Villa riding high
Aston Villa are continuing to shine in the Premier League and while manager Unai Emery is known as the 'cup specialist' it is clear that the Spaniard has an eye on taking Villa to the next level. It could be argued that the Villians after 9 games are the best team in the league when we consider pound for pound. This was underlined as they throttled Europa League Conference holders West Ham at Villa Park 4-1. Indeed at home Villa have a 100% record from four games played, three other teams; Manchester City, Tottenham and Liverpool share this record but it is Villa who are currently in 1st place on home record alone. They have scored a whopping 17 goals at home and conceded just 3 and that includes scoring 10 goals in their last two home fixtures.
One could say that Villa's opening weekend 5-1 mauling by Newcastle was a blessing in disguise because if you take out a 3-0 loss against Liverpool Emery's side have looked dangerous and on the evidence of what we have seen since August Villa will not be losing many games at home this season. This has been a month of good news for the club also as forward Ollie Watkins has signed a five year deal extension. His goals have been invaluebale to the club and he has netted 40 times in the past three seasons in the league and already has 5 goals so far and is on course to score his most in one single season whilst playing in the top flight. Villa sit in 5th place with 19 points and will be tipped to crash into the top four this weekend as they remain at home against Luton. With Tottenham, Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool all having postive starts and taking up the first four places could Emery's Villa end up being an Achilles heel to one of these clubs and claiming a Champions League place?
Aston Villa Premier League odds and specials:
To win the league: 101.00
To finish in the top 4: 7.00
To finish higher than Chelsea: 1.70
To finish higher than Manchester United: 1.80
To finish higher than Arsenal: 7.50
Tonali facing lengthy ban
Sandro Tonali what have you done? Newcastle were left in shock last week when it emerged that their new Italian signing from AC Milan had admitted to betting on games and games that he was playing in for the Serie A club. Newcastle have just splashed out £55m on the talented midfielder who is now set to receive a ban. The good news if there is any is that when Tonali did place the bets in games he was playing in it was for his team to win, had it been the other way round then that is direct match fixing and there have been quotes of bans lasting between 2-3 years. This doesn't mean that Tonali is out of trouble though. Also in Italy Nicolo Fagioli, the Juventus player was recently handed a seven month ban and in the Premier League Ivan Toney doesn't return for Brentford until January after being banned for 8 months. If we take these cases into account we could presume that Tonali is going to receive a ban that would rule him out for the rest of the season and that would be a huge blow for Eddie Howe and Newcastle going forward.
Ramsdale future looking uncertain
Theres been a lot of grumbling even from non Arsenal fans about how Aaron Ramsdale has been replaced by David Raya in goal and it's easy to put the spotlight on every mistake that Raya makes to shine a false one on Ramsdale. However if we were to take into account pure statistics then Raya leads the way. Perhaps the most important is shots saved and Raya currently has 66% compared in the same amount of games to Ramsdale's 55%. But it should come as no surprise as to why Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has dropped Ramsdale and it comes down to what continental managers love about goalkeeping- distribution and coming out with the ball.
We can all remember that Arteta was Manchester City's number 2 when Pep Guardiola dropped England's Joe Hart and although the decision was made before Arteta fully got his feet under the Etihad carpet Hart was still on City's books, his future wasn't. There was some confusion by non fans because Hart was England's goalkeeper, so how could this be? How could Guardiola drop England's first choice? It was simple at least for Guardiola who could see Hart's limitations but it was all about how he distributed the ball and how comforatble or in Hart's case how uncomfortable he was with the ball at his feet. In stepped Ederson and that was the end of Hart's career not just at City but in the Premier League this far as Hart now plys his trade with Celtic. Arteta watched Guardiola like a hawk so fast forward six years and we seem to have the same case now at Arsenal. Raya distributes better than Ramsdale and uses the ball well. It doesn't matter to a point that Raya's stats are better than Ramsdale what matters to Arteta is that he feels he has a modern goal keeper and that is bad news for Ramsdale who was knocking on Jordan Pickford's door for the England No.1. These are frustating times for Ramsdale who already knows that he won't and can't be considered for England's number one choice for the Euro's next summer if he isn't getting game time. Could it be a stretch to see him leave Arsenal in January?
RIP Bobby Charlton
Finally Bobby Charlton one of the very greats in British and world football has died, he was 86. When you think of Manchester United the likes of George Best, Eric Cantona and Ryan Giggs come to mind, but so should Bobby Charlton and for a certain generation he is first on the list. Charlton won the European Cup in 1968 and 3 league titles and one FA Cup with United. He won the Ballon d'Or in 1966 and was runner up for the next two years and of course in 1966 won the ultimate footballing trophy- the World Cup. Indeed sadly now only Geoff Hurst who of course scored a hat trick in that final is the only remaining member of the team still alive.
Charlton's life could well have ended as early as 1958 as he was involved in the devasting plane crash in Munich which killed over half the passengers on board including 8 first team players. After the rebuiding of the team Charlton's status as a player grew quickly and he became a legendary player and one of the very best players in the 1960s. He scored 199 goals from midfield in the league for United and 249 goals overall in all competitions. For England he held the top goalscorer record with 49 goals for 45 years until Wayne Rooney broke it in 2015.