Leicester win in sensational fashion against Liverpool, Manchester City are hot on their tails and Arsenal…are not. Here’s 5 things we learned from the midweek extravaganza:
It’s a sad sad situation
The West Midlands’ Premier League representatives, West Brom and Aston Villa, aren’t having the greatest of seasons. Tony Pulis continues to commit crimes to football, starting 4 CBs and 2 defensive midfielders against the might firepower of Swansea. But anything the Baggies are doing pales in comparison to the campaign their local rivals are having. Villa’s campaign has been so bad it’s basically transcendent.
Jordan Ayew, who’s been the one barely shining light in the past couple of months, surrendered his responsibilities in the game with a blatant elbow on Aaron Cresswell. West Ham finished the job against the sorry 10 men of Villa, but an even sadder picture was to be seen on the sideline. Do you recall Pepe Mel, West Brom’s forlorn manager in the 13/14 season? Imagine him with a French accent and an entirely different physical appearance, but with the same eyes. Those same, sad, suffering eyes. That’s Remi Garde. Let’s just expel Villa from the Premier League now?
Dele Alli’s points are no fluke
When Tottenham signed Dele Alli a year ago in the January transfer window, it seemed like a standard move to amass as much talent as possible by another Premier League. A loan move to a Championship club looked to be on the cards, or if he stayed at Spurs then a season of watching from the subs’ bench. Er, nope.
Not enough people seem to be recognising how amazing it is that Alli is ready to contribute this soon at his age. 19 year old midfielders starting week in, week out for a possible top 4 team? Yeah, that doesn’t happen too often. It’s also easy to dismiss Alli’s efforts, the goalscoring especially, as just a purple patch of form. Goals from central midfield are an elusive, inconsistent element in football and flash-in-the-pan stretches do occur for the likes of Mark Noble and James Morrison over the course of 38 games. However you only have to watch half an hour of Spurs play to see the runs Alli makes and the volume in which he makes them. Given Eriksen’s passiveness at times, Alli is essentially a second striker at times for Spurs.
It’s why Henderson still feels like a nice option in FPL to me. If midfielders get themselves into those positions over and over again, good things do eventually happen.
Guess who’s back, back, back
I’ve actually resisted writing about Leicester too often, just for the sake of being impartial. No longer. When Vardy’s long range strike went in my voice chords were briefly out-of-order and the second, albeit hardly as fashionable a goal as the first, led to another setback of my ability to speak without rasping. Vardy was 100% for the Stoke game and this game. You already know what happens when Vardy’s fully fit. He scores.
It wasn’t hard to notice that something was wrong with Vardy, from Boxing Day onwards. Even at Everton, where he notched 2 assists, he didn’t have that blazing speed that ripped through the league in the Autumn. After his month-long blip the England international is back and scarier than ever, if he’s now choosing to score from outside the box as well.
Nothing’s certain in FPL though. After Manchester City and Arsenal, Leicester have a pretty soft fixture list which looks ever so inviting for owners of Vahrez. However it might also present the first extended run of games where opponents hunker down against them and sit deep. Aston Villa got a result against Leicester’s doing this but that also came in the stretch where Vardy wasn’t quite his scumbag self so, who knows? It’s going to be so, so exciting to follow and you should definitely spend your Saturday morning/lunchtime watching events play out at the Etihad between the top two teams in the league.
Fraser Forster can help Southampton get back to what they do best
I didn’t watch Arsenal game against Southampton live — Leicester were busy doing things — but Twitter reports were suggesting that Forster was essentially performing some of the greatest saves of all time with alarming frequency to repel Arsenal’s siege. I was suspicious. Arsenal fans have a tendency to think every goalkeeper is having a career-best game. Then I saw the extended highlights and well, ok, Forster did evoke his performance for Celtic against Barcelona a few years ago.
The result was the essence of what made Southampton so good for half of last season, the means in which they got it was very different. Instead of limiting shots they instead relied on Forster saving them over and over again, yet they still came away with the clean sheet and a point so all’s well that ends well. A lot of Southampton’s defensive regression had been put down to losing Morgan Schneiderlin and that’s still true, but Forster’s return has led to Ronald Koeman’s team having their stingiest stretch with 4 consecutive clean sheets. That alone suggests it might be a tad too late to hop onto the Southampton FPL train, but getting their No. 1 keeper back – as it would for nearly every club – will lead to an uptick in their results.
Chelsea’s attack difficult to parse
Guus Hiddink has watched his team score 9 goals in their 4 matches prior to playing Watford on Wednesday night. They also put 5 past MK Dons in the FA Cup, but their Championship opponents elected not to play a midfield in that game, so it’s hard to put much stock into that game. Diego Costa is running a lot harder and snagged his typical goal vs Arsenal, Oscar has joined Willian on the 2015/16 list of productive singularly-named Brazilian players but it’s still feels wrong to place our fantastical managerial faith in this attack.
A trip to Vicarage Road is like quality control for Premier League attacks. Chelsea couldn’t ultimately crack it but they continued their promising play. Still, we’re left to ponder how valuable the team can possibly be in FPL. Their prices are all still bloated and will be for the rest of the season. Hiddink has certainly steadied the ship but what Wednesday night’s events proved, if anything, is that Chelsea’s attack can’t be counted on against any decent defence.