Kevin O'Brien reflects on the past weekend of action in the Premier League, as Leicester City took control at the top
Kevin O’Brien – a Transition Year student from Schull Community College – is on work experience in The Southern Star this week. Here, the Liverpool supporter looks at the main talking points from last weekend’s Premier League action
1. The title is in Leicester City’s hands
Leicester City’s remarkable season continues as they took a huge step towards their first ever Premier League trophy after playing title rivals Manchester City off the park in their 3-1 win at the Etihad Stadium.
The past 12 months for the Foxes has been the stuff of dreams, as they have gone from escaping relegation under old boss Nigel Pearson last season to a potential league crown under Claudio Raneiri.
The Foxes are playing some wonderful counter attacking football with wizard Riyad Mahrez, goal-machine Jamie Vardy and Shinji Okazaki at the heart of it. Leicester were 1000/1 to win the league at the start of the season and are now the odds have been slashed to 7/4. They have another crucial fixture away at another title rival in Arsenal at the Emirates this weekend.
2. Riyad Mahrez is the fauvorite for the PFA Player of the Year
Did you know you could buy 125 Riyad Mahrez’s for one Raheem Sterling? Signing from second tier French team Le Havre at the start of last season, the Algerian international has surely been one of the best buys in the Premier League in recent seasons.
His skill and footwork has been a nightmare for defences to deal with. Mahrez has 14 goals and 10 assists in the league so far and you can bet your house that he will add to his tally before the season is out.
His strong partner ship with record-breaker goal-machine Jamie Vardy has been key to the Foxes success so far with 32 goals and 13 assists between the pair.
3. Pressure on Manuel Pellegrini.
Pellegrini shocked the Premier League by announcing he will leave Manchester City at the end of the season with Pep Guardiola being announced as his replacement. The former Malaga manager is now under pressure from Man City fans to deliver a Premier league title and a potential Capital One Cup trophy before the current Bayern Munich head coach replaces the Chilean in the hot seat. He may have won the title in the 2013/14 season but all eyes are on him to see if he will leave Manchester on a high.
4. Spurs are dark horses.
Tottenham Hotspur and their Argentinian manager Mauricio Pochettino have been silently clawing away at their fellow top six teams and their 1-0 win over tenth placed Watford has seen them move up to second in the table, five points behind the leaders Leicester.
Spurs have failed to win only three times so far this campaign and have been in wonderful form but no one has really taken notice due to Leicester’s high-flying season which is a good thing for the ex-Southampton boss and his players as there is no pressure on them to win the title.
Despite a slow start to the season Harry Kane has finally found the goal-scoring form that brought him to fame last season. Don’t be surprised if Spurs push Leicester, Arsenal and Manchester City all the way this season.
5. Liverpool fans have had enough of ticket prices and the team’s performances
Jurgen Klopp wasn’t present at Anfield on Saturday afternoon due to having an operation to have his appendix removed. The German will not be happy with his team’s performance as they dropped a two-goal lead against relegation-threatened Sunderland.
However, the headlines belonged to Liverpool fans who walked out of Anfield in the 77th minute due to the announcement of the rise in ticket prices from £59 to £77, leaving a worrying amount of empty seats all around the stadium.
Liverpool’s hierarchy are due to hold talks about the prices this week.
The fans left at the right time as Sunderland fought from 2-0 down to draw the game 2-2 fans made their voices heard to various forms of media saying not only are the prices are a joke but the players themselves need to look in the mirror and realise who they are representing. Liverpool travel to bottom-placed Aston Villa on Sunday.
6. Chelsea vs Manchester United has lost its va-va-voom
Diego Costa rescued a point for Chelsea as they held Louis Van Gaal’s Manchester United side to a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea moved up to 13th in the table while United remain fifth, five points off the top four and the Champions League qualification places.
In 2010 this fixture would have been seen as a title decider but as of 2013/14 the struggle of both sides it has now become a mid-table clash, which has become very worrying for the league.
Chelsea may have won the title last season but they have declined rapidly while United under David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal have failed to hit the heights of the Ferguson era.
Both teams need to improve, fast.
7. Newcastle’s yo-yo relegation scrap
Aleksander Mitrovic handed Newcastle a crucial three points as they won 1-0 at St James Park. The win sees them move out of the relegation zone to 17th place.
This has become a habit for Steve McClaren’s struggling side this season as they have been inconsistent and have been in and out of the relegation zone like a yo-yo! Magpies’ fans will hope that it will be the last time they will be in the drop zone this season, as they look to climb up the table.
8. Aston Villa won’t go down without a fight
Aston Villa registered only their third win of the campaign when they beat fellow strugglers Norwich City 2-0 at Villa Park with the goals coming from Joleon Lescott and Gabriel Agbonlihor. The win sees Remi Gardes side nine points off 19th place Sunderland.
Villa sold last season’s top scorer Christian Benteke to Liverpool and captain Fabian Delph to Manchester City. They have been missing that 15-goal-a-season player and leader this season but it looks like they will go down fighting.
9. West Ham’s European chances
Despite a 1-0 defeat away at Southampton last Saturday evening the Hammers sit in sixth place two points behind Manchester United who are in the Europa League place. Slaven Bilic’s side qualified for the Europa League last season through the fair play rule but were knocked out in the preliminary rounds by minnows Birkirkara FC.
Bilic and his team will fancy their chances to pip United to the spot. They have been in terrific form this season where they picked up wins against teams like Arsenal, Liverpool, Man City and Chelsea this season.
10. England goalkeeper choices
Roy Hodgson will have a headache over who he will start at this year’s European Championships in France. Fraser Forster has recently returned from a long-term knee injury for Southampton has been excellent keeping clean sheets in his last two games where he was voted man-of-the-match on both occasions.
Jack Butland has been one of Stoke’s best players this season as he stepped up to be the club’s number one goalkeeper this campaign following the departure of Asmir Begovic to Chelsea.
Regular England and Man City shot-stopper Joe Hart has been shaky in the big games so far this season so it will be interesting to see who Hodgson picks for their opening game against Russia in Marseille.