Saturday, November 06, 2010

EPL Round-Up: Money Talks

Guest blogger Mark Briggs returns with his monthly look at the English top flight. October saw Liverpool win in the law courts but struggle on the football pitch. One Manchester millionaire got even richer and Chelsea carried on regardless.

Early season form is beginning to develop into season defining starts.

Liverpool, far from having a season to rebound or consolidate, are only a few bad results away from bringing into use one of the classic cliché of modern football, being ‘too big to go down.’ Having said that, one of the biggest milestones of the season happened off the field. New England Sports Ventures battled the owners and, bizarrely, a Texan court, to finally take control of Liverpool. To highlight that off the field problems weren’t the only thing hanging over the club, the following weekend the team lost 2-0 to fierce rivals Everton and put in a damp performance.

In all likelihood, if Roy Hogson’s men still find themselves in this mess come January there will be money to spend, although potentially by a different manager. Another striker and an attacking midfielder seem to be a must.

The Reds traditional big rivals are also struggling and have also had their start to the season overshadowed by peripheral matters. Manchester United have struggled to hold on to leads, something that would have been unthinkable two years ago, when Ferdinand andd Vidic looked like the preverbal brick wall and Jonny Evans looked a natural fit as a replacement for either. Rio Ferdinand has been injured and Evans is looking vulnerable against the high ball. In what is rumoured to be his final year, Edwin Van der Sar has unfortunately also suffered a dip in form. But being an Alex Ferguson team ‘struggling’ means they are still third.

The top of the table has a familiar look to it, with Manchester City occupying the 4th spot ahead of Spurs this time round.

Spurs are playing well, with their usual swashbuckling style, but it seems to be more of an effort this year. Modric has not hit his best form, but this has been tempered by the arrival of Rafael Van der Vaart who has come out of the blocks flying and seems determined to score or create a goal every time he gets the ball.

West Ham have been unable to push on from last year, not helped by a loss of form by Carlton Cole. There were rumours that Liverpool failed with an 11th hour bid for the England striker before the last transfer window closed - if he doesn’t have his head in the game, they are likely to continue to struggle.

Chelsea are surging forward, they have to be favourites to win the league this year. They have looked very impressive, lots of goals and a solid back line.

Much was made of Arsenal’s showing at Manchester City, and while it was impressive, the sending off of Deryk Boyata less than 5 minutes in made the process a lot easier. Having said that Almunia will now surely not walk back into this team, and they pulled of this feat without Jack Wilshere, their star performer this year.

Arsenal’s inability to beat the top teams has been the major factor behind those 4 trophyless seasons. But how often has the Arsenal first team been involved? They are not a team who picks up a knock and misses a couple of games. If an Arsenal player gets injured they seem to miss months. Even this week the first choice centre backs were missing.
City have not responded to that loss, going down at Wolves. As soon as their form dipped questions surrounding the temperament, the egos, the wages etc were bound to follow. But on field arguments, coupled with rumours of some behind closed doors incidents will have the blue half of Manchester a little worried.

Special mention has to be reserved for West Brom, who until a few days ago sat fourth. There is still long way to go, but they look more like a Premiership team, rather than a championship outfit hanging on. There are a number of clubs looking over their shoulder and this season looks to be two tiered. Anyone in the top half seems capable of beating any of the others, and everyone in the bottom half is more than capable of getting relegated.

Hopefully next month the back page headlines will not be dominated by money issues.