Premier League Matchday 17: Top Observations

Leicester top an unconvincing pile

There is no denying that Leicester City have done brilliantly so far this season. Ranieri has defied all expectations and has his team topping the table at Christmas, thanks to a brand of direct attacking football. However, all of Leicester’s success must be seen in context. The league which they top is one devoid of any true consistent heavyweight. If any one of Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City, Spurs, Chelsea or Liverpool had performed to their best regularly, they would be clear of the chasing pack by some distance. Nothing can detract from the Foxes’ triumphs, but they are undeniably triumphs taking place in a Premier League’s first modern-era power vacuum.

Arsenal must seize their chance

After a clinical victory over a frustratingly lax Manchester City, Arsene Wenger’s side simply must take this league by the scruff of the neck. Of all the big teams fighting beneath Leicester, they are the one with the best recent form and with the most political stability: mutterings of managerial change are as quiet at the Emirates as they are deafening among their direct rivals. They have had their injuries this campaign, and have previously faltered in the face of wealthier, more consistent competition. However, in a season where it seems big sides are almost trying not to win the league, this is as good an opportunity as they will get to end that long domestic league drought.

Klopp’s honeymoon cut decisively short

After the much-lauded victory at the Etihad, Liverpool looked set to push on quickly under new boss Jurgen Klopp. However, a recent run of poor results continued with a comprehensive defeat at the hands of the impressive yet still newly-promoted Watford. As the shine fades on the German’s smile and the aura he initially brought moves to the background, the issues his side face are being laid bare. A disastrous financial backing of soon-sacked Rodgers in the most recent transfer window has left the new boss with a side boasting big players – notably Benteke – who demonstrably do not fit his desired mould of play. Couple that with the constant formational changes and defensive howlers, and what emerges is a side thoroughly lost in transition: a collection of old and new whose gears are grinding disjointedly under new leadership. Klopp must work quickly before that aura dulls even further.

McClean shows his real idiocy

For some time now, James McClean has been at the end of unpleasant abuse for political views – relating specifically to remembrance – that feel strangely rounded and decisive for the commercial, global-friendly world of modern football. The abuse of a man with considered political opinions that clash with a jingoistic norm is wholly inappropriate, and McClean should be lauded and not reviled for a principled if divisive stance. As he demonstrated again on Saturday, there is a much more universal sign of his stupidity: an unpleasant habit of lunges when even slightly rattled. His latest – a petulant assault against Bournemouth’s Adam Smith – was everything wrong with a professional footballer condensed in one action: brutal, piggish, unthinking and childish. A man should not be pushed to change his political views, but he should be pushed to stamp out unpleasant on-field behaviour.

Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisDWorrall

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