Is Manchester United’s form actually that bad? Can Pep Guardiola wake Manchester City from their slumber? Will Arsenal prove the moon is made of cheese?
Biggest certs of the season?
Football’s a funny old game and all that but is there anyone in the world who thinks Sunderland will beat Arsenal on Saturday? It looks one of the biggest mis-matches in Premier League history whether you go with current form or historical head-to-heads. Let’s start in the present. Sunderland are hopeless. They’ve yet to win in the Premier League this season and have just two points from nine games. By contrast, Arsenal have won 10, drawn two and lost none of their last 12 games in all competitions. They’ve also kept seven clean sheets in the last eight matches. As for history, Sunderland have won just one of their last 25 matches against the Gunners while Arsene Wenger’s men have 15 wins in that run. If Arsenal don’t head south with all three points, the moon is made of cheese.
Pep talk needed
Manchester City’s players must be a confused bunch. Pep Guardiola spent the first 10 matches of the season spraying magic, turning City from the underachievers of last season to a winning machine. But when Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic somehow found the off switch, City haven’t been able to turn it back on. Their run of six matches without a win is the longest spell Guardiola has endured in his managerial career. But it might not be over yet. Next up is a trip to Tony Pulis’ West Brom and you can guarantee he won’t be giving anything away for free. And if City fail to win and endure a not-very magnificent seven games without a win, there’s the little matter of a visit from Barcelona in the Champions League next week. Could Guardiola really go eight games without a win and, if so, does a side who suffers that sort of drought really deserve to be favourites to win the Premier League?
Too much Mourinho fuss?
How rival fans laughed this week when, following his side’s 4-0 thrashing at Chelsea, Jose Mourinho revealed he was living an Alan Partridge-existence in a Manchester hotel, describing it as a “bit of a disaster”. It left an image of him dismantling a Corby Trouser press and getting the odd knock on the door from a Geordie called Michael, although in this case Carrick. But presuming United beat Burnley at Old Trafford on Saturday, they will have six wins, two draws and a single defeat from their last nine matches. Is that really a club in crisis, especially when neighbours City can’t buy a victory at the moment? Something still doesn’t quite seem right with United but is it not a good sign that they’re still winning a good chunk of matches while Mourinho works everything out (alone in his hotel room)?
Crystal clear for strike duo
Sadio Mane and Christian Benteke were both the subject of £30m+ transfers this summer, one arriving at Liverpool, the other departing Anfield for pastures new. For Jurgen Klopp, the deal made perfect sense. Mane was a perfect fit for his system whereas Benteke was a square peg in a round hole. And, so far, it’s working out just swimmingly for all parties. Mane has netted in four of his eight Premier League starts and been a key man for the Reds while Benteke has finally given Palace a much-needed goal threat, netting three in seven. Interestingly, Mane has scored in three of his four Premier League games against Palace while Benteke had a habit of scoring against Liverpool (four in five top-flight matches) before joining the Reds. With history and confidence behind them, how about both men finding the net at Selhurst Park on Saturday and further justifying their big-money moves?
Would you Adama and Eve it?
While everyone scratches their head at how bad Paul Pogba is for all that ludicrous money, a man who made a summer move from relegated Aston Villa to low-key Middlesbrough is making headlines all over the place for a stunning man-of-the-match display at Arsenal. Adama Traore played just 11 times for Villa in their woeful 2015/16 campaign and was eventually booted off the team for indiscipline. To be honest it seemed a bit odd what he was doing there in the first place. This is a player who was on Barcelona’s books at the age of 8 and clearly has oodles of potential. Pace, power, touch, he showed it all against Arsenal and looked a star in the making. Still just 20, Traore has plenty still to learn but do Middlesbrough have a gem on their hands, a player who could be the difference between them staying up or going down?