Big Sam losing his touch?
A defeat to the runaway leaders is not, in isolation, a disaster. However, the crowd’s stunned reaction at the final whistle seemed as if they had as one remembered just how much trouble their side is in. The presence on the bench of Sam Allardyce – the master of Premier League survival – and his weeks of defiant press conferences have given the impression at all is steady and optimistic at the Stadium of Light. In reality, his time in charge has been defined by a chronic inability to win games (their last victory was in January) and they now face a game at Norwich where defeat all but dooms them. The swagger is still there, but has Big Sam’s magic touch finally gone?
Lads, is this Tottenham?
The infamous line, uttered by Alex Ferguson at half time of a Spurs game, spoke for so long of the fragility of a club that seemed to bottle every great opportunity they got. Now however, they are a side defined by their ability to kill off games with sudden, clinical precision. Having weathered a strong United start, they grew into the game before devastating the away side with three clinical goals just minutes apart. This spell of rapid, accurate attacking football was so much the product of Pochettino and his attention to fitness, speed and aggressive intensity. His impact is perhaps best seen in the transformation of Erik Lamela from a flighty forward (a classic elements of the traditional Spurs sides) into a relentless, direct attacker who rattles defenders to the core. In less than two seasons, Spurs seem to have forever shed their lightweight, bottling habits.
Quite the turnarounds
At the beginning of this season, Chelsea v Swansea and Villa v Bournemouth seemed to promise such different things . In one, the champions got off to a shaky start but still carried the determined steel that defending a title so often gives you. In the other, Villa snatched a win that seemed to suggest Bournemouth’s stylish attacking would get undone by Premier League pragmatism. Fast forward to the present, and how the tables have turned as this weekend saw the reverse fixtures. In one, Swansea deservedly beat Chelsea to secure their safety and underline one of the meekest top-flight title defences in history. In the other, Eddie Howe’s side comprehensively outplayed the hosts, justified his side’s dedication to good football and heaped more misery on what has been Villa’s worst season in decades. Proof, if any more was needed, that nothing can be predicted from the beginning of a domestic season.
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