It was supposed to be the game that would rekindle memories of Bobby Moore, 25 years on from the death of the World Cup winning captain. Alas, it’s a game whose own memories will be rekindled in the future, for all the wrong reasons. A seeming siege on the directors box, various pitch invasions, alleged assault on stewards amidst a 3-0 home loss emphasised the point, that all is far from well at West Ham United.

‘Every time we lose we and the board get a lot of stick. It seemed today that the fans had had enough’ said club captain Mark Noble afterwards, who was in the spotlight for an altercation with a fan who had stormed onto the pitch after the Hammers fell behind to Burnley. ‘I’m a West Ham fan and I’ve always protected the club. If someone approaches me, I’ll protect myself’.

In terms of protection, the ones who needed it the most were the West Ham owners, as David Gold and David Sullivan had to be escorted out of the stadium in the 86th minute, not long after fans aimed a lot of distaste at the director’s box. ‘They wanted to show their emotion’ added Noble. ‘When fans come to the game with the hump, they know how to show their emotions’. ‘The atmosphere was horrible. We know a lot of it isn’t aimed at the players, but we have to be man enough to play in that atmosphere’.

And the atmosphere at the London stadium has rarely been pleasant ever since the move from the Boleyn Ground in 2016, there’s been enough stadium unrest on that ground that has generated news. The animosity of the supporters, building up to this weekend, has been evident for a while, not least since what was viewed as a disappointing January transfer activity at the club. The Irons came into this game with Burnley on the back successive 4-1 away defeats, but did have a decent first half, both off the pitch and on it. ‘I thought we played well in the first half, had two great chances and probably should have been in front at halftime’ said manager David Moyes. ‘The first goal was always going to be crucial today, whoever got it’.

And it did prove crucial, as after Ashley Barnes put Burnley in front in the 66th minute, it barely took much time before the little kerfuffle between Noble and the West Ham pitch invader, right after a female steward was knocked to the ground. Four minutes later, West Ham went two down, and another pitch invader came on, this time with a corner flag. Then a third, and further incursions, by then the co-chairmen had been taken out of the ground, but not without hearing chants of ‘You’ve destroyed our fucking club’, ‘We’re not West Ham anymore’, and ‘it’s all lies, lies, lies’ among others.

‘We massively have to stick together. If anything now, I’d say to the supporters, I’ll do everything I can for the players…’ said Moyes. With the fans now well on their backs, survival would be a less straightforward. Survival, a term that definitely wasn’t on the team’s minds after the move to this stadium, that’s supposed to signal progress, and the season that preceded it. The future indeed.

Two for Two for Burnley

Once focus veers away from West Ham and their mutiny for a moment, it’ll be worth pointing out that Burnley have now mustered successive wins, having sought a first win of the calendar as late as last week. Now on 43 points, and three points clear of eighth-placed Leicester; while returning striker Chris Wood now has three goals in two games.

Rashford for United on Derby Day

13th minute at Old Trafford. David de Gea goal-kick. Romelu Lukaku beats Dejan Lovren to the ball. Marcus Rashford gets in front of Trent Alexander-Arnold, cuts inside and fires a superb shot past Loris Karius and into the top corner to put Manchester United ahead. 24th minute. De Gea with another goal-kick. Lukaku beats Lovren to the ball again. Rashford, following a little melee in the box, fires an effort which deflects in off Alexander-Arnold. From them on it was a masterpiece in defending from the Red Devils, especially the returning Eric Bailly, his inexplicable own goal aside, as they held on for a precious league win, to keep them firmly in second place. For Liverpool, it’s now eight league games without beating United. It was a subdued performance- to say the least- from their front three; Jurgen Klopp’s men drop to fifth.


  • Three goals. Three points. 13th spot. It was a confident showing from Newcastle as they routed relegation rivals Southampton, and the Magpies are now on 32 points. The Saints, meanwhile, stay in 17th place, and a Monday night win for Stoke will see Mauricio Pellegrino’s side drop into the red zone.
  • It was a show of character from Tottenham, as four days after European elimination at the hands of Juventus, Spurs came from behind to notch a 4-1 win at Bournemouth. Injuries to Harry Kane and perhaps Dele Alli might well be an inconvenience, but it was another goal-scoring outing from Son Heung-Min; the Korean has five goals in three games.
  • Speaking of show of character, it was three and easy for Arsenal, who followed up their win in Milan with a romping of Watford at the Emirates. A crowd that needed rallying certainly commended as the Gunners fired on all cylinders, Mesut Ozil in particular, but the most memorable fact would probably be a 200th clean sheet for Petr Cech. The first ever Premier League shot-stopper to reach that figure, the Czech veteran also saved a penalty, for the first time in the Premier League in 15 attempts. There was no such joy for Watford skipper Troy Deeney, victim of Cech’s penalty save, who, back in the reverse fixture in October, accused the Gunners defence of lacking cojones, and on this occasion was to listen to chants of ‘what’s the score’ from the home crowd.


West Ham 0-3 Burnley

Huddersfield 0-0 Swansea

Newcastle 3-0 Southampton

Everton 2-0 Brighton

Chelsea 2-1 Crystal Palace

Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool

West Bro 1-4 Leicester

Bournemouth 1-4 Tottenham

Arsenal 3-0 Watford

Monday Night Football: Stoke v Manchester City

Published in International Watch

With City having over seven first team players ruled out for the 1-1 draw against Burnley last Saturday, Guardiola named only six players on the substitute bench for the game - and that made Garry Neville to refer to the City boss as a ‘joke.’

Though the City U-23 team had a match on Friday night, the former United defender argued that Guardiola should have featured a youth team player on the bench on Saturday.

Neville claimed the academy manager would have felt he was wasting his time at the club.

And at his pre-match conference for the tie against Leicester City, Guardiola said he chose not to name an academy player as his seventh substitute at the Turf Moor because City Under-23 had a game the previous night and he never wanted to upset their plans.

Guardiola said Neville should know about his decision because he was a manager for “a short time”, a reference to Neville’s four months spell at Valencia.

Guardiola said: “This guy {Neville}, the pundit, he has to know my job is serious, it’s not a joke, never is it a joke.

“It’s so serious, and he should know that because he was a manager for a short time.”

Neville has been at the centre of some funny commentaries recently – the 42-year-old last week also said that Karius was at fault as the Liverpool keeper should have done more to save the Wanyama’s strike in Liverpool 2-2 draw at Anfield last Sunday

But what a clap back from Pep! How that lasts is left to be seen.

Published in International Watch

It’s almost impossible, almost criminal in fact, to mention the FA Cup and not talk about its reputation for delivering shocks. Where else would you find a squad of part-timers and next-to-nobodies go full throttle against a team of superstars and come out on top? That teams don’t read the script has become the script of this competition, hence the prestige with which they revere it.

These days, though, the question is, do shocks really happen? That seems like a rather daft question: after all Lincoln City (from non-league) got to the last eight last season, beating Premier League Burnley on the way, the same season when League One side Millwall triumphed over then-Premier League champions Leicester City, and Championship struggling Wolverhampton Wanderers won at mighty Liverpool. Heck just three weeks ago, League Two’s Newport knocked out Leeds- two leagues above them- and Nottingham Forest were too much for Arsenal. But excuses keep popping up for most of those games, Burnley and Leicester would have been said to be relieved of the burden of an extra leg-tiring and wearing competition as they fought to survive in the Premier League, Liverpool were supposedly left to battle to keep their top four spot intact, while Arsenal’s loss at the City at the City Ground earlier this year, generated more headlines on the lacklustre squad and the future of manager Arsene Wenger than the Forest victory.

And over the years, it has kept happening. For almost a decade, of the three teams that get promoted from the Championship to the Premier League, only two have made it past the Fourth Round of the FA Cup (Hull City in 2016 and Huddersfield last season), both of which got promoted via the play-offs. For the rest, it has seemed like a case of ‘put it aside, we have much bigger business to attend to’. Arsenal have won the competition in three of the past four seasons, but before the run started, Wenger had emphasised the importance of finishing in the top four over lifting the country’s most prestigious, but least financially rewarding, competition. Wenger’s stance was echoed by Paul Lambert, then Aston Villa, who prioritised survival, while in 2014, Sam Allardyce fielded a weakened West Ham XI that was trounced 5-0 at Nottingham Forest.

So it was no surprise to hear David Moyes, current West Ham manager, prioritise league safety over the cup. Speaking about the fate of the Hammers upcoming opponents, Wigan, the Scot found it ‘a strange thing that they won the FA Cup and were relegated five years ago’. If you look back and ask Wigan if they’d rather have won the cup or stayed in the Premier League, I think their people would have rather stayed in the Premier League’. With West Ham facing a crucial home game against Crystal Palace on Tuesday after this, it’s clear what the target is for Moyes.

And who could blame him, or any of the managers treating this competition more of a burden than a chance of glory, with the financial benefits of getting to or staying in the Premier League ludicrously overwhelming. Wigan had their day in the spotlight following that FA Cup triumph over Manchester City at Wembley, but three days later they would lose their Premier League status. The following season they got to the Semis, and lost in the Championship play-offs, and they’ve suffered two further relegations since. Surely the Latics fans would have wondered what might have been if they hadn’t made it that far that season, how their fortunes might have been, if they hadn’t (ironically) won big on May the Fifth of 2013.

With Yeovil Town hosting Manchester United this weekend, alongside games involving Newport and Tottenham and Cardiff against Manchester City, there’s room for shocks. But with City fighting on four fronts (what seems like a ready-to-use excuse should they get knocked out of one), Cardiff having an eye on top-flight promotion, Yeovil battling to survive in League Two and Tottenham seeking to maintain their top four chase in the league, will there really be shocks, or simply, no matter the end result, fixtures to get out of the way?



Published in International Watch

They say the new season is akin to the first day of school, there’s that student/club that looks renewed, sporting a new, defiant look, while there’s the one who never wanted summer to end, the one who looks the same, and the one who looks roaring to go, among others.

There’s a touch of optimism from even the biggest cynic at the beginning, but the giant dose of reality comes in form of the mid-term, where your slackness and laxity is confirmed (okay this is getting a bit… just get on with it).

So, how well have the Premier League sides done so far, the tops, the nearly there, the nearly there but won’t be there, all the way to the bottom of the barrel. And there will be grades of course, not like they matter in the real world or anything:



The ever-growing, or rather never-ending conundrum, it’s been another season of swinging one way and the other, the tone of which was perfectly set with their opening game, that 4-3 win against Leicester. Sixth place, 21 points off the top, definitely doesn’t read well (although that’s more to do with the leaders themselves). One point from the Champions League spot, and into the League Cup semis is a cause for optimism. They haven’t done badly in the UEFA Europa League either.

Would they have taken this in August: Two places and a point off the top four and into the last four of a domestic cup, perhaps. Their home form has been impressive as well, although they’ll look at the manner of some of their five league defeats with disappointment.

Top performer: Hector Bellerin has had some good patches, but not quite consistent enough, whatever Mesut Ozil does will be met by ‘let’s see if he can do it again so soon’, Alexandre Lacazette has eight league goals and hasn’t done too bad. But it might just be Sead Kolasinac. Even though the Bosnian has tailed off a bit lately, he announced himself with that late equaliser against Chelsea in the Community Shield, and has grown to be something of a fans favourite.

Should do better: Aaron Ramsey hasn’t offered consistency this season, while Alexis Sanchez has spent the half-season like someone stopped from leaving. The backline is still a worry, the loss of concentration at the centre of the defence isn’t worthy of praise, and Petr Cech in goal has barely covered himself in glory.

Grade: C



Another season, another stumbling first half, as Eddie Howe put it, it’s ‘only the expectations that have changed’. But the Cherries are in the bottom three at Christmas for the first time since promotion two years ago, looking a bit caught in the middle of continuing being adventurous and trying to evolve in terms of defending. Improvement is imperative.

Would they have taken this in August: Probably not, the fans wouldn’t have predicted a storming season at the start, but they would have been at least expecting to be above the relegation zone. The supporters are a patient bunch, though, and there could be quiet optimism that they’d come out looking good by spring.

Top performer: Nathan Ake started the season in indifferent form but has been showing Bournemouth why they wanted, while goalkeeper Asmir Begovic has been an undoubted upgrade on Artur Boruc.

Should do better: Despite scoring twice as recently as at Crystal Palace, one of which was an absolute howitzer, Jermain Defoe will surely feel like he can do more. Compared to Jordon Ibe, however, he has moved mountains.

Grade: D



Five points clear of the drop zone at Christmas, it’s fair to say the Seagulls’ first ever Premier League season hasn’t been bad. They’ve only lost twice at home all season, against Manchester City and Liverpool, and are sitting pretty(ish) in 12th.

Would they have taken this in August: Clear of the drop zone was the key aim. The distance would have mattered little, that they’re only a point off the top half is a cause for delirium.

Top performer: The defensive pairing of Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy have been a hit, despite the latter having mustered three own goals so far, while in goal Mat Ryan has shaken off his shaky start. Glenn Murray has also proven quite reliable up front, but no one is more influential than playmaker Pascal Gross, the German has four goals and five assists so far. At some point he was involved in all of Brighton’s league goals, and whether or not they stay up, you fear for the Seagulls holding on to him come next summer.

Should do better: Huh, this is a tricky one. Brighton have been a truly collective machine so far, it’s quite hard to point out anyone and say they’ve fallen short. Perhaps Anthony Knockaert, he hasn’t quite produced the kind of flair that he showed last term. Then again that was in the Championship, the lack of flair also owes to the gameplan and the Frenchman has more than contributed to the side in terms of hard work, but let’s go with him.

Grade: B



This season’s fairy-tale side, despite losing key men in the summer, the Clarets lie three points away from fourth spot. Much was made of their shoddy away form last term, but they’ve lost less games away than at home this season, taking points off Liverpool, Tottenham, and Chelsea. Sean Dyche still continues to be ignored by the bigger sides, music to the ears of Burnley.

Would they have taken this is August: Are you kidding? Lost their best defender in the summer, their goalkeeper to injury early on, and a key midfielder earlier this month (Robbie Brady), yet the Clarets have kicked ‘second season syndrome’ in the jaw.

Top performer: The whole team plus Sean Dyche and the fans? Well to point out a few players, James Tarkowski has been rock-solid at the back, Nick Pope has proved a more than valuable deputy for Tom Heaton in goal, Jack Cork looks like a steal from Swansea, even Ashley Barnes and Kevin Long have contributed their fair share.

Should do better: Nothing to see here, people. Move along.

Grade: A+



They were in crisis when they lost on the opening day against Burnley, they were defiant at Tottenham the following weekend. They were in crisis when they lost at Crystal Palace in early October, they were defiant when they beat Manchester United in November. That’s been the story of Chelsea season so far, seemingly one defeat away from turmoil, no matter what happens. Antonio Conte had conceded the title a few weeks ago after defeat at West Ham, the champions have even fallen two further points behind (the gap to Manchester City is 16).

Would they have taken this in August: With preparations for the season constantly hampered by Conte clamouring for more players, lying in third place and into the next round of the UEFA Champions League following a rather tough group, as well as League Cup progress, isn’t quite crisis material. Then again, with Chelsea, it’s go big or go home.

Top performer: Andreas Christensen has emerged a top class defender after loan spells in Germany, even managing to keep Gary Cahill out of the side, while Thibaut Courtois still displays class, as does his fellow Belgian Eden Hazard. Cesar Azpilicueta is still their most consistent performer, but the team just doesn’t seem the same without Ngolo Kante.

Should do better: Michy Batshuayi hasn’t really covered himself in glory, although Conte choosing to go with a false nine whenever Alvaro Morata is unavailable is an indication of how much (little) faith he has in the Belgian. Tiemoue Bakayoko started slowly, but has been improving as the weeks go by, while Davide Zappacosta’s deliveries on the wing make his goal against Qarabag in September seem like a giant miscue.

Grade: B-


Crystal Palace

The aim in the summer was simple, long-term planning, as after Sam Allardyce announced his departure and subsequent retirement (snigger here), Crystal Palace’s decision to hire Frank de Boer with a plan of tiki-taka football was seen as a bold but commendable move. But after just four league games, Steve Parish and co. saw the Palacelona project as an ill-fated idea, realised Jason Puncheon couldn’t stroke it like Andres Iniesta, and with four league defeats without scoring, De Boer’s tenure at Inter comparatively seemed like a Captain Davy Jones journey, the long-term plan was shoved out. There was no bigger indication of that other than the appointment of 70-year-old Roy Hodgson, but to Roy’s credit, the Eagles have improved of late, and are unbeaten in eight games. That that run can only see them as high as 16th, is testament to how their early season form was. Put it this way, Bakary Sako had no competitor for the club’s Goal of the Month award in September.

Would they have taken this in August: With the aim initially a long term plan, 16th place might be understandable given de Boer’s methods were always going to take time. The fact that De Boer is now a distant memory and the manner in which their season has gone would be the disappointment. But the fans would have bitten your hand off for 16th spot had you offered it to them in October.

Top performer: Ruben Loftus-Cheek has done relatively well in his loan spell from Chelsea, even earning an England call up, but the star is undoubtedly Wilfred Zaha. It doesn’t take a genius to see how much the Eagles improved once the Ivorian international returned from injury.

Should do better: Christian Benteke has finally ended his goal drought, but hasn’t had the best season, Jason Puncheon has under-performed, while goalie Wayne Hennessey still can’t improve. Has anyone seen Connor Wickham?

Grade: D-



Big-money summer, Everton looked like one to watch for this season. But for the first four months, watching them was a sorry sight, the constant personnel and tactical shuffling, and with the side edging towards the bottom three, Ronald Koeman was dismissed in October. Things barely improved under David Unsworth, but the arrival of formerly retired Sam Allardyce has brought about new life, they’re still unbeaten under the veteran manager, and have moved from 17th to ninth.

Would they have taken this in August: Nope, not a chance. For a side that harboured ambitions of pushing the top six sides far, six points from seventh spot is not the best return at Christmas, even worse when you consider the side occupying that spot is Burnley, who sold arguably their best player Michael Keane to the Toffees.

Top performer: Wayne Rooney has bagged 10 league goals this season, and has been a relative hit since his return from Manchester United, but there’s no better performer in an Everton shirt this season than Jordan Pickford. Even in Everton’s darkest times, the goalie still shown, he’s already received an England cap in recognition of his performances, surely would be the first of many. Dominic Calvert-Lewin is also worth a mention.

Should do better: Step forward a few new signings. Keane hasn’t quite hit the heights that was expected in the summer, while Sandro Ramirez and Davy Klaassen haven’t had the best start to their Everton careers, and seem like victims of a change in manager. Kevin Mirallas has also underperformed, once too often.

Grade: D-



It’s still quite hard to imagine the Terriers in the top flight, and that they’re only outside the top half on goal difference is another fairy tale of its own. Six wins already, including that famous one over Manchester United, David Wagner and his side aren’t reading the script.

Would have taken this in August: Some fans are still coming to terms with being in the Premier League, let alone in 11th!

Top performer: Jonas Lossl has been a pair of safe hands in goal, see his performance against West Brom for evidence, while last season’s key men in Aaron Mooy and Christopher Schindler have also been impressive. But perhaps their star of this campaign is Schindler’s defensive partner Matthias ‘Zanka’ Jorgensen, the Dane has been solid at the heart of the defence, his decision to buy drinks for the travelling fans for the game at Southampton only enhances his reputation with the Huddersfield faithful.

Should do better: Tom Ince has struggled for creativity since his move from Derby County.

Grade: B+



A thrilling start saw them lose at Arsenal, but one win in their first eight games saw Craig Shakespeare given the boot, notwithstanding the magnitude of sides they had to face in that time. The appointment of Claude Puel wasn’t met with welcome mats by many, but the Foxes have improved ever since, they’ve only lost twice under the Frenchman, and lie in eighth place.

Would they have taken this in August: Top half and only five points from a European place, no doubt. Only penalties stopped from making the semis of the League Cup

Top performer: Kasper Schmeichel still oozes assurance and consistency, while Riyad Mahrez has found his feet after a slow start to the season. Harry Maguire has been an outstanding signing from Hull, and Wilfred Ndidi, red card for simulation aside, has done his growing reputation no harm, but Jamie Vardy is still the main man. Demarai Gray also deserves credit.

Should do better: The Foxes haven’t really had terrible performers so far, but for 25 million, surely more was expected from Kelechi Iheanacho.

Grade: B



For all the malaise that seems to follow Liverpool this season, they have only lost twice all-campaign, only Manchester City have lost fewer (okay none). The manner of those defeats though, is the cause for discomfort, that ever-fidgety backline has also been the chief reason for eight draws already this season, no side in the top half has more. Still, top four at this stage is no mean feat.

Would they have taken this in August: Top four and winners of their Champions League group, definitely. The hapless League Cup exit at the hands of Leicester is one to forget though.

Top performer: Members of the front four, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino have been impressive, as has Joe Gomez and a rejuvenated Alberto Moreno, but none comes close to matching Mohammed Salah. The Egyptian has been outstanding for both club and country, helping his nation to a first World Cup in 28 years, and has 21 goals for Liverpool this season. From the wing! In December!

Should do better: Surprise, surprise, the defence. Sadio Mane’s form has also nosedived lately. Save some finger pointing for Simon Mignolet in goal as well.


Grade: B




Published in International Watch

‘Amazing isn’t it? That’s what you work hard for on the training ground and luckily enough it paid off’ said Ashley Barnes after his late goal had helped Burnley see off Stoke, taking the Clarets to sixth place. That victory was their fourth in five games and ninth all season, and they’re only outside the top four on goal difference.

Yes. Burnley, who lost key forward and their best defender in the summer without a replacement, lost their goalkeeper and captain early in the season, and recently lost a key midfielder for the entire season in Robbie Brady are only a hair’s breadth of a Champions League spot. After the kind of summer they had, sixth from bottom would be commendable, not to talk of this. Yet Sean Dyche wasn’t quite thrilled with the team’s performance on Tuesday. ‘We were a bit below par, especially in the first half’ said the manager. ‘So we had to dig in there and do all the ugly details and finally found a moment of true quality’.

That Dyche wasn’t so pleased with the showing speaks a lot for their progress this season, they already have double the number of away points they had last season, only the champions Chelsea and the leaders Manchester City have travelled better, and they even have a better home record than the champions. Eight clean sheets, with a not-so stable backline (Charlie Taylor only made his debut in this game), it doesn’t look like a flash in the pan.

‘We’ve all earned the right to enjoy it’ Dyche added. ‘And I do because we really had to find a different way to win it tonight and work to grind it out.’ They’ve ground out two wins in the space of four days, a show of resilience if anything. Then again, Dyche isn’t one to get carried away, and says the enjoyment ‘will be parked on Thursday’ as the focus switches to the ‘next game’, as it always does.

The next game is against Brighton. Win that and they could well be in the top four. Before turning their attentions to the next game. And the next. And the next.


  • It was hard to picture any sort of resistance that Swansea would come up with against Manchester City, particularly when they went behind. David Silva continued his scoring run, bagging a double, Sergio Aguero maintained his impressive away spree this season. It was a 15th league win in a row, a new record. Their goal difference column is still higher than the goals scored by the rest. We’re not even surprised anymore.
  • Looks like the days of West Ham laying the welcome mat for opponents at the London Stadium before proceeding to serve them with a few goals are coming to an end, as a vociferous crowd was on to watch another solid performance earn the hosts a point against Arsenal. They could have had more, Marko Arnautovic saw his header (correctly) chalked off for offside in the first half, while Javier Hernandez hit the woodwork late on. They have had two clean sheets in a row, and although they’re still in the bottom three, optimism is creeping back into the East London camp.
  • Late in the game, crawling towards stoppage time, Watford hold a lead against Crystal Palace. Then Tom Cleverley lunges into a tackle, receives his marching orders, and by the third minute of added time, Watford have gone from one-nil up to 2-1 down. Another game where the Hornets suffered a narrow defeat. Another game where they had a man sent off. The loss of Richarlison to injury is no means to party either.
  • For Southampton, it seemed rather odd as they watched Leicester under Claude Puel produce some positive football, and bagging four goals, the kind of football the Saints wanted when they ridded themselves of Puel in the summer. Leicester have won four in a row, five in eight since Puel arrived, scoring 14 times. They’re eight points and three places above their opponents.


Swansea 0-4 Manchester City

Burnley 1-0 Stoke

West Ham 0-0 Arsenal

Huddersfield 1-3 Chelsea

Crystal Palace 2-1 Watford

Manchester United 1-0 Bournemouth

Tottenham 2-0 Brighton

Liverpool 0-0 West Brom

Southampton 1-4 Leicester

Newcastle 0-1 Everton

Published in International Watch

On a day where Everton had all but sealed the deal to appoint Sam Allardyce as their new manager, a man they overlooked, Sean Dyche, steered his team to another win, one that sees them move up to sixth place.

The win at Bournemouth is their fourth in five games, and even the odd game out was the narrow and controversial defeat at home to Arsenal on Sunday. They’ve conceded just twice in that run, while their away victory at the Vitality stadium is their fourth this season, three more than the whole of the last campaign.

It was a deserved win as well, a positive first half where Chris Wood headed an attempt at the post, and saw another effort saved by Asmir Begovic ended with the Clarets going a goal up, Wood tucking home from close range eight minutes from halftime after Robbie Brady’s effort deflected off Steve Cook’s feet and into his path.

But Brady would steal the spotlight 20 minutes after the break, cutting inside Andrew Surman, before unleashing a beauty of a shot into the top corner from 20 yards. Burnley were the dominant side here, and you couldn’t begrudge the away fans when they were singing ‘we’re all going on a European tour’, as, despite Josh King pulling one back for the hosts, the result takes them to sixth place, four points behind fourth place, while Bournemouth conceded for the first time in November, as Eddie Howe got a sour present for his 40th birthday.

Tipped by many to go down following the losses of key men at both ends in Andre Gray and Michael Keane, as well as the potentials of ‘second season syndrome’, Dyche has taken his team to unfancied heights, his team will start the final month of 2017 in a Europa League spot. Still, the bigger sides continue to ignore him, as Everton have shown in appointing Allardyce, a 64-year-old who had previously lamented the limited opportunities given to young British managers.

Burnley wouldn’t mind Sam’s double-standards, they’ll gladly keep their man.

Young at the Double at Vicarage

Jose Mourinho looked stupefied, turning like he was almost trying to tell someone ‘did you see that?’. Ashley Young was wheeling away in celebration after scoring his second, a sublime free-kick that left Watford goalie Heurelho Gomes motionless. Five minutes ago, he had fired in a driven shot to beat Gomes at his nearpost, then Anthony Martial added another for Manchester United after Young’s second. Troy Deeney and Abdoulaye Doucoure would cut the gap to 2-3, but Jesse Lingard capped off a wonderful display with United’s fourth. Mourinho said United should have been ‘smoking cigars’ at three up, but ultimately it’s the win that counts. It did dispel two baseless press theories over the Red Devils though; that they’re boring and can’t attack.


  • Another game, another winless outcome. Spurs are sliding down fast. They’ve gone from third at the start of the month to seventh at the end of it. Little wonder Mauricio Pochettino slammed his side’s attitude.
  • 95 minutes. Manchester City were being held at home to Southampton. They had won 11 in a row in the league so far, and that streak looked like coming to an end. Then Kevin de Bruyne laid the ball off to Raheem Sterling. A right-footed curler, a touchline mayhem, and a final whistle later, City maintain their eight-point gap.
  • It was almost like Erik Pieters had Mohammed Salah in his Fantasy Premier League side as he gave that ill-advised back pass, and the Egyptian found the net with ease. That was Salah’s 11th goal of the season, as he had taken his 10th, just moments earlier, with aplomb. The travelling Liverpool fans then began with ‘how Shit can you be?  We’re keeping a clean sheet ‘. If evidence of Stoke’s misses in this game is taken into account (yes Mame Biram Diouf, you)  then very. 
  • And Everton marked the impending appointment of Allardyce with a demolition of West Ham and former manager David Moyes, Wayne Rooney bagging a treble, with his third a thing of beauty. But no, it’s not better than David Beckham’s.


Bournemouth 1-2 Burnley

Chelsea 1-0 Swansea

Leicester 2-1 Tottenham

Arsenal 5-0 Huddersfield

Stoke 0-3 Liverpool

Manchester City 2-1 Southampton

Watford 2-4 Manchester United

Everton 4-0 West Ham

West Brom 2-2 Newcastle

Brighton 0-0 Crystal Palace


Published in International Watch


We’ve been here before. Not just once. These days there always seems to be a post-mortem once Arsenal are done with an away trip to the Premier League ‘big boys’, and this was no different. Four goals conceded, no shots on target, looking at sea throughout the encounter. Yet the most immediate, and perhaps most accurate, conclusion was that it should have been a lot worse. Although it would be ridiculously unfair to overlook how scintillating and irresistible Liverpool were, the biggest talking point would always be Arsene Wenger’s side’s capitulation, not for the first time in recent years under the Frenchman’s stewardship. There had been an 8-2 shellacking to Manchester United in 2011, a 6-0 humbling at Chelsea in 2014, the same year in which they were thumped at Anfield as well, by a difference of four goals. But could this be the most damaging? With players still seeking the exit door, it might be. Want-away men Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alexis Sanchez- making his first appearance of the season- were shown no reasons why it was worth hanging around, although they hardly made a case for themselves either, while another player with an uncertain future, Mesut Ozil’s most notable act of the match was being on the brink of tears after the final whistle.

The return of Sanchez, which had been arguably the headline in the build-up to the game all week, was seen as a boost to the Gunners, but Wenger left fans scratching their heads with his decision to drop record-buy Alexander Lacazette on the bench. Jurgen Klopp made his own bizarre decision for the hosts, choosing to leave out Simon Mignolet and put Loris Karius in goal- the German’s first league appearance since December- citing that he was simply giving the Belgian a ‘rest’, but on the looks of it, he could have even given Mignolet a rest by putting him in the game. Liverpool began the game well on top, and only a combination of not-so good finishing from their winger Mohammed Salah and a good save from opposing goalkeeper Petr Cech prevented them from going in front inside 10 minutes. But Cech could do nothing on 17 minutes, when Joe Gomez’s inch-perfect cross was met by Roberto Firmino to give the hosts a merited lead. Cech could have done nothing, but the Arsenal defence should have done something. Instead, despite the return of skipper Laurent Koscielny, they stood almost in unison to watch Firmino leap to glance home the opener. Five minutes before the break, it was two, a swift Liverpool counter-attack ended with Sadio Mane scoring a very Sadio Mane goal, his third strike in as many league games. Before then, the game had seen Salah denied by Cech once again, then the linesman’s flag, and a rather comical back-heel by Gunners midfielder Granit Xhaka in front of his own goal which gave away a corner. The visitors had to improve after the break, and for about 10 minutes after the restart it looked like they did, until they won a corner on 57 minutes. Then events transpired, Salah robbed a sloppy Hector Bellerin around the halfway line, and the Egyptian ran half the length of the pitch before finishing with deadly assurance. All that was left was for Daniel Sturridge to come on and score his first goal of the season within two minutes of his entrance, crowning the Reds’ perfect day.

The traveling fans- well those that remained- watched in horror; this is not the first time in recent years they had been subjected to such humiliating conditions. And you wouldn’t begrudge them wondering whether this wouldn’t be the last.


Football’s Irksome Rule Strikes Again

97th minute at the Goldsands stadium, Manchester City are being held away at Bournemouth, much to their angst. Then Raheem Sterling scores the latest of late winners and runs into the clutch of the away fans. Such a nice and heart-warming moment, until Sterling returns to the pitch and is shown a second yellow card for over-elaborate celebrations by referee Mike Dean. The irritating rule remains, and in this case it begs two questions. First, the most obvious and recurring one, why are players not allowed to celebrate with the fans who chant their names and pay their wages? Second, why was Sterling the only one cautioned when clearly a herd of City players followed him into the crowd? The Englishman will be suspended for the game against his former club Liverpool, after the International break; the unsavoury end overshadowed a decent game, which had an absolute howitzer from Bournemouth’s Charlie Daniels to open the scoring. The Cherries are still waiting for their first point of the season, although the headlines of this game were the dismissal of Sterling, some fans unrest, and a quite interesting conversation between Sergio Aguero and a Matchday steward.



Leicester City proved to be the biggest test so far, but Manchester United still passed it. They had to wait for the breakthrough, and even missed a penalty, as it looked like being a throwback to one of many games at Old Trafford last season, but eventually the Red Devils found a way past the Foxes. Jose Mourinho’s side are three for three so far; they’ve scored 10 times, and have conceded 10 goals less.

Spurs still can’t get any joy at Wembley. It looked like they would manage to steal three points in a hard-fought and frustrating afternoon against Burnley, until the Clarets’ new boy Chris Wood struck gold for the visitors in the 92nd minute. Another sickening late collapse for the Lilywhites, who need to sort out that national stadium itch. And soon; with Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund still to come there.

In the battle of the unrests, Newcastle saw off West Ham with three unreplied goals on Saturday afternoon. It was a more than welcome relief for Rafa Benitez and the Toon, while West Ham are supposedly going to review manager Slaven Bilic’s position during the week, the Hammers lie bottom, pointless and with the worst defence in the league.

Speaking of zero points, Crystal Palace are also in that category, having suffered another home loss, this time to Swansea. The Eagles are yet to even score a league goal under new gaffer Frank de Boer; that philosophy will take a while.



Liverpool 4-0 Arsenal

Manchester United 2-0 Leicester

West Brom 1-1 Stoke

Chelsea 2-0 Everton

Bournemouth 1-2 Man City

Newcastle 3-0 West Ham

Watford 0-0 Brighton

Tottenham 1-1 Burnley

Crystal Palace 0-2 Swansea

Huddersfield 0-0 Southampton

Published in International Watch

So they meet once again, Liverpool and Arsenal, having served up so many classics, particularly at Anfield, come face-to-face for the umpteenth time in Merseyside. For Jurgen Klopp’s men, it's a case of continuing their momentum after three straight wins, two of which sealed Champions League group stage qualification, an opportunity they had gotten by pipping Arsenal to fourth spot last term. As for the Gunners, the aim is an immediate response after suffering defeat at Stoke last weekend.  Arsene Wenger has said Alexis Sanchez will be fit for the game; the Chilean, who's been clamouring for a move away from the Emirates, surprisingly started from the bench the last time these two met (a 3-1 Liverpool win March), but it would be of little surprise if his name is not in the starting teamsheet on this occasion. This is a fixture that hardly wants for drama, or goals- there's been 20 of it in the last four Anfield meetings- and though it might be early in the season, there's already a lot riding on this game, particularly considering that Liverpool won at the Emirates on the opening day of the previous campaign and finished above the Gunners by s solitary point. The stakes are high on this one. They always are.



It's probably too early in the season to talk about a crisis, but Newcastle and West Ham clash this weekend aiming to get their seasons up and running; you can almost say both Uniteds are lodged in disharmony. At least one side is guaranteed to their first points(s) on the board, but if the spoils aren't shared the worries are unlikely to ease for the losing side. 



Spurs welcome Burnley to the national stadium, in what should be a record Premier League crowd, although Mauricio Pochettino and his side hope the game will be memorable for another reason.  They need to get that Wembley monkey off their backs real soon, and while talk of a stadium curse might be overblown, failure to beat the Clarets won't bode well.



Another big test: Everton visit the champions on Sunday, another examination of their new-look Toffees' credentials after a solid point at Manchester City last Monday. Chelsea got back on track at Tottenham last weekend and will be looking for that first home win.

Aspiring champions v dethroned champions: Two wins. Eight goals scored. None conceded.  United look the business so far and will only be boosted by Zlatan Ibrahimovic re-signing for the club. They are likely to face their toughest test yet, when Leicester visit the Theatre of Dreams. The Foxes are certain to have more attacking impetus than United's previous opponents. Craig Shakespeare's team have scored five goals in their first two games.



Liverpool v Arsenal

Man Utd v Leicester

Bournemouth v Man City

Chelsea v Everton

Tottenham v Burnley

Newcastle v West Ham

Watford v Brighton

Huddersfield v Southampton

Crystal Palace v Swansea

West Brom v Stoke

Published in International Watch


By Kunle Ajao

Hugo Lloris was chock-full of disappointment, feeling a sense of utter frustration having allowed Marcos Alonso’s shot to squirm under him and into the net with three minutes left. Spurs had fought hard to level matters, spending virtually the entire game on the front foot after falling behind midway through the first half, and to concede late on in such manner was a more than bitter pill to swallow, the reaction of the home fans after that moment was one of disbelieving dejection. Spurs had gone into this game with the question hanging over their heads as to whether or not they could get to grips with playing at Wembley, and what better way to answer the question right than beating the champions, who came to the national stadium without three key players, plus a continuously AWOL, sure-to-depart Diego Costa; and, as Antonio Conte had inferred pre-match, rushed Tiemoue Bakayoko into a first start for the club. But it was another man making his first Chelsea start, Alvaro Morata, who would have felt disappointed not to have headed the visitors in front early on from close range. Spurs looked a little flat in the opening 20 minutes and seemed like they needed a wakeup call. And they got one on 24 minutes, Alonso curling in a delightful free-kick beyond a jumping wall and a helpless Lloris in goal. Spurs responded well after that setback, with Chelsea more than happy to sit back and absorb what their hosts would throw at them. It felt like Mauricio Pochettino’s side were constantly tweaking the kind of siege they laid at the Blues goal, first coming up with a handful of fizzed crosses from the flanks, some of which were dealt with by David Luiz, others just racing across the face of goal; then they moved up to testing Thibaut Courtois with a few decent efforts, most of which the Chelsea shot-stopper had little trouble in dealing with. Then when the Belgian goalkeeper was finally beaten five minutes before the break, Harry Kane’s effort rebounded off the base of the post. Spurs began the second period as they ended the first, relentless pressure on the Chelsea backline, but still they had very little to show for it in terms of troubling Courtois, and could have easily conceded a second, but Willian’s shot hit the woodwork in a rare Chelsea attack. That was the Brazilian’s last significant contribution before being withdrawn alongside Morata to make way for Pedro and Michy Batshuayi. Batshuayi in particularly was under pressure to redeem himself following a not-so glamourous start to the season, but his first impact of the game wouldn’t have gone down well with the away fans. From a Christian Eriksen free-kick, the Belgian forward contrived to head the ball into his own goal with 10 minutes left, to draw the game level. Spurs had the wind in their sails and looked the likelier side to grab the winner if one was up for the taking. But events that transpired afterwards gave Spurs supporters every reason to feel like there is a Wembley curse; another rare Chelsea foray forward, Alonso’s low shot, Lloris’ error; Conte went into his usual overdrive. Chelsea had given Spurs the Wembley blues again.

Another Fourmality

You bet Manchester United fans wouldn’t worry about the pun, the bounce in and around the club showed no sign of departing at the weekend, as Swansea were the ones on the receiving end of a quartet of goals this time. It might not have seemed to be heading that way, particularly with the score still 1-0 with 10 minutes left, as the Swans defended stoutly, but after Romelu Lukaku added the second- his fourth in three games for United- the floodgates opened. Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial added the gloss on the scoreline, as they did last week. It’s the first time the Red Devils have scored four goals in successive games since April 2014.

The Stoke Test is Still a Thing!

It looked like Arsenal had finally exorcised the ghost of the Brit… Bet365 stadium following their 4-1 win there in May, which meant they arrived at the same ground feeling rather confident, particularly with Stoke and Mark Hughes under pressure, which their manager discarded as rubbish. Sparky had claimed the criticism his side had been receiving was over the top, and if this performance was anything to go by, he’s got a point. Well actually he’s got three points, an early second half goal from debutant Jese giving Stoke their first win of the season, while Arsene Wenger bemoaned his team’s ‘stupid mistakes’ and poor refereeing as the reasons for the defeat. Also, water is wet.


Six points. Four goals scored. None conceded. It looks like Huddersfield saved up enough fairy-tale fuel for more than a season. A 50th-minute strike from Aaron Mooy enough to see off Newcastle, whose manager’s case for signing new players seems to be getting more justified as the games go by.

In the weekend of flailing arms, West Ham’s record buy Marko Arnautovic decided to reshape Jack Stephens’ neck with his elbow, with his side a goal down at Southampton. He promptly received his marching and on his way off kicked out in frustration, presumably because he didn’t do as much as damage as he hoped he would. Despite the setback, the Hammers rallied from two goals down, thanks to Javier Hernandez, and were on the cusp of snatching a point when Pablo Zabaleta gave away a penalty- the second one they conceded in that game- in the 92nd minute. They still have zero points to their name.

And in the Burnley v West Brom game, with the match scoreless, substitute Hal Robson-Kanu comes on and breaks the deadlock with 15 minutes left. Robson-Kanu might have spent some of his time on the bench watching the Southampton v West Ham encounter, as minutes after scoring, he also decides to try his elbow at the neck of an opponent. Despite his sending off, West Brom held on for a second consecutive 1-0 win. Just the way Tony Pulis likes it.



Tottenham 1-2 Chelsea

Bournemouth 0-2 Watford

Burnley 0-1 West Brom

Liverpool 1-0 Crystal Palace

Swansea 0-4 Manchester United

Leicester 2-0 Brighton

Southampton 3-2 West Ham

Huddersfield 1-0 Newcastle

Stoke 1-0 Arsenal

Monday Night Football: Manchester City v Everton

Published in International Watch


How will Spurs cope with playing at Wembley?’ has been the question asked by many after it was confirmed that the Lilywhites will use the national stadium for their home games while their new stadium is being completed. The query came about following the less than stellar performances and results from Mauricio Pochettino’s side at that ground last season, which was arguably responsible for their Champions League group-stage elimination (two defeats) and their Europa League round of 32 exit to Gent, and it was where they lost the FA Cup semi-final to Chelsea. Coincidentally, it’s Chelsea who will be the first side to visit Spurs at Wembley in the Premier League, the champions making the short trip as they seek to kick-start their season, after losing their first game, a 3-2 home defeat at the hands of Burnley doing nothing to quell the malaise going on at the Blues’ camp, the Diego Costa situation still unresolved and Antonio Conte still demanding more signings. Chelsea will be without the injured Eden Hazard, suspended duo Cesc Fabregas and Gary Cahill, while they’re still sweating over the fitness of summer arrival Tiemoue Bakayoko; although Victor Moses returns for the champions, after missing the defeat last Saturday. The Blues haven’t won away at Tottenham in four games, and have just one win in 11, but those were at White Hart Lane, and Spurs’ hopes of re-creating the old ground’s atmosphere at Wembley will not have been helped by the restriction placed on ticket purchases- some 20000 tickets won’t be sold for the game. But the bigger issue is how comfortable the hosts will feel at their temporarily new home, particularly in terms of their high-pressing game, while for Chelsea it’s about avoiding talk of any sort of crisis at the club. It may be early in the season, and it may not quite be as defining, but it could be a blueprint of things to come.



First big test for two new-look teams: On Monday night Manchester City and Everton meet at the Etihad stadium, in what might be a first indication of how strong both teams are. Both sides have spent big in the transfer window, both sides won their opening games in solid if not unspectacular fashion, and both sides are aiming to make significant progress from the previous campaigns. The Toffees haven’t lost in any of their last two league games here, but they haven’t won in six either.

The most unwelcome of guests: Crystal Palace travel to Anfield on Saturday, seeking a fourth win there in succession. And they could do with it, after last weekend’s humbling against newly-promoted Huddersfield; there’s still more than a few teething problems early in the Frank de Boer era, but Liverpool are always vulnerable, as Jurgen Klopp’s men showed at Vicarage Road last weekend.

The most haunting of trips: Well it used to be, until last season, when Arsenal thumped four past Stoke at the Bet365 stadium (the name’s still terrible). The Gunners make the trip to the Midlands on Saturday evening aiming for two wins out of two in the new season, something they haven’t quite managed since the 2009/10 campaign. Stoke meanwhile need to get some points on board before the pressure on Mark Hughes- the bookies favourite to get the sack- reaches altitude.

And at Turf Moor that same day, Burnley host West Brom in what could potentially be the weekend’s most boring game. Or maybe not; both teams- who won last weekend- have shared eight goals in their last two meetings in Lancashire. Don’t bet the house on an all-action packed encounter though.




12:30: Swansea v Manchester United

15:00: Liverpool v Crystal Palace

Southampton v West Ham

Leicester v Brighton

Burnley v West Brom

Bournemouth v Watford

17:00: Stoke v Arsenal


13:30: Huddersfield v Newcastle

16:00: Tottenham v Chelsea


20:00: Manchester City v Everton

Published in International Watch

Page 1 of 2