Goal glut ends in Premier League as managers tighten up defences
Goal glut ends as defences tighten up
After weeks of ridiculously high-scoring and crazy results, the Premier League came down to earth last weekend with a veritable goal drought and a number of less-than-inspiring games. It was just like the good old days.
In a return to some semblance of normality, just 19 goals were scored in the 10 Premier League matches which included four not particularly gripping draws.
It was quite a contrast to that magical week in which we were treated to a record 44 goals.
The highest-scoring games last weekend featured only three goals, the impressive 3-0 away win by Leeds United at Aston Villa and Liverpool's 2-1 home defeat of Sheffield United.
Just as it was hard to explain the goal-scoring spree in earlier weeks, it is not easy to put the finger on why the goals suddenly dried up.
The most likely explanation is that managers had been concentrating on tightening up their leaky defences and it seems to have worked.
Almost inevitably, the match between Manchester United and Chelsea touted as a possible high-scoring thriller turned out to be a goalless bore draw.
It was arguably the worst game of the weekend in which it soon became clear both sides were afraid to lose.
The only comfort for under-pressure managers Ole Gunnar Solskjaer of United and Frank Lampard of Chelsea were that their defences looked half-decent for a change.
To be fair, both teams found their shooting boots in their subsequent Champions League games with United banging in five past RB Leipzig thanks to a Marcus Rashford hat-trick, while Chelsea hit four at Krasnodar in Russia.
The most enjoyable team to watch so far this season has been Leeds and their comfortable win at Villa Park was highlighted by a well-taken hat-trick from the under-rated Patrick Bamford.
One striking thing about Leeds is their extraordinary fitness levels which see them belting up and down the field for a solid 90 minutes. They simply don't stop.
Adding to the entertainment off the pitch is Argentine manager Marcelo Bielsa who spends much of the time on touchline sitting on a bucket and appears to be deep in thought and rarely shows any emotion when a goal is scored.
When asked why he sits on a bucket, he told reporters: "It's a comfortable bucket." So there you go.
Apparently Bielsa has a back problem and needs to sit a certain way. Despite this, every morning he walks more than six kilometres to the club's training ground.
The bucket has also been a hit with Leeds fans and replica Bielsa buckets are a hot item at the club shop.
Despite the sparse number of goals last week, there was still smatterings of drama.
A comforting sight for Leicester fans was Jamie Vardy coming off the bench at the Emirates to score the winner against Arsenal. The Old Fox hasn't lost his touch.
Another magic moment last weekend was Michail Antonio's fabulous goal for West Ham against Manchester City.
Over the years, Antonio has played his heart out for the Hammers and his 10 goals last season were instrumental in the club escaping relegation.
He might not be the most elegant player in the league, but it is good to see that with encouragement from manager David Moyes, he is finally getting the recognition he deserves.
A tip of the hat should also go to Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl.
Exactly one year after suffering that humiliating 9-0 home loss to Leicester, the Saints beat current league leaders Everton 2-0 to end the last remaining unbeaten record in the Premier League this season.
Southampton were good value for their win and now sit in a commendable seventh place, something that would have been unthinkable 12 months ago.
Credit should be given to Southampton's board who stuck by the Austrian manager when it would have been a lot easier to sack him after the biggest home defeat recorded in the Premier League.
They had looked doomed and the board's brave stance has certainly paid dividends and Hasenhuttl has become one of the league's most respected managers.
Sheffield United put up a brave fight against Liverpool before finally succumbing.
The Blades, one of the success stories of last season, are struggling in 19th place without a win and just one point.
Yet they have not been playing that badly. As manager Chris Wilder commented ruefully after the latest defeat: "It's a ruthless league."
It is also thankfully the most wide-open league since the year Leicester stole the show.
While Arsenal outcast Mesut Oezil might not be playing much football these days, he hasn't been totally idle.
Following in Rashford's footsteps, he played a key role in supplying 1,400 children in North London with free meals during the half-term holiday.
Finally, something guaranteed to make all England fans bristle.
When asked this week how he would like to celebrate his 60th birthday, Diego Maradona commented: "I dream of being able to score another goal against England, this time with the right hand."
Nice one Diego.