Into October now and we are really beginning to separate the good and bad in the league this season (if it wasn’t obvious enough already). The highs and lows of last season are now firmly at the back of the minds of the players and some are accepting that they are now going to experience very different seasons. However, there is one team that are really showing signs that they have improved from the last campaign more than others, and that’s Burnley.
On the face of it, the squad coupled with their summer acquisitions brought into the club such as Jon Walters has a very ‘Brexit’ feel about it (Yes, I know he’s Irish). They have already accumulated more away wins than the whole of last season. Lancashire’s biggest team in claret and blue comprehensively outplayed Everton on Sunday afternoon, causing some Evertonians to question whether Ronald Koeman had wasted the Lukaku money. The biggest game of the weekend was unequivocally Chelsea against Man City. The (sky) Blues were on top for most of the game, no doubt helped a tad by the home team’s star man Eden Hazard influence being hindered playing as a striker. At least his compatriot Kevin De Bruyne had a good afternoon. He scored a stunner that cemented his status as being a bloody good footballer.
In the race for Russia 2018, England became the first Home Nation to qualify for next year’s World Cup by defeating those international power houses Slovenia 1-0. And the confirmation was met with grumblings? In a typical English qualifier, the sparse Wembley crowd found a paper plane hitting the back of the net more interesting than the array of Premier League footballers on show. The Kane train tapped in the winner four minutes into stoppage time to avoid a soporific conclusion to the game. You know, because Kane bailing his country seems to now be pretty standard. The Scottish also scored a late one, keeping their dream alive thanks to Chris Martin (I’ll spare you the Coldplay puns). His goal quelled feelings of trepidation amongst the Scottish to the point they could still fail to qualify on Monday night, or could (duh).
To Belfast and the deafening choruses of Sweet Caroline was not enough this time to spur on Northern Ireland, losing 3-1 to Germany. No shame in that. I must be honest, NI keep surprising me. Their squad isn’t the most talented (ex-goalkeeper Josh Magennis leads their line) but Michael O’Neill does seem to get the best out of them.
In Georgia and the Gareth Baless (See what I did there?) Welsh continued their unbeaten, late push into the play off’s. The Georgians (who do look much better than their rankings suggest) were at the mercy of Tom Lawrence’s right foot. And the one-man team Wales, who were supposed to NEVER win without Bale did, and it felt brilliant.