Top Four: Essential Notes on the Current Top Four
Chelsea (This Week #1, Last Week #1)
In what was their sternest test so far; league leaders Chelsea came away from the Emirates with a 2-1 win. Fernando Torres muscled his way around Laurent Koscielny with a tidy finish before Koscielny was involved again, scoring into his own net with an equally tidy finish. Juan Mata with his second successive man of the match performance; was the playmaker behind both goals, with pinpoint dead ball delivery that Arsenal could not deal with.
Arsenal in a creative context has always had an amazing midfield, which made the performance in the middle of the park that much more impressive. Ramires and Obi Mikel played their roles in front of the defence incredibly well with Arsenal rarely getting the better of the two. The eighty million partnership behind Torres were given another start together as Oscar and Hazard showed glimpses of brilliance alongside Mata. The constantly growing partnership between the three could leave Chelsea legend Frank Lampard on the outer. The Leagues all time highest scoring midfielder is now 34, with his best years behind him one can only imagine what’s next for the former West Ham man? He will still find be called upon for the big games but I can hardly see him constantly getting picked over the more dynamic and harder working players that are the future of the club. With the MLS interested Lampard could soon be playing alongside David Beckham in the twilight of his career.
After getting thumped 5-2 by Liverpool, Norwich come to Stamford Bridge for what could be a high scoring game. I expect to see Hazard and Mata control the game from the beginning and an easy win by a few goals.
My Prediction: Chelsea 4 – Norwich 0
Everton ( This Week #2 Last Week #3)
Everton’s astonishing early season form continues as they overtake United into second place after a commanding 3-1 win over Southampton . Nikica Jelavic scored two well taken goals playing his target man role to perfection.
With Nikica Jelavic developing his eye for goal, fans are forgetting that new signing Kevin Mirallas is a striker. At past club Olympiacos the Belgian International had an impressive scoring record of 34 league goals in 52 games. So far Mirallas has found himself playing a deeper role to cater Felliani in his advanced position behind Jelavic. However, a player with the potential and record Mirallas has can offer something new up front while his record surely cannot be ignored much longer. His speed running behind the taller Felliani and Jelavic would stretch many top league defences even more than what Everton are currently doing. Hopefully we see Mirallas given an opportunity in his preferred role this weekend, but only David Moyes knows his own clubs tactics.
Everton hope to continue sitting on the right end of the table after the weekend game with Wigan. Everton should be too strong here, various players have impressed on different occasions, but as we saw at the tail end of last season Wigan can play football.
My Prediction : Wigan 1 – Everton 3
Manchester United (This Week #3 Last Week #2)
“The first half against Southampton, the first half against Liverpool and the first half on Saturday — we have some work to do in that respect. It’s not planned but I think it will be the last. You have to be concerned losing goals the way we did against Tottenham. We were well off the pace of the game. I don’t think we won a tackle in the first half. Fortunately you saw Manchester United in the second half. It was probably our best performance of the season in the second half.” – Sir Alex Ferguson
Sir Alex here sums up United’s start of the season better that anyone else can after the clubs first loss to Tottenham in 23 years. A game where the Red Devils had 74% possession in the second half and hit the post twice in the final fifteen minutes will have United fans asking themselves why does our club only start playing at halftime?
Firstly, the comeback of Wayne Rooney in the second half off the bench paid off almost immediately as his influence changed the game and created a goal. Rooney has a passion and drive that nobody else in the team carries and even though RVP is alongside him, it is still his club and the England striker showed he is still the clubs talisman. What however is the main issue is the clubs back four. Rio Ferdinand was left in Gareth Bales dust after his goal, sure Bale is an incredibly fast and talented winger but Rio was not even close to the Welshman by the time the ball was in the net. Ferdinand is now thirty three and won’t have much longer at the top but after the younger defenders are back from injury. I would hope to see Rio step aside and into a role similar to Jamie Carragher where he is called upon when needed but primarily used for his experience which can only benefit the likes of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones. However, it is fair to comment on how poor the rest of the backline was also. Evans and co were off the pace and the wide backs were frequently out of position so Ferdinand is not alone in regards to criticism.
Sir Alex would have given his side a grilling after that first half, so I expect to see United out in the first half determined to prove a point and play ninety minutes instead of forty five this week against Newcastle.
My Prediction: Manchester United 2 – Newcastle United 1
Manchester City (This Week #4 Last Week#7)
A team packed full of world class players like Cities should never be out of the top four but return this week after a gritty 2-1 win against Fulham at Craven Cottage.
The poor penalty call early in the game did not sway the defending champions as they went on to comfortably take the three points. City dominated the game, with 71% of the possession and Edin Dzeko was the game changer on the 87th minute.
As the champions start to climb up the table, one must wonder what could derail their charge this year. Last season the Tevez saga and the constant (yet entertaining) antics of Mario Ballotelli illustrated Mancini’s poor man management skills. Yes, they did win the title but only on goal differential over a Manchester United team that at times were not impressive themselves. Issues this season could come with issues over player time. Look at the attacking options for example, Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko and Mario Ballotelli. These four could walk into most teams in Europe, yet some more than others find themselves on the bench frequently. Time will tell whether Mancini can keep egos in check and control his star studded team, if his players play for the club and not themselves it’s hard to see anyone catching them.
Sunderland are next for the champions, with Fletcher on hot scoring form Kompany will be the most important player on the field. Closing down Fletcher will likely win the game for his club.
My Prediction: Manchester City 3 – Sunderland 0