Paul Pogba finally justifying fee and paving way for Man Utd success

Date published: Friday 16th December 2016 12:37

Will Man City or Arsenal slip further off the pace being set by record-chasers Chelsea? Can Pogba, Lallana and Payet maintain their fine form? Dave Tindall picks out what to keep an eye on this weekend…

Perfect 10 and still going

When Chelsea were swept aside 3-0 by Arsenal on October 24 – a defeat which followed on from a 2-1 home loss to Liverpool the week before – several bookies pushed their Premier League title odds out to 25/1. Ten matches later and they’re now the odds-on favourites.

It’s been a remarkable turnaround. That maximum haul of 30 points thanks to wins over Hull, Leicester, Man Utd, Southampton, Everton, Middlesbrough, Spurs, Man City, West Brom and Sunderland has seen them kick six points clear. Their rivals must be thinking ‘when will this streak ever stop?’

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The record for consecutive Premier League victories is 13 set by Arsenal although they did it across two seasons (2001/2 and 2002/3). Can Chelsea match or even beat it? Their next four fixtures are Crystal Palace away this weekend, home to Bournemouth, home to Stoke and away to Spurs. In other words, it’s not beyond reason.

 

Who blinks in battle of chasers?

If Chelsea do pick up another three points, life will start to get very awkward for one or both of Manchester City or Arsenal, who go head-to-head on Sunday.

If City lose, they’ll be 10 points behind Antonio Conte’s men while defeat for Arsenal will leave them nine back. It’s not an insurmountable gap but would mean a huge uphill battle in the second half of the season.

Having home advantage makes City favourites with the bookies to win all three points on Sunday but, interestingly, both have actually looked better on the road this season. Pep Guardiola’s men have racked up six of their 10 Premier League wins this term away from the Etihad while Arsenal’s home and away records are identical although their goal difference is better on their travels.

Sergio Aguero will be a huge miss for City so is the stage set for Arsenal’s elite duo, Alexis Sanchez and Mezut Ozil, to do what Chelsea did and put down a real marker with a win at one of their big rivals?

 

Paul Pogba: Yet to hit the heights for Man Utd

Pogba paving the way for United success?

For much of this season, Paul Pogba has made it easy for fans to trot out that well-worn chant of derision, “what a waste of money”. He’s been part of the problem rather than the solution to United’s stuttering start to the Premier League season and Jose Mourinho has found it difficult to harness his obvious abundance of skills.

 

But the Frenchman is simply too good to be an ill-fitting piece in the jigsaw for much longer and, if proof were needed of his growing influence, it came in United’s 2-1 win at Crystal Palace on Wednesday night.

Pogba pounced to put the Red Devils in front and then turned cleverly and slid in Zlatan Ibrahimovic to net the late winner. In the whoscored.com rankings he was ‘player of the week’ with a rating of 9.76. Pogba’s improvement is a big reason why United are starting to turn draws into wins. The Manchester men are currently six points off a Champions League spot but could Pogba drive them on to a top four finish and prove that the money may just have been well spent after all?

 

Lallana League’s best Englishman?

“Is Adam Lallana the best English player in the Premier League on current form?” Jurgen Klopp was asked in his post-match press conference on Wednesday night. The German rather glossed over the answer, not wanting to heap too much praise on one individual despite Lallana being the standout performer in Liverpool’s 3-0 win at Middlesbrough with two goals and an assist.

From just 12 starts and two as sub, Lallana has now scored six goals and laid on six assists in the Premier League this season. That puts him tied second in the assists table and joint 14th in goals scored and he’s done it mostly from a midfield berth. Those hard numbers are taking the former Southampton man to a new level in his career when some Liverpool fans were thinking he was strong in style but weak in substance.

Genuinely two-footed, Lallana brings fluidity, pressing and verve to the Liverpool attack and with Philippe Coutinho sidelined, it’s easy to argue he’s Liverpool’s most influential player. The best English player on current form? It’s hard to disagree and, after netting the Reds’ opener in their last two games, could Lallana be the difference maker in Monday night’s derby at Everton?

 

Home comforts at last for Hammers?

West Ham have won their last six home games against Saturday’s visitors Hull but, of course, all those matches were at Upton Park. The Hammers have found life tough since moving to the London Stadium, winning just three matches out of eight, and only one team (Middlesbrough) has treated their own fans to less home goals this season.

The Hammers took their tally to eight in midweek with a 1-0 win over Burnley and this is a golden opportunity to string together back-to-back wins. The 2-2 draw at Anfield last weekend could be the turning point of their season after confidence was near rock-bottom and the raw materials are certainly there.

Dimitri Payet: Clause in his deal

Dmitri Payet has created 56 chances – 12 more than any other player – for teammates in the Premier League this season while West Ham boss Slaven Bilic described Andy Carroll as “a miracle” after the pony-tailed one produced a man-of-the-match display against Burnley. Stoke used a favourable set of fixtures to pull away from the relegation zone. Now is it West Ham’s turn to show that finishing above Liverpool in the table last season wasn’t a fluke?

Dave Tindall

The Premier League is back after an entertaining set of midweek games, and we have another betting preview for Betsafe live.

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