October 4, 2016

FREE KICKS: The mighty City falls

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

For years, the biggest knock against Tottenham was that it could never beat the top teams and racked up their points against teams below them in the table.

Maybe that’s not the case anymore.

Tottenham looked fantastic against the league leaders, dominating play at times and getting the majority of chances.

If not for a saved penalty by Claudio Bravo – who actually got the three bonus fantasy points as top player – this could’ve actually been a 3-0 victory for Spurs.

This snapped the Sky Blues’ six-game winning streak, although they’re still atop of the table by a point.

The loss was Pep Guardiola’s first with Man City and they will likely be few and far between. The real question now is how the manager has his team rebound, especially with the extra week off due to the international break.

City’s Achilles heel in recent years was always its inconsistency and failure to rebound from losses. This is the team’s first real test under Guardiola, let’s see how he fares.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

We haven’t given this award to a defender yet this season, so why not Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny.

It was a big week for attackers and the Gunners centre back came up big with the game-winning goal deep into injury time against Burnley. Couple that with a clean sheet and that’s a pretty good week for the Frenchman.

Arsenal is on quite the roll having won five straight and won’t face much of a challenge until the North London Derby in early November.

AROUND THE LEAGUE

We have five players sitting on four yellow cards, with five being the magic number to earn a suspension. Between Jose Holebas, Jonny Evans, Claudio Yacob, Jordan Henderson and Diego Costa, who do you think gets the ban first? Chelsea better hope it’s not Costa with some crucial games coming up and the striker in fine form after bagging a goal and an assist this week … I guess the captain isn’t on penalties at Liverpool anymore, with James Milner netting the winner from the spot while Henderson was on the pitch. Whatever works, I guess … Dimitri Payet went on one hell of a run to level the score for West Ham. A point much-needed for the Irons … What a brutal own goal by Aleksander Kolarov. How does a veteran defender not know how to clear that ball properly? … Those two Bournemouth goals looked pretty soft. Heurelho Gomes should’ve done better, especially on Josh King’s strike … Of course, the week after we praise Manchester United for being “back,” it goes out and draws with relegation-battling Stoke City. The Red Devils dominated the game, too, with 67% possession and 24 shots to seven … Romelu Lukaku’s free kick goal was probably the goal of the week, but that wall really let down Crystal Palace’s keeper. I’m guessing it didn’t expect the Belgian to take the kick because, well, I didn’t expect it either. I had no idea he was capable of hitting a nice curler like that, but the kid is talented.

THE LAST WORD

We saw our first sacking of the season this week, with Swansea giving Francesco Guidolin his walking papers after Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Liverpool.

This move was very easy to see coming, with reports emerging last week that the Swans were in talks with former U.S. manager Bob Bradley, who ended up taking the job.

But is he the right man for the job? He was considering for the Sunderland position before David Moyes took it, but doesn’t exactly have a sparkling resume.

Previously, Bradley had managed three MLS teams to varying success, was part of the U.S. National Team program, took over Egypt, where he failed to make any waves, then had a sojourn to Norway before heading Le Havre for the past year. Does any of that sound like he’s a Premier League quality manager to you?

The right choice for the job was probably Ryan Giggs. He spent his past few years of retirement on the bench beside Louis van Gaal at Man United, learning the trade and he’s a Welsh icon.

That should’ve been more than enough to get a run with Swansea. He would’ve injected some excitement into the club, even if just for a few months.

Whether the choice of Bradley over Giggs pays off remains to be seen, but a move was needed to shakeup a side that has lost five of the first seven games.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

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