Now in the grind of junior year until May, it’ll be hard for me to find time to write for the blog on a regular basis. But I hope whenever possible to crank something out in whatever form that may take (it may be short like this one). This weekend, I was able to catch a good deal of the action across the EPL. So that’s what this will be about. I hope to have something else up by Friday about Arkansas football ahead of the new season. But in the meantime, here are three observations from week 4 of the Premier League.
Red Cards Galore
One common theme across the league this weekend was unfortunately a glaring number of debatable red cards handed out. In general, I’m one who is hesitant to give out a red, so for me, this weekend wasn’t a great one for the referees. However, I will never dispute a high tackle or a two-footed challenge. Aleksandar Mitrovic’s red for Newcastle against Arsenal fell right on the edge for me. Was it a weak red? Yes. But it was also an incredibly dangerous tackle that could have snapped Francis Coquelin’s shin. I do think the level of intent wasn’t there, so maybe it was harsh. For Philippe Coutinho, the matter was more straightforward. His tackle had to be a second yellow. Mark Noble’s on the other hand was a disgrace. That was by no means a red. Both of them for Stoke were silly and foolish, but hard to argue. On the whole though, it’s not a good weekend when there are so many red cards, especially early in matches.
That might have been the most boring Arsenal win I’ve seen in recent years. I won’t complain because three points was all that was necessary, but it’s worrying how little Arsenal is creating right now. Something is off either in the tactics or in the minds of the forward players. Without Mesut Özil, there really was very little happening up front. The excuse that Newcastle had everyone behind the ball is an old one. So many teams defend like that against Arsenal at the moment that by this point, they should be figuring out how to combat that. I don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring on the transfer market, but I’m not expecting much. However, the more I watch, the more I’m convinced there’s a place for Jack Wilshere in the side. He is somebody who can open up space in a crowded area by attacking. Instead of passing the ball around, he would drive at defenders and open things up. When he’s back, I might try him in place of Aaron Ramsey and see what that is like for a game. I think the international break is coming at a good time, because Arsenal haven’t really built any momentum at this point. And this a fantastic time to play Stoke, with Bojan not yet back and two key players suspended.
Who doesn’t love watching the big boys get beaten up? Rarely do we ever get weekends where Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United all lose, and I must say it was terrific. The results were shocking, but they say a lot about the frailties of the big clubs at the moment. Everyone can be beaten. These are all teams in transition, and it shows defensively. United looked decent, but were hit on the counter by a smart Swansea team. And Chelsea and Liverpool were just flat out bad. Remember how everyone thought I was crazy for having Swansea and Crystal Palace 5th and 6th in my predictions? That doesn’t look so terrible now does it? I continue to be impressed with the teams in the middle of the table this year. There is just so much talent coming in from abroad that is turning these teams into formidable opponents. With Manchester City looking the clear number one in the league, numbers two through twenty haven’t ever so close.
Week 5 Predictions
Everton 2 Chelsea 1
Watford 0 Swansea 1
Norwich 1 Bournemouth 1
Crystal Palace 1 Manchester City 3
Arsenal 2 Stoke City 0
West Brom 1 Southampton 0
Manchester United 2 Liverpool 0
Sunderland 1 Tottenham 1
Leicester City 2 Aston Villa 2
West Ham 1 Newcastle 0