What’s been most noticeable about this project so far is that, eleven weeks in, it’s been mostly not about losers, but about sides putting up real fight, about clubs that are below average for their league, typically, perhaps, but still performing.
Here’s the latest, with only one set to go down as it stands…
Premier League: Fulham (evens to go down) 2-1 away to Leicester
I didn’t give Fulham a lot of hope against high-flying Leicester away, to be honest, but they definitely are coming to handle the Premier League a bit better, and looking like a side that could be competitive in a few more games. This also closes the gap – that had been substantial – to anyone above 16th.
Lookman has probably been their best player so far his year in my view, and he threatened plenty here, and could have had a couple more. Leicester were dominant early on, though, and while Fulham held their own and eventually took over for periods, they were probably a little lucky.
Still, they’ve been due a bit of luck, and they’re back out of the bottom three. You’d have to assume Sheffield United will come back to life at some point, right?
Bundesliga: Arminia Bielefeld (5/6 on to be relegated) 1-2 away to RB Leipzig
I had hoped Arminia would somehow do something in this one, because let’s face it, Leipzig are a heavily corporate, moneybags bad thing in a league that’s generally not got too many of those bad things. Too much to ask, though, I guess, and this marks their 7th straight league loss.
That said, this wasn’t a bad performance. Bielefeld went for it, and while they never looked likely to win, they did create chances and briefly threaten to level things up at the end.
With a relatively easy run against Mainz, Freiberg, Augsburg, and struggling Schalke in the next four, December is going to have to improve a lot for Arminia.
FC Metz (1/6 on to go down), 0-2 at home to Brest
After a run of 8 games undefeated despite having their key forward injured early in that run, Metz finally, and inevitably, lost a league game this weekend.
Brest are normally awful away (and very strong at home), and, in fairness to Metz, they did dominate large parts of this game, but came up against a very on-form goalkeeper and some sharp finishing at the other end.
A shame the run comes to an end, but a with an eight-point gap on the drop zone and a ‘flat’ record of 4 wins, 4 draws and 4 losses, it’s been a superb turnaround for a season that started with 4 straight defeats.
Serie A: Spezia (1/4 on to go down) 2-2 away to Cagliari
A dying seconds equaliser in this one just about sums up Spezia’s season so far: 14th, and only one more loss than win after nine games is about as good as anyone could have expected from the first-time top tier club.
This was a game of two halves, with Spezia utterly dominating a first half that they went in from somehow only leading 1-0. Cagliari were much better in the second half and could have put themselves out of sight.
The late penalty for Spezia looked a bit soft, to be honest, but on balance they deserved the point. Great stuff so far. I love that Cagliari shirt, by the way.
La Liga: Elche CF (8/15 to go down), 1-1 at home to Cadiz
How often do you see three 1-1 draws in a row from the same team? Elche might be a touch disappointed with this one against another newly promoted club, Cadiz, and it does drop them below Barcelona, finally.
Lucas Boye was the hero/ villain of the piece, first scoring a cracking sliding finish from 25 yards, and then getting sent off for an elbow, leaving Elche down to ten for the entire second half.
They conceded the equaliser early, but showed plenty of resilience to hang on.
The stats (across my five teams, league games only)
Played 48 Won 12 Drawn 14 Lost 22
Goals for 51 Goals against 72
Average score – 1.06-1.50