October 22, 2013

The South (of England) shall rise

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

We’re only eight games out of 38 into the Premier League season, but it begs to be asked: Is Southampton for real?

The south coast team sits in sixth place and already holds a win at Liverpool and now a draw this past weekend with Manchester United at Old Trafford.

The Saints have allowed just three goals all season after being known as a more offensive-based side last year.

Croatian Dejan Lovren was brought in to solidify the defence during the summer and he has worked wonders with the back four. Combine him with Jose Fonte and young starlets Nathaniel Clyne and Luke Shaw and you have quite the impressive unit.

Up front, the eight goals they have scored is low for the quality of talent they have. Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Jay Rodriguez and Pablo Osvaldo are all highly talented and threats to score at any time.

The real test for Southampton comes next month, when on consecutive weekends it’ll visit Arsenal and Chelsea. If the Saints are still in the top six after those encounters, it’ll be time to wonder what kind of transfer moves they can make to bolster an unexpected run for a European spot.

But, if there’s one thing you should do, it’s take a flyer on the Saints to win either the Capitol One Cup or the F.A. Cup. If there’s one thing we have seen in the past few years, it’s that both are up for grabs for lesser teams while the powerhouses concentrate on the league, Europe or simply rotating their players.


Has Liverpool’s bubble burst? In three of its past five games, the Reds have dropped points – twice drawing sides lower than it in the table.

Maybe it’s just a case of poor road form, as its two draws have come on the road.

I’m sure that these hiccups will work themselves out. The only thing that the Reds really have to work on is just solidifying their back four. They haven’t kept a clean sheet since Sept. 1 against Manchester United, including leaking goals to both Sunderland and Crystal Palace.

Right now, I think that Liverpool is a sure thing for a top-six finish with an outside chance to finish in the top four. The one big positive it has is the fact that it won’t be distracted by both the League Cup or European competition, something that its fellow contenders will.


To say that there was a bit of madness in the Chelsea-Cardiff City game would be an understatement.

It all started with David Luiz allowing a slow-rolling pass that would obviously not make to the keeper Petr Cech get by him, which led to an easy opener from the visiting side. What Luiz was thinking, I’m not sure, but it was the type of move that you would get a few sour looks from your teammates if you did that at the park.

But, it was Chelsea’s opener that caused the biggest stir. After Cardiff’s keeper, David Marshall, had collected the ball and was preparing to kick it out, he did something that you would consider quite average: He bounced it. The problem: Samuel Eto’o was right beside him and knocked the ball away. The end result was a goal and a lot of angry Cardiff fans.

It’s a point of contention whether this was a legal tactic by Eto’o, but I could argue either way really.

-Goal: Marshall should have known better. If there’s an attacker that close to you, you wait until he’s out of the box before clearing the ball. And you definitely don’t leave it up to the refs to decide if it’s legal for him to steal the ball from you or not.

-No goal: It’s a safety thing. You can’t risk a keeper’s health on something as silly as that. A guy could very easily get his leg broken trying to block a goal kick like that.

Well, that was the beginning of the end for the Bluebirds that wear red. The Blues would pot three more goals to run away with this one.


What a beautiful cutting through-ball on Manchester City’s first goal. Sergio Aguero made a great run to and slotted home an easy one … City picked up its first away win of the season. It will need to keep up that form if it wants to contend for the title … Although there was a brief hiccup where Cardiff put on some good offensive pressure, when Chelsea went to three backs in a 3-2-3-2 system for a while, it looked incredible. That’s the type of attacking formation that can really apply a lot of pressure, especially with the talent that the Blues have … How funny was it seeing Jose Mourinho being forced to sit in the stands with fans. You have to wonder if anybody had anything to say to the ‘Chosen One.’ … It seems that the EPL is trying to replicate the NFL in a very unneeded way: The low quality of the Monday night game. I’m not sure which was more sloppy and plodding, Fulham-Crystal Palace or Giants-Vikings … What was the goal of the week? Jack Wilshere’s goal after Arsenal’s sublime passing, or Pajtim Kasami’s amazing long-distance, full volley while sprinting? Both will be in highlight packages for some time to come … So, who starts for England: Theo Walcott or Andros Townsend? Aaron Lennon and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are both obsolete now.

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