Hawkeye Sidekick

EPL Review: Part 2

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In this review of the first eleven games of the EPL season, Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on teams ranked between sixth to thirteenth. It is a mixed bag with teams who have excelled while others who frankly have being extremely poor.

Manchester United

The Good: 

Struggling to find one, perhaps Zlatan’s good early form and goals which has dried up. De Gea’s performances again in the goals to rescue his increasingly under pressure back four. The emergence of Juan Mata in midfield chipping in with a couple of goals. Rashford continues to develop into a decent striking option for the club.

The Bad: 

Central defensive options currently at the football club.When has Phil Jones last featured in a league game? Bailly aside, distinctly average performance from this unit. The underwhelming start of Henrikh Mkhitaryan to his club career; another Borussia Dortmund bust? Wayne Rooney’s lack of form and rumors about his future. Increasing isolation of young players such as Lingard and Martial. The manager’s constant moaning about absolutely everything. Past season signings look more rubbish every single day. Fellaini, Darmian to name but a few.

Verdict: 

There is no quick fix; the club will need a couple of seasons to rebuild and buy the right players in the right areas. Ed Woodward’s transfer policy is coming back to haunt the football club; chasing the wrong players. The lack of defensive options in the squad is damning. A good cup run and potential top six finish is the objective. UEFA Europa League campaign is a hindrance at this stage.

Everton: 

The Good: 

The arrival of Ronald Koeman to the football club, a manager who given the right finances will build an improved footballing side. The retention of Romelu Lukaku, his goal tally so far has being impressive. Steklenberg’s form in goals has being superb at times; his cameo away to City was a standout. Ashley Williams’ signing was one of the most astute in the preseason. Everton’s win is Swansea’s massive loss.

The Bad: 

The continous spat between Everton management and Republic of Ireland with injured players. James McCarthy saga has being embarrassing. The end of Phil Jagielka as a viable central defensive option; his lack of pace is giving teams opportunities. The continuous rumors on Lukaku’s future this season. Can Ross Barkley fulfil his potential? All the traits are there but sheer inconsistency is plighting his game.

Verdict: 

A solid start to the season has stalled with recent losses to Burnley and the hammering at Stamford Bridge. Koeman will look to improve the squad defensively and central midfield in January and next summer with several long serving players being shown the door. Top eight finish beckons unless the team produces a couple of upsets against the top four currently in the league.

Watford:

The Good: 

Solid start to the top flight this season considering managerial departure at the end of last term. Troy Deeney continues to impress; leadership and creativity is to the fore.

The Bad: 

Defensively vulnerable when faced against pacy teams evident in their losses to Arsenal and Liverpool so far this season. Where has Ighalo gone? Second season syndrome. No goals and precious little to report from a player who was pivotal in the Hornet’s survival last season. The lingering club registration player issues from seasons gone by; this could become a story come the New Year.

Verdict: 

Top eight standing is misleading; squad depth in the next two months will be exposed and  the Herfordshire club will be looking at a relegation battle come Christmas unless Ighalo gets back to scoring form. January window will be pivotal for Watford to shore up gaps defensively and provide midfield depth.

Burnley: 

The Good: 

Sean Dyche, his man management and ability to make his side extremely tough to breakdown have led to this ninth position in the league. Tom Heaton has being sublime in goals; his saves against former club Manchester United were world class. Shrewd signings in the offseason. Gudmonson and Hendricks have added depth to the midfield. Michael Keane continues to excel in centre back; his partnership with Ben Mee has being pivotal to the club’s fine start to the season. Financially stable. Turf Moor is a tough place to get a result; ask Arsenal. Set piece is king; goal source.

The Bad: 

Apart from Sam Vokes, struggling to see who in the striking department will score goals. The midfield and defense have chipped in with a couple of goals. A problem area. Michael Keane’s future will the subject of much debate; will he go in January? Squad depth again may be exposed due to suspensions in the next couple of months.

Verdict: 

Given the points difference between Burnley and West Ham, a couple of bad results will have Burnley back in the relegation battle which is the forte this season. Burnley have learned from past mistakes in their first eleven games but whether their squad is good enough to score enough goals to get to forty points is a different story. Tough and go whether they stay in the top flight.

Southampton: 

The Good: 

Charlie Austin has provided goals a plenty since joining from QPR. Virgil van Djik has being sensational at center back; his partnership with Forte has being fundamental to the club recovering from a shaky start to the season. The club’s policy to bring home local underage talent to the first team is an example for the rest of the league. McQueen, another decent local youth player to be given his nod.

The Bad: 

Involvement in UEFA Europa League has hindered EPL form. The start of the season was a by product of European involvement. The form of Steven Davis has being inconsistent so far; his goals were pivotal in securing Europa League football last season. The constant transfer links to the club’s marquee stars. Tadic, Forester, Fonte and van Djik will persist. The transfer policy has being on point but there will be dud signings soon which will see the club suffer. Top eight spot is achievable provided that Europa League does not expose the squad.

West Bromwich Albion: 

The Good: 

Tony Pulis’ side has being typically abrasive defensively but have also added goals from the likes of Rondon and McClean. The set piece is pivotal; goals from corners and free kicks have being paramount. Their performance against Tottenham was a standout. Forty points will be secured by February.

The Bad: 

Creativity is sometimes limited with the Baggies but as long as forty points is secured, happy days? The goals scored is in the bottom five of the league; needs to improve.

Verdict: 

Survival will be secured with ease; top twelve berth would be a good acheivement. Experienced squad with Evans, Fletcher in the ranks so a potential cup run may be a bonus. Tony Pulis – Mr. Forty Points.

AFC Bournemouth

The Good: 

Eddie Howe did not bite on the England football job (nibble maybe). The acquisition of Jack Wilshere on loan has aided more creativity to the side. Exciting front three loaded with pace and power. Ibe could be an astute signing long term.

The Bad: 

Defensively vulnerable at times due to their footballing style. Sunderland loss was a poor result considering their recent form leading into this fixture. January defensive options need to be added. The front three’s goal record has being mediocre; need to up the goals tally as defensively, they look like a team who will not keep clean sheets.

Verdict:

Top ten finish is on provided defensively they can tighten up. Eddie Howe’s admirers to continue to wax lyrically about the manager. Arsenal link? England link? Club to establish themselves in the top flight but how do they grow financially?