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Five Lessons Learned from Champions League: Matchday 10

by Aanu Omorodion
Tue, Dec 6th 2016 11:00 pm

 IT'S BUSINESS AS USUAL for most teams this week; the top teams continued to win, Manchester United continued to struggle, and the bottom teams carried on losing. Still, there were lessons to be learned:

1. City back to winning ways: 

Pep Guardiola can finally breathe a sigh of relief. After going six games without a win, Manchester City finally got three points, and emphatically as well. The Citizens demolished West Bromwich Albion 4-0 in a dominant performance many had expected from Guardiola's side on a weekly basis.

Guardiola — forever the tinkerer — used a different formation for the third consecutive game, favoring a 3-6-1 formation against a West Brom side struggling for form as well, with four league games without a win and no clean sheets since the beginning of September (according to Sky Sports). City happily took advantage of the Baggies' defensive leakiness, with the width from their six-man midfield stretching the West Brom side and opening up spaces. The game was exactly what Guardiola's side needed, as a return fixture versus Barcelona looms closer.

2. Lukaku proving worth the hype: 

Romelu Lukaku scores goals, it's what he does. Whether at Anderlecht, West Brom or Everton, the big Belgian has displayed prolific attributes that have made his stint at Chelsea look like a fluke. He did his reputation no harm on Sunday, as his goal in Everton's 2-0 win over West Ham makes him poised to be only the fifth player in Premier league history to score 50 league goals before the age of 23, with the third-fewest appearances as well according to The Daily Mail. Chelsea tried to reacquire him during the summer and Everton refused their £60 million bid, and for good reason. 

At only 22 years of age; Lukaku's development is far from over (his first touch and link-up play still leave a lot to be desired), but with seven league goals in only 10 appearances this season, his quality and value will only improve from here on out, giving the Toffees a truly world class player to build their future around.

3. Striker dilemma a happy one for Arsenal: 

Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger is in an enviable position. With Olivier Giroud, Alexis Sanchez and Lucas Perez all fit, very few managers can boast of the quality and quantity of options he has to play as the Gunners' center forward. This was evident in Arsenal's 4-1 mauling of Sunderland on Saturday, as both Sanchez and Giroud bagged braces in an easy win. The Frenchman has hit double figures for Arsenal for four consecutive seasons, and has link-up play second to none yet is being benched, and it was from the bench that he converted his first goals of the season. Perez has been unconvincing, with no goals in the league and only a brace against a second division side to boast of. Undoubtedly, Sanchez can't carry this sort of form for the entire season, and when he falters, his replacements will eagerly capitalize, giving Wenger a win-win situation regardless. 

4. Heaton heroics stifle United:

Manchester United played well on Saturday versus Burnley, yet regardless of what they tried, they just couldn't get the goal their performance deserved. Fresh from defeating Manchester City in the midweek cup game, United's new found confidence was evident with their 38 shots on goal and 11 on target, according to goal.com.  

However, the Red Devils were unfortunate to come up against a "keeper with a point to prove in ex-United boy Tom Heaton. The Englishman saved everything that came his way, from overhead kicks and tap-ins to 30 yard strikes from Paul Pogba. United has every right to feel aggrieved, as a victory was precisely what was needed to boost confidence after a poor run of three league games without a win. It can take encouragement in the fact that it sliced Burnley open with ease every time it came forward.

5. Chelsea own October:

Four league games, four wins, eleven goals, none conceded. Those numbers tell the story of Chelsea's sudden upturn in form in October. After being trashed 3-0 by Arsenal at the end of September, Coach Antonio Conte made a bold move, changing the Blues formation from their regular 4-3-2-1 to an unconventional 3-4-3 and it has reaped dividends for his side. The new formation has solved Conte's side early defensive issues thanks to the presence of wingbacks, who also provide numbers in midfield. 

Most importantly, the formation gave Chelsea talisman Eden Hazard a free role, and with his defensive duties discarded, the Belgian has become the unplayable, free-flowing Hazard of old. Hazard's freedom has also benefited Diego Costa, with the Spaniard also scoring three goals as the London side quietly pulled themselves into fourth place in the league, while he sits comfortably ahead of the pack in the race for top scorer. It may a bit too early to consider them title contenders but on present form, Conte's side will undoubtedly qualify for Europe come the end of the season.

 

aomor1@brockport.edu

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