Both the Manchester clubs have failed to deliver football that their set of fans expect from them week in week out. While Mancini has been booed off twice in his past two home games, Sir Alex has been widely criticized for his back four’s feeble displays this season. Yet the defending champions have managed to remain unbeaten in the league this season and on the other hand, United have scored at will to claim the top spot on the table – thanks to their relentless efforts and the crucial interventions from their super subs. Edin Dzeko and Javier Hernandez have been a revelation from the bench this season and they proved their value again, knocking vital winning goals for their sides this weekend. With both the sides possessing arguably the best striking duos in their starting lineups, it will be difficult, yet increasingly tempting for the managers to accommodate these two rising stars in the sides.
Unfortunate injuries, aggravating complacency, a difficult run of games and tactical ineptitude – Di Matteo has had a host of problems to deal with in the past fortnight which saw them surrender a four point lead at the top of the table. While the manager deserves all the praise to have continued backing his three playmakers behind a rather unyielding striker right from the start of the season, Di Matteo would still need to devise a pragmatic Plan B to keep his title challenge on track.
As the other top teams of the week fought back to claim important victories, Wenger’s lads faced a resilient Fulham side that came back from 2 goals down to claim a deserving point on the road. Mikel Arteta who started off brightly, creating a goal for his side, ended the game missing a penalty and being the focal figure in another disappointing evening for the home side. After all the early season hype in the media supporting Wenger’s side to have all the goods to pose a serious challenge for the league title, the last few weeks have been a reality check for the North Londoners. Inconsistency and a sheer lack of purpose from the side should worry the Frenchman, as he looks for several damage limitation options, especially at the back, to regain the lost momentum.
It’s not just the playmakers from the top sides that have been hogging the limelight this season, as Fulham’s Dimitar Berbatov and Everton’s Marouane Fellaini continued to create, score and lead their sides to victory again this weekend. The Bulgarian has now scored five times and created another three for Martin Jol’s side, while the Belgian has been credited with six goals and another three vital assists for the promising Everton unit this season. Both of them have been instrumental in holding up the play and running the scheme of things for their sides, who have been plundering goals at will this season. While Fulham have scored a total of 24 goals this season (second to only Manchester United in the league), Everton have been equally impressive with their tally of 21 goals. It’s not just their creative prowess but also their sheer presence that has been creating several problems for the opposition, and it will be interesting to see how long they could carry their sides on their shoulders.
Given the dreadful run of form some of the sides have been carrying from the start of the season, it is rather surprising that we haven’t yet seen any managerial sackings this season. While QPR, Southampton and Reading have garnered four, five, and six points, respectively, with 11 games played, the pressure of grinding out results has grown increasingly turbulent for the managers. On the other hand, we also have the likes of Martin O’ Neill at Sunderland, who has only nine points and seven goals to show, which is disappointing considering the quality of the squad. The same goes for Mark Hughes’ QPR side that looks extremely capable of picking up points on a consistent basis, yet here they are, still waiting for their first win of the season. Nigel Adkins’ Southampton remains to be a peculiar case of self-inflicting their way through to the bottom. Southampton have been promising upfront, but it’s been down to some clumsy defending that has seen them concede 29 goals in the 11 games so far – a run of form that could only be associated with a potential relegation side. Managerial changes are inevitable; maybe the owners are just biding their time before evaluating some decent replacement options.
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