It`s Going To Be A Big Weekend

We’ve all spent plenty of time staring in wonder at Chelsea’s form this season, but this weekend they finally have a test. However, Manchester City have their own problems. Plus, pressure on Liverpool…

We have all spent plenty of time staring in wonder and casting forth purple prose aplenty at Chelsea’s form thus far this season.

The stats are certainly impressive, with Carlo Ancelotti’s boys scoring more than Tottenham, Manchester City, Liverpool and Everton combined on the way to their five wins from five.

Of course, the always-looming caveat is that they’ve hardly faced the toughest opposition. Nothing harder than 11th in the Premier League last season, and two of the three promoted sides.

Now, a test. Manchester City haven’t exactly looked like a £1billion football team this season, but you can be sure they will provide a meatier challenge than Blackpool or Wigan.


The Manchester City Defence
Roberto Mancini is worried.

“We have big problems,” he said of Manchester City’s defensive worries. “I hope that Micah Richards can recover. If not I don’t know who can play left-back.”

If Richards doesn’t come through, then City’s only fit senior defenders are Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany and Kolo Toure, to face a Chelsea side who average 4.2 goals a game in the Premier League.

However, is it quite the calamity that Mancini is making it out to be? The first choice centre-half pairing is still there, and it’s a toss of a coin between Zabaleta and Richards at right-back. As for left-back, could anyone seriously say that Gareth Barry (who will probably deputise) is a significantly worse option than Wayne Bridge or a still-acclimatising Alexander Kolarov?

A makeshift defence against Chelsea isn’t ideal, but City fans should not be wimpering with fear just yet.

David Moyes
Everton have a history of starting seasons relatively slowly, but this is getting serious now.

It’s probably not quite so much the failure to collect points and goals that will concern David Moyes, but the way they have failed to collect those points and goals.

Losing away to Aston Villa and Blackburn is hardly ideal, but not calamitous. Failing to beat Wolves and Newcastle at home is rather closer to that. Going out of the League Cup is, in the wider scheme of things, not an absolute disaster, but scoring only once against a League One side is troubling, and indicative of a season in which they’ve only bagged four times in five league games. And two of those were in the mental closing stages of the United draw.

“We’ve had a few games in the Premier League where we’ve not scored enough goals and Tuesday was the same,” Moyes said on Thursday. “Our performances have not been too bad but we just can’t score.”

If it were many other club in the Premier League, there would be rumblings about an imminent sacking. Given that the admittedly rather flamboyant Bill Kenwright has proclaimed Moyes to be the best manager in the world, that seems more than unlikely. What is slightly more likely is the Scot deciding he has had enough, and resigning. The old ‘I’ve taken them as far as I can’ line.

“You are always worried when you are not getting results and I’ve been worried for a long time,” said Moyes.

Not exactly encouraging stuff.

The departure from the League Cup was bad news, not least because it eliminated Liverpool’s best chance of winning something, but also because it increased pressure on Liverpool’s next two league games.

Six points from two home matches, against Sunderland on Saturday and Blackpool next Sunday, are now absolutely crucial. Especially since the game after that is the Merseyside derby.

Only the most deluded fan expects Liverpool to challenge for the title this season, and thus few would’ve anticipated much from games against Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United. The trouble with essentially writing those games off, is that you have make absolutely sure you win against the ‘lesser’ teams to ensure the stability that should be Liverpool’s priority this season.

A few knee-jerking loons have already called for Roy Hodgson’s head, which will not happen this season unless things go seriously south. However, good, no-fuss wins are required if Hodgson wishes to keep the doubters on side.

Steven Gerrard
“What I would ask all the supporters is to trust the players and what the players are saying. I’ve been reading and listening to what they’ve been saying and they’ve all said we’ll get it right in the end – and we will.”

So said Gerrard on Thursday, after watching his understudies fail against Northampton.

The more cynical Liverpool fans would be forgiven for being slightly sick of these words. Because all too often, that’s what they are. It seems after every poor Liverpool (and England, for that matter) result, Gerrard says encouraging things to the Liverpool Echo, and the more gullible Scousers are reassured. And yet the shoddy results come around again and again.

So will they get it right in the end? By choosing to stay at Anfield, Gerrard, as the most senior of Liverpool players, has made himself responsible for dragging the rest of the team there.

Titus Bramble
“As far as Titus is concerned, the one thing he wants to do is play football. He was in training this morning. He is a resilient so-and-so.”

Steve Bruce certainly reckons Mr Bramble will be ready to face Liverpool, and while it seems slightly distasteful to be discussing his state of mind in relation to football when he is still under suspicion of such a crime, Bruce will have a big decision to make on Saturday.

To repeat a statistic from earlier this week, according to those lovely people Opta, Stoke have not – in their 81 Premier League games thus far – had more than 50% possession in a league game. Not once. In 81 games.

Of course, not having the ball much seems to be a strategy that is working out okay for Stoke thus far, so it’s difficult to argue that they need to change it. Nor will it probably be a problem against Newcastle on Sunday.

It’s just such a remarkable statistic that it’s worth repeating.

West Ham
Other than Everton, the only team in the Premier League without a win. Last week’s point against Stoke was encouraging, but the Hammers need wins now, not encouragement.

Sarah Winterburn has a sneaky feeling for Avram’s boys against Spurs, largely on the basis that their last few performances have been better than results suggest, and Tottenham have not been massively impressive this term.

Jack Wilshere
No Cesc Fabregas, and on the back of a match-controlling performance in the League Cup – here is the youngster’s latest chance to audition for the playmaker role that most people expect will be vacant come next summer.

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