chicago Fire are seeking to bolster the strength of their roster, examining the possible signing of ex-Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Jaime O’Hara.

  10. Seattle 2-0 L.A. Galaxy: Pappa the hero again, Sounders win 1st Shield

    Oct 25, 2014, 4:55 PM EDT

    MLS Galaxy Sounders Soccer AP

    A sleepy game for over an hour, Seattle and L.A. used the last hour to stage a contest worthy of a trophy-winning event.

  11. Gerard Pique calls his handball ‘unintentional’ in El Clasico defeat

    Oct 25, 2014, 4:29 PM EDT

    Pique Getty Images

    Pique speaks of his handball in Barcelona’s 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid: “It was unintentional.”

  12. LIVE ON NBC: Scoreless half has Seattle 45 mins from Supporters Shield

    Oct 25, 2014, 3:47 PM EDT

    @lagalaxy @lagalaxy

    The L.A. Galaxy and Seattle Sounders are scoreless through 45 minutes at CenturyLink in Washington.

  13. Leeds United ax manager Darko Milanic after six games at the helm

    Oct 25, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT

    darko_3045587b Getty Images

    Leeds United have fired manager Darko Milanic after only 32 days leading the squad.

  14. Bundesliga wrap: Dortmund’s freefall continues, 9-goal thriller in Frankfurt

    Oct 25, 2014, 2:59 PM EDT

    FBL-GER-DORTMUND-HANOVER Getty Images

    Several fun games whet the appetite for a massive top of table Sunday tilt between Bayern Munich and Borussia Monchengladbach.

  15. Swansea City 2-0 Leicester City: Bony brace tames timid Foxes in Wales (video)

    Oct 25, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT

    Swansea City v Leicester City - Premier League Getty Images

    Wilfried Bony scored both goals for Swans, 2-0, who cruised to the win against the suddenly-struggling Foxes.

  16. Watch Live: Seattle Sounders vs. L.A. Galaxy (Lineups and Live Stream)

    Oct 25, 2014, 2:07 PM EDT

    Obafemi Martins, Robbie Rogers AP

    Will the Sounders handle the Galaxy and expectations to clinch home-field throughout the playoffs?

  17. Southampton manager Ronald Koeman: “It’s fantastic” to be in Premier League’s second place

    Oct 25, 2014, 1:54 PM EDT

    Southampton v Stoke City - Premier League Getty Images

    “Maybe they [Stoke] created two possibilities, not chances and that’s a great team effort,” Koeman said of his Saints.

  18. Real Madrid 3-1 Barcelona: Real win El Clasico, Suarez returns

    Oct 25, 2014, 1:47 PM EDT

    Pepe Pepe

    Despite going behind earlier, Real came roaring back to win the first El Clasico of 2014-15.

  19. WATCH: Bony and Sigurdsson team up for beauty versus Leicester on NBC

    Oct 25, 2014, 1:28 PM EDT

    Reading v Swansea City - Pre Season Friendly Getty Images

    Watch and enjoy, then follow the second half live on NBC and online via Live Extra.

Featured video

PST Extra: Can United beat Chelsea?