The final two weekends before Christmas, where has the time gone? Celtic’s unbeaten domestic run of 69 games came to a close with a 4-0 defeat to Hearts while after 364 days, Sunderland eventually won a home game at the Stadium of Light.
In the Premier League, Manchester City kept on winning with a 4-1 hammering of Spurs while local rivals Manchester United only just edged past West Brom 2-1. Chelsea defeated Southampton 1-0 while Liverpool hammered Bournemouth 4-0 on the south coast. The shock of the weekend though came at the King Power Stadium as Leicester City succumbed to a 3-0 defeat to Crystal Palace!read more
Another week of two games in December means another double bill dose of Match Thoughts from The Mind of Rowan.
The weekend 9th-10th December daw controversy. The title race is probably over after Manchester Cty’s 2-1 victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford, the Merseyside derby ended 1-1 while David Moyes’s West Ham side surprisingly defeated Chelsea 1-0. That was the shock of the weekend while Christian Benteke’s penalty arguably cost Crystal Palace a much-needed victory.
Another side in need of a much-needed win was Newcastle United who hosted Leicester City at St James’ Park in the Saturday evening kick-off to mark their clubs 125th birthday. Rafa Benitez made three changes to his Newcastle starting line up with DeAndre Yedlin returning to the back four at right-back while Javier Manquillo reverted to left-back with Chancel Mbemba dropping out. Mohamed Diame was not retained as in came Isaac Hayden while Joselu came in for Ayoze Perez just behind Dwight Gayle as Benitez opted for a 4-4-1-1 formation.read more
As November turned into December, the Premier League had its first set of midweek fixtures and the weekend to follow had a number of huge talking points to come as well.
Wayne Rooney stole the headlines in midweek with a hat-trick in Everton’s 4-0 win over West Ham with a sublime long-range effort for his third. Ashley Young continued his good run of form as Manchester United defeated Watford, Manchester City edged past Southampton 2-1 and Liverpool put four past Stoke while Chelsea just saw off Swansea City. Managers also took headlines too with Mr’s Pardew and Allardyce returning to management with West Brom and Everton respectively.read more
The final weekend of football in November saw more intriguing action and not just my awful Movember attempt. A new start for West Brom without Tony Pulis saw them draw 1-1 with Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley. Manchester United edged past Brighton while Manchester City survived a scare from Huddersfield. Mohamed Salah scored against his former club Chelsea, Crystal palace hit Everton for four while Crystal Palace won at home. As a Newcastle fan, I was in attendance at St James’ Park where another team had a convincing win as Rafa Benitez’s side hosted Watford at St. James’ Park.
Rafa Benitez has enforced one decision to make with his starting eleven with Isaac Hayden serving a one-game suspension after he picked up his 5th yellow card of the season at Old Trafford. Mikel Merino was back to match fitness following his back injury but it was Mohamed Diame who got the start in central midfield alongside Jonjo Shelvey with Merino being judged fir enough for the bench. Benitez retained the 4-4-2 formation with an otherwise unchanged side from the one that was defeated 4-1 by Manchester United.read more
The Premier League returned after the final international break of 2017 this weekend. Arsenal defeated local rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the North London derby, Chelsea hit West Brom for 4 at the Hawthorns while Manchester City continued their storming start after winning 2-0 away to Leicester City. Liverpool also had a convincing win (3-0 over Southampton) while the battle of the strugglers: Crystal Palace and Everton ended in a 2-2 draw. David Moyes also returned to the Premier League but nothing changed really as he tasted defeat to Watford in his first game as West Ham manager.
Another team that eventually had a convincing win (at least on paper) was Manchester United as Rafa Benitez took his Newcastle United side to Old Trafford in the Saturday evening kick-off. With both club captain Jamaal Lascelles and Christian Atsu unavailable due to injuries they picked up against Bournemouth, there were starts for Ciaran Clark in central defence alongside Florian Lejeune while Jacob Murphy got his first league start since Swansea on the right wing of midfield with Matt Ritchie moving to the left wing. Benitez retained the 4-4-2 formation he started with against Bournemouth with Joselu and Gayle starting up front. There were places on the bench for Rolando Aarons and Chancel Mbemba as a result of the injuries.read more
The last set of league games before the November International break is always a sombre occasion in British football as fans and players across the country mark Remembrance Sunday. A minutes silence was held at all games across the country. In a thrilling weekend of football on the pitch, there was the first round proper of the FA Cup. In the Premier League, Burnley continued surprising teams away from home; this time Southampton tasted defeat. Jose Mourinho’s poor record away against the Premier League top 6 continued as Alvaro Morata secured a 1-0 win for Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Similarly, Arsene Wenger lost to Manchester City again and criticised poor refereeing as part of Arsenal’s 3-1 defeat. Everton showed great resilience to come from two goals down to win a league game, defeating Watford 3-2 and Mohamed Salah inspired Liverpool to a 4-1 win at West Ham in a game which saw the end of Slaven Bilic’s spell in charge.
At St James’ Park, Newcastle United hosted AFC Bournemouth in a Saturday 3 o’clock kick off. Rafa Benitez brought the changes as altered his sides starting formation for the first time this season. It was 4-4-2 for the home side as Dwight Gayle started alongside Joselu up front as Ayoze Perez dropped to the bench. The change also saw Aleksandar Mitrovic elevated to the substitutes bench. Mohamed Diame did not retain his starting spot as Isaac Hayden returned alongside Jonjo Shelvey in central midfield. Matt Ritchie and Christian Atsu remained on the wings while the back four was unchanged (DeAndre Yedlin, Jamaal Lascelles, Florian Lejeune and Javier Manquillo) and Rob Elliott remained in goal.read more
Halloween weekend saw few nightmare performances in truth in the Premier League with the exception of Everton. Having sacked Ronald Koeman with only two wins this season, they lost 2-0 at the King Power Stadium to Leicester City who had just appointed Claude Puel as manager on a three-year deal. The nightmare continued in the Championship for Sunderland though who lost 2-1 at home to Bristol City before a 3-3 draw with bottom side Bolton Wanderers saw the end of Simon Grayson.
Back to the Premier League though. Manchester United edged out Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 thanks to, Arsenal survived a scare to beat Swansea City 2-1 at the Emirates in Arsene Wenger’s 800th league game in charge of the Gunners. Liverpool exercised their Wembley demons by defeating Huddersfield Town 3-0 at Anfield despite Mohamed Salah missing a penalty while Manchester City similarly avoided a scare as they beat West Brom 3-2 at the Hawthorns.read more
With the transfer window firmly closed, football got underway in earnest with players settled at their new or current clubs; knowing where they’ll be playing their football until January. The first international break of the season with teams resuming their world cup qualification campaigns and the Champions League group stages started up again. PSG may not yet know the repercussions of their summer spending in relation to financial fair play but on the pitch, they have been in scorching form.
11 Football Developments: September
PSG started their Champions League campaign with a 5-0 thrashing of Celtic at Celtic Park in their first group game before humbling Bayern Munich 3-0 I Paris resulting in the sacking of Carlo Ancelotti. Celtic responded by defeating RSC Anderlecht 3-0 in Belgium.
2. That opening round of fixtures also saw Barcelona defeat Juventus 3-0 in a repeat of last seasons semi-finalread more
Even before kick-off for the ninth round of Premier League fixtures, the league had its second managerial casualty of the season. Leicester City parted company with Craig Shakespeare after only 6 months in charge following their 1-1 draw with West Brom. Quite naturally, they won their next game; 2-1 at Swansea City. There were also shocks as Brighton won their first away game in the Premier League defeating West Ham 3-0 prompting speculation over the future of manager Slaven Bilic while Huddersfield Town defeated Manchester United 2-1. Chelsea narrowly avoided another scare coming back to defeat Watford 4-2 at Stamford Bridge. Super Sunday threw up the anticipated classics of Everton vs Arsenal; the away side winning 5-2 at Goodison Park and Tottenham Hotspur defeating Liverpool 4-1 at Wembley.
Unfortunately, as a Newcastle United fan, I find myself discussing one of the low scoring games and arguably the one of least quality as it took 73 minutes for either side to register a shot on target. It was perhaps fitting then that England head coach Gareth Southgate was in attendance and no sighting of Amanda Staveley after the businesswoman entered a period of ‘due diligence’ in the days leading up to the game.read more
Premier League match-week 8 started with the much-anticipated clash at Anfield between Liverpool and Manchester United. Both teams had scored in each of their previous league games this season so naturally, it ended in a goalless draw. Elsewhere, the Premier League saw 28 goals scored in the other nine games as Manchester City thumped Stoke City 7-2, Tottenham Hotspur got their first league victory at Wembley thanks to Christian Erikson, Watford surprisingly beat Arsenal and Crystal Palace’s wait for a league goal ended as they surprised Antonio Conte’s Chelsea at Selhurst Park; coming out 2-1 winners.
Newcastle United travelled to St Mary’s to play Southampton in the late Sunday kick-off (the third time in as many league games). Rafa Benitez made two changes to his starting 11 from that which drew 1-1 at home to Liverpool. Isaac Hayden replaced Mikel Merino who was on the bench having played for the Spanish U21 side in midweek and had signed for the club permanently. Florian Lejeune started alongside Jamaal Lascelles while Ciaran Clark was on the bench having featured for the Republic of Ireland during the International break. It was the Frenchman’s first start since the opening day of the season.read more