From eight-goal maulings to a potential changing of the guard on the continent, football fans had plenty of storylines to savour last weekend.
It’s time to review the good, bad and ugly from another enthralling couple of days in the world of football…
7 Things – The Weekend’s Football in Review
The puncture in Ole’s wheel is getting bigger…
That famous win in Paris seems a long, long time ago now. In fact, that was the last time the Red Devils tasted victory in any competition on the road. After a limp 2-0 defeat away at West Ham, Solksjaer has now lost seven of his last 15 Premier League games. Utd’s threadbare front-line looks an increasingly big headache for Solksjaer to shake off and next Monday night away at old rivals Arsenal now looks massive for the Norwegian.
Bruce’s Newcastle look bang in trouble…
On the surface, a point at home and a clean sheet against any Premier League opposition is the perennial ‘platform to build upon’. However, a Magpies crowd already hostile towards Steve Bruce can be more than justified in airing their frustrations as Newcastle yet again showed little sense of tactical know-how against an expertly-drilled Brighton side under Graham Potter.
Bruce admitted his side ‘got away with one’ as the game finished 0-0. While both these sides are languishing at the wrong end of the Premier League, Potter’s Seagulls are at least showing signs of being upwardly mobile.
Villa could rue missed opportunities…
The Premier League can be a bruising experience – just look at Fulham’s rapid slide in 2018/19 after confidence drained away after the first month of the season. Big-spending Aston Villa need to be careful to avoid falling into that trap in this campaign after yet again throwing away precious points from winning positions.
In spells, Dean Smith’s side look more than a match for most sides in this division, but fine margins matter in the Premier League. Villa need the rub of the green soon to avoid a long winter.
Late pain for Leeds but they remain the class act
Utterly dominant for 99% of proceedings before a gut-wrenching twist in the tale. Leeds fans have seen this script before. However, despite letting a struggling Derby side escape Elland Road with a point, Leeds have plenty of reasons to be cheerful. With last season’s relegated clubs so far failing to click into gear, there currently looks no outstanding candidate to be a lock-in for automatic promotion.
With last season’s disappointment a motivating force, Leeds look well-placed to take full advantage in a Championship that looks markedly weaker than previous seasons. Consistency levels alone could see the experienced Bielsa finally drag Leeds back to the promised land of Premier League football after nearly two decades away.
Battling Bolton deserve plenty of praise
Keith Hill and David Flitcroft will deserve the Freedom of Bolton if they can pull off an unlikely relegation escape act, with the Trotters still 12 points adrift at the bottom of League One following their well-documented summer of financial difficulties. However, the experienced management duo has taken to their impossible task with gusto, shaping a rag-tag bunch of free transfers into a coherent unit in the space of less than a month.
Bolton were just minutes away from a shock win over promotion-chasers Sunderland before late penalty agony saw them draw 1-1 at the University of Bolton Stadium. A solitary point, then, but one that suggests there’s still a small glimmer of hope for Hill’s plucky band of brothers to cling onto.
Derby day heat builds up on Heckingbottom
All the talk before the Edinburgh Derby was focused on the Hearts dugout with Craig Levein coming in for plenty of criticism after his side’s slump towards the bottom of the table.
However, the boot is now firmly on the other foot as Levein was handed a precious stay of execution by 17-year-old Aaron Hickey in a precious 2-1 derby day away win for Jam Tarts. Now it’s his opposite number Paul Heckingbottom firmly feeling the pressure, with the Hibees without a league win since the first day of the season.
Could Conte’s Inter topple Juve?
Finally, a quick trip to Serie A where it’s still early days, but the initial signs are encouraging for any fans of Italian football desperately seeking a title race after a near-decade of Juve dominance.
Antonio Conte has made an explosive return to his homeland, with Inter flying out the blocks with four wins from four, topped off by a clinical 2-0 win in the Milan derby on Saturday. With Juve visiting the San Siro in less than a fortnight, a sea-change could be on the cards if Conte can pull off another landmark win against his former club.
The week’s Top 5…
Player of the weekend
Kevin De Bruyne – the Belgian unselfishly ran the show against Watford before finally bagging a goal at the last.
Manager of the weekend
Mark Warburton and his under-the-radar turnaround job at QPR.
Result of the weekend
Man City 8-0 Watford.
Team of the weekend
Oxford Utd – the struggling Yellows hit six of the best away at Lincoln City in-front of watching Imps boss-in-waiting Michael Appleton – ironically last seen in a League One dugout at Oxford.
Biggest loser of the weekend
Marco Silva – surely drinking in the last-chance saloon at Everton with a tough run of fixtures to come.
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