December 16, 2019

The Premier League’s biggest stories so far

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IMAGE: Evening Standard

The Premier League season is already a quarter of the way through and plenty of big stories have begun to play out.

From controversial decisions to spectacular results, English football’s top-flight never fails to provide entertainment and excitement. As the title race looks likely to feature a single runner and a host of clubs clambering over one another to stay off the bottom, we look at the big stories that have already emerged from the early exchanges.

VAR

The biggest story of the opening months of the season has got to be around VAR.

The video assisted referee has been introduced to help eradicate controversy but, if anything, it has had the opposite effect. Critics claim it has slowed the game down and made celebrating a goal virtually impossible, whilst those in favour of the technology feel it is only experiencing some teething problems.

A BBC article covered how Brighton were the first side to be awarded a penalty courtesy of a VAR decision, but even after consulting the video the decision was still debated. Former international Tony Cascarino told Talksport VAR was ruining football for him after that weekend of action, an opinion held by many supporters across the UK.

Leicester’s big win

There were no VAR problems during Leicester’s trip to face Southampton at St Mary’s – they won the game 9-0 after the hosts had a man correctly sent off in the first half. Saints manager Ralph Hasenhuttl took full responsibility for the defeat, but his players severely let him down against a rampant Leicester side.

Jamie Vardy bagged a hat-trick and former Newcastle man Ayoze Perez scored his first goals for the club as the Foxes excelled. It’s been a strong start from Brendan Rodgers side, they’d lost just two matches going into November’s international break and are looking like serious contenders for a Champions League place this season.

Sheffield United functional

Usually, sides coming out of the Championship can struggle to adapt in their first season, but Sheffield United’s remarkable rise continues as they bagged fifth place ahead of England’s matches against Montenegro and Kosovo.

Ladbrokes’ guide to the Premier League’s newcomers suggested The Blades would be hard to break down and that’s certainly been the case in the first few months of the season. Chris Wilder has taken them from League One to the Premier League in double quick time by operating a 3-5-2 formation, which easily morphs into a 5-3-2 when they need to defend.

After losing to Liverpool in September they went five games unbeaten, conceding just two goals. The expected relegation battle doesn’t seem to be on the cards as the resilient Blades adapt quickly to top-flight football.

Liverpool pull away

The race for top spot was widely expected to be between Manchester City and Liverpool, but the Reds currently look like favourites to win their first title since the early nineties. The two sides met in a pivotal encounter in November and whilst VAR came in for some criticism during the game, Liverpool triumphed 3-1. A report by the Telegraph explains how Man City manager Pep Guardiola was prompted to write to referees chief Mike Riley in the wake of the humbling defeat.

Man City have also lost to Wolves and Norwich and by the November international break, they trailed their rivals by nine points. With the Reds only losing once all last season, that already looks like the sort of margin that should secure a first-ever Premier League title for the Anfield outfit.


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