January’s Giraffes and Lemons

With Chelsea seemingly marching on towards the title the main talking points in the Premier League for the following months will no doubt revolve around the battle for survival and the chase for those elusive European places. With Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool all stumbling recently Spurs seem the best placed to secure one of the Champions League places and you never know Jose could just manage to sneak Manchester United into the top four.

Indeed, my Team Giraffe for January goes once again to last month’s winner Manchester United, who are still in the hunt for four trophies, although the Premiership has to be the least realistic as Chelsea seem unstoppable at the top of the table.

At the other end of the table what looked like a four-way fight for the safety of 17th place now looks like a six-way tussle to avoid relegation with both Middlesbrough and Leicester City being dragged into a relegation dog fight. However, I think both of these teams will survive as their respective owners have not pushed the panic buttons by firing their managers and this continuity will keep them safe. The same, I am afraid, cannot be said for Sunderland, who although they have also kept faith with their manager, have had an abysmal January and as such win my Team Lemon of the month.

Here then is my updated prediction for the end of the season (and how it has changed since the start of the season):

  1. Chelsea (2nd)
  2. Tottenham Hotspur (6th)
  3. Arsenal (4th)
  4. Manchester City (1st)
  5. Liverpool (5th)
  6. Manchester United (3rd)
  7. Everton (7th)
  8. Stoke City (8th)
  9. Southampton (10th)
  10. West Ham United (9th)
  11. West Bromwich Albion (13th)
  12. Watford (14th)
  13. Burnley (17th)
  14. Bournemouth (16th)
  15. Leicester City (12th)
  16. Middlesbrough (11th)
  17. Swansea (15th)
  18. Hull City (20th)
  19. Crystal Palace (18th)
  20. Sunderland (19th)

In a month where transfers dominate the footballing news I was tempted to go for “Grab the Cash” Sam as my Individual Lemon of the Month but Palace’s first win under the Greedy One’s reign on the last day of the month just saved him. Instead my Individual Lemon of the Month goes to Claudio Bravo, more for an accumulation of goalkeeping errors since he arrived at the start of the season than the numerous statistics which have been bandied about this month, which only confirm what I have been saying since Pep shipped Joe Hart off to Italy.

In handing out my Individual Giraffe of the Month I wanted to showcase the magic of the FA Cup, which only really exists during the first month of the year when the third and fourth rounds give the minnows a chance to shock the big boys, just think of Wolves managing to knock out both Liverpool and Stoke! One of the biggest fairy tales has been Lincoln City’s cup run as they knocked two Championship teams out of the cup and in the case of Brighton, convincingly. Therefore, my Individual Giraffe of the Month goes to Theo Robinson who terrorised the Brighton backline in the second half.


December’s Giraffes and Lemons

Another new year and once more, after the craziness of last season, the top of the Premiership is beginning to take on a familiar shape. The title seems to be Chelsea’s for the taking and whilst Manchester City’s recent stumble may have taken some by surprise surely Arsenal’s recent downturn should come as no surprise to anybody.

My Team Giraffe for December doesn’t however go to the league leaders, Chelsea, who have continued to impress but instead to Manchester United, who under Jose are slowly making inroads into the teams above them. Whilst the title this season may be beyond the Red Devils I am beginning to feel more confident that my initial prediction that they would finish in the Champions League places will prove to be true.

At the other end of the table my Team Lemon of the month has to go to Crystal Palace for the second month in a row because even after the appointment of Grab the Cash Sam, look a team in disarray.

Here then is my updated prediction for the end of the season (and how it has changed since the start of the season):

  1. Chelsea (2nd)
  2. Manchester City (1st)
  3. Liverpool (5th)
  4. Manchester United (3rd)
  5. Tottenham Hotspur (6th)
  6. Arsenal (4th)
  7. Everton (7th)
  8. Southampton (10th)
  9. Stoke City (8th)
  10. West Ham United (9th)
  11. West Bromwich Albion (13th)
  12. Leicester City (12th)
  13. Bournemouth                (16th)
  14. Middlesbrough (11th)
  15. Watford (14th)
  16. Burnley (17th)
  17. Sunderland (19th)
  18. Swansea (15th)
  19. Hull City (20th)
  20. Crystal Palace (18th)

Although you could argue that Mike Phelan was always only going to be an interim appointment the way he has been treated by the Hull City Board has been disrespectful to say the least and this is why they get my Individual Lemon of the Month. Whilst Marco Silva may be the man to keep them in the Premiership the Hull board put their shirt on Phelan at the start of the season but instead have decided to replace him with a manager who had previously been linked to Nottingham Forest!

My Individual Giraffe of the Month also goes to a player who I have to admit I have never been a fan of but is beginning to look like the real deal, Dele Alli. The Spurs midfielder is beginning to have a consistent impact on the big games, something I felt he didn’t do last season and is beginning to remind of another player who was indispensable for his club, Frank Lampard.

November’s Giraffes and Lemons

With Christmas almost upon us the Premier League is beginning to have a familiar feel to it as the usual suspects congregate near the top of the table whilst at the bottom can be found the teams most people suspected would struggle. It is interesting however to see the top two places filled by teams who have no European involvement this season, with European competition shutting down shortly for a couple of months will the likes of Arsenal and Manchester City be able to pull away from Chelsea and Liverpool now their schedules are less crowded?

My Team Giraffe for November goes to the league leaders, Chelsea, who have continued to impress and, for a supporter who likes to revel in the defensive side of the game, who have been miserly at the back. Another way to gauge Chelsea’s recent success is the level of imitation which they have been awarded with a larger number of clubs beginning to dabble with three at the back!

At the other end of the table my Team Lemon for November has to go to Crystal Palace who are currently in freefall and were responsible for probably the worst defensive display I have seen in the last twenty years, and that is saying something if you remember I am a Stoke supporter!

Here then is my updated prediction for the end of the season (and how it has changed since the start of the season):

  1. Manchester City (1st)
  2. Chelsea (2nd)
  3. Liverpool (5th)
  4. Arsenal (4th)
  5. Tottenham Hotspur (6th)
  6. Manchester United (3rd)
  7. Southampton (10th)
  8. Everton (7th)
  9. Watford (14th)
  10. Stoke City (8th)
  11. Bournemouth (16th)
  12. Leicester City (12th)
  13. West Bromwich Albion (13th)
  14. Middlesbrough (11th)
  15. West Ham United (9th)
  16. Burnley (17th)
  17. Swansea (15th)
  18. Crystal Palace (18th)
  19. Hull City (20th)
  20. Sunderland (19th)

Keeping with Crystal Palace my Individual Lemon of the Month goes to Alan Pardew for the sterling work he is doing moulding a group of talented individuals into a team who look like they don’t know what they’re doing and clearly don’t want to play for the manager.

Finishing on a more positive note my Individual Giraffe of the Month also goes to a player who won the respective team award. I thought about giving it to Victor Moses for his transformation into a wing back but instead the award goes to his fellow wing back Marcos Alonso. I for one was not surprised when Conte switched to a back three, partly because it has always been his preferred formation but also because Alonso was one of his first signings. Defensively he is strong but more importantly he is also one of Chelsea’s main attacking outlets and I predict by the end of the season he will have become a Fantasy Football favourite.

October’s Giraffes and Lemons

Another month gone and, at the top, the Premier League looks like it could go down to the wire as no team seems able to gain an advantage over any of their rivals. However unlike in previous seasons I fear there will be no fairy tale to follow with the top five places filled with teams who you would expect to be challenging for the Champions League places come May.

It is a similar scenario at the bottom of the table with two of three relegation places filled by the teams I predicted to finish bottom and after seeing Stoke beat both Sunderland and Hull City convincingly I can’t see either of these teams playing in the Premiership next year. So bad were Sunderland when we played them at the Bet365 they are my Team Lemon for October an award they easily justified at the weekend after they were hammered by Arsenal.

For the Team Giraffe for October there have been a number of contenders from Chelsea and their impressive run of clean sheets to the attacking delight that has been Liverpool over the opening weeks of the season but instead of the obvious my Team Giraffe for October goes to Watford. Whilst not playing the most attractive football in the division Watford have sneaked up the table to 7th place and even though I don’t think they’ll make the European places come the end of the season I wanted to reward them for the little bit of fantasy they are providing and also for being a place above Manchester United.

Here then is my updated prediction for the end of the season (and how it has changed over the course of the month):

  1. Manchester City (1st)
  2. Chelsea (2nd)
  3. Liverpool (6th)
  4. Arsenal (4th)
  5. Tottenham Hotspur (3rd)
  6. Everton (7th)
  7. Manchester United (5th)
  8. Southampton (8th)
  9. Leicester City (9th)
  10. Watford (10th)
  11. Stoke City (14th)
  12. Crystal Palace (11th)
  13. West Bromwich Albion (12th)
  14. Middlesbrough (15th)
  15. West Ham United (13th)
  16. Bournemouth (16th)
  17. Burnley (18th)
  18. Swansea (17th)
  19. Hull City (19th)
  20. Sunderland (20th)

From an individual perspective I feel I have to reward Manchester City for keeping the title race interesting by awarding my Lemon of the Month to one of their players and as a protest at Pep’s insistent on playing football from the back, no matter the cost! Therefore, my Lemon of the Month goes to the poster boy of this movement, Claudio Bravo, not for anything he did in the Premiership this month but instead for his display against his old team mates at the Nou Camp.

Finally my Giraffe of the Month is a nod to Stoke’s move out of the relegation zone and whilst Joe Allen has been in fine goal scoring form the Giraffe goes to Xherdan Shaqiri, who has been the real difference for Stoke in their recent run of good form.

September’s Giraffes & Lemons

Two months into the season and the league table is beginning to look ominous for those supporters who do not follow one of the big clubs, with the usual suspects congregating in our around the Champions League spots.

Thankfully I am pleased to inform you that the Team Lemon award for September does not go to Stoke City, or even to Sunderland, but to West Ham who, Payet apart, are looking like genuine relegation candidates. The Team Giraffe award for September again doesn’t go to the team sitting on top of the pile but instead to Tottenham Hotspur who have looked, along with Liverpool, the team most likely to stop Pep’s Manchester revolution. Below is my updated predictions for the end of the season:

So here it is, (last month’s position is in brackets):  

  1. Manchester City (1st)
  2. Chelsea (2nd)
  3. Tottenham Hotspur (5th)
  4. Arsenal (4th)
  5. Manchester United (5th)
  6. Liverpool (6th)
  7. Everton (7th)
  8. Southampton (8th)
  9. Leicester City (9th)
  10. Watford (14th)
  11. Crystal Palace (16th)
  12. West Bromwich Albion (11th)
  13. West Ham United (10th)
  14. Stoke City (12th)
  15. Middlesbrough (11th)
  16. Bournemouth (17th)
  17. Swansea (15th)
  18. Burnley (18th)
  19. Hull City (20th)
  20. Sunderland (19th)

From an individual point of view there can only be one winner of the Lemon of the Month and that has to be Big Sam. For someone who has just been given his dream job to be caught out grasping for more money may be bringing the game into disrepute but a baser level it is just plain stupid. At the other end of the football spectrum there have been a few standout performers in September, most notably De Bruyne and Capoue but my Giraffe of the month goes to a Son of Tottenham Hotspur for the way he has taken the pressure of Harry Kane.

August’s Giraffe and Lemon of the Month

Four matches down, the transfer window closed and already we’ve seen England struggle to a 1-0 win away to the mighty Slovakia. With Champions League about to kick off in earnest I thought this would be a good time to update my predicted end of season league tables and hand out the first Lemon’s and Giraffe’s.

Sadly, at least for this football supporter, the Team Lemon award has to go to Stoke City, who after four matches sit bottom of the table and who already have a goals against in double digits. Being a Stoke supporter always means I look on the darker side of life but for the moment I still think we have enough quality to survive. The opposite is true for my winners of the Team Giraffe award, Hull City. They have been magnificent so far this season and if they continue to battle away until the last minute, as they did against Burnley, maybe in a few weeks’ time they will have moved up my virtual table.

So here it is, (last month’s predicted position is in brackets):

  • Manchester City (1st)
  • Chelsea (2nd)
  • Manchester United (3rd)
  • Arsenal (4th)
  • Tottenham Hotspur (6th)
  • Liverpool (5th)
  • Everton (7th)
  • Southampton (10th)
  • Leicester City (12th)
  • West Ham United (9th)
  • West Bromwich Albion (13th)
  • Stoke City (8th)
  • Middlesbrough (11th)
  • Watford (14th)
  • Swansea (15th)
  • Crystal Palace (18th)
  • Bournemouth (16th)
  • Burnley (17th)
  • Sunderland (19th)
  • Hull City (20th)

From an individual point of view the headlines have been dominated by the big two of Ibra and Aguerro but two players, from opposite ends of the football food chain, who have stood for me are Diego Costa and Curtis Davies. If I were a Chelsea fan I would be delighted to see the brooding, angry countenance descend once more across the features of their Brazilian cum Spaniard. It is amazing how many times I read a Chelsea match report which begins with “Should Costa have still been on the pitch” only to be followed by “the Spaniard scored the winner”. In today’s modern game, where football is in danger of becoming a non-contact sport, these types of players should be applauded for keeping the ugly in the beautiful game. On the flip side, if it hadn’t have been for the antics of Mike Dean, Costa’s team mate, Gary Cahill was an almost shoo in for Lemon of the month for his complaints about being mugged for Swansea’s second. Come on Gary, you’re supposed to be a big tough centre half, stop whinging and next time make sure you’re the one dishing out the physicals.

But Costa is just pipped for my Player’s Giraffe by Curtis Davies who has been the rock upon which Hull have built their impressive start. Some players have to travel until they find their footballing home and in Davies’ case he seems to have had the misfortune to be marooned in Birmingham for most of his playing career but now it seems he has found a club where he is comfortable. Whatever happens to Hull this season I hope Curtis continues to shine and that in years to come Hull supporters remember him as the club great he is already showing himself to be.

Finally my individual Lemon goes to an person who traditionally would have been found adorned in black, Mike Dean. Admittedly the changes to the rules have created confusion, especially concerning grappling in the box, but I wouldn’t mind the uproar if the rules were being applied consistently. In the Stoke – Manchester City game, whilst the first penalty against Ryan Shawcross may have been a penalty (if you discount the fact Otamendi was as much to blame), the Stoke penalty that seemed to ease Mike Dean’s conscience was an absolute joke. Throw into the ring a blatant penalty missed before Mr Dean had given the initiative to City and a dozen or so other incomprehensible decisions and it was hard not to join in with the Boothen End as they sang “you don’t know what you’re doing”.