Premier league Talking Points from Matchday 17
December 17, 2018
The festive season is well underway and, for some Premier League fans, Christmas has come early. Liverpool fans are enjoying life at the top of the table again whilst fans from both of Manchester’s teams look on enviously. Meanwhile, Southampton managed to cause an upset at the other end of the table and a certain Wolves star has been making waves in the Midlands.
With so much going on in the Premier League, it certainly is the most wonderful time of the year, so let’s have a look at the big talking points from this week’s fixtures.
Jesus Proves to be City’s Saviour
Pep Guardiola’s side regained their mojo this weekend after a week in which a lot of questions have been directed their way. A first loss to Chelsea, numerous injuries, one of their biggest stars dominating the headlines outside of football and a tough midweek fixture in the Champions League. If it was another team, you might expect their stratospheric standards to drop. Not this City side though, not when they still trail Liverpool by a point.
It was a great match as well and one man stood out amongst the rest. Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus has had a torrid time of it over the past couple of months. He’s struggled to find the net in the League and his confidence has definitely taken a knock. It’s hard enough when you’re understudy to one of the best forwards in the history of the league, but when you’re not delivering the goals when the chances come, it’s even worse.
That’s why the conduct of City’s number 33 had been so admirable. He’s not dropped his head once and he continues to do all the tracking back and chasing down that has endeared him so much to Pep and the fans. Against Everton though, he found the goal scoring touch once again and bagged himself a brace to effectively secure the three points for City.
With Aguero coming back to full fitness, he may find himself on the periphery of the squad once again, but it shouldn’t be a worry. It’s easy to forget, but the Brazilian is still 21 and has years in the game ahead of him. This has probably been the most difficult period of his career to date, but the maturity and determination he’s shown in handling it, bodes well for the future.
Rafa Does the Business Again
Newcastle fans have had to endure some turbulent times as of late. Controversy over the actions of club owner Mike Ashley and his refusal to invest any meaningful amount of money into the club has left supporters near revolt. Luckily amongst all the chaos, they have a man whose steady hand never falters. Rafa Benitez has managed some of the top clubs in Europe, but his stay in Tyneside might be his most problematic test yet.
Despite the lack of funds, Benitez is quietly guiding Newcastle to safety while the teams around him capitulate. They’ve relied heavily on the form of Solomon Rondon, who has four goals in six games, but the whole side have taken to the system Rafa has put in place. The only thing that should concern the Toon Army is the strength and depth of the squad.
Midfielder Ki Seung-Yueng will soon depart for the Asian Cup after making himself one of the first names on the team sheet, while Rondon is only with Newcastle on loan after the club refused to fork out the estimated £16 million for his now expired release clause. With January coming up, there is the opportunity to make a couple of decent signings that might just secure their place in the league. As is always the case with the current Newcastle set up though, it’s a question of whether they’re willing to spend the money.
Wolves can be Premier League Mainstays
Wolves have been on fire this season, taking points from the big boys and playing better than any newly promoted side has any right to. They carried on in this vein in their weekend fixture, scoring two goals in a convincing victory. Wolves’ Boss Nuno Espirito Santo can certainly be proud of the team’s performance and their overall play across the season so far. But, if there’s one thing that Wolves should take away from their 2-0 victory, it’s that the loan of midfielder Raúl Jiménez should be made permanent.
The Mexican has been in sparkling form since he switched the sunny city of Benfica for Wolverhampton’s greyer skies. He’s shown that he can both create and score for the club, with his assist tally at six already and having scored his fifth of the season against Bournemouth. By the centre-forwards own admission, he’d like to stay at the club and the Wolves’ faithful won’t have a problem with one of their top talents wanting to commit long-term to the club. The only stumbling block might be a £30 million clause in his loan contract. However, he’s well worth that money in today’s market and with the TV deals getting bigger each year, they should have the funds to close the deal.
Southampton already looking good After Hughes departure
It’s fair to say that Southampton haven’t performed this season. Under Mark Hughes, they often looked uninspired and you struggled to see where the goals would come from. On top of that, the defence has been in absolute disarray and is in need of a leader to martial them at the back. With January on the horizon, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a few new names at the club. One change has been already been made though and it has made an immediate effect.
Ralph Hasenhüttl has been recruited to pick up the pieces of Mark Hughes’ reign and make something of this season. Despite suffering a 1-0 loss in his first match against Cardiff, the early signs have been promising. In that match, they had much more of an edge to their play and there was a palpable energy in the side. Against Arsenal, we saw a similar output but one that looked far more considered in its approach. The result was a win that took them out of the relegation zone and ended Arsenal’s 22 match unbeaten run, which is no small feat considering how well Emery’s men have played this season.
The offence played a lot better and much of this was down to the budding relationship between English strikers Danny Ings and Charlie Austin. Ings’s first-half double steered them into the driving seat whilst Austin’s 85th-minute winner brought the three points back to the south coast. Any team in their position needs an attacking outlet that can provide the goals week in week out. It’s too early to tell if this will be a permanent fixture in the team’s performances, but Hasenhüttl will be encouraged by what he’s seen so far.
A Power Shift in One of England’s Greatest Rivalries
Jose Mourinho has suffered a lot of criticism in recent years. Chelsea were just one point ahead of the relegation zone when he parted ways with them in 2015 and his stint with Manchester United hasn’t been the sporting revolution many predicted. One thing you could always say about Mourinho teams though was that they always looked like they had a plan. They might not have been the prettiest or most expansive sides of their time, but they were ruthlessly efficient. Even in his first season at United, in which many thought he had underperformed, he won three trophies and secured European qualification. If nothing else, you knew Jose’s teams would do everything they could to win.
It’s a completely different story now though. Fans can cope with Jose’s unexciting brand of football as long as the results are coming in and, when the attack isn’t doing the job, the defence is solid. Instead, United’s backline, whose performances have been their only saving grace over the past couple of years, have been leaking in goals this season. 3-1 losses to sides like Liverpool and Manchester City are just about acceptable, but they’ve been sloppy against mid-table to relegation-threatened sides who they should be comfortably beating. It’s a bad omen for the United manager’s future; when the one thing you could count on with Jose’s gone, how long do you stick with him.
That’s it for all the big talking points from the weekend’s games, but the teams begin again next week and a whole new set of questions might need answers. Will Liverpool still be on top come Christmas or will Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City regain pole position? Will Jose still be United manager in the New Year or could we see a new face in the Old Trafford dugout? Visit Bettingricle again next week to find out!
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Cyrus has been writing about sports and many other topics for major publications over the past five years. Now working in digital marketing, he spends his days arguing over football and dreaming of his beloved Manchester City winning the champions league.