November 1, 2016

FREE KICKS: The tightest of title races

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

Remember a few weeks ago, when we all thought that Manchester City was just going to run away with the Premier League title? Things have certainly changed.

We’re now in a three-way tie at the top between City, Arsenal and Liverpool all on 23 points and Chelsea just behind at 22. And let’s not forget the EPL’s only undefeated side, Tottenham, is at 20 points after its draw with Leicester on Saturday.

Of course, the more games are played, the more chance for separation there will be between the teams, but all five of these sides have legitimate shots at the title right now.

City has arguably the most talent of the bunch, Arsenal seems to be firing on all cylinders, Liverpool might have the best attacking midfield we’ve seen in a long time, Chelsea’s defence has been outstanding since switching to a back three and, like we said, Spurs are yet to lose a game.

Of course, all of this could change in a weekend and likely will, but it’s looking a lot more exciting than what we had a few weeks ago.

There may not be a Cinderella story like Leicester this season, but it’s just as great to see five legit contenders slug it out.


It’s weeks like this when you’re reminded that you can never count out Sergio Aguero.

After three scoreless games and plenty of drama involving him and manager Pep Guardiola, the Argentine forward scored twice and notched an assist against West Brom this week, earning him our honours here. A close second would have to be teammate Ilkay Gundogan, who also scored a brace and added an assist from the midfield in his best performance since joining City in the summer.

With Middlesbrough, Crystal Palace and Burnley on the horizon, City’s attack should be going at full steam when the fixtures start getting hot and heavy in December.


Streaking Stoke City is now up to 12th in the league after its third win in a row. That’s one way to get out of the relegation zone … How appropriate is it of Wilfried Bony to score a brace and get his first goal since last Boxing Day against his former club? Will nothing go right for the Swans? … Welsh Messi is living up to his name recently. With two assists on Monday, he has now been directly involved in more goals this season than (six) than Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba combined (five) … Leicester City’s goal against Spurs was the first that Tottenham has allowed from open play this season. Very impressive defending, as always … Tom Heaton was incredible against Manchester United, making 11 saves while the Red Devils took 37 shots overall … Manchester United hasn’t scored in three games running and Zlatan Ibrahimovic hasn’t scored in seven. That’s his longest drought since 2007 … Diego Costa notched his 40th goal of his Premier League career in his 64th game. He actually reached the mark seven games faster than Aguero did … Since losing to Burnley, Liverpool has nine wins and two draws. The Reds have also scored 30 goals in those 11 games and allowed nine.


The British tabloids can’t seem to get enough of Jose Mourinho and I can’t blame them.

After all, he is arguably the most interesting manager in the world and he is in charge of the most famous sports team in the world, so why wouldn’t there be a ton of ink spilled about him?

Especially with Manchester United struggling and not a lot of positives to be drawn from its play, it makes this soap opera all the more interesting.

Recent reports of the Special One being confined to his hotel room in downtown Manchester because he would be pestered too much when going outside for even a short walk are tabloid gold.

Also, the reports that he is lonely, being cooped up without his family, who remain in London have gotten some tongues wagging.

And really, doesn’t he deserve all this attention?

Mourinho created his brand of managing to draw attention away from his players. And you could argue that it’s working better than ever.

If he complains about his treatment in the media, the first place he should look is in the mirror. He has created this problem himself and perhaps he should consider working harder on the actual football and team-building than creating headlines.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

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