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Norwich City find themselves at a fascinating place at the moment.
Daniel Farke has now been at the club for 18 months and it seems like this could be the best he’s ever had it. The Yellow and Green Army have never been more behind their Parka wearing German head coach either.
It’s been quite the turnaround from the rousing renditions of ‘Farke sort it out’ as City were staring down a first defeat to arch rivals Ipswich Town in ten years just a few months ago.
Farke will be hoping for a win.
Farke’s recruit Moritz Leitner dug him out of a hole that day and since then, the Canaries have rose to sixth place.
Saturday’s game against Nottingham Forest epitomised what Daniel Farke has installed in his team. Young players digging in deep and returning the trust that’s been put in them.
18-year-old Max Aarons continues to pocket seasoned Championship wingers.
20-year-old Jamal Lewis has been named the EFL young player of the month for September and there’s a reason he’s one of the fans favourites.
Norfolk’s very own Todd Cantwell fills the hole left by James Maddison as effortlessly as he pulls off his man bun.
It means City go into Tuesday nights game against Aston Villa with their heads held high but their feet firmly grounded. They know that under Dean Smith the Villains won’t be easy opposition, but at Carrow Road with 27,000 fans behind them anything is possible.
It’s not just off the pitch where spirits are high either, there’s a real unity about things on the pitch too and there’s a balance between attack and defence unlike we’ve seen before.
The metronomic Moritz Leitner provides the orchestrating touch to the team while Onel Hernandez’s venomous pace and Jordan Rhodes Championship prowess provides a lethal attacking force.
Defensively things are pretty sound too.
It’s hard to believe that Cristoph Zimmermann was playing fourth tier German football just two seasons ago, now he’s one of the Championship’s most reliable defenders.
When Tim Krul is the man between the sticks too, that’s a pretty solid foundation to build from.
The Championship is a crazy league and the play-offs seemed like a dream that would never become reality at the start of the season, but after the last few outings – we might just be able to dare to dream.
9 Memorably short managerial reigns at big clubs - YouTube
Julen Lopetegui is on the brink just two months into his first season at the Real Madrid helm. Defeat at home to Levante means Los Blancos are winless in their last five games, increasing the pressure on the 52-year-old.
At the time of writing, Lopetegui is still in charge, hanging by a thread. However, even if he is dismissed by the club, he won’t be the first man to be given the boot at such a formative stage of his tenure.
Here, we’ve teamed up with our friends at Football Whispers to look back on nine memorably short managerial reigns at big clubs.
Everton v Crystal Palace, Sunday 21st October, 16:00
Palace are W2-D1-L5 this term, but each of the three occasions where they avoided defeat came versus teams down at the bottom as they’ve beaten Fulham and Huddersfield while drawing with Newcastle – with those the only sides they’ve kept clean sheets against.
Everton are hardly enjoying a stellar campaign either, but they registered consecutive victories before the international break for the first time this season and should be back in the top half of the table before too long.
A lack of goals has been the chief concern for the Eagles, only scoring three times in their last seven outings.
Christian Benteke remains out injured, and although his scoring record is poor, he provides a focal point to their attack and takes some of the heat off Wilfred Zaha.
Will Wilfried Zaha get a goal this weekend?
All eyes will be on the starting XI to see if the Ivorian makes the cut after aggravating a groin problem away with on international duty, though he is expected to feature.
The Eagles have lost each of the last 13 matches where he’s been absent, a run stretching back to September 2016, while they failed to score in 10 of these games.
Things are looking rosier for the Toffees with regards to team selection as they have summer signings Andre Gomes and Yerry Mina back in contention, while Bernard impressed on his first start of the season last time out in their win over Leicester.
However, the real big plusses for them are the upturn of Gylfi Sigurdsson’s form and the goal threat of Richarlison – the Brazilian already has four goals in six appearances this term.
Everton’s attacking potential isn’t in doubt, especially under the tutelage of the proactive Marco Silva, with the hosts only failing to net in one of their eight matches to date – against Arsenal – while they’ve scored at least twice in five of these games.
However, a full-throttle brand of football has also seen them register just the solitary clean sheet, and though they’re W10-D3-L1 hosting bottom-half teams since the start of last season, they only shut the opposition out in five of these games.
Indeed, they beat Crystal Palace 3-1 in this fixture last term, and the visitors are better equipped to break on the counter than on home turf where they’re expected to take the initiative.
In fact, all five of their goals this season have come away from Selhurst Park. However, six of Palace’s eight matches have seen fewer than three goals this season, and with a slight doubt surrounding the fitness of all-important talisman Zaha, we’d advise sticking to the straight win rather than coupling it with a clean sheet or both teams to score.
Internazionale v AC Milan, Sunday 21st October, 19:30
AC Milan are unbeaten since their opening game away at Napoli, but they’ve only won three out of six since then, despite facing three of the current bottom four and still have plenty of convincing to do.
However, they do have a game in hand against Genoa after their opening fixture was postponed, which had they played and won, would see them sitting in 4th place at the expense of Lazio.
Inter know a thing or two about stealing 4th place from under the nose of the Rome outfit after their frantic clash on the final day last term, but certainly appear the side set to compete with Napoli for the runners-up spot with Juve pulling clear already.
Indeed, Inter strengthened over the summer to add to their already strong spine, adding Lazio centre-back Stefan de Vrij, Atletico Madrid right-back Sime Vrsaljko and Roma’s impressive midfield lynchpin Radja Nainggolan amongst others.
That added depth has enabled Inter to embark upon a six game winning streak across all competitions, including Champions League victories over Spurs and PSV, with four of these games finishing 2-1.
They may have a clash with Barcelona on the horizon, but they can ill afford to rest any key players in the derby or they’ll risk the fans’ ire, while Luciano Spalletti benefits from a full complement to select from.
These two played out a goalless stalemate the last time they met, but that was something of an anomaly as there were at least four strikes in each of the previous three encounters over the past two seasons.
In fact, the last five meetings since January 2016 have seen 16 goals plundered in total, with Mauro Icardi bagging a hat-trick in this fixture last term as Inter secured a 3-2 victory at the death.
The Argentina international has five goals in his last six appearances across all competitions, and after showing such consistency over the last couple of years appears well placed to strike again.
While the captain inevitably leads the goalscoring markets, he’s by no means Inter’s only attacking threat, while Milan’s Gonzalo Higuain isn’t far behind in the odds having netted six times in his last five appearances.
Admittedly, the standard of opposition was weak, including Luxembourg outfit F91 Dudelange, an Olympiakos side that don’t travel well in Europe, as well as netting a brace against rock-bottom Chievo last time out.
AC Milan’s head coach Gennaro Gattuso will be hoping for a good result.
However, both teams have netted in each of Milan’s last 11 league outings and so this should prove an entertaining spectacle.
Of the last 12 Milan derbies, only one has been settled one way or the other by more than a single strike, with Inter leading W4-D6-L2 and their improvement leaves us siding with what in theory are the hosts – who will have a larger allocation of the crowd in the San Siro.
Given we expect both sides to register on the scoreboard at some stage, that leaves a fifth 2-1 correct score in seven games for Inter as a distinct possibility.
So we’re a quarter of the way through the season. We’ve amassed the greatest number of points after eight games since the Premier League era began.
It’s a far cry from this time ten years ago for Spurs, when Harry Redknapp took over from Juande Ramos after the Spaniard had delivered us just two points from eight games. So why is the mood of Tottenham’s fan base so underwhelmed? Why are we not being tipped as title challengers?
Tottenham are getting results, but are not playing the free-flowing sexy football we’ve seen from Pochettino sides.
Spurs fans demand it all, and we’re currently only seeing half the return.
That said there is a time-worn cliché that all successful sides win trophies. We’re winning games this season, a win at Watford would see us top of the league, and yet the frustration remains because every three points seems so hard fought.
The signing of no players during the summer – the only club in top five European leagues to do no incoming business – is definitely a factor.
Besides winning football matches and trophies, there’s nothing more exciting for supporters than buying footballers. The fact that Tottenham didn’t creates an inertia in the fan base.
It’s also an easy ‘go to’ excuse for poor performance; that the thin squad being impacted by a tough last season and major players going deep into the World Cup.
Will Kane finish the season at the league’s top goalscorer?
There’s something in this as Pochettino was forced to play formations that didn’t suit our players, or at least systems they weren’t used to – would he have played Lucas Moura up top with Harry Kane if the England forward wasn’t suffering some sort of fatigue?
Barring Manchester United, all of our Premier League rivals are picking up points.
It may be our best start to a Premier League campaign, but we still find ourselves in fifth place, outside of the top four and most notably behind Arsenal.
The gap between the top six and the rest of the league seems to be growing and it won’t be long, you’d think until United are challenging Tottenham and Arsenal for that fourth place.
But. If we can recover from injuries, and we click into gear there is potentially an excellent season ahead of us.
Harry Winks has begun to show some of the form that impressed enough to see entry into the England set up.
After just a few games back to full fitness, Winks again finds himself at the centre of the Three Lions midfield. Serge Aurier has been more than capable in the games he’s played in and Danny Rose is again beginning to find form after his bi-yearly reminder that he was once an average fullback.
This will be the second weekend without a game for Arsenal fans as The Gunners host Leicester City at the Emirates on Monday night.
For many the international break is boring with the lack of Premier League football, but for me it’s a time to have a lazy weekend, catch up with friends and family and a chance to recharge the batteries.
After Monday night’s fixture the Arsenal travelling fans have a busy week with a trip to Portugal for what looks like a tasty game against Sporting Lisbon, then finishing the week with a Sunday afternoon kick-off at Crystal Palace, which is sure to be a tricky game.
Going back to Monday night’s game, which will be an interesting game first of all, can the Arsenal make it 10 straight wins on the bounce?
Also, with other teams having already played on Saturday and Sunday, the team going into this fixture could be outside the top four, meaning that the expectation of a win will be even higher.
The last two matches against Leicester at the Emirates have been exciting games, with Arsenal scoring in the last minute in both games to take all three points.
The last fixture was the opening game of the season on a Friday night which ended in a 4-3 thriller.
Obviously, Leicester winning the title was a massive achievement and Claudio Ranieri was admired by all football fans for managing to steer them to win the title. However, I don’t know how everyone else feels about about the sacking of Claudio after he won the league, but in my book it was an unforgivable act from The Foxes.
Also looking from the outside in it seemed like the players had a role in the sacking too, so going into Monday night’s game all I hope is that Arsenal win the game and give them the spanking they deserve.
Team selection will be very interesting after a great 1-5 win at Fulham.
The big question is whether Mesut Ozil will come straight back into the team – whatever decision is made, there will be differences of opinion.
Another question is will Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang still be on the bench after coming onto the pitch and scoring twice at Craven Cottage?
Will Aubameyang feature on Monday night?
I hope that Unai Emery will stick close to the team that started at Fulham, yet saying that the manager will obviously be mindful that they are playing three games in the space of six days.
It does seem as if the manager is playing the strongest team in all competitions, so l am looking forward to the fixture at the Emirates, where there is a definite feel-good factor amongst the fans at the moment.
The song which was sung on the sunny day by the river was ‘We’ve got our Arsenal back’. In my opinion it was not a dig at Arsene Wenger, or anyone really, it was the fans just being happy to be in each other’s company – something that has been missing for quite a while.
So, the result on Monday I believe will be a win to the Arsenal and I am hoping for an exciting score line, perhaps a 3-1 victory. If I was to have a cheeky little bet, it would be on Alexandre Lacazette as first goal scorer.
Having started the season with four consecutive victories it looked as if it was going to be another procession for Barcelona, but they’ve since not won in four and as a result have lost their lead to their visitors.
However, we’re not overly worried about the Catalans’ form as their recent performance against Spurs at Wembley suggests they still have the ability to turn it on, while the only other two times they’d failed to win for four league matches in a row since 2008/09, they hit back with at least a six-match winning streak on both occasions.
Sevilla have won four on the trot and while they’ve always been strong at home, we’re still not convinced by them away from the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuán, even though they’ve picked up nine points form 12 on the road this term.
Sevilla will want to try and take something from the game.
All three of those victories were against teams in the bottom-half of the table, while they lost at eighth-placed Real Betis.
They’re a miserable W3-D4-L15 when travelling to top-six sides over the previous four seasons, while they’ve lost all 12 visits to Barca and Real Madrid specifically since 2012/13.
They’ve conceded a whopping average of 3.58 goals across these defeats as seven were by at least a two-goal margin, but they only fired a blank themselves on three occasions.
Barca’s recent issues haven’t been putting the ball in the back of the net, but rather stopping it going in their own.
They’re without a clean sheet in six in the league and at the Camp Nou they only have two in their last nine. Excluding Real and Atletico, they won six of seven unbeaten matches hosting top-half teams last term and five of these victories were despite conceding.
Sevilla have only scored one goal fewer than the Catalans this season, with Andre Silva starting the campaign on fire with seven strikes so far.
Although we expect Valverde’s men to return to winning ways, the visitors can get themselves on the scoresheet in defeat.
Huddersfield v Liverpool, Saturday 20th October, 17:30
After emerging victorious in each of their opening seven fixtures across all competitions this term, Liverpool have since gone winless in four appearances, though it’s hardly time to push the panic button.
They’ve faced an impressive Chelsea both home and away, visited Napoli in the Champions League and held City to a goalless stalemate.
Pep Guardiola has never shown such respect to the opposition with regards to his tactics, preparing a more cautious approach that sought to limit the threat of those devastating counter-attacks, seemingly learning from past encounters with Jurgen Klopp as the German holds the upper hand in their head-to-head meetings.
This is about as good a time as Huddersfield could hope for to play the Reds, with the international break proving a bruising experience for the title hopefuls as Mo Salah misses out through injury while Sadio Mane’s broken finger leaves him a doubt.
Klopp may have elected to use this game to rest one or two players anyway, though Liverpool have too much firepower in reserve for this to be a significant issue – especially given the contributions of Xherdan Shaqiri and Daniel Sturridge this term.
Indeed, Huddersfield have lost 11 of their last 13 when facing ‘Big Six’ opponents, failing to score in eight of these defeats including a pair of 3-0 defeats to Liverpool.
Meanwhile, they’ve shipped 11 goals in games against Chelsea, City and Spurs in the new campaign. The potential absence of Virgil van Dijk may leave some questioning Liverpool’s defensive resolve, but in reality it means very little with the Netherlands’ captain not featuring in either clash with Huddersfield last season while Dejan Lovren is more than a capable of a replacement with the Reds keeping a clean sheet in four of the last five he’s started.
In fact, the Terriers are the joint-lowest scorers along with rock-bottom Cardiff, while they’ve managed just the single goal in their last nine on home turf – losing without scoring in five of their last six.
They lost three of their five matches hosting top-six opposition, while they’ve already lost their one and only game to a top-six side here this season in Leeds.
Sheffield Utd meanwhile, are out clear at the top of the table having won four games on the trot, though they haven’t been regularly tested this season with six of their eight victories coming against sides currently residing in the bottom 10.
In fact, excluding those sides they’ve lost three of their five matches, including two of three on the road, so we don’t fancy getting behind them for the win.
The value bet looks to be in backing the stalemate with Derby an even W1-D2-L1 hosting top-half sides this term, while this fixture also finished 1-1 last term.
Arsene Wenger is getting ready to return to work, and he’ll not be short of offers for roles either as a manager or a director of football.
The legendary former Arsenal boss re-enters a world of football which is much different to that which he encountered on moving to a reasonably new Premier League in 1996, and the changes in the game between then and now were greatly influenced by the Frenchman himself.
It’s this type of experience, and the ability to give clubs plenty of the things they are lacking which make Wenger such a wanted man across Europe and beyond.
His shrewd work in north London helped Arsenal build a new stadium, and he kept the club competitive at the top end of the Premier League table — regularly qualifying for the Champions League — despite financial restrictions.
Though things didn’t go as smoothly as he might have liked during his final years at Arsenal, the 69-year-old’s knowledge could be priceless for the right club. Our friends at Football Whispers take a look at possible destinations for the next chapter in Wenger’s career.
The Bavarian club are suffering their latest mini-crisis and sit a disappointing sixth in the Bundesliga table.
New manager Niko Kovac has found the going tough in the opening stages of his time at the Allianz Arena, and is quickly realising that the club expect to win every game.
Bayern have only won four of their opening seven games, and Wenger’s indication that he will return to work in January has opened up the possibility of him joining the German champions should Kovac be shown the door.
Reports have suggested that PSG boss Thomas Tuchel has had differences of opinion with current sporting director Antero Henrique.
Wenger, meanwhile, has praised the German boss and it would be easy to imagine the two working together given their respective outlooks on the game.
“I hold him in high regard. He has adapted very quickly to French football,” said Wenger.
“The first impressions are very positive, and I think that’s very important when you come from abroad. There will be some harder matches to come for PSG in the future and the expectations are very high. I hope that he can also be successful in the Champions League.”
A role at the European champions may be more outside Wenger’s comfort zone, but you get the impression he likes a challenge.
The side from the Spanish capital would no doubt look to continue their pursuits of the most obvious, high profile players in world football, but with Wenger on board as a sporting director, they could assemble a more cohesive supporting cast for these stars.
“I don’t know what director of football means,” Wenger once said when asked about Arsenal using one.
“Is it somebody who stands in the road and directs play right and left? I don’t understand and I never did understand what it means.”
He may have to learn quickly as a number of sides would consider him ideal for the role, including Real.
Though recent comments ruled him out of an immediate move into international football, there is definitely a chance that it will happen further down the line.
When Wenger commented after leaving Arsenal that he has definitely not retired, he added that he likes being involved with the day-to-day running of a football club. This ruled him out of a job in international management, but he could be a candidate to take over from current France boss Didier Deschamps in 2020, should the World Cup winner step down from his role.
“The real test is there,” Wenger said of international football management.
“Four or five weeks [with players] is a different experience, it is more concentrated.”
He also hinted at a less high-profile international role with a nation such as Japan, where he managed Nagoya Grampus Eight before moving to England.
“From my 22 years at Arsenal, I have big experience on different levels. There are enquiries from all over the world,” Wenger added.
“There are associations, national teams, it could be in Japan.”
One thing is for sure. Wenger will not be short of offers come January, and he will have had several already. Whether it be as a director of football or as a manager, his return will be good for the game.