SOCCER

Warne: Goals Are Coming More Often As Premier League Ramps Up

Oct 2, 2020, 3:28 PM
Patrick Bamford of Leeds United scores his sides first goal during the Premier League match between...
Patrick Bamford of Leeds United scores his sides first goal during the Premier League match between Sheffield United and Leeds United at Bramall Lane on September 27, 2020 in Sheffield, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Wow, what a cracking round three. It felt as if Leicester would score each time they went on the attack against Manchester City, leading Leicester to a thumping 5-2 victory.

Pre-season West Ham looked like relegation candidates, but they handled themselves well and West Ham beat Wolves 4-0.

Chelsea came back from 3-0 down at half time to salvage a draw at West Brom.

So far the goals are going in at a rate I’ve never seen before. All I can say is that those sturdy backlines have been opened up, and the goals we all love to see have been an exhilarating watch. This coming Monday, October 5 is when the transfer market slams shut. I expect a glut of acquisitions before the deadline at 4:00 p.m. MST.

Leeds United v. Manchester City

First up is the Premier League’s new boys playing at home, against Man City. With both managers having massive respect for each other, Guardiola has admitted he’s been obsessed with Bielsa. This match kicks off on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. on KSL 5.

(subject to change because of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints General Conference. Most likely CW 15, keep your eyes open)

Leeds have been excellent so far this season, and out of the three teams promoted Leeds has looked the most likely to avoid a relegation fight. A well-balanced squad with a few additions look to have them in a really good place. Of course, it’s still early in the season, and this game will be a massive test. You can see the philosophy of what they’re trying to do. The relentless pressing in their opening game against Liverpool pushed the champions to the limit. A win over Fulham, and then a Yorkshire derby win over Sheffield United see the Whites sitting in a healthy seventh place and yes, healthy even if we’re only three games in.

As I mentioned, for the most part, this is a settled squad, but some additions are needed as healthy internal competition for places is badly needed. Yes, there are fewer games in the EPL, but options are needed if they want to maintain the high levels of endurance to cope with “Bielsa ball”.

City comes into Elland Road, licking their wounds. After scoring the opening goal against Leicester, I really felt it was going to be a long afternoon for the Foxes, as City looked like they were rampant. I couldn’t have been more wrong. City was outfought and outfought. Clumsy at the back, and in the end well off the pace. City’s backline was always the question mark going into this season.

They’ve been desperate for a partner alongside Laporte, and look to have filled that gap with Benfica man, Ruben Dias. It remains to be seen if this gives them the jolt they badly need, but they need this central defender infusion more than any other position.

If given time, Kevin De Bruyne will again pull the strings in midfield, he’s so fun to watch. I expect Kalvin Phillips to shadow the Belgian, but if any gaps or lack of concentration exist, KdB will open you up. City are going to have to graft hard for this result, but I do expect them to get back to their standard level of play. It’s tough to go against Leeds, but City with their experience, and devastating ball movement in the attack will eventually wear the hosts down. Since Guardiola arrived in England, Man City, for all their ups and downs this season and last season, still set the standard.

Guardiola’s impact has made clubs rethink their entire structure and philosophy. He’s still massive to the Premier League, and we’re all better off for him being around. This, though, is the biggest test of his career so far and I can’t wait for the fallout.

Prediction: The Citizens get back to their winning ways, but it’s not going to be an easy 90 minutes.

Manchester United v. Tottenham Hotspur

Sunday’s match at Old Trafford is a 9:30 a.m. kick off on NBCSN. Two questions leading into this match: Will Manchester United kick on from the great second half of the season in 19/20? Will Spurs win some silverware under serial winner Jose Mourinho? Both of these teams have a ton of quality, but, both are better going forward than they are at the back and as Football Paul “Bear” Bryant quotes “Offense sells tickets. Defense wins championships”.

Couldn’t be more to the point about these two teams. They’re not awful at the back by any stretch of the imagination, but the attacking talent for United in Fernandes, Greenwood, Martial, Rashford and Mata is as good as you’ll see in the EPL. I’d be surprised if they don’t add to the attacking department, even if Jadon Sancho seems unlikely.

Tottenham’s attacking talent isn’t bad either, with Kane, Son, Alli, Bergwijn, Moura and the addition of Gareth Bale giving them incredible options. There should be goals in this tightly contested match.

United were poor in their first game and weren’t great against Brighton, but a late (awarded after the final whistle) penalty seemed to give them a boost. They looked much better in the League Cup against the same opponent midweek. United on their day can be powerful, and effectively bully teams off the park.

This ability to dominate a game both physically and mentally is something the legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson instilled in his team for over two decades, and now manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is trying to use the same methods he saw used when he was part of Sir Alex’s squad. He is still on a relatively short leash as question marks remain about his ability to become a top coach.

Jose Mourinho loves to stick the needle into opponents, particularly former employers and this is another game for Mourinho to showcase his abilities and he will take every opportunity available to him.

As for the match, the reason I picked this one is that the midfields are very good…if they want to be. This should be a great battle as both teams look to hit each other on the counter-attacks and pounce on mistakes at the back that have crept into both of these sides. Defensive mistakes have plagued both teams over the last six months and both teams have similar talent and similar weaknesses.

I expect quick one-touch soccer, with some of the technical ability dropping out of the game as both teams look to get a foothold in the midfield. Paul Pogba, if he’s switched on, is undoubtedly the best player on the pitch; is one to keep an eye on, with his ability to drive forward from the heart of the midfield. Similarly, for Spurs it’s worthwhile keeping an eye on Giovani Lo Celso who is as good as anyone that has been picked up for Spurs in the last few seasons. His ability to switch from central midfield and an attacking central midfielder is invaluable as the games come thick and fast.

This is a mouth-watering tie and it’s been tough deciding who will come out on top. Because of the brilliance of both attacking talent, I truly believe it’ll come down to who defends better and keeps their shape when under pressure.

Prediction: I think Spurs just about edge this in terms of the game plan, but I think it’ll be a score draw…..But we all know my score predictions have been way off lately.

A week off beckons, as we get to keep an eye on your favorite stars playing for their nations. In the meantime, look after yourself and each other.

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Warne: Goals Are Coming More Often As Premier League Ramps Up