We review the key talking points from Gameweek 8 of the Premier League.
Merseyside Derby Blues
Pressure had been building, but last week’s Monday Manager suspected that the mostly convincing 3-2 victory over Villa and the return of Sturridge in Gameweek 7 would release a valve and buy the Liverpool manager some breathing room – for the short term at least. It proved to be very short-term indeed.
As it transpired, an evenly and heartily contested 1-1 draw at Goodison Park just wasn’t enough to rescue Brendan Rodgers’ head from the FSG chopping block.
Away from the managerial drama, on the pitch Danny Ings again demonstrated his unheralded worth – now with two goals in his last three – in Gameweek 8 putting the away side a goal up shortly before the break. This however was countered almost immediately as Romelu Lukaku – boasting re-tuned goalscoring instincts – pounced on a wooden legged defensive clearance by Emre Can.
This match counted as the first time that Lukaku had struck the net in consecutive games this season and Roberto Martinez now seems to be squeezing the best out of him on a regular basis. The Belgian was combative, imposing and took his goal without a moment’s hesitation. Over the past two Gameweeks, Lukaku has been the most clinical forward – among those with more than one goal – in the league with three goals converted from seven attempts at a rate of 42.9%.
Now 22, this could be a sign of a growing maturity and responsibility on his part, but if anything, the prospect of a potential mismatch with Daley Blind against Manchester United in Gameweek 9 is sure to bolster Lukaku’s selection rise across all forms of fantasy football.
Whether Jurgen Klopp is the man who’ll take up Liverpool’s wayward reins remains to be seen, but you’d have to imagine that a deal for a successor is at an advanced stage, given how hastily Rodgers got the boot on Sunday evening.
Whatever the case, for the most part, the red half of Merseyside won’t be feeling overly blue this Monday.
Sanchez and Aguero Are Live
If the title of Premier League top dogs was ever in doubt, Sergio Aguero and Alexis Sanchez have certainly given a joint-reminder to anyone who ever doubted.
Aguero repaid the faith of thousands of fantasy managers on Saturday with a five goal thrill ride against Newcastle in Gameweek 8. The City number ten had broken a dry spell midweek with a penalty against Borussia Monchengladbach and you sensed that blood was in the air for this coming Premier League fixture. Yet it was Newcastle and Mitrovic who drew it first.
In an eventual 6-1 win, there were many positives for City – the return of David Silva certainly among them – but the tandem of De Bruyne and Aguero looks a particularly clinical prospect.
De Bruyne has hit the ground running with immediate effect, bagging three goals and two assists in his four Premier League appearances. With the Belgian supplementing Aguero, City’s goal threat is burgeoning ahead of tough clashes with Everton and United over the next couple of Gameweeks.
Sanchez – with five in his last three – tore up the left flank at the Emirates, destroying Matteo Darmian and then Antonio Valencia with his raiding, incisive play. Much like Silva, De Bruyne and Aguero, the Chilean’s intuitive interplay with the likes of Ozil and Walcott up front has added a roundly more threatening dynamic to the Gunners’ attack.
Indeed they’re a far cry already from their crisis-ridden Champions League form. How quickly we all forgive and forget.
Saints Come Marching Back
Like a forgotten winter coat, last year’s fantasy darlings, Southampton, are coming back into style.
A convincing 3-1 display over a bizarrely despondent Chelsea in Gameweek 8, solidified this stirring return to form. This was their second consecutive 3-1 victory in as many weeks and followed on from an admittedly unlucky 3-2 defeat to Manchester United in Gameweek 6.
The partnership of Graziano Pelle and Sadio Mane have been particularly key to this revival, though not a true striking duo in the classic sense. The big Italian now has three goals and three assists across his last three games, recapturing the form that made him such hit this time last season. He’s undoubtedly the focal point of this team’s attack and that is reflected in the 63 passes received in the final third and 21 touches in the box claimed over that timeframe.
Sadio Mane meanwhile, has proved an irrepressible livewire with two goals from 12 attempts and two assists across those last three fixtures. Only Coutinho – 20 – and Sanchez – 13 – have had more shots on goal in that period. All the while, forgotten man Dusan Tadic is diligently creating the openings with ten chances created.
This is all superb news for those who put their faith in the Saints attack on a weekly basis, but the return of Ryan Bertrand and arrival of Van Dijk in the backline have been just as crucial. Expect Koeman’s men to tighten and step up their clean sheet potential over the coming Gameweeks as the first choice back four of Soares, Fonte, Van Dijk and Bertrand start to gel.