Game, Team and Player of Matchday 7

Chelsea remain top of the table after beating Norwich City and more and more people are now starting to accept that they are genuine title contenders. With their attacking intent, they will be a threat to anyone and I am sure the two Manchester club are now very worried. The rest of the top four is now starting to take normal shape with Manchester United and City in second and third but Everton are still clinging onto fourth place with Tottenham just behind them on goal difference. At the bottom of the table it isn’t looking great for QPR, Reading and Norwich who haven’t won a game yet. But, they will still be positive as Southampton and Aston Villa seem to be struggling at the minute.

So, onto team of the weekend and in my opinion Manchester City deserve a lot of praise because they had to reshuffle their defence and were so comfortable against Sunderland it was unbelievable. They attacked well but more importantly they were solid at the back and kept their first clean sheet of the season so Roberto Mancini will be looking to build on this performance. They did exactly what was needed and didn’t give the away team a sniff, maybe it was a bad day for Sunderland because they never really looked like scoring but credit has to go to the two centre backs who probably haven’t played together that often in Micah Richards and Joleon Lescott. The other team from Manchester, performed brilliantly away to Newcastle United and deserved their comfortable victory and could have made it more if Danny Welbeck had his shooting boots on. But, in the first 15 minutes, I don’t think anyone could have lived with them, never mind an injury hit Newcastle defence. Everyone on the pitch played very well and they seemed to be enjoying their football and when they did come under pressure, they were strong enough to remain solid and not concede. However, there are still question marks over goalkeeper David De Gea who was poor again and almost cost them a goal. But, my team of the weekend is Arsenal, because they won a game a few years ago they certainly wouldn’t have away to West Ham. What makes it more special is that they came from 1-0 down and they even managed to control Andy Carroll for the majority of the game and often allowed him to win the first ball and just challenge for the second ball. The concentration of the back four was particularly impressive and when you have players like Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla you know they will create chances.

Unfortunately, no Arsenal players have made it onto my contenders for player of the weekend but Cazorla was very close, however fellow Spaniard Juan Mata deserves a mention instead because yet again he was fantastic, as he has been all season. He hasn’t been getting the headlines because of Eden Hazard but he has been equally impressive and is one of the cleverest players in the Premier League right now and it is remarkable that Spain can’t find a place for him in their squad. He got another two assists to his name and he also very reliable on the ball and won’t try silly things and if there is an easy option on, he will use it. Aleksandar Kolarov, though was equally impressive as he scored a fantastic free kick and set up Sergio Aguero in the second half to put the game beyond doubt. He has improved defensively in recent months and everyone knows what he is capable of going forward so Gael Clichy might find it difficult to get back in the team. He is always a threat to the opposition and certainly is a useful asset to the team, especially at home. My player of the weekend though actually goes to a goalkeeper who wasn’t first choice at the start of the season but after his performance this weekend, he is guaranteed a place for a while to come. Reading’s Alex McCarthy, produced save after save to secure what could be a vital point against Swansea City. His team may have thrown away a two goal lead but he was sensational and if it wasn’t for him then they would have surely lost the game. If they stay up by one point at the end of the season, I think Brian McDermott and the fans will look back at this performance and just realise how good of a performance it was. To pick up points away from home in the Premier League, you need special performances, and this was certainly one of them.

Onto, game of the weekend and obviously that Swansea Reading game will be high up the list as there were so many chances and both teams will be thinking that they should have an extra two points on their current tally. After Swansea came from two down, I expected them to win but as said Alex McCarthy was inspired form and couldn’t be beaten again. Reading will be the most worried though because they just can’t seem to get that first win and if they had held on last week against Newcastle then they probably would have seen this out too but that first win is usually the hardest. QPR, similarly need that first win and they put in a good performance away to West Brom but unfortunately, the surprise package of the Premier League so far were even better and the game went right down to the last minute and this could have also ended a draw after one of the sides were 2-0 up but it wasn’t to be and West Brom held on for a 3-2 win. The game of the weekend for me was actually West Ham against Arsenal because it was two very different styles playing against each other and just showed what English football is all about. Arsenal were sublime until West Ham somehow took the lead and from there it could have went either way and Arsenal just had enough on the day and finished off the game with a fantastic goal. Both managers know how they want to play and for that reason, the game was action packed and there were plenty of counter attacks leading to chances and all of the goals had a lot of quality about them.

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August Players and Managers of the month

The first awards of the seasons have been announced and they are the player and manager of the month awards in the Football League.

First, let’s look at League 2 and the winner of the manager of the month award went to Martin Allen who has had a fantastic start to life as manager of Gillingham. The club are sitting top of the table after five games with 13 points and if they can continue this sort of form they will comfortably win promotion back to League 1 although it is early days yet and anything could happen. Allen finished the last season very well keeping Barnet in the Football League so it is no surprise at a club with a bigger budget he is surpassing expectations slightly. Player of the month for League 2 has went to Oxford United captain Jake Wright and the defender has been in impressive form so far this year helping Oxford start the season very well winning their first three games and only conceding one goal. Unfortunately for them their form has dipped slightly but I believe they will be in the promotion shake up come the end of the season.

In League 1 the awards went to a player and the manager of Tranmere Rovers as they also started the season very quickly and have surprised a lot of teams already. Ronnie Moore is in his third spell at the club as manager and are still unbeaten in League 1. They have already scored 11 goals and only conceded 2 so their goal difference is already very healthy (some of these have came in September but it is still worth noting). They were seen as outsiders for the playoffs this year because they don’t have as big a budget as some teams but that hasn’t stopped them so far and they may be a shoe in for the playoffs if not more. Andy Robinson won the player of the month award after scoring a hatrick against Carlisle United. The 32 year old has been named in the team of the year in League 1 twice before so he is no stranger to the division and will need to continue to be as influential in the coming months if they want to get out the league.

The Championship awards followed the same pattern as the league before as both the awards went to player and manager of the same club. Blackpool were the beneficiaries of the awards and Ian Holloway is looking to guide his team back to the Premier League. He is still doing a magnificent job in my opinion as they had no right to get promoted in the first place and after losing so many players has still managed to challenge at the very top of the league. Holloway is an entertaining man on the sidelines and his team are very attacking on the pitch so they are a perfect combination and he seems to get the best out of every player. One of these is Thomas Ince who was linked with moves away in the summer and it is no surprise after his performances in August. In the first three games the young winger scored four goals and got four assists so there doesn’t need to be any explanation why he won it really.

Brian Horton named the new manager of Macclesfield Town

Brian Horton has returned for a second spell in charge of Macclesfield Town to try and help them avoid relegation from League 2.

Horton will be manager until the end of the season

Macclesfield are currently 21st in League 2 and are only out of the relegation places on goal difference which has forced the board to sack former manager Gary Simpson. It must have been tough for them to sack him as he became the manager when times were difficult at the club and the whole area was still devastated by the death of Keith Alexander. This is probably why he was asked to stand down rather than sacked like any other manager would have done. However, it probably was his time to go as the team had gone 16 games without a victory and looked like they were going to get relegated.

So, the first thing Horton has to do is, get the players confidence levels up and make sure they believe they can turn it around. It will be difficult as 16 games is a long time and when you are struggling the luck also seems to go against you. Horton, has enough experience to know what to do in these types of situation as he has managed in over 1000 games which is a remarkable record as not many others have reached this amount of games. He got his first job at Hull City in 1984 and has done other roles other than manager since then and this can only stand him in good stead because he will have learned a few things of different people and took their ideas on board.

The last time he was a manager was in 2006 and it was actually at Macclesfield so he will know a lot about the club, what the fans expect and where the club should be. In his previous spell in charge he achieved a 35.88% win rate which is quite good especially when he had to rejuvenate the team when he first took over as they were struggling in the league much like this season and they eventually comfortably stayed up, seven points above the drop zone. In his first full season, The Silkmen challenged for promotion somewhat surprisingly and ended up in the playoff positions but were unfortunately defeated by Lincoln City in the semi finals. Living up to these high expectations was always going to be difficult seen as though the club faced financial problems and therefore did not challenge at the right end of the table and finished 17th.

Horton was sacked in the next season after the team went 12 games without winning and stranded to the bottom of the table. He will be hoping for more success this time around and if he can replicate what he did in his first season in charge it will be fantastic for the club and then hopefully they can push on from there. The new manager has some good players at his disposal but maybe they haven’t quite lived up to their potential, such players as Matt Hamshaw who looked very promising as a youngster at Sheffield Wednesday and Arnaud Mendy who was quite highly rated at Derby County. George Donnelly is another player that at 23 has some potential and could score a lot of goals in this division. So Macclesfield are not quite done yet and if Horton can work the magic and build some confidence then they should comfortably stay up.