By Ayyaz Malik
In a week which was arguably a less eventful week on the football calendar, when looking at the fixtures list, in contrast, this week turned out to be one of the weeks high with drama.
Off the pitch, there were two managerial sackings. The first was that of Arsenal manager Unai Emery, the former Sevilla boss was in the role for just 18 months. Emery, who enjoyed a lot of success in his homeland with The Andalusians by winning three Europa League titles in a row, just wasn’t able to quite get things right in the capital whilst in charge of the North Londoners.
On the pitch Unai Emery suffered two defeats in his first two games, against Manchester City and Chelsea. After those setbacks, however, Arsenal were able to go on a 12 game winning streak last season (a club record).
After a difficult start in the league last term, The Gunners looked to have got their season on track, sadly though for Unai’s men a downturn in form ensued and after being in a chance for finishing fourth and winning the Europa League last term, both chances were lost as a 4-1 defeat in the final to Chelsea in Baku and by losing out to the same opposition in the Premier League.
After that disappointment, the Arsenal board looked to spend their way out of trouble and £145 was bankrolled on playing talent, which included the £70 million record signing of Lille winger Nicholas Pepe.
Such steps in the transfer market were supposed to help the 2004 Premier League winners, but after losing to Sheffield United in October, a seven-game winless run followed, which spelt the end for Unai Emery.
A manager with real pedigree for sure, but in certain instances the Spaniard showed weak leadership such as the way he handled the Granit Xhaka debacle. On top of that not knowing this season who to appoint as captain, after last season’s captain Lauren Koscielny down tools, which left the players being give the that choice to the club captain themselves.
With those factors in mind, former Sevilla manager Unai Emery was duly relieved of his duties after 18 months. This is quite something, considering legendary manager before him Arsene Wenger lasted 22 years. Former player Freddie Ljungberg, an assistant to Unai Emery to take charge until a permanent successor is found.
There was another Premier League managerial casualty as Watford were the latest club to part company with their manager. Quique Sanchez Flores, who was only appointed manager again just three months ago, again losing his job after Watford lost 2-1 to strugglers Southampton.
Another manager who was under fire, West Ham’s Manuel Pellegrini came out on top in the London derby against Frank Lampard’s high-flying Chelsea side with a 1-0. Elsewhere Everton, who were said to be close to being sacking Marco Silva, might just do that after his Toffee’s side went down this season’s high-flyers Leicester City in agonising fashion 2-1.
The Foxes needed to win after Liverpool won their game against Brighton yesterday, but much to the surprise of all champions Manchester City have fallen further behind in the title race with a barely deserved 2-2 draw with Newcastle United.
As a result of this latest disappointment for City, it means they’re 11 points behind Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, not the ideal preparation going into next week’s Manchester derby at home to neighbours United.
Outside of domestic football, the draw for next summers Euro 2020 was announced. The headlines of the draw see European champions Portugal face world champion France and Germany, with the remaining place to be decided through the play-offs.
England, who will play their group games at Wembley, will face the Czech Republic, Croatia and the last place to be determined. Fellow British side Wales, face Italy, Switzerland and Turkey in their group.
England’s cricketers after been comprehensively beaten in the first test against New Zealand did show fight against their hosts. After getting The Kiwi’s batting line-up all out for 375, The Three Lions showed some much-needed fight.
The visitors did have to rely on centuries from opener Rory Burns and captain Joe Root to get themselves out of a precarious position at 24-2. At the end of today’s play (at time of print), England finished on 269-5.
Going into tomorrow’s day of play, England will need their captain Root to bat deep, the England number four is still there on 114 not out, which was the Yorkshireman’s first ton in 15 tests. With five wickets to get for New Zealand and just over 100 runs to get for England to wipe off their deficit, means that this test is very finely poised.
The Black Caps’ neighbours Australia, picked up from where they left off and pressed home their advantage after finishing day one on 302-1. Opener David Warner and Marnus Labuschagne both scored centuries, just like they did in the first test, but it was to get worse for tourists Pakistan.
Former vice-captain Warner, who struggled against England during the summer, has looked much more like his old self in this series. The veteran Aussie opener helped himself to an unbeaten triple-century.
That mammoth knock helped hosts Australia pile a quite astonishing 589-3. Facing the near impossible, Pakistan’s innings was doomed almost from the start and slumped to 89-6. Much to the surprise of everyone however star-batsmen Babar Azam and spinner Yasir Shah combined to put on 105 for the seventh wicket.
Another century stand for the eighth wicket, this time for 102, helped Pakistan get to a respectable (in the circumstances) 302 all out. This included a century from Yasir Shah and 97 from Babar Azam, but despite the heroics of the two men, 1992 World Champions Pakistan had to follow -on.
The follow-on started disastrously with three wickets falling for just 20 runs. Pakistan were able to close on 39-3, but do trail their hosts by 248 runs with seven wickets remaining. Rain has caused interruptions in this game, but despite that it looks increasingly likely Australia will win this test series 2-0.
The week ahead
After losing ground on arch-rivals Liverpool, Manchester City have the tough assignment of a local derby against United in their aim to close a massive 11 point lead. With The Reds, due to go out for The Club World Cup this month, they also have local derby to deal with as Everton visit Anfield on 4th December.
A tricky away game against Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth on Saturday 8th December is not easy but the way Liverpool are going seems like a game they will win. Although these games are far from easy for both clubs, we feel the 11 point lead between the two sides will remain. Our predictions for all the games; Liverpool 1-0 Everton. Bournemouth 0-2 Liverpool. Manchester City 2-1 Manchester United.
As exciting as those games are not to mention in midweek Manchester United will face old manager Jose Mourinho’s Spurs, there is a small matter of an Old Firm Derby in the Scottish League Cup final as Glasgow Rangers and Celtic face off on Sunday 8th December.
In cricket, Pakistan who will look to heal their wounds from a disappointing tour Down Under in Australia, face Sri Lanka in Pakistan in Rawalpindi, in what is a historic test-match series. Sub Continental neighbours India, the world’s number one ranked test team, face West Indies in the first of three T20 Internationals.
We can’t complete preview the week ahead without mentioning the small matter of a World-heavyweight title rematch between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz in Saudi Arabia. Ruiz against all odds defeated the then world champion Joshua with a brutal seventh-round knockout of the 30-year old Brit.
As remarkable as a result it was for the 30-year old Mexican, we don’t see lightning striking twice as they say and we can only see Joshua getting back what he said would (his three world title belts and that’s your sport!
The sports desk at Asian Sunday will look to keep you up to date with all things sport in next week’s review, see you same time next week!