Sport is an uncertain thing so it is extremely likely that expectations, long term or short term, are often ruined by the forthcoming reality. While this happens in football a fair bit, the 2015-16 Premier League seasons has brought along more surprises than any other in recent memory.
1. Chelsea can absolutely not get going
The west London club won the Premier League without exerting themselves fully last season. Jose Mourinho’s brilliant transfer window in the summer of 2014, his tactical master class over the course of the season and great management meant Chelsea were crowned winners of the Premier League and also won the Capital One Cup.
The likes of Eden Hazard, Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas among others, did so well in the first half of the last season, that even a slight dip in form towards the end meant that they could comfortably ease towards the finish line. The 2015-16 season was said to be more about the club wanting to make a mark in the Champions League. Pundits, fans were saying this because everyone expected the Blues to assert another title challenge this term and do so naturally.
While everyone knows it is difficult to defend a title, nobody saw Chelsea doing this poorly. They’re 15th in the league table and have only won three out of their 10 league matches. The meanest defence of last season have already conceded 19 goals. Only new boys Norwich City, Bournemouth and relegation threatened Newcastle United have let in more goals.
2. Mourinho is actually a favourite for the sack
The Portuguese seems bereft of ideas to get his team out of the slump. The performances of players like Hazard, Ivanovic and Nemanja Matic who were all key player in last season’s success have not helped matters. In addition to this, Mourinho’s own antics – the Eva Carneiro row, constant squabble with the FA, consistent digs at Arsene Wenger, public criticism of his players and allegedly ‘shoving’ a teenager – have equally not helped his case.
Mourinho is actually on the verge of being relieved of his duties, if certain rumours are to be believed. These reports claim that if the former Inter boss does not win against Liverpool, he will not live to see another day as Blues manager.
Even if these reports are false, Mourinho is certainly hanging by a thread and if Chelsea do not start winning, he might actually get the pink slip.
3. Three managers are gone, and it’s not even November
Mid-season sackings are not unusual, but they usually begin in November. This season, three managers are already gone. Dick Advocaat resigned after Sunderland failed to register a single win in the opening eight league games. Sam Allardyce has taken over since and got the Black Cats their first win of the season in an emphatic 3-0 win over local rivals Newcastle United.
The first sacking of the season was the high-profile one of Liverpool’s Brendan Rodgers. The Northern Irishman was shown the exit after the Reds’ 1-1 draw against Everton.
Liverpool had only lost to Manchester United and West Ham United in the season till then, but it was the manner in which the team was playing and the fact that Rodgers looked like he did not have a solution to things that probably was the final straw. Jurgen Klopp has taken over at Anfield and has three draws to his name in his brief Liverpool tenure.
The latest victim has been Aston Villa’s Tim Sherwood. Just after eight months, the 46-year-old was dismissed on Sunday after Villa suffered a sixth straight defeat, a 2-1 loss to Swansea. The Villains are looking for replacements and former Lyon boss Remi Garde is the current favourite.
4. Anthony Martial’s red-hot form
Manchester United paid £36m for teenager Anthony Martial and no one could quite fathom why. The same sum and bonuses could have got the Red Devils someone more established like Gonzalo Higuain, Edinson Cavani or Karim Benzema. Rival fans quickly wrote the striker off, thinking the price tag would be too much of a burden.
Martial has proved everyone wrong. The 19-year-old has five goals in 10 games in all competitions. The Frenchman plays with the utmost composure and poise. He looks fearless and is always running at defenders and having a go when he has the goal in his sight. He seems to be the only one who doesn’t care about the amount United shelled out for him. The former AS Monaco star was named the Premier League Player of the Month for September.
5. Memphis Depay and Roberto Firmino have both been anonymous
Interestingly, both these players were targeted or rumoured to be targeted by both Liverpool and Manchester United. Both these players have immense quality but neither has really got going.
Memphis Depay was labelled heir apparent to Cristiano Ronaldo and the club shelled out £25m to get the best player in the Dutch league last season. Depay has failed to get going and only has two goals thus far. It was not shocking when Louis van Gaal decided to drop for clash against Everton.
He was an unused substitute against Manchester City and van Gaal preferred to bring on Jesse Lingard, who almost won the game after rattling the crossbar. As things stand, things look bleak for the Dutchman.
It might not be fair to call Firmino anonymous when he has only tasted 262 minutes of Premier League action. The Brazilian was eased into the Premier League after returning late from Copa America and was eased into the thick of things by Brendan Rodgers.
He then suffered from an injury in the middle and has only now started featuring in games, all from the bench. However, given the hullabaloo around his signing, his impact has been more than just “underwhelming”. The Brazilian will want to ensure he can feature regularly and become more of an impact player for the Reds.
6. Leicester City and West Ham keep winning
Nigel Pearson miraculously made the Foxes finish last season in the 14th place and fans thought, he could get more sustainability to the club in the coming season. When the board sacked him, many expressed their disappointment. Fans were unsure how good a job Claudio Ranieri could do with the club. The former Chelsea boss has answered his skeptics in style. Leicester currently sit in the fifth place with 19 points.
New manager Slaven Bilic seems to be enjoying an even better time as manager than he did as a player. West Ham sit in the third place with 20 points. Their success trumps Leicester’s as they have faced tougher opponents…and won! West Ham’s six wins include victories over Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea. The Hammers would hope for a top 8 finish after the start they’ve managed.
7. Jamie Vardy’s links with Real Madrid
Granted this is probably a far-fetched rumour, former Fleetwood Town striker Jamie Vardy has now been linked with European giants Real Madrid. While people may laugh at these links just because he plays for a smaller club in the league, it wouldn’t have been ridiculing it so easily had it been another striker who was playing for a bigger club and had scored in seven consecutive matches (and counting).
The 28-year-old is in the form of his life. He has kept his place in Roy Hodgson’ s England squad and considering Wayne Rooney’s form and injuries to Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge, Vardy might find himself starting in next year’s European championship if he continues playing in the same manner.