Premier League Round-Up: Top Half

Football Burp casts its gaze over the top half of the Premier League as it stands after its latest round of results weekend’s results, collating supporter opinion and offering it up in a convenient, team-by-team format for your delectation…

Football Burp's Premier League round-up - top half.
Magpie... Cryptic (Image courtesy of anemoneprojectors)

1. Manchester City

General mood: Elated, of course. Basically, they look amazing, and Roberto Mancini looks more and more like he does know what he’s doing by the week. Carlos Tevez won’t play and it doesn’t even matter. Show few signs of slipping up, unless all their top players lose form all at the same time.

Reasons to celebrate: David Silva, Mario Balotelli, James Milner, Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko, a world-class infrastructure and a 6-1 away derby win still fresh in the memory.

Causes for concern: That all their top players lose form all at the same time. Could happen – after all, they’re all currently hitting form at the same time.

Sample message board quotes:

“Can anyone list a better pair of full/wing backs than our two? It’s a joy to watch Micah and Gael on their day, and I personally think a lot of our success so far this season is due to their form and performances. Call it strange, but I for one at the moment, look forward to our matches just to see how exciting these two can be, especially Micah!! Silva..Aguero..Yaya…Mario………….Micah and Gael!! Top talents, top nurturing with Micah and a top buy with Gael. Bargain, quality, top purchase Clichy. Didn’t mention Kola and Zaba either!!! What a squad, wow.” – whothefisAlice, forums.bluemoon-mcfc.co.uk

“Carlos, hi,

I really have had enough now and would very much appreciate it if you went to another football club and took the piss out of them for a couple of years. I hope your cock falls off and all your future holidays are a disappointment.

SEC” – South East Citizen, www.mancityforum.co.uk/forums

2. Manchester United

General mood: Meh. Always good to leave Goodison Park with the three points but it was another uninspiring performance.

Reasons to celebrate: Still within reach of top spot despite injury problems, return and performance of Nemanja Vidic, Javier Hernandez once again displaying his match-winning capabilities.

Causes for concern: Rio Ferdinand appearing to be in decline, central midfield getting overrun far too often, the notion that any kind of prolonged absence of Wayne Rooney would hand their noisy neighbours the title.

Sample message board quotes:

“What we do have, that upsets people more than it should, is an extremely varying level of overall play. We make up for it by being managed by one of the greatest winners that the game has seen so usually know how to win/get the necessary result even if were not at our fluid best. And that stems from not being nearly as strong in midfield as other areas. Hence you get performances where we play glorious football for 30 mins and disappear as an attackong unit for the other 60. But because of our mentality and individual ability in other areas we win even those games. It is something to ponder upon and improve on but it doesn’t mean we aren’t a fine fine team.” – amolbhatia100, www.redcafe.net

“I am sure SAF is aware of the need for a little more creativity, perhaps, in our central midfield (although I doubt he would go so far as to call it ‘weak’). But the ‘false number 10’ role, similar to that which Messi has at Barca, is the one which suits Rooney best anyway – starting as a support striker but essentially playing a free role, dropping deep to become an AM if needed of pushing up to add firepower as a SS if the midfield is doing its job. The forwards you have namesd – Drogba, Torres, Ibrahimovic and Eto’o are all truer strikers than Rooney; with the exception of Ibra, they’re all front-line number 9s.
Rooney has more to his game than these players, and does the most damage if he takes up a deeper position between the lines rather than ‘stretching the defenders’ by pushing forwards, as you suggested. That way he is difficult to pick up, and finds space to pull the strings, ping long and short passes around, and generally orchestrate the attack. So he would be playing the same role that he is now regardless of the strength of our midfield.” – Rooney Toons, community.manutd.com/forums

3. Newcastle United

General mood: Performing well beyond any reasonable expectations and, despite the ubiquitous off-field trouble, loving it. Wondering how long it can last.

Reasons to celebrate: 3rd in the league, winning so comfortably at a notoriously difficult away ground, a second hat-trick of the season for Demba Ba, Tim Krul looking every bit a top Premier League goalkeeper, Alan Pardew’s summer transfer business looking increasingly inspired. And still unbeaten.

Causes for concern: Ba’s supposed “ticket time bomb” of a knee. Erm…and that turmoil always seems to be just round the corner at St James’ Park.

Sample message board quotes: “Santon, Marveaux and Ben Arfa left on the bench last night? Talk about if we needed to change it to have these 3 to come on. I’m so f***ing happy with us at the minute!” – Scoot, www.nufc-forum.com/nufcforum

“from my reckoning & I maybe way off here but didn’t we play & beat the following teams so far this season:

Fulham (a) – Finalist in the Europa League last season!

Stoke (a) – In the Europa League this season!

We’ve also drawn agianst teams like Arse-nil, Spurts, Vila who are or have been constantly playing in European competitions over the past seasons…

Yes we’ve played & beaten/drawn against teams from the lower end of the league but its those games that we were losing last season & thats why we’re in 3RD after just 10 games, still unbeaten & have the best defence in the PL…

The problem we’re causing to all these so-called pundits is, this is our second season back in the PL & we’re doing the exact opposite to what is supposed to happen to clubs who suffer from ‘second season syndrome’ and they can’t understand it & it irks the fecking crap out of them.” – Toon 69, Newcastle United footymad.net forum

4. Chelsea

General mood: Bad memories of last season’s dreadful run resurfacing having lost their last two Premier League games and last night’s disappointing 1-1 draw at Genk in the Champions League. Latest strand of Terrygate surrounding the club in controversy once again.

Reasons to celebrate: Oriol Romeu shows great promise and Frank Lampard looks to be regaining some form.

Causes for concern: Andre Villas-Boas’ system doesn’t seem to be working, Didier Drogba still woefully out of sorts and the Terry racism allegation still rumbling on in the background.

Sample message board quotes:

“A week sure is a long time in football, in the Prem, at least. The pressure, the media, make sure of that. Good thing is, it’s often washed away by the weekend’s games, to be replaced with new drama.

Unless you’re defeated 5-3 by an underwhelming Arsenal squad. Then it starts all over again. This is going to be a very difficult week for AVB personally. It’s his turn to be grilled. He’s going to have explain the weak defensive efforts.

Clearly something’s wrong with Drogba. I think it’s physical, not mental. His passing is still sharp and I think he wants to succeed. He celebrates goals, his and those of others, like he cares. But he’s painfully slower and weaker. I understand the loss of pace. But weaker? That comes as a shock.

As for Chelsea, I agree. Huge problems. AVB is playing a system which requires everyone to defend. But Chelsea’s attackers don’t seem interested. Sturridge sometimes does, sometimes doesn’t. Torres rarely does. Mata gets close enough to make a show of trying, but he hardly ever tackles or applies real pressure. The result is the high defensive line is easily exposed by passers who have time on the ball.” – wxwax, www.theshedend.com

“AVB’s focus from the start has been for chelsea to be more attack minded. from the first 6 EPL matches they have conceded 7 goals. they are dominating possession in a majority of their games, but it’s those silly defensive mistakes that have cost them some silly goals.

* WBA – backline giving the ball away
* Norwich – Goalie/CB miscommunication
* MU – unmarked smalling, nani cutting easily through the midfield
* Swansea – bosingwa a terrible effort at marking

sexy football is great and all but it seems the attention to more flair has come at the expense of basic defensive communication. it’s nice to know that your team has the ability to comeback, but come crunch time in the latter parts of the season, giving up that early goal or preventative goals may be cause for concern.

what are your thoughts?” – MJQ23, www.chelseafcforums.com

5. Tottenham Hotspur

General mood: Delighted with a dismantling of QPR that was for the most part a joy to behold. Current run of six wins from last seven Premier League makes Harry Redknapp’s men the division’s in-form team after Manchester City.

Reasons to celebrate: Both Gareth Bale goals were as good as anything seen in a good while in terms of team passing and movement. Bale, Aaron Lennon, Rafael van der Vaart, Scott Parker and Luka Modric clicking into gear at the same time yields quite magical results. Emmanuel Adebayor, despite missing good chances, did a sublime job of linking them all together up front. Kyle Walker and Benoit Assou-Ekotto continuing to look like one of the best pairs of full-backs going.

Causes for concern: The lack of an adequate replacement for Adebayor, at least in terms of what he specifically brings to the team.

Sample message board quotes:

“Parker richly deserves every word of praise but we certainly haven’t seen the best of Adebayor yet.

Don’t get me wrong here, I rate Ade highly and I hope we sign him permanently. However, when he was on top form for Arsenal he was virtually unplayable and was probably as good as Rooney and Drogba.
I hope we can get him back to that form because if we DO then Spurs are going to be a very, very dangerous team.

There’s no doubt that Ade (as well as Scott, of course,) has given Spurs an extra dimension. His strength and skill are all there for everyone to see and he runs the channels well, but on the minus side he could have scored another eight goals since he has been playing for Tottenham and could have been ahead of Van Persie. When I look back I’ve got to be honest and say that five of them were absolute sitters.

Let’s hope he finds his shooting boots. Ade is 27, (unlike Scott who is 31), so we should be looking at a player who is finding or reaching his peak.

By the way, I’m not trying to nit-pick, because I am as thrilled by the performances of Tottenham as anyone, but Ade is one of the highest-paid players in the PL and he SHOULD be scoring more.
Early days, of course. Let’s hope he goes on a run.” – Lonspurs, www.tottenhamhotspurs.tv/forum

“At the time we did indeed lose to (currently) the two top teams in the league and one with the financial backing of a small country. We had multiple injuries, and had yet to make all of our signings; two of which have been instrumental in our upturn in fortunes (Adebayor and Parker). While I doubted some of the decisions Redknapp made in those two losses (Niko and Modric in the middle against Man City was a huge error), it wasn’t his fault that we had so many first-team players unavailable.

We’re riding on the crest of a wave at the moment, and playing some great football to boot. I’m genuinely excited to see where we can take this squad to this season, as we certainly have a great bunch of guys and a good manager at the helm. I would be disappointed if we didn’t get into the latter stages of at least one of the two cup competitions, as I feel that we have a good chance of winning if we really give them some attention.” – Park Lane James, glory-glory.co.uk

6. Liverpool

General mood: Fairly positive, the Dalglish feel-good factor still in effect after a very creditable 2-0 win at in-form West Bromwich Albion.

Reasons to celebrate: Andy Carroll on the score sheet again, Glen Johnson back in the fold, Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel justifying calls for their partnering with a clean sheet in the absence of Jamie Carragher.

Causes for concern: Steven Gerrard sill susceptible to niggling injuries. Jury generally still out on Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson.

Sample message board quotes:

“I think we are still a few pieces short. When we finished 2nd a few years back we had Alonso, Mascherano, Gerrard and Torres (All at peak form and fit) through the middle to the strikers. That is impressive just looking at it on paper. Now we have Lucas, Adam, Carroll and Suarez.

Lucas I think holds his own on the field against the best.
Adam’s dead ball deliveries are why we bought him but he lacks pace, defense, and is not the world class playmaker that is required to win big…whether he can get us to the top 4 is yet to be seen.
Suarez is in a world of his own. Class is recognizable by all.
Carroll we bought for the future. He has a long way to go to reach his peak. He will get there…but is along way off it now.

We need another striker (Someone like Adebayor – Someone to just put it away. Tall yet fast and flexible. Great touch. Turn on a dime. With a bit more loyalty tho).

More then that I think we need another midfielder. I’d like to see Henderson given more time in the central midfield to see if he has potential in that role. He’s young and I believe he could do it. We need someone who can pass 100 times in a game with an accuracy above 95%. Someone that will run and run and run. Box to box. And when the time is right provide that 1 assist per game.

To win the league we are going to need a World Class Winger. Someone of the Ronaldo or Nani stature

Defensively I think we have the talent and people. They will become a strong force throughout this year.” – jah008, www.redandwhitekop.com/forum

“Charlie Adam is showing a lot of hard work helping Lucas in the CM/DM role. A lot of work. Sometimes being robbed of the ball …. It will come good sometime or other. He would be one of those I would put into the category of Work in Progress. He needs to find those passes for which he is known. It will come.
Yeah … building in 6 new players into the first team aint easy….. but the right signs are there. Downing, Bellamy, Adam, Enrique, Adam, and Henderson are all first teamers and new. Suarez and Carroll are also sort of new. Finding their feet together. Work in Progress. Signs are looking good though.” – dream-comes-true, forums.liverpoolfc.tv

7. Arsenal

General mood: Euphoric after the weekend’s van Persie-inspired (well, naturally) 5-3 win at Chelsea, decidedly less so after last night’s disappointing 0-0 draw at home to Marseille in the Champions League.

Reasons to celebrate: Robin van Persie looking like the finest centre-forward in the country, as he has been doing throughout this calendar year. Aaron Ramsey starting to look the part. Summer signings looking good value for money, all round. A clean sheet last night after the defensive calamities against Chelsea.

Causes for concern: Van Persie picking up an injury (well, naturally). Improving form of defence lapsing badly against Chelsea, albeit not costing the Gunners in the end.

Sample message board quotes: “I can’t be the only one who finds this really bloody annoying? Against Marseille we had 28 (Twenty-Eight!) crosses into the box, and only one reached an Arsenal player. We could have legitimately lost a match because we failed to make any inroads whatsoever despite haveing lots of time and space in the final third.

Two particularly guilty players of this blind crossing habit are Theo Walcott (who has probably been advised while on England duty to get his head down and “put it in the mixer”) and Carl Jenkinson. These guys do not even know who is in the box. Most of our midfielders stay deep, so all that ends up happening is we lose possession and can’t sustain any attacking momentum.

Clichy has gone, but both he and Sagna were frequently guilty of this too in recent seasons.

What is your view? Are you of the opinion that this is where we need to go (i.e. more direct) and not enough players are getting in the box or do you think wide players should get more involved in slower build up play?

Is this a deliberate change in tactic or is it more to do with having less technically gifted players in wide areas?” – Big Poppa, arsenal-mania.com/forum

“For me Ramsey would be better served adapting a Frank Lampard type role, box to box midfield who looks to get forward and score goals. He certainly can do this. The midfield playmaker is a very difficult role to play and I don’t think we as a team should be looking for that. Cesc was a special player and can not be easily replaced. instead we should be looking at a combination of Ramsey and Wilshere breaking from midfield with the wingers and striker supporting. that way there is not over reliance on one individual to dictate the game, a weakness we had when Cesc Fabregas did not play for us.” – Tubzinho, www.arsenal-land.co.uk

8. Norwich City

General mood: Pleased to sit in the top half and to have recovered a two-goal deficit late on against Blackburn Rovers but concerned about conceding three goals at home to a potential relegation rival.

Reasons to celebrate: Still sitting prettily in the table, Grant Holt scoring for the second successive game, have one of the brightest young managers around.

Causes for concern: Dodgy display from defence and goalkeeper John Ruddy, squad likely to struggle with congested winter programme.

Sample message board quotes:

“This is a confidence business. At least, it is with a squad like ours, which essentially is a band of lower league players punching well above their weight with a manager who’s learning more with every game.

Any idiot can say we look weak at the back… that our defensive positioning is poor… that Suarez pulled Martin all over the place. We’ve got the cheapest so no s*** sherlock.

We’ve also got the most exciting British manager in a generation and so far, we’ve played 10 and only lost 3 games and we’re 8th in the league. So anyone who comes on here moaning after coming back from 2 goals down is a complete prat!” – Kingston Yellow, Pink ‘Un

“Johnson does give the ball away to much (and he did at Leeds), its an area of his play he cetainly needs to improve, none the less he is bringing us defensive cover and does get forward well when needed (2 goals) and does cover hugh amounts of ground for the team,I think he will improve as time goes on.
On Fox, he is being asked to play a different role this season and as such has not always been able to do what he did last season. Even in the Pinkun he has said hes not happy with the way hes playing. Again he will improve as the season goes on.
Lets not forget where we have come from and we are judging these payers, in perhaps, what is the best lg. in the world certainly the strongest in depth. For me ALL the players are exceeding my expectations (and certainaly that of the media and football pudits).
I would though like to see an additional holding/defensive midfielder added to the squad in Jan.” – mog1, Norwich City footymad.net forum

9. Aston Villa

General mood: Downbeat, barely tempered by presence in top half. Had a bit of a wretched season last time out yet somehow scraped their way through a congested mid-table to finish 9th off the back of Darren Bent’s goal-scoring form. Bent may be misfiring now, and Villa have ostensibly made a rather poor start to the season, but here they sit in 9th yet again. Current league position is no consolation for a number of disappointing performances and terrace opinion appears to be very much against Alex McLeish, who wasn’t exactly a popular choice to begin with.

Reasons to celebrate: Barry Bannan’s emergence as a regular first-team player, encouraging early displays from Chris Herd.

Causes for concern: That Bannan’s drink driving arrest might disrupt his form, the resounding non-performance thus far of the summer signings, Stephen Ireland showing no sign of ever recapturing his best form, Darren Bent’s lack of goals whether it’s due to poor form or McLeish’s tactics.

Sample message board quotes:

“The less DB scores the more AM will try different things to get him firing… But atm he does not want to give players like Zog a license to roam free as this will make the defensive side weaker (more so than currently) and this is something AM will not budge on until he has more confidence in the back 4. And without an effective holding player protecting the defence and breaking up play will make this a whole lot harder to achieve.” – harris21, www.villatalk.com

“Jshow, fans who are unhappy with our current position do not have an unrealistic expectation of how we ought to be performing. We have had a VERY easy run of games up to now yet we are still in the bottom half of the table. Things are going to get a lot tougher for us and unless we improve hugely (and there’s no sign of that at the moment) we are going to drop down the table. We are only 6 points above the relegation zone and we have a very tough run of games coming up. Between now and the end of December we will be playing Spurs, Man United, Liverpool and Chelsea. How many points do you think we’d get out of those games on our our current form? Most fans who are worried are not worried that we may not finish in the Top 6, but are worried that we may not finish in the Top 17.” – Brendan00, Aston Villa footymad.net forum

10. Swansea City

General mood: Confounding expectations and loving every minute of it. Playing some good stuff to boot.

Reasons to celebrate: Joe Allen, Leon Britton, Scott Sinclair and Danny Graham seem to have taken to the top flight like Swans to water, unbeaten at home.

Causes for concern: Tough winter ahead, they’ll face much better sides than Bolton and might have to bounce back from the odd thumping here and there.

Sample message board quotes:

“It was a great win and to be tenth at this stage of the season is a very good start. Away at Anfield next and then home to Man Utd. Doesn’t get any better in my book.

To see the likes of Britton, Allen, Rangel, Dyer, Graham, Sinclair flourishing in this league is fantastic and long may it continue.” – Bradders, forum.planetswans.co.uk

“Mark Gower’s game is always under the microscope for some. I will be first to admit after his first season was concerned he wasn’t the same player I watched for Southend. Sousa really unearthed his natural position playing in the centre, and Rodgers has developed it. His supply is vastky under rated and he attempts the balls others will prefer the softer option, and for one am so glad that he has given Rodgers a headache in relation to central midfield when Agustien and (if) Bodde come back. A clever technical player, and very pleased he can live his Prem dream.” – jackswan78, www.swansea.vitalfootball.co.uk/forum