Its not all Newcastle United here you know. Have a gander at Alex Hurst’s take on last weekend’s winners and losers.
3 Up, 3 Down
West Ham have had a strange start to the Premier League season. 8 games in before this weekend, they achieved miraculous victories at Arsenal, Liverpool & Man City yet picked up one point out of nine against Leicester, Norwich & Bournemouth at home.
Only a win against a pathetic NUFC has seen any real home comfort and while a point was gained against 10 man Sunderland, a fixture against a high flying Crystal Palace was a good test of Bilic’s tactical approach against Pardew’s men.
Palace are well known for being better away from home than at Selhurst Park, but this game represented a meeting between two of the three ‘pretenders’ to the top 4 which also currently includes Leicester City.
What impressed me about this game is that West Ham didn’t play that well. They took the lead and were largely dominated by Palace, but defended resolutely. 45 minutes against 10 men may sound like victory was expected, but Bilic didn’t panic and throw on 4 forwards, or do anything silly against a Crystal Palace team that went firmly into defensive mode.
So far, so good for Bilic and West Ham.
Leicester City lie fourth in the Premier League after 9 games and surely no one can say that they don’t deserve it. Jamie Vardy has a scored a scarcely believable nine goals this season and only West Ham and Man City have scored more than Leicester’s 19.
The impressive thing about their draw this weekend at Southampton is not just that Leicester came from 2 goals down, but that Leicester had an incredible 27 shots on goal away from home. Unlike Steve McClaren’s early season NUFC – if you have loads of shits, you’ve got more chances of scoring.
Southampton couldn’t cope with the pace and directness of Leicester in the second half. Much like Steve McClaren, Ranieri is accused of not really knowing his best team, and he admitted the non-selections of Mahrez & Dyer negatively impacted the team.
Leicester will continue to create chances and if they do that, they’ll keep getting goals. A top 10 finish or better looks nailed on.
Steve McClaren and NUFC finally tasted victory in style. I’m seeing plenty of people saying NUFC ‘weren’t great’ and ‘not to get ahead of ourselves’. Sod that, we’re going to win the league.
Maybe not but I’m still buzzing from seeing us score six (6) goals in a Premier League game for the first time in five years and McClaren deserves credit for setting up a hugely entertaining attacking unit, even if we’re going to have to score 4 every game to pick up any points. Look back at the first weeks of the season and the lack of attacking threat carried by NUFC. It was Daryl Janmaat teck. McClaren can take the blame for that, but he can certainly take credit for the attacking threat United have carried in the last couple of games.
United’s front line is so young that things can only get better. Mitrovic’s goal was better than anything I’ve seen at SJP in years. A one nil, scrappy, underserved win would have taken the pressure off the manager, but this win has surely brought him another 5 games or so, should the worst happen on Sunday.
As much as McClaren deserves praise, his opposite number deserves barracking for a shocking tactical set up. Everyone knows how to play NUFC at St James’. Sit deep, allow no space and counter attack. One goal is normally enough to knock the stuffing out of the players.
Instead Norwich threw caution to the wind and quite often had 5 or 6 players in the box leaving them vulnerable to the counter attacking skills or United’s front two and two wingers. The result was 6 goals conceded and a pasting at the hands of the Premier League’s bottom side. Not good.
Neil admitted after the game he got it wrong taking holding midfielder Alex Tettey off at three two, which resulted in three further goals, but Norwich conceded three in the first half as well.
Norwich had done better on the road this season than at home but Neil, at just 34 and with less than 100 games of league management behind him, showed nativity and was punished. He needs to learn from these mistakes.
‘New manager bounce’ is one of the better worn clichés in football. Sam Allardyce after all had won his first Premier League games at his previous four Premier League clubs.
Not this time, and with United’s win yesterday, a defeat next week to us would be catastrophic. But according to Sam all of the pressure is on us.
Vile play Swansea at home next week, surely a do or die game for Sherwood. Bournemoth, Norwich and Stoke – the clubs immediately above the bottom three – all have winnable home games next weekend.
That’s why it was so important Sunderland didn’t lose at the weekend to a West Brom team horribly out of form. Sunderland had two shots on target. But Sam reckons there’s no pressure on them next week. Let’s hope there’s no pressure on him after the game if his team is 6 points from safety in November.
They’ll run out of great escapes this season.
Losing at Chelsea wasn’t the end of the world, but the manner of the goals given away was so pathetic you couldn’t help feel that the players have given up on Sherwood.
He made the grave mistake of saying Villa ‘would never face another situation like this’ while he was in charge. He was wrong.
ALEX HURST – FOLLOW ALEX ON @tfAlex1892