Chelsea’s Champions League hopes at risk?
Chelsea have been exceptional at periods since the Premier League reactivate, beating Manchester City a month ago and successful four of these first 5 games, nevertheless the 3-2 loss at West Ham was obviously a reminder of these enduring frailties and Saturday’s dismal beat by Sheffield United had been another.
The Blues have already heightened their assaulting options before the summer move window, saying yes deals with regard to Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner, however error-strewn screen at Bramall Lane underlined the need for the defensive renovate and, a lot more worryingly, the effect might set their hopes of Champions League certification at risk.
Frank Lampard’s aspect sit 3rd for now, nevertheless by the end regarding play on Sunday, they could are behind the resurgent Leicester side who will be gearing up to handle lowly Bournemouth. Then, upon Monday evening, they could fall further when an in-form Manchester United play Southampton.
It becomes mare like a problem in case Manchester City are prosperous in overturning their Champions League suspend. The consequence of City’s attractiveness is due to become confirmed at 9.30am on Monday. If these are successful – and Pep Guardiola certainly seems confident – then a fifth–placed end will not be adequate to clinch Champions League qualification this year.
That could be an issue for Chelsea on the proof of their overall performance against Sheffield United, particularly with a home sport against Liverpool and a horrible trip to Wolves still ahead. A Champions League obstacle that seemed to be progressing serenely only a couple weeks ago all of a sudden seems liable to petering away.
City and Sterling reaching form at just the right time
While hopes regarding lifting typically the Premier League title had been ended in the past, Manchester City still aspire to add Champions League and FA Cup trophies towards the Carabao Cup they received in February.
And they are reaching form at just the right period.
Pep Guardiola’s aspect have now received their latter Premier League games by simply five or even more goals, the very first time this has occurred in the Premier League considering that City on their own did so within three successive games within September 2017.
In Raheem Sterling, there is also a player obtaining the best time of year of their career currently.
The 25-year-old provides scored 27 goals in most competitions with regard to City this particular term – his best scoring campaign in his career to date. He now has seven goals in his last seven games in all competitions since the restart and he is hungry for more than just goals before this season ends.
“The most important thing to me is the value of these goals, that they add to the team,” he told Sky Sports. “At the end of the day, we’re trying to win the FA Cup final and win the Champions League as well, otherwise these goals don’t really mean anything.”
And in this form, it’s difficult to back against Sterling and City finishing the season on a high.
Is Pope now England’s No1?
As well as an impressive point for Burnley, Jay Rodriguez’s equaliser at Anfield ensured his team-mate Nick Pope remains on course to clinch the Premier League’s Golden Glove ahead of Liverpool’s Alisson.
There was no shutout for Pope on Saturday – a stunning Andy Robertson header saw to that – but there was yet another string of superb saves, including fine stops to deny Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, which surely must be edging him towards England’s No1 jersey.
That performance at Liverpool came after Pope had made two decisive saves in the midweek win at West Ham and it should be noted that he has had to make 112 saves on his way to the 14 clean sheets which put him top of the Golden Glove standings. Liverpool’s Alisson has been far less busy with 55.
Jordan Pickford has been England manager Gareth Southgate’s preferred choice for some time now but the Everton keeper has looked far less assured than Pope considering that the restart, while it may be too soon to promote Sheffield United’s standout 23-year-old Dean Henderson to the role. England are next in action in September, so Southgate will be weighing up his options – and two-cap Pope has earned the chance to show he can step up to the international stage.
Watford show more character to pull clear
This was earmarked as one of two fixtures that would define Watford’s season, with West Ham at the London Stadium taking place after facing Newcastle on Friday, live on Sky Sports.
Ben Foster said he expected a battle, where the performance would be secondary to a result, and so it transpired, with Watford making it back-to-back wins for the first time since January.
There was simply no underplaying the importance of this game, with West Ham pulling clear themselves with a convincing win at Norwich. Nigel Pearson may have told his players the scoreline at Carrow Road during the interval with his side deservedly trailing – but then came a response full of character, led by Deeney.
This wasn’t his greatest game – far from it – but it could possibly prove to be his most important in a Watford shirt. The Hornets have now taken 12 more points in their last 18 games than they achieved in their first 17, which indicates they have a squad that can do far better.
The picture can change quickly in the final flurry of matches, and one win could make all the difference. This victory for the Hornets could well mean curtains for the current bottom three.
Magical Michail helps save Hammers
It has been a wonderful restart for Michail Antonio. He doubled his goal tally in one afternoon and has quadrupled it since coming back from the suspension, scoring against Chelsea and West Ham before Saturday’s showdown at Carrow Road.
It almost felt like Antonio’s four goals against Norwich were an explosion of the promise he has shown in recent weeks. He has always been a huge talent for West Ham and demonstrated it wonderfully this weekend.
All four goals were extremely well taken. His first and fourth goals showed expert placement – slotting home from inside the six-yard box – while the second demonstrated his incredibly physicality. The third was more about beating a shaky Norwich defence, who despite his form, allowed Antonio far too much space and did not mark him well enough.
The win unfortunately relegated Norwich and is likely to have ultimately secured West Ham’s status in the Premier League for another season. Along with Watford’s win against Newcastle, the pair have pulled six points clear of the drop zone, giving Aston Villa and Bournemouth an almost insurmountable challenge.
In his post-match press conference, manager David Moyes said: “Today has been a good day for him and really good that he got the goals in – not many people do score four goals in a Premier League match.”
With Sebastian Haller not fully fit and lacking form, it is Antonio who is stepping up and driving West Ham over the line. Although traditionally thought of as a winger, he is proving he can be merely as effective as a centre forward and could be the Hammers’ new focus in that position.
Lack of experience costs Norwich
Norwich’s relegation felt inevitable long prior to Saturday’s defeat by West Ham. Daniel Farke’s side were only six points adrift of safety when the lockdown came into force. The gap was not insurmountable, but the players seemed resigned to the drop when the season resumed.
Their fate owes a lot to a lack of experience.
Norwich’s squad contains an abundance of young talent in Todd Cantwell, Emi Buendia, Max Aarons, Jamal Lewis and Ben Godfrey. But all five of those players were new to the English top-flight and they were not the only ones. Of Norwich’s older heads, only Tim Krul and Alexander Tettey had any meaningful Premier League experience behind them.
The lack of knowhow was particularly apparent in defence. Norwich’s most-used back four – Aarons, Christophe Zimmermann, Godfrey and Lewis – had an average age of under 23, making it the youngest in the division this season. It is little wonder they were so often overwhelmed by more streetwise opponents, West Ham being just the latest.
Norwich were operating over a budget far smaller than those of their rivals, of course. Their emphasis on youth was a commendable approach. But the sharp end of the Premier League can be an unforgiving place with regard to new arrivals. Norwich found that out typically the tough way.