January 22, 2021

Fourth time lucky, Ole?

October 31, 2019
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Manchester United didn’t manage to win away from home since the 3-1 victory over Paris Saint Germain in Paris, last March, suddenly, they have won three games in a row. This weekend, they travel to Bournemouth in a game where victory will move them to touching distance of the top four places.

There have been cries of looming crisis at Old Trafford this season, with a lot of fans and pundits already querying Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s suitability for the post of gaffer at one of the biggest clubs in Europe. Lately, displays against high flying Liverpool and Chelsea amongst others have seemed to rekindle confidence in Ole and his team’s ability.

The manager and players seem to have regained a tiny resemblance of the swashbuckling attitude of Manchester United teams that people took for granted when Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge. Ole has been boasting that his team struggled because of injuries to key players and now that they are returning to form United are ready to take their rightful position amongst the big boys.

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A note of caution though, practically all the good results the club got in the past two weeks or so came against teams that were ready to play expansive football. This gave United the opportunity to sit back, soak the pressure and hit them on the counter.

It remains to be seen, what Ole and his boys will do against clubs that are more defensive in nature, clubs that are satisfied with sitting in their own half blocking all spaces and not allowing United to use the pace of James and Rashford to do damage. We have seen Newcastle and Crystal Palace use this effectively and run away with deserved victories.

While Bournemouth is not a particularly defensive side, it would be no surprise to see the manager set them up in a defensive way that obviously works well against the Solskjaer led new generation of Manchester United players. United appear not to have a plan B and it would be foolish of Bournemouth not to take advantage of this.

Arsenal is facing a mini-crisis of their own. They just can’t seem to hold on to leads. To make matters worse, they don’t seem to have gotten over the painful loss to Sheffield United. The team seems to be lacking in self-confidence, this was evident in their 2-2 draw at home with Crystal Palace after going two goals ahead in the first 10 minutes of the game. It won’t help matters also to note that their captain, Xhaka got into a tiff with his own fans after reacting badly to being subbed.

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With his long-running power tussle with Mesut Ozil, this now means Unai Emery has issues with two of his most senior and influential players. This can only be bad for the dressing room because these two players definitely have their supporters in the team. It is difficult enough to keep up with the top six in the very competitive Premier League when there is harmony in the ranks imagine how tough it will then be when half of the squad has a beef to grind against the manager and other players. Arsenal host Wolves this weekend and hopefully, they should have settled some of the pressing issues in the camp. Having said that, Wolves are not exactly performing to expectations in the league, this season. Their focus seems to be on winning the Europa League Cup as a back door ticket to the Champions League. Not a bad strategy, considering they are not likely to break into the top four cuddles via the direct route. Arsenal can’t afford to lose this game especially now that they are out of the Carabao Cup. This factor is why I believe they will give their best against Wolves and make their fans fall in love with them all over again.

Manchester City seems to be getting the easy games lately as they hang on to the tails of Liverpool. They host Southampton in the league just days after dismissing them 3-1 in the Carabao Cup. Southampton is down in the dumps following their 9-0 loss to Leicester. They need a lift very quickly, it is just back luck that they have to play City, a team desperate to cut Liverpool’s lead to at least four points by the time both sides meet on November 10.

Liverpool goes to Aston Villa on Saturday. Luckily they will be playing before bitter rivals Manchester City and the added pressure from last week’s schedule will not be applicable this time around. If they win the game, they got nine points clear before City play. Although this doesn’t seem likely to affect the result at the Etihad where City will be hosting struggling Saints, it would at least afford the Liverpool players a relatively relaxing weekend. If Liverpool however, drop points at Villa, it would be quite a tiresome 90 minutes for them as they watch City against Southampton.

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Chelsea go to Watford after a loss to Manchester United in the league cup. Luckily for Frank Lampard, he rested quite a number of his key players and they will be fresh to face Watford who have been struggling all season. There are suspicions that Troy Deeney, Watford’s captain who has been out with injury for the better part of the season, could be fit to take part in this match up.

Watford plays better when he is in the team but there is being fit to play and there is being matched fit. He most probably won’t be at his very best coming into his first game after surgery so while he may improve the team with his presence, I believe Chelsea will be too angry and hungry for him and his teammates to do much damage to them.

Everton and Spurs play in a game between two clubs of whom much was expected before the season started but have not lived up to expectations. Spurs showed a bit of fire in their loss to Liverpool on Sunday but pundits believe that was due to nerves from Liverpool players who knew they could not afford to drop points in that particular game than it had to do with improvements from Spurs’ players.

Both clubs have a chance to kick start their season this weekend.

The question now is which one of them will be hungry enough to seize the day and take all three points.

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