December 9, 2015

The Big Struggling Four

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

There are four teams that have traditionally held the table in the Premier League for the past few years: Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea.

But this year, moreso than ever, these clubs have some deep-seeded problems.

Man U can’t score goals to save their lives.

City and Arsenal can’t stay healthy.

Chelsea has completely imploded and is sitting closer to relegation than to a Champions League spot.

After already seeing United be eliminated from Champions League on Tuesday, both Chelsea and Arsenal could face that fate today with losses.

So how can the big clubs fix what ails them?

The Gunners have been so injury-plagued for so long, it might be time to look at a new physio staff. I mean, very year we’re writing about how Arsenal’s depth will be tested by a rash of injuries. While you can’t eliminate them completely, you can at least try some new preventative measures.

City is also injury-hit, but it’s really the lack of depth that hurts them. The Sky Blues sold off three strikers this summer and now have had to play youngster Kelechi Iheanacho in key moments. While he has potential, he’s one for the future and isn’t ready to contribute now. We’ll see if they make some moves in the January transfer window because the Citizens can’t get caught with their pants down again.

It feels very ironic that the Red Devils have suffered from a lack of goal-scoring when you consider that they basically let Javier Hernandez walk in the summer. Chicarito was just named Bundesliga player of the month and has put together quite the scoring record. In fact, he has outscored United 11-10 since the beginning of October.

Wayne Rooney is hurt, Memphis Depay now comes off the bench, Anthony Martial has lost his spark and the next best option appears to Maraoune Fellaini, which really says something.

If the rumours of a $150-million bid for Neymar are true, that could solve a lot, but we don’t see Barcelona selling.

At least United can defend, posting four 0-0 draws in their past seven games.

As for Chelsea, well, that’s all sorts of a trainwreck. The move that seems like that would be best to fix this club is firing Jose Mourinho, but we’re not sure if that will happen any time soon. Even benching Diego Costa and playing Eden Hazard up front hasn’t reinvigorated the defending champions.

And if these big clubs can’t pull it together, well, there’s a little club named Leicester City that looks more than willing to run away with the title.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Speaking of the Foxes, they moved two points clear of the Gunners on the weekend thanks to one of the league’s top scorers. And no, it wasn’t Jamie Vardy.

Vardy saw his goal-scoring streak snapped at 11 games, even though he had a clean break saved by Lukasz Fabianski.

No, this week, it was Riyad Mahrez who slotted home a hat trick. The Algerian winger has been fantastic this season, yet understandably overshadowed by Vardy’s record-book heroics.

Mahrez now has 10 goals on the season and we’d back him to put home quite a few more down the stretch for the league leaders.

AROUND THE LEAGUE

Stoke City’s Marko Arnautovic was undoubtedly the second star of the week. His two goals propelled the Potters past City with ease and he could have had two more. Xherdan Shaqiri finally showed the promise that any FIFA player knows he has, as well … The Irons have been struck by the injury bug again: Manuel Lanzini, who was filling in for Dimitri Payet, has been ruled out for six weeks. Perhaps most shocking of all is that Andy Carroll is still standing … After finally finding his way back to health, Daniel Sturridge has been injured again, this time in training. Reports are a hamstring injury will keep Mr. Glass out for a few weeks … Really, Joel Campbell? A pacifier? … Should we be talking more about Spurs? They’re undefeated in a club-record 14 games and are just three points behind the Manchester clubs for third. At +13, they’re also just one behind leaders in that category, City and Arsenal. The thing is, Tottenham has only lost one game, but they’re drawing far too many … Odion Ighalo has been the fantasy bargain of the season behind Vardy and Mahrez. The Watford striker has been the key to his team’s attack and put up another goal and assist against Norwich this week. If he gets hurt, the Hornets could find themselves in trouble.

THE LAST WORD

The refs had two brutal calls decide games this weekend, something you never like to see.

First, Chelsea was robbed of a penalty when a Diego Costa cross hit a Bournemouth defender in the arm on the way through the box. The ref saw it and said play on, leaving the Blues incensed. Then, later on the game-winning goal, the Cherries’ Glenn Murray headed the ball in from an offside position, though the linesman didn’t see it that way.

On Sunday, Liverpool’s Alberto Moreno was denied an amazing lobbed volley goal that would have equalized things against Newcastle on Sunday.

With MLS commissioner Don Garber talking about bringing in replay to assist referees, is it time to make this move?

It won’t come without many protests, but it should at least be given a trial. After all, soccer is one of the few sports that doesn’t have replay to assist officials these days.

I doubt it will happen before the 2018 World Cup, but could you imagine a game on the biggest stage decided by a bad call?

I like MLS’s initiative in this situation and could even be a nice trial run before establishing it in the bigger European leagues.

Leave a Reply