Well we’re one quarter of the way through the season, and Sunderland still sit on two points after another dismal display. However, elsewhere in the Premier League things are beginning to hot up. The tenth round of fixtures saw heroics, an upturn in form and the beginnings of a five-way fight to the death.
It goes without saying that United fans up and down the country - though predominantly in Surrey - were looking at this weekend’s match against Burnley and thinking this could be the easy three points required to kick-start their season. And that would have been the case had former player, Tom Heaton, not channeled his inner Peter Schmeichel.
Heaton must be lauded for what was undoubtedly one of the most inspired goalkeeping performances of recent memory. Time and time again Heaton thwarted the Red Devils; keeping his team in with a chance of stealing a point from Old Trafford. Another slap on the back must be given to Sean Dyche who has created a team desperate to play for one another as well as their fans and manager; their workmanlike performances and willingness to give everything for their team has created a stubborn outfit who could very well hold their own in that mid-table twilight zone.
Mour questions must be asked of Jose (awful pun, I know) and his stuttering squad. I would say I felt sorry for them, but for the hundreds of millions of pounds they threw at signings this summer. Surely with that much financial power you must be challenging for the title? Ibrahimovic’s miss at the end of the game summed up their lackluster performance whilst Herrera’s slip was the perfect metaphor of their season thus far.
Aitor’s Men Karanka Up Their Performances
Another awful pun, but I will not apologise in the slightest, for Aitor Karanka deserves his literary recognition as being a man worthy of praise.
After a steady start to the season, Middlesbrough find themselves sitting in 14th position with a credible 10 points. The Teesiders must be more than happy with their season thus far: with some impressive performances on the pitch, an intelligent young manager orchestrating a change in fortunes, and a Chairman off the field who genuinely puts his all into making his beloved club a success - Boro fans must be delighted with the way things are going.
Their 2-0 win over Bournemouth was by no means a stroll in the park, yet Middlesbrough had more than enough quality and mettle in their side to overcome Eddi Howe’s dynamic young Cherries. Gaston Ramirez deserves serious applause for the opening goal; his dribble from inside his own half, beating three players before guiding the ball past Artur Boruc was a goal of the highest quality. In fact, across the park Middlesbrough looked like an assured unit who were totally at ease with their own identity, and capitalized on Bournemouth’s uncharacteristically poor display.
Praise must also be had for the manner in which Boro have strengthened their squad upon returning to the Premier League. The second goal highlighted the quality they added to their squad as Adama Traore burst down the right hand side before nudging a lovely ball deep into the Bournemouth box, where fellow new man Negredo was able to nod the ball back across goal for the prodigal son, Stewart Downing, to side foot home. Stewart Downing rejected Sunderland’s advances in 2015 in favour of a return to his boyhood club, and who can blame him? Boro look like a team more than capable of cementing a place in the League for next season.
The Title Race at the Quarter Mark
Now that the quarter mark of the season has passed, the time now comes to start eyeing up the potential front runners and their chances of landing the title, and after ten games it would appear we have five teams with the ability to challenge for the league. Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham all look more than capable of contending for the ultimate prize in English football.
Arsenal look good in flashes, but can also blow cold at times when the pressure really mounts, whereas Harry Kane’s indifferent form and subsequent injury has hurt Tottenham recently - though they do remain the only team to be unbeaten thus far. Liverpool look superb in attack, yet question marks still hang over their defensive capabilities; shipping two goals poor goals away to Palace added to the already lingering question marks.
With sheer squad depth alone, Manchester City and Chelsea appear to be the teams that can whether the notoriously difficult December congestion and make it through to the New Year without running on fumes. The quality in the Manchester City squad looks unrivaled, and at times they are unplayable even after a poor set of recent results. Chelsea look extremely solid under Conte and his new tactical approach with four wins and four clean sheets; furthermore, the way in which the team has been able to bounce back after a torrid few games speaks volumes for their cohesiveness as a unit.
Ultimately time will tell as to who will emerge from the pack and go on to secure the title; who do you think are the team to do it?