English Premier League Back With More Managerial Jobs On The Line
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The English Premier League round 16 fixtures kick-off on Saturday. We’ve barely had enough time to catch our breath from the midweek round.
Man City got back to their winning ways as they thrashed Burnley at Turf Moor, 4-1.
Leicester City continued their incredible run when they took care of manager-less and EPL basement boys, Watford 2-0 at the King Power Stadium.
Liverpool kept their eight-point gap at the top of the table as they thumped their city rivals, Everton, 5-2 at Anfield.
Manchester United ruined Jose Mourinho’s return to Old Trafford as the downed Spurs, 2-1 in a thoroughly convincing win. Marcus Rashford with a brace to help leapfrog United over Spurs in the table.
In other news, the EPL’s fifth manager casualty happened on Thursday. Less than 24 hours after getting beaten by Liverpool, Everton manager Marco Silva was relieved of his duties.
Manchester City v. Manchester United
We couldn’t start the round 16 kick-off preview any other way than with the 179th edition of the Manchester Derby. Brilliantly, this is KSL 5’s Premiere Match on Saturday, kick-off 10:30 a.m.
Much like the Merseyside Derby (Liverpool & Everton), form can go out of the window. Both Manchester clubs have shown play that goes up and down; but both teams are coming off hugely convincing wins.
The Etihad Stadium will be full to capacity. There is an 11-point gap between the two, with City still hanging in there as they seek another title run.
Gabriel Jesus was fantastic against Burnley, his brace was just part of his impressive performance, and he continues to grow as a footballer. The 22-year-old Brazilian has seven goals in all competitions this season (five in the EPL).
Rodri as the defensive midfielder also looked great (if you haven’t seen his goal, go look). I think Pep Guardiola has finally found his long-term replacement for the hugely influential Fernandinho.
United’s win against Spurs might be a false dawn, no one really knows what to expect. Let’s take it for what it was though. A very good victory against a team on a high right now. Not only was it the manner of the victory, but the manager got the better of Jose Mourinho.
That doesn’t mean the Red Devils manager is safe, I don’t believe Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is the right man long term to get United firing to their potential. What he does have though is some younger players playing at a really high level.
It seems like almost every week I talk about Marcus Rashford, and rightly so. Mason Greenwood replaced the injured Anthony Martial for the Spurs and the youngster seems destined for great things.
I definitely think United have individuals that can hurt City and their record against the bigger teams is quite good. I just think that with City will feel a little more desperate and they’ll come out with all guns blazing.
Prediction: 3-2, Manchester City
Aston Villa v. Leicester City
It’s tough to leave out the stingiest defense in the EPL this season. Leicester City have been extremely fun to watch, and I guess the fact they have let in only nine goals through 15 games has flown under the radar a bit. Just 40 miles separate the two teams and whilst it’s not a derby as such, local bragging rights are on offer on Sunday.
Aston Villa sit just a point above the relegation zone. They were well worth a point against Man United last weekend, but suffered another loss against Chelsea on Wednesday, their fourth loss in the last six games.
Whilst I don’t think it’s time to hit the panic button, they do need to take advantage of the fixtures for the rest of the month into early January where they play a couple of teams below them. They do need to take this match seriously.
Jack Grealish is once again the man to watch. He stands out on the field as most of the attacking build-up is through him. Tanned, a haircut reminiscent of Arthur Shelby (Peaky Blinders), short shorts and low socks, he’s a throwback to the 1970’s maverick players. Although his behavior off the pitch is a lot better than some of those old school terrace heroes.
He is not the only player to pay attention to. Central midfielder John McGinn is also impressing in his debut EPL season, providing energy, bite and goals from the middle of the park and some scouts from more established clubs have been sent to watch his development.
Leicester are absolutely flying, Jamie Vardy continues to lead the goal scoring charts, as he added another against Watford on Wednesday to take his season tally to 14 EPL goals.
Throw in the fact that James Maddison continuing to be a dominant force from midfield, I really don’t see a weakness in the Foxes starting XI and if they can stay free from injury and fight through the grueling December and January tiredness then they’ll finish in the top four.
This should have everything, but the Foxes backline are in unreal form, and it’s hard to bet against Leicester and for that I have them running out winners.
Prediction: 2-1, Leicester City
West Ham United v. Arsenal
Monday’s fixture between two London clubs rounds out the weekend. Both clubs are in desperate need of a result.
West Ham United got a shock victory against Chelsea at the weekend but dropped the decision against Wolves on Wednesday. A team that has nosedived since goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski tore a hip muscle back in late September.
There must be a shift, either something must click for this squad because it is highly talented and a lot of money has been spent on it; or, as we’ve seen with the five managerial casualties so far this season, will there be a sixth? It’s that desperate for the Hammers now.
French man, Haller has four goals on the season but has been starved of good service, which is hugely surprising with the talent of Anderson, Fornals, Yarmolenko, Antonio and Snodgrass who provide a huge attacking depth even without Argentine Manuel Lanzini.
It is fair to say that manager Manuel Pellegrini is on borrowed time and could easily be the next manager out of a job. Arsenal have been even poorer since Unai Emery left his position, if former Arsenal favorite, Freddie Ljungberg wants to keep the interim tag then Arsenal must start picking up wins.
A draw with Norwich and a loss to Brighton will only tempt the Gunners board to act swiftly when it comes to appointing a manager. Brendan Rodgers’ name was being thrown around, but this morning he signed a new 5 ½ year contract with Leicester.
Former Juventus manager Max Allegri is now a name that has been mentioned. Any manager that is looking at Arsenal as a coaching destination will love the attacking talent already on offer, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette are very good forwards and a lot of European teams will be monitoring their situation.
Mesut Ozil, if he can find his form is still one of the best providers in the game. It’s the backline that leaves a lot to be desired. Every one of the Gunners center backs is average at best and this is the Achilles heel of the team.
The new manager will request funds and will immediately have to make a move for a defender. This game will be close and difficult to call, both leaking poor goals (which should mean goals for our entertainment), but Arsenal’s attack is still producing. Potentially the kickstart they both need. I just can’t pick a winner.
Prediction: 2-2, Tie