What’s been interesting about my season-long dabble with the teams that are supposed to be ‘the biggest losers’ so far is that none of them are looking all that bad. In fact, the one side that were really struggling, Fulham, took advantage of an easy-ish fixture this week to be the fifth team out of the five not to sit in the relegation zone in week 8, a surprising outcome this far into the season.
Of course, on balance, the sides are still losing more than they win, apart from Metz, a brilliant anomaly. Here’s how the latest week panned out…
Premier League: Fulham (evens to go down) 2-0 at home to West Brom
Unquestionably this week’s ‘headline’ insofar as these things have one, Fulham finally got their first league win of the season against West Brom, at the seventh attempt. It came before three other teams, which means they’re straight out of the drop zone.
I’ll admit I was worried for Fulham, even suggesting last week that they might be contenders for the lowest points total in premier league history. They certainly need to get results in games like this, and I still think a small total – perhaps 33-34 points – will be enough to stay up this year, but this was a top performance.
West Brom had their chances, but Fulham clearly found some bite, and while their first was scrappy, Ola Aina’s hammer into the corner was spectacular (to be honest, I’d never even heard of the man before this). They could have had another late on, too. Real cause for hope, I think, from a side that finally look like they’ve got something about them.
Oh, and the less said about that West Brom kit, the better.
FC Metz (1/6 on to go down), 1-0 away to Nimes
Metz’ recent top form continued with this narrow win against Nimes over the weekend, and secured what I’m almost certain will be the longest unbeaten run by any of my five teams in this season, at six (unless, of course, they go further).
This one was scrappy, mostly because Metz managed to get a man sent off for a ridiculous and unnecessary challenge out on the wing before half time. They were in charge before that, and good value for a 1-0 lead (the goal is great, too, though I didn’t think much of Nimes’ efforts to defend it).
After that, the home side dominated but didn’t create that much, and couldn’t put away their one major chance when the Metz goalkeeper went walkabout. Metz climb to 7th, and look at the below for company…
Bundesliga: Arminia Bielefeld (5/6 on to be relegated) 0-2 at home to Dortmund
Arminia are on a horrible run of form, though in fairness, they’re also on a horrible run of fixtures. After a strong start to the season, games like next week’s against Union Berlin are starting to look important pretty quickly.
Still, Dortmund is not the kind of game you expect to get much from as a newly promoted club, even at home, and even absent main man Haaland. Arminia produced almost nothing, going with a defensive five-man back line and clinging on.
They made it to half time before Hummels fluked a goal from a corner, one Dortmund definitely deserved, and then followed up with a header to ensure Arminia lose four in a row. They’ll need to improve soon.
Serie A: Spezia (1/4 on to go down) 1-4 at home to Juventus
The problem with backing the team the bookies think is the worst in the league is that occasionally there are inevitably going to be complete mismatches. Spezia did fairly well against AC Milan a few weeks back, but Juventus with a post-corona virus Cristiano Ronaldo to come on off the bench were always going to be a problem.
Juventus scored early, but Spezia hit back with a rare foray forward and a deflected goal past Buffon to put an unlikely result on the cards. Then along comes Ronaldo and plays the key role in absolutely burying them.
Still, they’re outside the drop zone and far more playable newcomers Benevento are next.
La Liga: Elche CF (8/15 to go down), 1-3 away to Real Betis
Elche have been on such a good run that it almost feels weird writing about them losing.
Cristian Tello did much of the damage for Betis here, finishing with two goals and an assist, with Elche totally overrun for much of the first half. Betis led 2-0 at half time having also had a penalty saved, and made it 3-0 shortly after the break.
A fairly early consolation made little difference, but Elche remain in the top half, which has to be considered an excellent return so far.
The stats (across my five teams, league games only)
Played 33 Won 10 Drawn 7 Lost 16
Goals for 35 Goals against 49
Average score – 1.06-1.48