SOCCER

EPL Action Already Heating Up Despite Being Early In The Season

Nov 26, 2021, 8:26 PM
Manchester City...
Riyad Mahrez of Manchester City in action during the UEFA Champions League group A match between Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain at Etihad Stadium on November 24, 2021 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)
(Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – Is it a three-horse race for the title? Of course it’s too early to make a concrete prediction, but the play of Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool this last round certainly make you think so.

Such was their dominance last week that the difference between those three and the rest of the league became apparent.

Brighton and Hove Albion Vs Leeds United

First up is Saturday’s 10:30 a.m. MT on KSL 5 TV premiere match between two contrasting styles. Brighton, the slick pass and move style that can pass you to death, and Leeds, the ferocious and chaotic approach that won them so many plaudits last season.

Leeds has struggled a little bit this season, but they have shown flashes of their best recently. Sadly they’ll be without their best attacker in Patrick Bamford. He’s been missing since September, and just as he was starting to build up his fitness again, he turned his ankle running and set himself back again.

Good news is that Brazilian international Raphinha is back into the squad after illness kept him out of the loss to Spurs last weekend. The loss was tough as Leeds played quite well. And the introduction of Raphinha will no doubt add another cutting dimension to Leeds’ creativity. A solid goal scorer and an exceptional creator, his form for the Whites has now made him a regular for his national team.

I’m interested to see him and former Man Utd winger, Daniel James link up. The Welsh wideman has blistering pace, and I think he and the Brazilian could really form a great link up in the wide areas to really propel Leeds forward in those chaotic and pacey counter attacks. Kalvin Phillips continues to impress for England and his hometown team, showing his versatility at moving from the heart of the midfield to central defense when needed.

His discipline, positional awareness and passing range make him one of the most important players to allow Leeds to adopt the approach they are using, without him they struggle. Philips will be vital again, especially against a Brighton team that moves the ball so well.

The Seagulls employ three central defenders and then more often than not, two incredibly pacey wing backs. The way Marc Cucurella has adapted to the EPL after his move from Getafe in Spain has been almost seamless. It’s a testament to how well Brighton recruits players, and the intelligence of the former Barcelona youth player.

On the other side is Tariq Lamptey who is one of the quickest players in topflight English soccer. Both players work tirelessly up and down the flanks and will be important outlets.

The man to watch though is Belgian international Leandro Trossard, the attacking midfielder is top quality. Happy to play in the wide areas, or as the central attacking midfielder and of late he’s been able to play more of the False Nine role, with three goals and an assist to his name. It’s hardly earth-shattering numbers, I know. But Brighton aren’t huge goals scorers. They pass and move you to death. I think they are one clinical goal scorer away from being a solid outfit. Trossard does everything, and if he can get himself a true partner to allow him to find even more space, then those stats will rise, and quite sharply.

Prediction:

This is a tough one to call. I really enjoy watching both teams play. Both are coached extremely well, and by well, I mean they are coached to entertain spectators. I’ll go with a score draw, and plenty of technical ability, although adopted in different approaches, the game will keep us all entertained.

Manchester City Vs West Ham United

This has all the makings of a post-Thanksgiving cracker. Fill your faces on Sunday as Peacock TV carries the game that kicks off at 7:00 a.m. City has been nothing short of superb recently. They toyed with Everton last week, rarely needing to come out of second gear, it wasn’t a case of they couldn’t play better, it was more the fact you knew full well they could explode quickly through the gears if they needed to.

The air of confidence and ability they have is something that has caught my eye. The various rotations we’ve seen and hardly any drop off in performances is amazing. There is a reason why Pep Guardiola is one of the best coaches in the history of the game. The transfer budget doesn’t hurt his cause, but this isn’t his only reason for success. The way he changes his lineups, manages individuals and as I mentioned, keeping them consistent whoever starts is one of the more difficult things to coach.

The man I want to see is academy product, Phil Foden. The way he’s been developed as a player by Guardiola, and now almost the first name on the team sheet for them (City) and England. His finishing keeps improving, and his vision and intelligence with the ball at his feet is becoming more and more dangerous. You’re seeing a meteoric rise in front of you. Once again, City’s ability to interchange their attackers for 90 minutes makes them one of the hardest teams to defend against. The patience they have and accuracy particularly in the final third make them one of the most fun teams to watch in Europe right now.

West Ham are pretty much my team of the season so far. David Moyes has done a great job so far. Moyes isn’t a flashy manager, he drills his teams defensively, so they are solid and organized. But the recruitment and options he has now are something that compliments his style. Attackers that also work hard off the ball. Michail Antonio (already at West Ham) epitomizes the requirements of a Hammers’ attacker.

To hurry and close down opposition defenders with the ball at their feet. Be physical in the air and on the deck. And then burst into the penalty area to be an option for the creative players in Jarrod Bowen, Pablo Fornals and Saïd Benrahma. That quartet is responsible for 11 assists and 15 goals in EPL play. All whilst being given the platform to perform by Declan Rice and Tomáš Souček. Note, Rice has gone up another level this season as well.

West Ham are powerful, they are organized defensively and devastating on the counterattack. Are they set up to cause an upset? Yes.

Prediction:

Despite the Hammers being really good, I just think the Citizens will flex their muscles in this fixture just to show how far ahead they are in regard to approach and ability. It should be a cracker though.

That’ll do it for this week, and we’ll be back early next as some midweek matches start to pop up. Cheers.

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EPL Action Already Heating Up Despite Being Early In The Season