Tagged pl

Beware of the Underdog

Huddersfield Town won football’s most lucrative game and became the Premier League’s newest addition on Monday.

It’s the first time they have reached the top tier in 45 years and not many people, not even Town fans, would have predicted the outcome at the beginning of the season. But after 120 nailbiting minutes and a tense penalty shoot-out, they have reached Premier League status.

At the start of the season pundits and bookmakers made Huddersfield favourites to be relegated. They finished 18th in the Championship last season and Ian Holloway now infamously said they would finish 2nd bottom of the table this season. David Wagner’s job was to avoid relegation when he was appointed as manager last November, and after doing that he has gone on to become a cult hero in Huddersfield.

The Terriers got off to a good start by beating Newcastle at St James’ Park on the opening day of the season and then drawing with Aston Villa. A string of wins followed and they were top of the table early on. Still many people would have predicted they would have fallen off by Christmas but Wagner kept on grinding out results with 23 of their 25 victories coming by a one-goal margin.

They were in a title race with Newcastle and Brighton for most of the season but just slipped off the pace towards the back end, which meant they had to settle for the playoffs. Everyone knows this can be a lottery and all of the hard work comes down to three vital games. It was very tight against Wednesday and it took another penalty shootout to get them to the final. Wagner brought in a lot of German players and that paid off in the end as everyone knows German’s know how to win a penalty shootout.

Next season will be a challenge for Wagner. The squad is made up of a lot of loanees so it will be interesting to see who he can keep at the club by extending their loans or signing permanently. They will also have to bring in more quality to compete. Now it’s time to ask questions of your squad, like: “Do I have enough players that can score the goals to win games? Does my midfield have the legs and intelligence to avoid getting run over by the teams with more experience in the Premier League? Is my defence strong so we can at least win most of our home games?”

If the above are problem areas then they need to be addressed as soon as possible so they can build a longer life in the luxury league.

The goal next season will be to survive, but they can look at the likes of Stoke, Bournemouth and Swansea for inspiration and hope they can build up a foundation to achieve longer term success in the top flight. It certainly won’t be easy and they will be the favourites for relegation. But we know what happened the last time everyone wrote them off.

#mmlove

Number 5!

They did it again – trophy number 5 is a fact.

It’s been an interesting journey for Chelsea because winning a trophy a season is a must. Conte came in and everyone thought he was going to play a very defensive game, not much different to the style of Mourinho. And that was myself included because I know the tradition of the Italians is enforcing a defensive that’s unbeatable.

I know defending is an art but I love to add goals to that. He implemented the new system of 3 defenders, wingback, two holding midfielders and freedom for the front 3 from the begin of the season. The only problem he was dealing with was that he had a lot of players that had to adjust to the fact he was stepping away from the old system of 4-3-3 that had brought so much glory to Chelsea in the Mourinho days.

The season started with a similar system of Mourinho but when they got outclassed by Arsenal the alarm bells started ringing and there was no time to get used to the new system. Conte’s 3-4-3 had to start there and then, and he would only revert to the old system if it would suit the situation. What he’s done to the players is make them more disciplined and responsible, as well as given them freedom. Those three were key and were what he kept repeating from the technical area.

His team started playing some great football. Everything was set and some players started to shine again. Hazard was back to his best, Kante showed why he’s the key in this system and Fabregas used his intelligence either from the start or the bench when the team wasn’t playing well.

We can go on about the likes of Moses and Luiz playing their best football, while Costa wasn’t just out there looking for red cards but solely to score goals. After Arsenal they had another big moment in the season against Manchester City. They had to show they could bounce back from losing the previous game. When they did that I was like if people weren’t sure they were going to win it they were now.

Man Utd found a way to stop them by man marking Hazard, and that will happen again but that just shows how good the Belgian is. It will only make him better because I’m sure after the game he must have thought I couldn’t unlock myself but next time I’ll be ready, and that’s what we saw against Everton.

They asked me before the game if I thought they were going to win the title against West Brom on Radio 5 and I said for sure. The mindset of Conte is so strong that it’s all about winning and not looking for draws. That’s why Inter Milan wants to do whatever it takes to bring him home again. But he has started something very beautiful in London and I don’t think it will make sense to go to Inter and play clean up before he can start making them shine too.

I have enjoyed this season and I want to thank all of my fans for talking about this beautiful game online and in person.

Congratulations to all my fellow blues. Now it’s all about the FA Cup, and trust me, Conte wants nothing more than the double. Next season I can bet you the Champions league is the only thing that would make him sit on his bench for more than just a minute because that man has some energy!

#mmlove

Top of the Tree This Christmas

We’re almost at the half way point in the Premier League season and Chelsea will sit at the top of the tree this Christmas. A 10th straight win for Antonio Conte puts the blues 6 points clear at the top. Fabregas’ goal also meant Sunderland stay pinned at the bottom of the league.

It’s exciting at both ends of the league and everyone will have different opinions about how the table will look come May.

Man City made a flying start to their campaign under Pep, winning their opening 6 games. It wasn’t just the results but the way they picked apart their opponents that had many making early calls for City winning the title.

On their day City can be unplayable, and if Guardiola get’s them playing at the top of their game quickly they will cause the other title contenders a lot of trouble. As it stands though, they have won just 6 of their last 15 games in all competitions going into Sunday’s tie with Arsenal.

Arsenal have also been great to watch. Their mid-week game with Everton was the first they have lost since the opening day of the season, and Alexis Sanchez has looked particularly brilliant. His pace and finishing is causing defenders all kinds of problems and he’s adjusted to his new role excellently. The game on Sunday could be one of the games of the season with the way both teams like to play.

Liverpool have also been great so far this season, but they will need to sort out their defensive problems if they are to be serious title contenders. They’ve scored the most goals in the league but they’ve also conceded more than any of the top 7. Their 3-0 victory against Middlesbrough last night shows they can be solid at the back, but Klopp will need to make sure they stay consistent.

Man Utd have struggled a little bit and Mourinho is always under the microscope so everybody knows it. But Jose is a winner and you can never count out Utd going on a crazy run of form until the end of the season. Spurs are also in the mix and can always cause a surprise like they did last season. Pochettino has played 3 at the back a few times to great success and it looks like it suits the players. They could be a dark horse in the new year.

At the other end of the table things are quite tight for the bottom eight. Sunderland sit rock bottom but are only 6 points off 13th place Burnley. The pack includes the Champions Leicester who were always going to have a tough season after winning the league last year. The extra games that come with being in Europe was going to be tough as they don’t have as much strength in depth as the usual big four.

Hull, Swansea, Middlesbrough and Palace join Sunderland as the favourites to go down, all winning only 3 or 4 games so far. It will probably be a fight to the end and it will be interesting to see who spends in January.

Whatever happens it will be thrilling for the fans and I hope Chelsea can repeat history: Each of the four times they have been top of the Premier League at Christmas they have gone on to win the title.

#mmlove