If this was titled Sack-Masters, Jose Mourinho would most certainly be unopposed. By sheer virtue of his impressive managerial history, the “Special One” avoided the infamous axe of Chelsea chairman Roman Abramovich, even though the reigning champions are guaranteed to start November in the bottom half of the table.
The Premier League is currently in a state of revolution. Visiting teams now attack without fear at fortresses such as Anfield and Stamford Bridge, with enterprising play from youthful upstarts now the key to victory, and three teams in particular enjoyed an inspired weekend.
ALLARDYCE V NEWCASTLE – 3 POINTS
It takes a certain type of manager to take over at a club without hope, direction or competitive resources. The newcomer must have a history of stabilising clubs and galvanising teams, even if the football is not aesthetically pleasing. For football fanatics of a certain generation, only one name comes to mind.
Though Newcastle dominated the first half, it was a typical Allardyce-style performance from Sunderland which served to frustrate. The game-changing red card and penalty was always in the pipeline as the visiting Magpies continually found themselves shut out by the brave Black Cats.
Much fortune can be attributed to Sunderland’s 1-0 halftime lead, but Allardyce responded well to the injuries that were sustained by Ola Toivonen and John O’Shea just minutes before the opening goal. Jermaine Defoe (replacing Toivonen) added some much-needed wisdom and experience as Allardyce switched to a 4-4-2 formation to great effect, at a time when there were other options available.
Key Player: Jermain Defoe
FLORES V STOKE – 2 POINTS
After a 3-0 home defeat by Arsenal, this was the perfect response from Watford. Although a home defeat in their next game – to away day specialists West Ham – would be typical of the present season, the 2-0 win at an in-form Stoke City was a real indication that the Hornets have finally ‘clicked’ in the Premier League.
The root of Watford’s problems lay within Ighalo’s isolation as a striker. Quique Flores, with no vanity or arrogance, saw fit to actively change Ighalo’s role alongside Troy Deeney. With greater license to roam, Ighalo caused immense trouble for Stoke, continually switching with teammates to confuse the hapless opposition in his wake.
Key Player: Odion Ighalo
BILIC V CHELSEA – 1 POINT
Beating Chelsea is no longer the scalp it was, but West Ham’s impressive start to the season continued with a simple but effective game plan to stifle Chelsea and use possession effectively without too much exertion.
There was nothing special about “Plan C”, as Bilic deployed Andy Carroll as an extra striker against ten-man Chelsea. John Terry’s age is now showing, and he is no longer an effective defensive partner to Gary Cahill, and it was only a matter of time before West Ham retook the lead. Bilic’s opposite number Jose Mourinho must shoulder a good proportion of the blame. For all his managerial experience, the “Special One” failed to identify that most basic and obvious of dangers.
Key Player: Andy Carroll