Friday 23 August 2019

Heroes, flops and comeback kids - Aldo's review of the first half of the Premier League season

Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Liverpool and Ireland goal-scoring great John Aldridge has cast an eye over his heroes and villains of the Premier League season so far, with plenty of questions posed as we head into 2017.

MANAGERIAL HEROES - Antonio Conte and Jurgen Klopp

I’ve lost count of the amount of Manchester United and Everton fans who have come up to me singing the praises of Klopp and saying how much they like him, even if they are annoyed he is not manager of their club!

When United and Everton fans tell you they begrudgingly love the Liverpool manager, you know he is doing something right.

Of course, time will tell whether the love affair we are all having with Klopp will end with him lifting major trophies at Liverpool and right now, Chelsea look like the team to beat at the top of the table.

Blues manager Antonio Conte is similar to Klopp in many ways with his passion on the touchline that appears to have rubbed off on his players, but I would still take Klopp over him at this moment as he has an all-round X Factor that is hard to beat.

THE FLOPS - Jose Mourinho and Claudio Ranieri

When I saw Jose Mourinho taking over at United and spending crazy money to buy Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Eric Bailly and adding to a squad that included David De Gea, Wayne Rooney and the rest, I thought they’d run away with the Premier League title this season.

Yet Mourinho has taken longer than I expected to find a balance in his team and while they have shown signs of improvement of late, they are already out of the title race and that is a surprise to me given what they spent last summer.

If United’s slow start to the season is a surprise, then Claudio Ranieri’s miserable story at Leicester is all too predictable.

I knew they would struggle to reach the heights they achieved last season, but I didn’t expect them to be in relegation trouble now.

They need to get their hunger back quickly or their fall from grace could be humiliating.

THE COMEBACK KIDS - Eden Hazard and Diego Costa

People will question how two players of proven class decided they were not going to play for Chelsea so long as Jose Mourinho was manager and while that is letting the club’s fans down, you need to appreciate why they did that.

I have it on good authority that Hazard and Costa wanted Mourinho out long before he was sacked last December because of the way he behaved behind the scenes at Chelsea and from what I hear, they were not alone.

The moment he left, they started to find their form and the performance I witnessed from Hazard against Liverpool at Anfield back in April was one of the best I have seen in years.

Meanwhile, the bullying Costa who helped Chelsea win the Premier League in 2015 is back and if Antonio Conte can keep these two talismen fit and in form for the rest of this season, Chelsea will be title favourites.

THE JURY IS OUT - Ronald Koeman and Tony Pulis

The sight of West Bromwich Albion sitting just behind the top teams in the Premier League is a little odd, but you have to give them credit for a solid start to the season.

Tony Pulis plays a brand of the game that is hard to love and that will never change and he has added a couple of players who give his side a little extra spark.

I don’t expect West Brom to finish in the top six this season, but good luck to Pulis if he can earn a good living out of playing football that is the opposite of what I consider to be entertainment most of the time.

Despite their inconsistent form this season, I’d still back Everton to finish ahead of West Brom, as I think they have a good manager in Ronald Koeman and he can get them going again after their dip in results.

Koeman did not spend too much money last summer, so Everton need to make some statement signings in January to give him a chance to build a team in his own mould.

I’D PAY TO WATCH - Alexis Sanchez and Philippe Coutinho

We all enjoy seeing the showmen doing their stuff on a football field and I love watching Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez when he is at his best.

Some people rave about his team-mate Mesut Ozil, but Sanchez is their main man and he would be the one that would strike fear into any opponent.

To think that Liverpool tried to sign Sanchez in the summer when they sold Luis Suarez to Barcelona. The one that got away….what a shame.

At least Liverpool have an entertainer of their own in Philippe Coutinho and I have enjoyed seeing him live so many times over the last year.

He has come on from the player we first saw when he arrived at Liverpool, with Klopp improving him to a point where we now hear suggestions that Barcelona have him on their wanted list.

I can see why they might be looking at Coutinho because he is a class act, but Liverpool fans can only hope he gets back fit quickly and stays for a few years because he is great to watch.

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