Back From The Brink
Before this matchweek, the teams in the bottom five had won only two of 26 games since the restart but the looming effect of “oh-actually-relegation-is-staring-us-in-the-face” seems to have jolted at least 80% of them out of the slump. Watford and West Ham started early on Saturday by beating Newcastle and Norwich and then Bournemouth and Aston Villa continued the trend, defeating Leicester and Crystal Palace respectively. Bournemouth have been stuck in a nightmare of their own imagination for what feels like months now, so it was apt that there were only 101 seconds between Junior Stanislas’s equaliser from the penalty spot and the rarest sight you can see on the southern coast of England. No, not a loose alligator but a Dominic Solanke goal. Before the Leicester match Solanke had played 1,741 minutes for the club in the Premier League, had taken 36 shots but only seen six of them go on target, and none of them end in the back of the net. Finally, against a reeling Leicester, he scores and then goes and does it again with his very next effort. Two out of two, 4-1 for Bournemouth and with it a faint glimmer of hope. Like Michael Corleone, Watford & West Ham thought they were out, but now they’ve been pulled back in.
Come Back Later
The problem with most derby fixtures is the sense of occasion often ends up ruining the actual match. The Everton v Liverpool game just after the resumption of the Premier League being a case in point. Possibly the only local fixture you can truly rely on in the top-flight (that is until Birmingham and Aston Villa are reunited) is the north London derby. Tottenham’s 2-1 win against Arsenal on Sunday was the 10th time in that fixture’s Premier League history that the team going 1-0 up ended up losing the match. No other derby game can compare with that. Tottenham fans should also remember that their team benefited on this occasion, and that other clubs, yes even Arsenal themselves, can be “Spursy”.
It’s no secret that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer tries to channel and emulate Alex Ferguson as much as he can, and in Manchester United’s potentially costly 2-2 draw with Southampton on Monday night he did something that hadn’t been done by the club since 1993: namely picking the same starting XI for five Premier League games in a row. Given the final score you might think that some rotation would have been in order but football remains an unpredictable beast, almost as unpredictable as line-ups themselves are in folk memory. Some will recall that David Moyes named a completely unique XI in every Manchester United match he took charge of, while others may remember that possibly the most classic of United XIs in the modern era (Schmeichel, G Neville, Irwin, Stam, Johnsen, Keane, Scholes, Beckham, Giggs, Yorke & Cole) only ever started one Premier League match together, a win at Coventry back in February 1999.
Monday night also saw Wycombe overcome Oxford in the League One playoff final to reach the second tier of English football for the first time in the club’s 133-year history. Famously, the team’s style of play is fairly rudimentary, as highlighted by Sky, using Stats Perform sequences data, before the game.
But here’s the thing, there’s no right way to play football and there’s no right way to guarantee positive results. In Wycombe’s three playoff games they completed a total of 272 passes but scored eight goals. Compare that, as we did on The Analyst earlier this week, with Spain at the 2010 World Cup, who completed 3796 passes but still only scored eight goals. Both teams won the title they were aiming for: success is an outcome, not an artform.
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