It’s the final hurray for the year 2017, the year of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City and a certain former gunner, Harry Kane, now on the other side of the divide, doing amazing things, the year Conte came, saw and conquered at first, and then became a member of the futile chasers, at least with the way it stands; it’s the year Arsene Wenger realized top four finish isn’t his birthright, the year Tony Pulis lost his Midas touch, as we speak he’s now a yard below at Middlesborough, the year Sam Allardyce confirmed his status as the king of the red zone battle after falling from national grace, 2017, the year Jose Mourinho learned new blame game skills and found new kinds of headaches, (start Martial, doesn’t score, bring on Rashford, scores; starts Rashford, doesn’t score, brings on Rashford, scores... repeat, *inserts Lingard* repeat).
2017, the year Jurgen Klopp and his kops blew hot and cold, the year that Ronald Koeman lost his mojo, the year Frank De Boer was only allowed for four games, Aitor Karanka, Paul Clement, Claude Puel and recently Leon Britton all had to bid their jobs goodbye, although some are quickly back in business elsewhere, things aren’t always the same.
It’s why we love the game when others are resting, serious business keeps going on in England, games after games and City aren’t even in sight anymore, give it to them, they are the champions-elect of the season that is just halfway, hey, this is not Bundesliga!
In midweek, Manchester United for the umpteenth time in winter fell at the altar of Burnley’s banana peel, sake for a last-gasp Lingard effort, Jose Mourinho was staring at a defeat on their own porch, how do we then credit Sean Dyche, whose men lost a two-goal lead? Blowing every ball in whatever direction without calm and the composure needed to see out such game cost them the full points but once again, they have contributed to the gap up there, 2:2 it ended at Old Trafford, something the Portuguese manager isn’t worried about, two back to back draws on days they should have won, even Tottenham did a better job with putting the pressure on than United, shame, but now they face Southampton, a team with more headaches than usual, the manner in which they shipped five from Spurs needs instant address, they have a lot of money now after sanctioning the sale of Virgil Van Dijk to Liverpool for the price of a striker, whatever happens to the so called FFP?
Now they can focus and play with players that want to stay and do some good business when the window opens in 48 hours. Jesse Lingard deserves good mention from the reds, he’s been nothing short of brilliant even as a fringe player, his double is the reason Manchester United didn’t lose at home to Burnley; maybe Rashford needs a break, maybe Lukaku needs to be rested to afford him some opportunity to refill his gas or maybe he’s just a waste of money...
Bournemouth and Everton will take center stage on Saturday, it promises to be interesting, the cherries need to win, their red zone positioning needs to change now if they don’t want to swim back to the championship, and hey Big Sam, we know you can grind out goalless draws even against the big boys, how about some entertaining football to repay the faith of the fans? Come on Big Sam!
Watford returned to winning ways in time on Tuesday, beating Claude Puel’s Leicester City 2:1, a game that saw enough cautions as usual, but now they play Swansea in their last fixture for 2017, the welsh side have a new manager after relieving caretaker manager cum player Leon Britton of his two-match job. Swansea were hammered 4:0 by Liverpool, no shame in that, in terms of quality they aren’t close to Klopp’s men, they need all their energy and belief to end the year on a high.
Leicester and Huddersfield both have the chance to enter the new year on a high too when they square up at the KP stadium on the 2nd of January, but first they face Liverpool, the loss at Watford can be put behind, but the same long ball pattern of the Foxes need to change, straight runnings of Jamie Vardy hardly fool anyone anymore, a deep-lying centre-back or a fleet-footed full back can halt his runs and end a promising attack, how about some Okazaki option? Even the right or left crosses to Leonardo Ulloa can ease the pressure on the English forward.
Chelsea are back to winning ways with yet another clean sheet, Cesar Azpilicueta should be named the club’s midyear best player, ever reliable and decent even as a centre back, nothing spectacular, just disciplined football, with David Luiz likely to move in January, Christensen and Rudigar might learn a thing or two from the Spaniard. Stoke managed to hold on for a point at Huddersfield, enough respite for Mark Hughes and he can build on that here, four points on the bounce isn’t a bad idea for a team that went on a very long drought before the win against West Brom.
With the January window opening in just hours by the time of kick-off, both managers would look to strengthen, as they both know it’s over this time at Stamford Bridge and a quest for stability at the other end.
David Wagner would rue his side’s dropped points against Stoke but can make amends with Burnley who just know how to ruin points, two late United goals spoilt the script for Burnley on boxing day but they can finish their best ever year on a high, whatever happens against Huddersfield, the Burnley team can be proud of themselves and look forward to a rewarding 2018.
Newcastle laboured hard against Manchester City, it’s to their credit that they didn’t ship goals like some big boys, they were patient, defended deep and managed to limit the damage, they can take that high spirit to Brighton and earn a strong result into the new year, Chris Hughton’s side endured a frustrating evening at Chelsea last time out, they also have the chance to finish strongly.
Arsenal held on for a 3:2 win at Crystal Palace, a ground where they lost 3:0 last season, now they face Westbrom, they bested the Baggies in the first leg through two Alexander Lacazette strikes, Alan Pardew’s team has improved from the Tony Pulis side that everyone beat mercilessly, they haven’t turned the corner but they can cause problems to the gunners.
Manchester City need no introduction, 58 out of a possible 60 points with Everton being the only team to stop them till date, will they go unbeaten? The league is theirs to lose already, fifteen points clear at Christmas and counting, what does Crystal Palace have to offer on the last day of the year?
Written by: @komtprolla
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