Premier League

Chelsea sack Frank Lampard

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard, has been sacked after 18 months in charge at Stamford Bridge.

Former midfielder Lampard who took over the reigns in West London after the departure of former boss Maurizio Sarri, leaves his role with the club ninth in the Premier League.

It’s been reported that former PSG manager Thomas Tuchel, is in line to take over at the West London club.

Frank Lampard’s job has been in jeopardy for some time, especially after looking like he hadn’t been able to motivate a squad that had £200 million injected into it over the summer.

Having said that in my own humble opinion, in a previous article, which can be found here;

https://ayyazmalik.com/2021/01/03/lampard-for-the-sack/

I feel it was a tad harsh to disperse of the services of manager Frank Lampard.

Thomas Tuchel, who himself was sacked by PSG, will be coming into the Stamford Bridge hotseat, with unfinished business at the highest level.

If Tuchel, is indeed appointed, this will mean another high profile manager will be hired, after the one before them was fired.

Debruyne out for six weeks for City

Manchester City have been rocked by the news that star midfielder Kevin De Bruyne for six weeks with a hamstring injury, news which was confirmed by manager Pep Gaurdiola. The Belgian playmaker has been a crucial player for The Citizens this season, the 29-year old has three goals and an impressive 15 assists this season.

Former Chelsea player De Bruyne picked up the injury in the 2-0 win against Aston Villa and will miss this weeks fourth round game against Cheltenham .

The loss of the new club captain, is clear for all to see. When the former Wolfsburg man got injured in the 2016 season, the season where Leicester against all odds won the Premier League title. The Blues will be hoping that, the same affects won’t happen this time round, especially with players like Bernardo Silva and Phil Foden on their books.

De Bruyne, is irreplaceable whatever way you look at it. This might force Pep into a late move for Martin Odegaard? We will have to wait and see.

Liverpool are in a crisis?

They’re in unchartered territory, a place where they haven’t been for some time, but it can be argued that Liverpool are in very poor form. With last night’s 1-0 defeat to Burnley taken in to consideration too, a home defeat which was there first in the league since 2017. Plus the fact that The Reds haven’t scored for over 400 minutes, then off hand, you can say the Anfield side are in a major slump.

Defeats to Southampton and now Burnley, alongside draws against West Brom, Newcastle and Fulham suggests that all isn’t well at Liverpool. It’s well documented that Liverpool have a whole host of injury problems, with Virgil Van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Diogo Jota all on the treatment table to name just some.

Dutch centre-back and star man Van Dijk, is stepping up his recovery, but he won’t be able to play again this season most likely.

With those defeats and draws that Jurgen Klopp’s side have suffered, as strange as it may sound they haven’t been too bad. The game against Manchester United for example, The Reds pressed and probed, Thiago Alacantra was their one more orchestra.

The Spaniard, was truly pulling the strings and not one United player could get near him. As the game wore on however, Liverpool ran out of steam and it was Man United who had the better of the game.

This is partly due to confidence lacking, but also the fact that teams are trying to be more narrow when defending against Liverpool attacks, this seems to have been one way that’s thwarted Liverpool’s creativity. Another factor has been the poor form of Roberto Firmino. The Brazilian, largely criticised for not scoring enough, has been a key player for the Merseyside club, due to his unselfish work and how he brings others to play.

At the moment, he’s not even doing that I am afraid and other players are suffering as a result? But on the flip side the big man needs a rest! That’s evident for all to see.

The famed front three of Mohammed Salah, Sadio Mane and of course Firmino have been a massive part of all the good things for Liverpool in recent seasons. All three are struggling, hence the goal drought the 19-time domestic champions are going through. Jordan Henderson and Fabino, the midfielders who are the rock in the middle of the park for Liverpool, are having to fill in at the defence.

With this enforced position change, The Reds have been affected at a result. So to conclude my thoughts and findings of Liverpool’s current situation, I would say this. Yes, Liverpool are struggling and not scoring goals, but no they’re now not all of a sudden a terrible team. The Premier League title looks highly unlikely at this point, it’s returning to Anfield, but this has been such an unusual season.

Three teams have been top of the table in the past 24 hours, which only emphasises that point. This is just a bad patch of form that Liverpool are going through, all teams go through it, Manchester United went through theirs earlier in the season, and Chelsea too are in a slump in form, but we don’t talk about that. Liverpool ironically for all their defensive injuries, are struggling to score goals but haven’t conceded too many .

Form is temporary and class is permanent as they say. It will be tough for them to win this year’s title, but this Liverpool team like any other needs subtle changes and evolution, it’s what the great teams do. Liverpool are a great team. Don’t let this month allow you to forget that, it wasn’t too long ago that they won 7-0 against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Palace.

Liverpool vs Manchester United, post match review

Title rivals Liverpool and Manchester United, played out an inevitable draw, in a result that although didn’t damage The Reds’ title defence, it surely didn’t help it. Liverpool who before kick off, were three points behind current league leaders Man United, went into this one in woeful form.

I say that, due to the high standards the Anfield club have set themselves in the past two seasons in particular. It’s well documented, that Liverpool have had some defensive issues to contend with, but the issues have been up the pitch.

Famed front three, Mohammed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane failed to score for the third game in a row. Jurgen Klopp’s men haven’t gone on such a run since 2005, that season was the season of the 2005 Champions League win.

With summer signing Diogo Jotta, not back until February, what seemed a team that was indestructible is arguably on the course of self destruct? Such an accusation is harsh, especially since current leaders Manchester United have hardly been flawless themselves.

A 6-1 mauling at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur at the start of the season isn’t results of champions elect, but this season has been a strange one. Anyone has beaten anyone. The gap is three points, a Man City arguably would have taken full advantage in this game, as hosts Liverpool huffed and puffed but never looked like scoring.

Home debutant, Thiago was superb. The Spaniard, has added an edge to what seemed to be an already complete Liverpool midfield. Former Bayern Munich man Thiago, was time and time again dictating the pace and tempo of the game. Despite the 29-year old’s best efforts, he couldn’t help his team be composed in the final third.

The best chance Liverpool did half came from Thiago, who forced Man United keeper David DeGea into a smart stop. Having to play with stand-in centre backs Jordan Henderson and Fabino, United did have two good chances to score the opening goal.

Bruno Fernandes who was on the whole quiet in this one, had a shot well saved by Alison, who superbly saved a Paul Pogba effort to ensure the score remained 0-0. Two points dropped arguably for Man United, but if they were told they would get a point at the start of the game, The Red Devils surely would have taken it.

Sounding a bit like Liverpool of old?

Get excited about leading the Premier League in January, constantly bringing up past glories and saying this is our year …. No I am not talking about Liverpool. It might be hard to believe, but in fact I am talking about Manchester United.

The United players don’t do this of course, but the fans have and even the statisticians are too. Man United’s 1-0 win over Burnley, put The Red Devils three points clear at the top of the Premier League. It’s been their first time since 2013 and that was when a certain Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge that his has happened.

Cue, the over-reaction theatre …. They still need to play the champions at Anfield and games with Chelsea as well as Man City wait too. City, are resurgent it must be stated and in John Stones and Ruben Diaz, The Citizens arguably have the best defence in the league.

Sir Alex has been retired for seven years, but the narrative is always obsessed with him. He was a great man, a brilliant manager but please United fans give it a rest. You sound like a guy who is obsessed with his ex, who knows isn’t coming back and he full well knows but still wants to pine for her return.

United fans are craving for their former love, but Sir Alex is seeing other people and so should Man United fans too. I am not that old to fully relate (honest I am 34), but I get the impression that before this title win of last season, Liverpool fans would talk about Bill Shankly, even though he had long departed the Anfield dugout.

Liverpool have moved on to pastures new and have Jurgen Klopp at the helm. The future looks bright for The Merseysiders. I find it ironic, that what Manchester United fans criticised Liverpool fans of doing, this is what they’re doing themselves.

The, “this is our year brigade as I call them” seems to have moved to Old Trafford. What you work so hard to avoid, is what you sometimes end up becoming.

Stamford Bridge, the grave yard for strikers?

Torres, Sturridge and Werner? What do these names have in common? Football fans, these are some of the strikers who have joined West London club Chelsea and unfortunately for them have failed. All three are very talented strikers, but it begs the question why have these three struggled whilst playing for The Blues?

I have a theory, and with Daniel Sturridge and Timo Werner my theory and beliefs are supported. Former Liverpool forward Sturridge was played out of position as is Werner currently. In the case of Germany forward Werner, he has played some games down the middle, but he needs a consistent run up top.

The same could have been said with Sturridge. Former Man City academy starlet Daniel Sturridge did impress whilst on loan with Bolton and playing for Liverpool.

The former England striker in his time at Anfield, was part of the legendary strike force that was labelled SAS, which came with in a whisker of winning the league title in the 2013 Premier League season.

This theory that I have although maybe supported with Werner and Sturridge, can’t be said with Fernando Torres. World cup winning Torres, before he made his then British transfer record £50 million to West London, was one of the most feared strikers on the planet. Sadly for El Nino, injuries ended up curtailing a career that had promised so much.

Those injuries, dented the confidence of the Spaniard and what promised to be a good transfer never worked out that way. Torres was able to resurrect his career of sorts at boyhood club Atletico Madrid, but sadly he was never the same.

With Werner, he is of course still in West London and he has time to break what seems to be a curse that strikers have when they go there. Frank please, play him where he needs to be up top!

Didier Drogba in recent times has been in my humble opinion, the sole striker who has succeeded at Chelsea.

The fact that Frank Lampard ( a midfielder and a world class one at that) is the clubs all-time leading scorer, maybe proves my point?

But maybe the role of the striker isn’t like what it used to be?

Kezman, Crespo and Shevchenko are other players I thought of (who have struggled at Stamford Bridge) as I write this. Am I on to something here? Does my argument have substance to it? Let me know in the comments.

Unpopular opinion, Liverpool bottle it?

Hello and good evening, I hope you’re all well and looking after yourselves. Thank you for your readership, it’s appreciated for sure. I have written a few pieces in what I call the unpopular opinion series.

The first piece was about Leeds and their chances of staying in the Premier League here it is;. https://ayyazmalik.com/2020/12/24/unpopular-opinion-why-leeds-will-get-relegated/

And Frank Lampard maybe getting the sack? That can be viewed here; https://ayyazmalik.com/2021/01/03/lampard-for-the-sack/

In this article, after Liverpool’s defeat tonight against Southampton, I want to discuss the possibility of The Reds, last year’s Premier League winners, winning the league this year.

Jurgen Klopp’s men after impressing for large parts of the season last year to win the league after a 30-year wait, just have quite been themselves of late.

I am not mentioning the 7-2 defeat by Aston Villa, that was earlier in the season, I am talking about the last month.

Draws against Fulham West Brom and now this defeat to The Saints is showing signs that the Merseysiders are a club struggling compared to their high standards.

This maybe a tad harsh, as during this hectic period The Anfield side have beat Crystal Palace 7-0 at Selhurst Park, and ground out a 2-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield, who have impressed this year.

But, the injuries to Virgil Van Dijk and Joe Gomez, just might be starting to affect Jurgen’s men.

In tonights game, I argue that The Reds lacked the dynamism of Fabinho and the engine of captain Jordan Henderson in the middle of the park. Both were deployed as centre backs, due to the chronic shortage at the back for Liverpool.

Avid readers of my blog, would remember my piece where I was quite critical of Liverpool’s spending.

To their credit Thiago, and Diogo Jota were signed after that article was published, so I will go on record saying I need to apologise for that. That article can be found here; https://ayyazmalik.com/2020/06/26/dear-jurgen-a-letter-from-the-sports-buff/

What I want to stick by, is that Liverpool won’t win this year’s Premier League. The 19 time domestic League title winners, do arguably have the best squad in the country.

Manchester City won the Premier League title back to back, but The Citizens were first team to do this since Manchester United do so, when they had their legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson in charge.

My thinking is, that as good as this Liverpool team has been, their lack of defensive cover will prove costly. Am I wrong? Let me know in the comments.

Lampard for the sack?

After compiling a previous piece on Leeds United and why they will get relegated (it proved spicy shall I say), in what I will now call the unpopular opinion series. I am back with another thought provoking blog.

In today’s installment, I want to talk about the current situation at Chelsea, and to be more precise, the future of their manager Frank Lampard.

He got Derby to the play off final, in his first season in charge, he beat Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds in the two-leg playoff semi-final I hear you say. As impressive as that was, the former Chelsea player did have a couple of players on loan from the Stamford Bridge outfit.

Fikoyo Tomori, and Mason Mount the players of course, the latter is now a first team regular in fact. I am just trying to emphasise, that The Rams had one of the best sides in the division, and arguably should have got promoted.

Yes, it was a narrow 1-0 loss they suffered in the final to Villa, but for Chelsea to come calling off the back of that season is a tad maybe kind? This is the same Chelsea who sacked The Special One, not once but twice! This is the same Chelsea who chose to pay a world record fee (£13.5 million) to bring former Porto manager Andre-Villas Boas to Chelsea .

That was a success wasn’t it? (110% sarcasm in my voice as you can tell). The Portuguese barely lasted a season, and was given the axe after a first leg loss to Napoli. On an interim caretaker basis former Blues midfielder Roberto Di Matteo, won the Champions League and FA Cup, only to be unceremoniously sacked the season after.

I am just trying to point out, that Chelsea have hired a lot of managers and fired them too, so why is Frank Lampard not under the same scrutiny? He has been given over £200 million to spend, he has got a fantasy football team at his disposal, so how are they losing?

How can a team of this quality lose to Everton, Wolves, Arsenal, Manchester City in such a short space of time? There’s world class talent at his disposal. It is a crazy season, so one can’t get too hung up about the league table and where they are in it as there’s not much seperate the teams in the standings.

Chelsea are eighth and an apparently poor Manchester United team is joint top with the brilliant Liverpool.

Now, my personal opinion is that Frank Lampard should be given time to turn this around. If results don’t improve, then it’s hard to argue a case for preferential treatment for the former Derby County manager.

Rangers, within Range of title after Old Firm win

Rangers, took a massive step towards winning this year’s Scottish Premier League, with a battling 1-0 win over arch-rivals Celtic, which opens up a 19 point lead at the top of the Scottish Premier League (all be having played three games more).

The Gers have been in sensational form this year, domestically and in Europe.

In fact the 2-0 defeat in quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup against St Mirren, has been the sole blemish in what has been a relentless season of excellence.

Steven Gerrard’s side coming into this game, have conceded just five goals in 22 games this season.

Not to downplay the impact the Gers have had at the other end of the table (56 goals scored before Celtic game) , but in a game like Saturday’s early game, their water-tight defence proved crucial here.

It was more to the performance of goalkeeper Alan McGregor, who made several world class saves, most notably the save from Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths, whose effort he tipped on the post.

The Hoops, had the better of the first half, and McGregor was called upon many times in the first half, as The Bhoys knowing that they needed to win this game, started the game the better.

Rangers, who have stormed to the top of the table, playing scintillating football along the way, have struggled in recent games, but unlike games of previous seasons, have been able to grind out results.

Saturday’s game against Celtic was a fitting example of that. This win for Rangers, sees the Ibrox outfit open up what appears to be a 19 point unassailable lead and arguably looks to have stopped their arch rivals winning their 10th domestic title in a row.

Rangers are quite the party poopers.

The Red Devils turn good, to defeat The Villains

Goals from Anthony Martial and Bruno Fernandes, helped Manchester United battle to a 2-1 win against Aston Villa.

The Red Devil’s, who before the start of kick off, knew that if they beat The Villains, they would go joint top of the table with arch-rivals Liverpool, took the lead through under fire striker Anthony Martial.

If Man United thought that goal would make things easier for them on the night, then Aston Villa were about to prove that to not the case after Trarore levels for the visitors.

To ruin my prediction for this game, United would find a winner through Fernandes’ penalty.

The Portuguese star, made no mistake from the spot, after appearing to get fouled, a decision which didn’t please Midlands side Aston Villa and their boss Dean Smith.

Despite not being at their fluent best, United move level on points with league leaders Liverpool.

As for Villa, they stay sixth. This season, is only just getting warmed up!