We are just shy of a third of the way through the 2023/24 season and several details simply don’t add up. Please make it make sense.
Erling Haaland Form
The Striking Viking has scored eight goals fewer than at this juncture last term and pertinently has missed 13 big chances in the Premier League, the most of any player.
Weave in too a popular narrative that Haaland has struggled to be impactful in several of his outings to date, and we have a player who very understandably has not yet matched his phenomenal output from his inaugural year in English football.
So why is it then, that a forward who has merely been good, not sensational, has still managed to accrue 21 goal involvements in 18 games? In the Premier League alone, Haaland has scored every 78 minutes, a stat even the elite would kill for.
It boggles the mind.
Newcastle boss Eddie Howe would never admit to having favourites of course but clearly he views Alexander Isak as his leading man up front, with Callum Wilson considered a quality back-up. It’s there in the data, incontestable, with the Swede starting nine of the 13 games he’s been available for, prior to a recent groin injury.
Acknowledging Isak’s significant merits, that doesn’t surprise, but then we come to Wilson, 31 years of age and in the form of his life, and his prolificacy since August amazes.
He has scored 1.13 goals per 90. No player has taken on more shots on target (2.8 per 90).
The deadliest striker in the top-flight this season is the second choice for a club presently lying outside the top six.
Man Utd Are Sixth
Ten games in, United had their worst goal difference since 1972 after losing exactly half of their fixtures. This term, Erik Ten Hag’s strugglers have lost more games at home going into November than in any other year since 1931.
Between them, Hojlund, Rashford, Martial, Antony and Garnacho have played 2725 minutes Premier League minutes with just a single, solitary goal to their name.
Their midfield is horribly ill-balanced while systemic problems are the back has necessitated a centre-back pairing of Harry Maguire and Jonny Evans.
Maguire has been brought back in from the cold. Evans, 35 years old and creaking, returned to Old Trafford last summer to help out with the kids.
It’s fair to say this is a troublesome period for the Reds and their under-fire manager. They are a shadow of former selves, who in turn were a shadow of their successful recent past.
Yet bizarrely, despite having a negative goal difference and losing the same number of games as Nottingham Forest and Crystal Palace, United are currently sixth. Crazier still, they are only six points off Arsenal, widely tipped as title contenders.
They may be miles adrift in the Premier League betting, but in real terms, United are well and truly in the mix for a top four spot and ultimately a semi-successful season.
All Quiet On The Liverpool Front
From the football betting to conversations being had in every office and pub across the land, the trope is that Manchester City are champions-elect with the rest battling over who can push them closest. There is also a tacit understanding that the City/Liverpool duopoly of recent times has now been consigned to the past.
Why is it then that the present set-up at the top looks so unerringly similar to the 2018/19 and 2021/22 campaigns, with only a hair’s breadth separating the rivals? With Jurgen Klopp’s remodelled Reds back to their bombastic best, Mo Salah is scoring goals again on a weekly basis while at the back no other team have been breached less.
How Liverpool have somehow managed to swerve all of the pressure and expectation that comes from being title challengers remains a mystery but that ends here, and that ends now.
FFP Punishments Kicking In
Everton’s ten-point deduction for FFP breaches came out of the blue and has left us all wondering what will become of Manchester City and Chelsea, two others who are alleged to have fallen foul of Premier League regulations.
The perplexing truth here is that, for all the supposed financial experts who inhabit social media, none of us have a clue as to what comes next.
*Credit for all of the photos in this article belongs to Alamy*