We are eight games into the season, and we have had five league leaders so far. This season could turn out to be one of the most evenly contested seasons in many a year. After a promising beginning, which now seems like a distant memory, we have slipped comfortably back to our familiar position in the mid-table.
However, I do believe that the lack of European games will work in our favour towards the end of the season. We need to get lucky with our injuries and, if Carlo and Marcel can pick one or two good signings in the winter transfer, we just might still make a fist of competing for the European places.
Two teams have hugely impressed me so far – Aston Villa and Southampton. They have had pretty consistent results and beaten some very good teams.
Their present preferred starting XI is: Martinez, Cash, Konza, Mings, Targett, Luiz, McGinn, Barkley, Grealish, Trezeguet, Watkins
After seven games, they presently sit sixth in the table with 15 points and a game in hand. If they win their game in hand, they go top of the league with a goal difference of >9. They have had some very impressive results – the 7-2 against Liverpool, the 3-0 and 1-0 (both away) at Arsenal and Leicester respectively.
In the seven games played so far, they have kept four clean sheets. One has to remember that they got lucky (technology malfunction) last season which disallowed a goal by Sheffield United and that 1 point helped them stay up.
However, in the summer, Dean Smith did some very astute business – keeping hold of Grealish and Douglas Luiz (whom I had strongly pitched for us to sign in the summer) and adding to the squad with some real quality – Martinez, Barkley, Cash, Watkins and Traore. Four of their signings are now first-team regulars – and, for me, their key signing was goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, whom Arsenal let go for £10 million. That was an unbelievable bit of business by Aston Villa and something that I wish we had done.
Now, I don’t expect Villa to go all the way to a Top 4 or Top 6 finish, and their squad beyond their starting XI is pretty limited, but I have been hugely impressed by them so far, and wish them well for the rest of the season.
We have heard about that 9-0 result from last season so many times that we have become somewhat indifferent to it. But, I find it quite incredible what Hasenhuttl has achieved with that demoralized squad over the past year.
When they outplayed us last season after the lockdown, I had commented that I expect them to be in the Top 6 next (this) season, and so far, I haven’t seen anything yet to make me change my opinion.
Their preferred starting XI: McCarthy, Walker-Peters, Bednarek, Vestergaard, Bertrand, Armstrong, Romeu, Ward-Prowse, Redmond, Ings, Adams
As we can see, Southampton have no superstars; they did not spend big on transfers – as usual, they lost some of their key players like Hjøjberg, but still they come out and play a very consistent style of football irrespective of personnel. That is in stark contrast to Everton – if we lose one or two of our starting XI, we seem to fall apart.
Last game, they lost Danny Ings due to injury against Newcastle, but the much-maligned Theo Walcott slotted right in and played as though he had been part of the squad for many years. How do they do that and why do we struggle so much with players who come in with so much promise, but then fizzle out within half a season (of course, with some exceptions like Richarlison, Digne)?
Southampton are presently in 4th position, and were briefly on top of the league last Saturday. After the first two games, when they had bad results against Crystal Palace and Spurs, they have quickly regrouped and have been very impressive, albeit against lower than Top 6 teams – Burnley, West Brom, Everton (grin), Aston Villa, Newcastle United and a come-from-behind draw against Chelsea. It remains to be seen if they can get the results against the top teams in the league but, so far, they play a very high-energy, slick and forward-passing game. In Ward-Prowse, they have right now one of the best midfielders in the league, IMO.
Out of the two of them, right now, I would say Aston Villa edge it for me – just for the results they have achieved against some of the top teams. Other teams have also had some quietly good results – the likes of Crystal Palace, West Ham, Tottenham, Wolves, Leicester – by grinding out clean sheets and some boring 1-0 wins. Of the newcomers, Leeds have been exciting to watch and the two Manchester clubs have not really got going yet, but we all know the quality that they possess in their squads. And you can never write off Arsenal and Chelsea with the money they have spent on incoming players.
So, which team has impressed you the most so far?
Reader Comments (10)
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1 Posted 13/11/2020 at 09:10:10
It would have been very easy for them after they won the league against all odds to have just slinked off into lower half of the table obscurity but they have continued to play fast past attractive football and they are challenging at the top end of the table.
Leicester over the last five years have been everything that we should have been.
Southampton look a good side, Hassenhutl is a manager that bigger things await you feel.
Leeds under Bielsa are exactly how we thought, fearless going forward maybe defensively naive but very good to watch for neutrals.
Villa are probably the biggest shock seeing as they almost went down last season but the signings of Watkins and Barkley have transformed their dynamic completely.
2 Posted 13/11/2020 at 09:25:07
Having good attacking options in Kane, Son and Moura is an important part of any successful team and signing Bale has given them even more options up front. Unlike the blues who only have two proper forwards. Being in the Europa League could be their downfall though.
3 Posted 13/11/2020 at 09:34:43
Everton have finished above Leicester in three of the four seasons since they won the League.
4 Posted 13/11/2020 at 09:44:06
On the flip side chokers Man City continue to be an embarrassment despite their wealth, with Man Utd and Chelsea not far behind.
5 Posted 13/11/2020 at 09:48:22
They are still a club that is more likely to achieve something than us. I've watched enough football for 30+ years to know when a club either stands still or it has the bottle to shake things up.
We still look like a club on the pitch at least that's happy to be 8th-10th.
6 Posted 13/11/2020 at 10:52:29
I dont like Tottenham but I love a tough aggressive, well organised team that are very hard to play against and hard to beat. I think Hojbjerg has been a good signing for them and given them more mean aggressive strength in midfield. It means away they can nullify teams like Burnley etc , then pick them off.
We did a great job against them to win, but to me, their midfield players look fitter stronger and play with more energy and aggression. This helps them to win dirty games as well as win handsomely too. If Son and Kane stay fit they will go close.
To compete or overtake them we need more energy , aggression and dynamism in midfield. Siggurdson Delph Gomes Davies dont bring enough of it . We need Richarlison on the pitch! We need a quality right back .
7 Posted 13/11/2020 at 12:08:23
Leicester look good. I would temper that with - 9 penalties. 9. 9. Yes, 9 penalties. So that is surely a boat of luck. And without Vardy they can be toothless.
Villa, in Douglas Luiz, McGinn, Grealish and Barkley, they have a wonderful midfield. I feel they may struggle defensively at times as 3 of those do almost nothing defensively. However, when they are on their game, they'll be fantastic to watch. Cash at right-back another very good signing.
Southampton look like they are benefitting from excellent training. They are playing above the sum of their parts. How thye react to Ings injury long-term will be interesting, Ings is a quite fantastic centre-forward. But Adams looks like he's starting to become a very good one too.
Chelsea. They have an embarrassment of riches going forward. Ziyech, Werner, Abraham, Havertz, Pulisic they are playing well and the defense is improving. If they can improve that defence permanently, then they will be a force to be reckoned.
8 Posted 13/11/2020 at 14:56:46
9 Posted 13/11/2020 at 15:52:20
They don't just look certainties this time around – they are.
10 Posted 13/11/2020 at 16:20:22
But then they rallied in typical old-school-Moyes fashion.
Moyes has done a great job there considering. A team filled with over-paid luxury players. He dumped them, and has made some excellent signings such as Bowen and Soucek, getting the best out of Fornels and Antonio. Managed to keep Rice.
Considering they were tipped by many to be in Relegation trouble, and Moyes topped many bookie's favourites for the sack, a Top 10 finish is well within their grasp.
We could do with some of that pragmatism in our team (ie, dumping the under-performing, expensive luxury players).
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