The Best Premier League Decisions So Far This Season
There are just 14 weeks left of the Premier League, but the title race is in full swing and a lot could still happen. We have reached this point in the season after some fantastic decisions being made over the last few months; here we take a look at some of those decisions that have contributed to such as exciting season.
The Sacking of Jose Mourinho
Manchester United had a terrible start to the season but there was great reluctance to get rid of manager Jose Mourinho. However, the decision was made to sack Mourinho and to let Ole Gunnar Solskjaer take over, the team has been transformed and looks far more like the Manchester United everyone is used to.
It was a miserable afternoon for Man U fans when Liverpool overran them while the man who is possibly Man U’s best player was watching from the bench. After that, the best that fans would have been hoping for is that the season did not get worse. However, Mourinho was sacked and since then the team is undefeated in the Premier League, they look set to keep improving, fans are happy, and Mourinho has been left thoroughly embarrassed.
Following the terrible start to the season it seemed certain that Mourinho would eventually be leaving, but many thought that he would be kept in place until at least the summer. However, the club took action just in time to salvage something from the season.
Liverpool’s Investment in a Goalkeeper
It is impossible to know exactly when Jurgen Klopp will have made the decision to spend big on a goalkeeper, but last season’s Champions League final will have certainly reinforced his decision. Liverpool have Virgil van Dijk defending, but even he can’t cover for the keeper all of the time.
The team also did extremely well to identify Alisson as the right choice for the team and then make sure that they got him. A number of clubs were looking at the then Roma player, including Chelsea and Real Madrid. However, Liverpool did everything they could to secure Alisson’s services and while he hasn’t had to be brilliant this season, he has already proved his worth.
Southampton Sacking Mark Hughes
Fans of Southampton will have been pleased that Mark Hughes’ time at the club was brought to an end. However, they will probably also have been confused as to why he was there in the first place given that he received his three-year contract in the summer after the team just escaped relegation by having a slightly better season than Stoke, West Bromwich and Swansea.
Southampton were quickly back in the bottom three at the start of this season. However, since replacing him with Ralph Hassenhuttl, only five Premier League teams have claimed more points than Southampton has.
Speaking recently, midfielder James Ward-Prowse said, “The difference has been unbelievable. We have a clear structure and a plan of what to do with and without the ball.”
Watford Selling Richarlison to Everton
Last summer, when Watford sold Richarlison to Everton, it seemed that to be a deal that was fair to all sides. However, now it seems as if Watford may have been the true beneficiaries.
Everton paid £40 million for Richarlison and the team urgently needed a forward. The deal meant that Watford made a profit of around £30 million from a player who spent just a year with the team.
However, the team clearly have not missed him. His time at Watford can be seen in two halves. The first was incredible and led to the high valuation by Everton and Watford. However, in the second half of the year Richarlison’s form fell apart and his confidence disappeared. This does not mean that he was not worth the investment, and Everton have benefited from him thanks to nine goals. However, Watford are performing very similarly to Everton and the absence of Richarlison does not seem to have made much difference to the team.
West Ham Converting Declan Rice into a Deep-Lying Midfielder
There is speculation that Pep Guardiola may look to West Ham’s Declan Rice to solve his midfield problem, which is somewhat surprising as he is not a holding midfielder.
However, the young player has done an excellent job of playing as one, especially as he only just turned 20. Rice appeared with West Ham as a centre-back last season, but new boss Manuel Pellegrini signed Issa Diop and Fabian Balbuena to reinforce his rear-guard. Pellegrini also recruited Jack Wilshere, but the former England midfielder has hardly been seen since the fourth game of the season.
The absence of Wilshere gave Rice a chance in midfield and he has certainly risen to the opportunity. West Ham had a poor start to the season but things began to improve when Rice came into the side together with Mark Noble. There are still rumours that City are interested in Rice, but in the meantime, he has signed a new long-term contract with West Ham.
Manchester City Positioning Bernardo Silva as a Deep-Lying Midfielder
When Manchester City defeated Chelsea in the Community Shield Pep Guardiola said, “Today the performance from Bernardo Silva was a masterpiece.” Since then, Silva has produced countless more performances with his best probably coming in City’s crucial win over Liverpool.
In that match Silva was positioned together with Fernandinho and he kept working throughout the game. He broke his own record and ran 13.7km and Liverpool failed to shrug him off. It was not the first time he had done this to Liverpool, Guardiola used him in a similar way when City played Liverpool at Anfield in October.
While Guardiola has said that he wants to sign another holding midfielder, for the time being Silva is doing a fantastic job of filling the role.
Cardiff Positioning a Right-Back Up Front
After Cardiff failed to sign the attacking reinforcements they needed last summer, Neil Warnock had to work with what was available. Unfortunately, what resulted was a first half of the season that is an embarrassment to the centre-forwards who are already part of the team. Between them, Gary Madine, Kenneth Zohore and Danny Ward have combined for just one Premier League goal.
Therefore, it is no surprise that Callum Paterson caught Warnock’s eye. Paterson, who is just 24 years old, arrived to Cardiff City last year from Hearts as a right-back. However, he also played in midfield during their promotion campaign. Paterson has gradually been moved further forward this season, mainly due to his size and willingness to run, and along the way he has scored four goals, three of which were vital components of Cardiff’s five wins so far.
Wolverhampton Wanderers Signing Joao Moutinho
It took a very long time for the Portugal player Joao Moutinho to make his way to the Premier League and there were those who worried that he would be too old by the time he arrived. However, since the 32-year-old signed for Wolves from Monaco for £5 million, he has been brilliant.
He is well known for his creative talents and the fact that he has provided more chances than any of his teammates, and more than Paul Pogba and Christian Eriksen, show that his talent has not diminished. Furthermore, he has made more successful tackles than any of his teammates, and no other player in the Premier League has attempted as many (on the other hand, no other player has been dribbled past more often).
Many thought that Moutinho had missed his chance at the Premier League when a move fell through in 2012. However, he has shown that he would still be a real asset for Spurs, a points proved at Wembley last month.
The Premier League Not Introducing VAR Technology
While there was generally a very positive reaction to VAR at the World Cup, and a number of European leagues have introduced the technology, the Premier League decided to wait another year.
Many now think that this was the right decision, as it simply removes some of the excitement from the game. La Liga introduced VAR this season and it has caused a great deal of controversy. It will of course arrive at the Premier League in due course, but giving it more time to be tried and tested in other leagues can only be a good thing.
More To Come
There are fourteen more Premier League match days in the coming months and they are sure to be packed with excitement. They will also be full of managers and players making great, and poor, decisions and there is every chance that one of these decisions will have a direct impact on the outcome of the season.