January kicked off in grand style. While it’s safe to say the race for the title has started, there was quite the drama on display in the first Premier League games of the year. Some teams did a good job in starting the season on a high while some others stuttered even though it may not mean much if they can bounce back from the points already dropped.
In this piece, we’ll be looking at the various talking points and goals that made those Youtube highlights worth watching.
Watford v Tottenham – 1-4 (Jan 1): Two English sensations turned up to give us quite a show. Going into the game, there really wasn’t any doubt considering how both teams have fared this season . Pochettino got the team sheet right this time, making four changes, something that is always hard to do to an already set side. Dele Alli is always a joy to watch especially when he hits top gear and in my opinion, Kane is becoming too good for Spurs (I could be wrong but it’ll be fun to see how his career grows).
Spurs resting in fourth and leapfrogging Man. City, is only a forecast of the things to come over the second half of the chase to the Premier League title. Watford, on the other hand, need a lot of work to be done. You kind of get the feeling that their fairytale season is slowly coming to an end. They may not relegate but then again, they’re much trouble anymore, unlike the Watford that was a year ago.
Arsenal v Crystal Palace – 2- 0 (Jan 1): Yet another North London side doing what was expected of them, with Olivier scoring a potential goal of the season and the wonderkid Iwobi getting on the score sheet. The Gunners started quite well as they hope to get their title-winning hunt back on track. Still 9 points behind league leaders Chelsea, it’ll be a thing of joy to actually see how Wenger and his army can overturn that and get something off a season that has been full of surprises.
I still tip Arsenal to go far this season; a second/third placed finish probably, but it’ll be more fun if they can get in the mix and at least get Conte’s men to eat a little bit of their heart. Palace on the other hand, well their woes just keeps on getting compounded and honestly I doubt if the “ Big Sam to the rescue” method would work this season else, they just might be joining Swansea in the bottom mix.
WestBrom v Hull City – 3-1 (Jan 2): Lol, not the scoreline I expected, even though I expected the win. But it must be said, Tony Pulis and the Baggies have sprung a few surprises this season. Although it’s too soon to say they are turning their season around but, if that is what they’re up to, way to go! Even though they started slow in the game against Hull City, even even letting Hull take the lead, it was nice seeing a few tweaks and tricks and then the rain of the goals (that’s their second consecutive comeback victory).
Seeing them in eighth and the way they’re playing, maybe an European spot is not as far as we think again, provided they can keep this momentum. But then, the reality check is: The Premier League is harsh and you can never tell. You just might be riding high only to crash hard. Hull City really need a to get a grip, a brightly powered team is really draining, I gave them no chance at the beginning of the season, but when I saw them unlocking defenses and doing things, I felt they were here to pull another Leicester on. But with Phelan now sacked, maybe they need to start planning for football under new management, something that could go either ways (see Swansea and that American coach, can’t remember his name).
Sunderland vs Liverpool —- 2-2( Jan 2): Okay, this one had me turning my phone up, down, sideways just to see if I was not reading the wrong scorline. This is not what you would expect from a title contender. Surely some points will be dropped but then again you have to be wary of when you drop it.. As mentioned earlier, the Premier League is harsh, but notwithstanding, certain teams are meant to be chew out and spit out other teams.
I must confess, at some point seeing Liverpool playing ding dong with Sunderland was really annoying. On the bright side, it was great to see Sturridge getting his groove back. That being said, if Klopp has any plans of getting to the top, he has to first find a solution to the back 5 (keeper + 4 defenders). The middle pack looks okay but sometimes I blame the men from Anfield for lack of concentration. Sometimes I feel the problem with Liverpool is the confidence in knowing that they can score when they want and how much they want.
As for the black cats, oh well, Moyes has really surprised me so far. I actually felt that by now, he would be out of the job. But he’s done a good job feeding Defoe from the fountain of youth and even though he has been given very little to work with he has made a decent turn around at the Stadium of Light.
Manchester City vs. Burnley —- 2-1 (Jan 2): Wasn’t able to see the game, just the highlights and the first question that popped was, “Dear Pep, what were you thinking with that lineup?” For the Spaniard, it has been a strange run of few games happening in fewer days than normal. And maybe that’s why Pep decided to rest certain players. But then again, there some times when you dare not rest certain players, no matter the log of fixtures lying in wait for you.
As for the Fernandinho part of the story, maybe it’s time he’s let off the hook by City. He is becoming a menace to a coach for whom one of his top priorities is fair play. City with all that money can easily find their way into the mart ang get a decent replacement for him. City are gradually losing touch with the leaders and if they are not careful, they just might be out of the title race, considering the steady improvement of their next door neighbours.
Well Burnley did well and they deserved at least a point from the Etihad, but then again that’s football, if you don’t score, you can’t win and they had a lot of chances begging to be buried. Well it was nice seeing a rare Clichy goal. I’ve always liked the lad.
Everton v Southhampton —– 3-0 (Jan 2): An inspiring one man show from Enner Valencia and a joy to watch. Truth be told, this game was a pain to watch until Valencia came on. Everton have been disappointing this season, looking at the table, considering how this season has been and how fun it has been to watch, you would think they’d be in the top 5 or 6 mix by now (they ain’t far behind but still not expecting them to be keeping West Brom at bay either).
But then again, giving that a host of other teams have been disappointing this season, maybe the Everton case is understandable. I feel Koeman still has a lot of decisions to make considering team selections and he needs to be rash sometimes as a lot of folks need to be benched while a lot need to go.
The Dutch man has been too merciful and that has cost him very dearly this season. Southampton on the other hand, is another team that hasn’t been much of a joy to watch. Even though they started this season brightly, it seems as if their light has just faded away. Maybe Dirk and Redmond have been the few who have been exceptional others are not just in tune this season. Both teams need to get a grip least dey get dragged further down.
Boro vs Leicester – 0-0 (Jan 2): The dullest game in this article save for the last 10 minutes. There’s actually not much to say on this one… so I’ll just move on.
West Ham vs Manchester United – 0-2 (Jan. 2 ): Probably the most controversial match of the season so far as regards refereeing calls, officiating, and tempers flaring . I felt the game would have been much more interesting for Hammers if Feghouli hadn’t been sent off inside 15 minutes, a sending off that caused West Ham to lose touch and balance in the game.
Mike Dean has been in the headlines for the wrong reasons this season, and the FA really has to start checking and rechecking all the officiating officers. Some re-orientation has to be done. That kung-fu-like Zlatan’s goal should have stood. But it was great to see United getting back on track, level with Spurs on fifth and one behind Arsenal in 4th.
Maybe it’s safe to say José and his men are back in the mix. Maybe it’s too soon to say but if that’s the plan (to be back in the mix), then they are on the right course. The Hammers on one hand, are another disappointing daddies. Looking back at last season, one won’t be faulted for tipping them as European football contenders this season, but Bilic can’t seem to find the solution to their problems, and time is running out fast.
Bournemouth 3-3 Arsenal (Jan 3): One of the games of the season. The Gunners failed to pick up three points when it mattered again and often times it is these games that determine who wins what. Alexis Sanchez’s body language said more than enough, He was disappointed. For 70minutes, the Cherries ran them ragged and gave them a solid run for their money.
This kind of mentality, the one that saw Olivier Giroud slide away like they had just earned three points when he netted the equalizer is not one Champions exhibit, it’s for mediocre. And Arsenal must not think that way. The solution might probably have lying in the opposition dugout as Eddie Howe is doing the unthinkable. Bournemouth have earned their spur against all top teams in their two seasons in the Premier League and it is the never-say-die, bullish, we-can-beat-anybody attitude that has helped them thus far. Anyone who thinks Bournemouth will be relegated needs to think again.
Spurs vs Chelsea – 2-0 (Jan 4): Had a tiny argument with my dad on this one. The old man had facts but I just couldn’t see how Chelsea was going to lose this. 13 and counting, it seemed like a sure 14th for me. I’d even predicted a 1-3 scoreline, but alas, I had to eat my words. I have watched the game twice and streamed highlights off youtube, trying to see what went wrong.
They (Chelsea), on the day, seemed to have forgotten their scoring boots, as they misplaced passes, and at some point I could have sworn I saw a few moments when they ran out of steam. Although insignificant, the loss is bitter to swallow and they have got to pick up and dust themselves. They’re still on top as regards who will win this year’s Premier League title as they’ve done well so far this season.
But if they lose the next game, (it’s a bad thing to lose when you’re on an amazing run of form) then maybe the Blues faithful can start worrying. Kudos to Mauricio who got things right. Walker and Rose were wonderful marking out Alonso and Moses. Eriksen was a beauty to behold, with all those mathematically-calculated passes and dare I mention Alli.
This spurs team have been impressive for the 3rd year running, and it’s high time they begin to be recognized as title contenders. It’ll be fun to see how they see out the rest of this season. But I tip them to be around for a while.
Bamgboye Ayodele, is a freelance writer who writes for ForTheGoals. You can catch up with him on twitter Lord_obote.