Van Gaal on thin ice, Swansea sinking, Chelsea toxic – 5 Premier League Talking Points

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A miserable weekend for Liverpool away to Watford was one of a host of surprise turns in the Premier League.

WATFORD, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 20, 2015: Liverpool's Martin Skrtel shakes hands with Watford's captain Troy Deeney as he goes off injured during the Premier League match at Vicarage Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Putting aside the Reds’ 3-0 defeat at Vicarage Road on Sunday afternoon, this Premier League season continues to be unmissable.

Watford‘s victory was one of a number of traditional ‘upsets’, with Leicester defeating Everton, Norwich grabbing a crucial win away to Man United and Bournemouth continuing their strong run of form this winter with three points at West Brom.

Elsewhere, both Tottenham and Crystal Palace continued their run for a top-four finish with wins over Southampton and Stoke City respectively.

A post-Jose Mourinho Chelsea grabbed their first win with a comprehensive performance at home to Sunderland, hinting at another twist in what is a compelling campaign in the English top flight.

Here are five talking points from this weekend’s Premier League action.

 

Troy Deeney a Class Act, Deserving of an England Callup

Watford were fully deserving of the three points on Sunday, regardless of a debatable refereeing decision for Nathan Ake’s opener, with a collective team performance allowing the Hornets to dominate.

Ake, Miguel Britos, Etienne Capoue, Ben Watson, Almen Abdi and two-goal star Odion Ighalo were all in top form at Vicarage Road, but it is Troy Deeney who was most impressive.

The 27-year-old, who turned out for non-league outfit Halesowen Town in 2006/07, has earned the faith of the Watford hierarchy—named captain last season and rewarded with a new five-year contract ahead of the current campaign—after spearheading his side’s promotion charge.

Far from the most technically adept footballer, Deeney is an honest striker who plays to his strengths, with his work rate and sheer power providing Ighalo with the perfect foil in attack.

Deeney has scored five goals and made four assists in 17 league appearances so far this season, and should be on Roy Hodgson’s radar for the next England call.

He is as deserving as Jamie Vardy.

 

Are Swansea Becoming Relegation Favourites?

Sacking Garry Monk was an inevitable move, but without a manager at this stage Swansea City look set to continue their free fall back to the Championship.

With a 0-0 draw at home to West Ham United on Sunday, the Swans highlighted their lack of drive and enduring quality, with stand-in manager Alan Curtis organising a squad with no belief.

The fine run of attackers Bafetimbi Gomis and Andre Ayew has dried up, while a defensive line marshalled by Ashley Williams now looks brittle and disorganised.

The January transfer window may provide chairman Huw Jenkins with the perfect opportunity to inject some much-needed quality into his side, both in terms of a managerial appointment and the addition of some attacking reinforcements.

But currently sitting in 18th, two points behind Norwich (16th) and Newcastle United (17th), it would take a considerable gamble to ensure Swansea don’t become relegation favourites.

 

Louis van Gaal Walking on Thin Ice

“Yes of course I am worried about that because I know that belief in a manager is very important,” Louis van Gaal told reporters at Old Trafford after his side’s 2-1 defeat to Norwich.

The disintegration of the confident, bolshy Dutchman that took over from David Moyes in 2014 has been remarkable, with Van Gaal cutting a feeble figure on Saturday.

Ryan Giggs barked orders from the touchline as Van Gaal sat in the dugout, reminiscent of Brendan Rodgers’ shrinking in the technical area at West Brom in April.

As Van Gaal referenced belief as key to success as a football manager, he may have unearthed just why he is walking on thin ice.

As with Rodgers’ last days at Liverpool, Van Gaal is devoid of belief; in himself, within his squad and in the stands.

With both Mourinho and Pep Guardiola emerging as potential replacements, it should only be a matter of time before Van Gaal is ushered through the Old Trafford exit. A shame, because we’d much prefer Van Gaal to have until the end of the season to completely ruin them.

 

Hiddink has unenviable position at Chelsea

Like with Monk, and with Van Gaal, Chelsea‘s decision to rid themselves of Mourinho was justified; the Portuguese had become toxic.

But as the Blues stormed to a 3-1 win at home to Sunderland on Saturday, his absence was truly significant.

The likes of Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas—players who were deemed to have downed tools to prompt Mourinho’s sacking—were jeered throughout, with their former manager’s name ringing around Stamford Bridge throughout.

His replacement, Guus Hiddink, watched on from the stands, alongside his potential assistant Didier Drogba, and now finds himself in a bizarre position in charge of a club hampered by discord; the players may have got what they wanted, but this betrayed the desires of the support.

Hiddink is in an unenviable position, forced to knit together this fractured Chelsea side and restore belief within the stands.

He will no doubt take cues from Jurgen Klopp‘s sensitive approach as he looks to do so.

Ps. Look at the state of them ‘banners’.

 

Leicester’s Goodison Park Victory a Statement of Intent

Heading into their clash with Everton on Saturday, Leicester had only registered victory over one of the Premier League‘s ‘big’ sides in Chelsea, having lost to Arsenal and drawn with both Spurs and United.

This is one of the major factors behind their perceived lack of conviction as league leaders at this stage.

But with a 3-2 win over the Toffees at Goodison Park, Claudio Ranieri’s side countered this perfectly.

Two goals from Riyad Mahrez and one from Shinji Okazaki secured another three points for the Foxes, and despite the valiant efforts of Romelu Lukaku and a late goal from Kevin Mirallas, they truly merited this win.

Defeating Everton has seen Leicester underline their credentials as a title contender this season, and they will be confident of another win away to Liverpool on Boxing Day.

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