Game, Team and Player of Matchday 5

The top two in the Premier League so far is expected with Chelsea and Manchester United leading the race for the title but directly below them Everton and West Brom are having fantastic starts to the season and not many would have expected them to have been in the Champions League places after five games. At the other end of the table, there are six teams still to register a win and the most worried out of them will surely be QPR and Reading who are currently in the relegation zone. Liverpool are the other team in the relegation zone and all of them will be thankful that Norwich City also haven’t picked up a win yet.

I have already mentioned them but they don’t usually have a great start to the season and that is why it is so remarkable that Everton are third in the table and will surely finish in a European place because they usually leave their unbeaten runs just too late in the season to have an effect on them positions. Yet again, they produced a fantastic display against Swansea City and brushed them aside with ease, all of their attacking players were on form and Kevin Mirallas has fit straight into the David Moyes way of playing football and even added a goal to his good performance. Victor Anichebe has now got two goals in two games and he will have a lot of confidence and maybe they won’t miss Nikica Jelavic as much as they thought they would. Another team that are performing well in areas we don’t normally expect is Arsenal because at the back they have been superb and followed it up with another good performance away to Manchester City. I will still give them a lot of praise even though the goal they conceded was an error because in years gone by they definitely would have lost this game and went home with nothing. They also created chances and if their finishing and final touch was better, in particular Gervinho, they could have got all three points. But, the winner of team of the week has to be Southampton. After finding themselves 1-0 down their fans must have thought that their time in the Premier League was going to be very short indeed but they didn’t get on the players or their managers back and they got to see their side come from behind and beat Aston Villa. Two goals from Rickie Lambert, an own goal from Ciaran Clark and a tidy finish from Nathaniel Clyne gave them exactly what they deserved and that was all three points. If they can replicate this sort of form then they may be able to stay up this year but they will need their fans on their side and the rumours of Nigel Adkins being replaced need to go away or it could cause some uncertainty among the players.

Hugo Rodallega may have came back to haunt his old club Wigan Athletic but it is his strike partner Dimitar Berbatov that is a contender for player of the week in my mind because he has shown that he can perform just as well away from home as he does at Craven Cottage. This is what he often gets criticised for but against Wigan he did everything that was asked of him, he held the ball up well and brought teammates into play. His movement was also very good and the Wigan defence weren’t ever sure on who has supposed to be picking him up, and his cross for the first goal was superb so it was a very good day for the Bulgarian. Marouane Fellaini is another player that is proving he is worth every penny his club paid for him. In yet another outstanding performance he goes about his business so effectively, joining up with the front man and getting beyond him whenever he can. He is a lot better in the advanced role where he is playing now and like Yaya Toure at Manchester City he can make the difference in the final third. Another goal was added to his tally this weekend with a powerful header that left Michel Vorm with no chance. However, the man that is getting player of the week is none other than Southampton’s goal scoring hero Rickie Lambert. There were question marks raised on whether he will be able to score goals at the highest level but against Aston Villa he proved he not only knows where the goals is but can set up chances for his team to score. A lot of people just think that Lambert is a big target man but he is much more than that, he likes to drift out wide and get involved in the play dragging defenders away with him so there is more space for midfielders to run into and I’m sure Gaston Ramirez in particular will make the most of that.

Game of the weekend can be a little difficult because some of the bigger games get a lot more attention and don’t really end up being that exciting. But, in my opinion the Liverpool Manchester United game was decent enough with both teams having chances to win the game towards the end. The home side were probably just the better team and will feel a little annoyed that they didn’t get anything from the game, but maybe they just couldn’t push themselves anymore after playing a lot of the game with only 10 men after Jonjo Shelvey was sent off. There were some good goals in the game with Steven Gerrard reminding us all that he can still be a threat going forward and Rafael scoring a goal that some of the Old Trafford greats would have been proud of. The winner did come from the penalty spot after Glen Johnson clumsily fouled Antonio Valencia which makes you wonder how he is England’s first choice right back but that discussion is for another time. Another game that was really entertaining, but a lot more one sided was West Ham versus Sunderland. Steven Fletcher gave the away side the lead and that is basically all they did and had to withhold heavy pressure for a lot of the game, eventually leading to a late goal from one of their arch nemesis, Kevin Nolan. Nolan must love playing against Sunderland as he always seems to score past them and with him being a former Newcastle United player, it must have been extra sweet for him. Game of the weekend, however goes to the Swansea Everton match as it was a really enjoyable game and was played in a very different way to how I expected it. Everton controlled most of the game and Swansea struggled for large periods but they even create some chances that they should have done better with. Everton are getting better and better while Swansea are beginning to slip could this be the game that sends the clubs in two very different directions?

Was there anyone that impressed you? Who would you give the team, player and game of the weekend award to?

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Who will be relegated from the Premier League?

Relegation from the Premier League can be tough on any team and it is the magic 40 point mark that a lot of teams aim for first even when they are not expected to get relegated. Even mid table teams don’t want to get dragged into a battle so they aim to get their as fast as possible and then build on that.

Inevitably the promoted teams are always the favourites to go straight back down and there is no change this year, with Reading being one of the teams that need a good start to the season or it could be a very long year for their fans. They have however some good signings in the summer which will surely give them a better chance in the always reliable Danny Guthrie and striker Pavel Pogrebnyak who had a very good goal scoring record at Fulham last year. They do lack a little experience in the Premier League throughout their squad so Jason Roberts and Ian Harte will both be essential to their side.

Norwich City have a new manager this season in Chris Hughton and he has the difficult task of following in the footsteps of Paul Lambert. But, he has inherited a good team that was comfortable in the Premier League last year and there will be a lot of talk of second season syndrome but Hughton has performed minor miracles before at both Newcastle United and Birmingham City so I am sure he will be a success here too.

Nigel Adkins hasn’t changed much at Southampton in the close season so he obviously believes that this team are good enough to stay up but I think they need a little more especially considering the start to the season they have. In the opening five games they have to play both the Manchester clubs and Arsenal so like Bolton last season they may be demoralised before the season has even really begun. The signings of Jay Rodriguez and Nathaniel Clyne would have been very impressive in the Championship and even though I rate both of them highly they just might not be able to cut it in the Premier League.

Wigan Athletic will always be considered as one of the favourites for relegation no matter how they finish the previous season. At the end of last season they were one of the most in form teams in the whole league but that have lost Hugo Rodallega and Mohamed Diame who have both been influential in the past for them. The signing of Arouna Kone may show their intent of finishing a lot higher up than they have in previous seasons but they will always be considered as the underdog in the Premier League but maybe they like it that way.

Swansea City are one of many teams with a new manager this year and a lot of people are already writing off Michael Laudrup before he has even took charge of them for the first time in a competitive game. They won’t have to change their style much under the new manager but maybe this is the problem because a lot of teams will have now worked out ways to stop them and they still don’t really have an option B so it will be a tough task for them to stay up.

For me it will be Swansea City, Southampton and Reading that go down.

Are Wigan good enough for the Premier League?

After beating Manchester United 1-0, Wigan have given themselves a great chance to stay up this season but are they really good enough to stay up again this year?

Roberto Martinez has a 24.59% win record at Wigan

I am one of the few people that actually had faith that the club would stay up basically because they have been there and done it for a number of years now and they understand the pressure that they are under. It is the same reason why a lot of people believe that Manchester United have already won the title and that is because of their experience in their current situation. But even Alex Ferguson said Wigan are in a false position and are playing some of the best football in the league and yes some decisions went there way in this game but in recent weeks they have had some horrific decisions against them, in particular the Chelsea game where both goals could have been given as offside.

But anyway, Wigan have a lot of quality that may have been missed by a lot of fans and pundits because of the position they are in now. Starting with the manager, Roberto Martinez, he likes to play football in one way and sometimes it works against his team but on the whole they play some good football and are one of the best and most fluent attacking teams in the league when they are on form. If he could sort out the defence then I believe they would be a solid mid table side and wouldn’t have to worry about relegation.

However, saying that Wigan have one of the most underrated goalkeepers in the league in Ali Al-Habsi who has saved his team on many occasions and produced some stunning saves, surprisingly against United he was rarely stretched and you have to give credit to the whole team for that not just the defence. I think when Brad Friedel retires, Tottenham may look to sign Al-Habsi because he wouldn’t look out of place in a top four side.

In defence, they have a bit of experience but maybe not a lot of quality, Gary Caldwell has been there and done it, he has played for Celtic so he knows what it’s like to be under pressure to win games and in the last few weeks he has been in really good form. Scoring the winning goal against Liverpool must have given him and the whole club a boost and they have gone from strength to strength since then.

The midfield is full of quality with James McArthur, James McCarthy and Shaun Maloney who have all looked good in Scotland but now this season are proving they have enough talent to succeed in the Premier League but the stand out player is winger Victor Moses. He may not get as many goals as he should because his shooting and decision making can be a bit poor but his skills and his ability to create a chance out of nothing have been crucial in the last few weeks, even if they do stay up it might be difficult to keep hold of him this summer.

They do not have a lot of firepower up top but they do have a bit of talent in Franco Di Santo and Hugo Rodallega who maybe should get more goals than they do because they do have a goal in them and if they could have produced more consistently then they wouldn’t be in the position they are in now.

Like I said earlier, I always thought Wigan would stay up this year and it will still be difficult but they have given themselves a great chance of being a Premier League club next year and with a few more additions they may not be in this position again next year, although that is probably what the fans thought last summer.

Who will be relegated from the Premier League?

The battle at the bottom is going to be one of the best ever with five teams all struggling to string together a set of results that will pull them away from the danger zone.

Wigan Athletic, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, QPR and Wolves are the five teams and it will probably go to the last day to decide who is going to play Championship football next season. With only four points separating them, it could even be decided by goal difference. So who is the most likely to stay up.

Let’s start with bottom of the table Wigan. Out of the five teams they are the favourites to go down because they are the smallest club and have always struggled in the Premier League. However, this could work to their advantage as some teams may not take them as seriously as they should. They also have some good players and have been in this situation before and survived, it was only a few seasons ago they stayed up on the last day which shows when it comes down to it they can hold their nerve. They have a good goalkeeper in Ali Al-Habsi and he should be playing for a better team as he has performed brilliantly for the club and it wouldn’t surprise me if he left in the summer even if they did stay up. Wigan play some good football and probably only need a proven goal scorer but these are difficult to find. Hugo Rodallega is a decent player but he will not score enough goals, Victor Moses, another very good player but he will not be a consistent goal scorer.

Blackburn have just beaten Wolves and this shows that when it comes down to it, they are up for the fight. Their manager Steve Kean has been written off multiple times this season but the players seem to be playing for him and are very much behind him. They also have some very good players and what maybe the other teams don’t have is a proven goal scorer. Yakubu has arguably been the signing of the season and if they stay up he should receive a lot of praise. They also have Morten Gamst Pedersen and Junior Hoilett in their midfield and these two can change a game in the blink of an eye, they both have fantastic technique and have also got a few goals in them.

Bolton also secured a massive three points when they beat QPR with a very late goal from Ivan Klasnic. They shouldn’t really be in this position but most teams in the league will struggle when they have their two best players out injured for most of the season. Lee Chung Yong and Stuart Holden give the team so much quality and it would be difficult to replace them especially when they don’t have the biggest budgets. However, they do have Nigel Reo Coker and Mark Davies in their midfield and if Bolton go down then surely these two will still be Premier League players after the summer because they can control a game from the middle of the park.

Wolves are in real danger in my opinion because they have given Terry Connor the responsibility of guiding the club away from the danger zone. I am not slating him but in a situation like this you want a manger with experience. Also, putting in the assistant to me is a bad choice because it is like the old regime is still in the club and maybe something new would have given everyone a lift. Steven Fletcher has had a good season for the club but he has lacked the support, Kevin Doyle works hard but has not scored enough goals, and Sylvain Ebanks Blake is not a Premier League striker at all. The problem with Wolves is that they cannot defend and concede some very sloppy goals, Wayne Hennessey deserves praise this season because he has gained the team points and also kept the score lines down which could prove vital at the end of the season.

QPR have a good team, a good manger and the backing of the board so it seems that everything should be going well at the club but for some reason it hasn’t actually worked out. If QPR do go down there will be a lot of what ifs asked, for example what if Warnock stayed in charge would we have stayed up? The signings they made in January should have kept them up safely with Djibril Cisse and Bobby Zamora coming in to provide some much needed firepower. The defence is still a worry though as Clint Hill is still first choice, and he is not a Premier League defender. In the Bolton game they didn’t have much luck but you don’t get much at the bottom anyway.

I am not sure on who will go down and my opinion will change now on a weekly basis, but looking at QPR’s fixture list they seem to be in a lot of trouble but football is a strange game and anything can happen so it will be enjoyable for all the neutrals but for the fans involved it will be agony.