EPL Heads Into Grind Mode In December
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The grind starts as we fast approach December.
But, wasn’t the last round of fixtures so much fun? Jose Mourinho’s smile on the touchline, the buzz he created around the media has been missed in the 11 months since leaving Manchester United. The fact Spurs got all three points only put the icing on top, for all you Spurs/Jose fans.
Week 14 kicks off early morning Saturday and to be honest, none of the fixtures truly jump out. That doesn’t mean you can stop reading. Let me sell you on what is on offer.
Newcastle United vs. Manchester City
The early morning kickoff. As you look at the teams, you see 14th against third. You’re probably wondering why I picked this? Well, in short, it’s to do with last season. Last season City opened the scoring in the first minute and we all just thought this was going to be a run of the mill Pep Guardiola team, dominant performance, and statistically you’d be absolutely right. Man City had just over 76 percent of the possession, but they came up against a Rafa Benitez team.
Rafa is as good as any coach in world football when it comes to creating a team that is difficult to break down, and in this particular game, Newcastle kept it close and a slightly less fluid City team paid the price. The Magpies ran out shock 2-1 winners and left the door open for Liverpool to handle business the day after against Leicester, it didn’t happen. After that, the eventual champions went on an unbelievable run of results. Winning 14 in a row to claim the title.
City are largely unchanged from last season. Newcastle are different, manager and personnel. The Magpies are doing okay, and you must tip the cap to Steve Bruce for the job he is doing, replacing Rafa Benitez would be a daunting task. Those were big shoes to fill and Bruce was most definitely an unfashionable choice, the football style he coaches is underwhelming.
Goals have been hard to come by and they’re not keeping them out defensively. In short, Newcastle whilst picking up seven points in the previous three games, (before the Villa result) really need a few more results to start pulling away from the relegation dog fight. At some point the big money attackers must produce more. Allan Saint-Maximin, Miguel Almirón and Joelinton are not producing the goals to support the big money spent on them. So far, they have one goal and one assist between them, this is not nearly enough.
City got back to their winning ways against a very good Chelsea team last weekend. Now they rode their luck early on, but in the end, it was a true champions type performance as eventually Chelsea ran out of ideas. For Newcastle they have so many things to worry about, but, if they can get to grips with Kevin de Bruyne then they might cause an upset again. Sadly, for them, they don’t have Benitez at the helm anymore and for that reason alone, I think City come away with all three points.
Newcastle United 1 – Manchester City 4
Southampton vs. Watford
This is your KSL TV premiere match. Kick off at 10:30 a.m. mountain time, 19th hosting 20th. You know by now that I love a relegation dog fight. That’s exactly what I’m expecting. It might be short on quality overall, but I expect grit and fight in abundance. The thing is, both managers and the overall squads should be in a better position than they find themselves. Southampton almost came away from Arsenal with all three points last weekend, only to be cruelly denied by a last gasp goal from the Gunners. Danny Ings scored his sixth goal of the season and will again lead the forward line for Saints. James Ward-Prowse continues to impress adding three goals from midfield so far.
The partnership between him and captain, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg is vital. Whilst things need to improve defensively to protect the back four. The drive and energy provided has been evident. Maybe the draw away to Arsenal will change their fortunes. Watford on the other hand are still rooted to the bottom of the EPL and there are rumors already circulating that a change of manager (for the second time this season) could be on the cards.
Quique Sanchez Flores in his second spell at the club hasn’t been able to turn the Hornets fortunes around so far. Nor has it looked particularly likely. However, there has been the occasional spark from Spanish forward Gerard Deulofeu. A tweak in his position moving in from the wing has been a little stroke of genius, and whilst he is still learning the position, the return of two goals and two assists is a good start and something to build on. Talisman captain, Troy Deeney is back, and even if not quite a 100% fit, he is a massive influence on and off the pitch.
These are desperate times for both clubs, but maybe there is a little more optimism around Southampton right now. The pressure will be on Saints as the home team. But I think the St Mary’s faithful with be going home to the happier set of fans.
Southampton 2 – Watford 1
Leicester City vs. Everton
We move on to Sunday’s standout fixture. Leicester City sitting in second position will be back home and, in the knowledge, that Man City will be breathing down their necks. The Foxes come off a 2-0 away win against Brighton last weekend where Jamie Vardy once again scored, moving on to 12 goals for the season. I’m running out of praise for the style of soccer on show under the guidance of manager Brendan Rodgers. James Maddison was also on the score sheet again, netting his fourth of the season.
The brand-new England international is going from strength to strength under his coach. A coach who despite a falling out with Raheem Sterling whilst at Liverpool really gave the young forward his first meaningful career minutes. A solid education (and now only furthered at City with Guardiola). Maddison is benefiting as well. He is now the attacking lynch-pin for Leicester and with the weapons the Foxes have it’s no surprise if they end up staying in the top four come season’s end.
Everton, on the other hand, are miles away from the preseason hype and spending flurry during the summer suggested, lying in 16th position, and coming off a toothless performance at home against Norwich City. The boos rang around Goodison Park, with fans also confronting the Toffees chairman, Bill Kenwright demanding that Everton manager Marco Silva be fired.
The writing is on the wall for Silva (literally, you can google the graffiti on the walls of Goodison Park…I can’t repeat those words) and his much-expected demise as manager of the club. However, he was given a reprieve of sorts as it’s rumored that the Everton board are split on what they want to do with the manager. Rumors of David Moyes returning have intensified over recent days. For Silva to stay in his current employment he needs to settle his line ups a little more.
Chopping and changing hasn’t helped, and he needs to start getting more out of his Brazilian, Richarlison de Andrade. Three goals and two assists on the season isn’t bad, but Everton and Silva really need him to break out. Silva has managed Richarlison at two different clubs and has put his faith in him, Silva now needs his faith repaid sooner rather than later. I expect more from Everton this weekend providing a turn their-backs-against the wall performance for their manager.
Leicester City 1 – Everton 1