After a prolonged period of international ‘excitement’ and the inevitability of disappointment from the English national side, week 8 of the Barclays Premier League looked set to reignite the interests of football fans up and down the country.
In a somewhat David Moyes-esque manner, Sunderland propped up the table entering their much maligned fixture against Stoke at the Britannia, whilst the resurgent reign of Ronald Koeman’s Everton visited the Etihad, where City under Guardiola were yet to drop points. Eddie Howe pitted his wits against the recently appointed Mike Phelan at the Vitality, and in a game of champions gone by, Chelsea entertained Ranieri’s faltering Leicester City at the Bridge.
The recent sacking of Francesco Guidolin at Swansea served as a lingering reminder to Premier League managers; the sack race is well and truly on. With pressure mounting on Moyes and Karanka’s Boro on a winless run of five games, the foot of the table makes for interesting reading. The patience of Premier League owners will be tested this season as ever, but I would find it far from surprising to see one or two more names join Mr Guidolin at Jobcentre Plus in the coming weeks.
But week 8.. What happened?
Chelsea 3 – 0 Leicester City
The international break saw several reputable British news outlets report that Antonio Conte had been given the boot by Mr Abramovich. If ever there was a better response to such speculation, a three nil demolition of last seasons champions would take some beating. Chelsea looked dominant from the outset at Stamford Bridge, Diego Costa opening the Londoners account with an assured finish on the turn of the 7th minute, his 7th league goal of the season. Chelsea continued to apply pressure, and a smart flick from Pedro saw Eden Hazard round Kaspar Schmeichel to put Chelsea two up, with Victor Moses completing the rout after a sharp one-two with Nathaniel Chalobah. Ngolo Kante received an unexpectedly frosty reception from Leicester’s away end, I mean yes, there’s a distinct lack of loyalty there, but he made as big a contribution as anyone to you winning the league. A bit of slack to be cut?
Conte will be pleased with an assured performance from the Blues. A call for consistency from the Stamford Bridge faithful will follow, but a visit from an old pal in Mr Mourinho next weekend, followed by a trip to the increasingly impressive Southampton will provide stern tests for Chelsea. Title contenders? Only time will tell.
As for Leicester, it speaks volumes that in three Champions League games, they have amassed more points (9) than in their eight Premier League games (8). The Tinkerman may well have some tinkering to do, but a mid-table finish for Leicester off the back of last seasons heroics would be far from disappointing for the Midlands side.
Manchester City 1 – 1 Everton
In spite of 73% of possession and 2 awarded penalties, Manchester City were unable to kick on inside their Mancunian fortress. A resilient Everton and a truly remarkable performance from Goalkeeper Martin Steklenburg meaning the spoils were shared in a feisty affair, pitting previous colleagues Koeman and Guardiola against each other for the first time since their Barcelona playing days.
For all their possession, City were thwarted by a watertight Evertonian defence, a standout performance from Ashley Williams at centre half in their backline. Romelu Lukaku continued to increase his stock as one of Europe’s most powerful forward players, an immense solo effort giving Everton a 1-0 lead on the 64th minute, though City countered with pace and power, which saw Nolito equalise for a full-time result of 1-1. Koeman will understandably be the happier of the two managers, and continues to impress with his tenure as Everton manager. Guardiola is now winless in 3 games following on from last weeks defeat at the hands of Spurs, and a 4-0 schooling from Barcelona in their group C UCL tie last night, though one would expect a team with the calibre of City to bounce back fairly swiftly.
Bournemouth 6 – 1 Hull City
After many a month of rife speculation, Mike Phelan was officially appointed manager at Hull City on a full-time basis, giving some much needed stability to a side who will be in a dogfight in the coming weeks and months. Bournemouth looked outstanding from the first whistle to the last, the fluidity and flair they offered as a team was unable to be matched by a faltering Hull side who last won on 20th August against Swansea. Charlie Daniels opened the Cherries account, a smart shot fizzing in from 15 yards out in the 5th minute, though Hull responded through Ryan Mason, an 11m purchase from Spurs in August, with a deflected shot off Steve Cook to level things up at one a piece. Bournemouth proceeded to kick on, Cook making amends for his error in Hull’s equaliser, a powerful header minutes before the break putting the Cherries a goal to the good going in at half-time. Whether it was the oranges, or an inspirational team talk from the ever inspiring Howe, Bournemouth put the game to bed in the 2nd 45 minutes, goals from Wilson, Gosling and a brace from Junior Stanislas giving Bournemouth a remarkable 6-1 lead, a commanding performance from Jordan Ibe worthy of mention in dispatches. Jack Wilshere continues to find his feet in an ever-improving Bournemouth side, who now have 11 points from 8 BPL fixtures. Survival? Howe is certainly on the right track.
In the other fixtures of week eight, a trademark Manuel Lanzini finish saw West Ham see off Pardew’s Palace with a 1-0 scoreline, Slaven Bilic’s side picking up their first win in six games. Elsewhere, West Bromwich Albion held the unbeaten Spurs to a 1-1 draw at the Hawthorns, a last gasp Dele Alli equaliser maintaining Spurs’ unbeaten start to their season, a feat no other Tottenham team in their illustrious history has achieved after eight games. Stoke City and Mark Hughes piled further pressure on David Moyes and Sunderland with a 2-0 victory, and Arsenal’s mesmeric form continued, a 3-2 victory over the new appointed Bob Bradley’s Swansea at the Emirates. North London will be home to two hugely entertaining teams this year, who one would expect to be challenging for trophies and titles, though in what looks set to be Arsene Wenger’s final season with the Gunners, will there be a fitting send off in achieving domestic honours?
As the title race swings into motion, and Jose’s ill-fated quips continue to spark FA investigations, the Barclays Premier League continues to fulfil its status as the most exciting sporting spectacle not only in England, but arguably worldwide. Will Spurs replicate an invincible streak so often associated with the red side of North London? Has Klopp begun to truly recreate a Liverpool side capable of reaching the upper echelons of the league? All will duly unfold, but amidst the uncertainty and anticipation, there is one guarantee. David Moyes is in a serious spot of bother.
– By Tom Newman