I’ve loved watching Spezia. They have exactly the kind of pluck I was looking for when I started this project; an entertaining underdog from a small town looking to put it up to the likes of Juventus, Roma, Inter Milan and Napoli.
Before Christmas they were hovering in about their best case scenario for the season in my view: outside the drop zone, and ahead of a couple of proper Serie A big guns:
Spezia have kind of ground out results when it’s mattered so far this season, and while their Christmas wasn’t a great one, it ended with a real bang.
First up were Bologna, who are one of those kind of hovering teams in Serie A who are beatable but still solid. Spezia should really have won this one, with star man Nzola putting them two up with less than half an hour to go.
Spezia should have been out of sight, in truth, but Bologna fought back in a game they’d been utterly outplayed in, equalising with a lob from just short of the half way line (worth a watch!), before a great stop from a late penalty denied Bologna what would have been a daylight robbery of a win. 2-2.
No wins at all for my strugglers this week, unless you count overachieving Spezia’s dumping Bologna out of the Coppa Italia (a win, sure, but I’m not really covering the cups).
We also had two ‘re-entries’ into the drop zone, with Arminia and Fulham slipping back after all five sides have briefly been out of their respective bottom threes. Here’s how a relatively quiet week went down…
Premier League: Fulham (evens to go down) 2-3 at home to Everton
Everton scored with pretty much the first meaningful bit of play in this game, and that pretty much sums up how fit for the premier league Fulham have been so far.
In fairness, for all that awful start, Fulham conjured up quite a lot against an Everton team who should have been out of sight, given how much they were creating.
Another awful penalty miss cost them, though, and coming back from 3-1 was always going to be a big ask against one of the form teams in the premier league. They still hang on outside the drop zone, but it’s hard to see that lasting with Leicester, Man City and Liverpool the next three (it didn’t Burnley won on Monday – Ed).
I keep stats of the five relegation favourites at the bottom of these posts, and what’s becomng clear as things go on is that all these teams are competitive. I mean they’re losing more than they win, but they’re not conceding too many, and while they’re scoring still less, there are goals in them. Only Fulham, really, are letting the side down so far. Here’s how we’re going six weeks in…
Premier League: Fulham (evens to go down) 1-1 vs Sheffield United at away
Is it possible to have a relegation six-pointer only five games into the season? On the evidence of these two sides so far this season, I’d say that it is. Both are not only losing, but looking like they’ve not got a lot to offer.
This game was both competitive and highlighted where many of the problems are. Both clubs look incompetent up front, with Fulham struggling to fire at all even with the sometimes brilliant Mitrovic, and Sheffield United looking nothing like a team that threatened European football for most of last season.
Lookman and Loftus-Cheek, though, are quality signings, and an obvious lift to the overall strength of the team that might give them hope. Lookman fired in the Fulham opener here, though Mitrovic’s silly penalty miss cost them the game. In fact, both teams conceded ridiculous penalties. Still, at least it’s a point on the board for Fulham (game link). Arguably a good one, given they were away.
Welcome to a winning week – we’re starting to upset the odds! As it stands, ust one of my five relegation favourites are in the drop zone, and this week we got first league wins of the seasons for Arminia Bielefled, Spezia Calcio and Elche CF. The long-shots are taking shape…
Bundesliga: Arminia Bielefeld (5/6 on to be relegated) 1-0 at home to FC Koln
What a start to the season for Bielefeld, one that, amazingly considering the holders won 8-0 on the opening day, puts them above Bayern in the latest Bundesliga table, and outside the European places on goals scored.
Of course, Arminia haven’t played anyone that good yet (they’ve even lucky enough to have an indifferent Werder Bremen next), but points mean prizes, and Koln, who haven’t won a league game since March, are likely to be one of the teams Arminia are ultimately fighting to finish above.
This was a game of not many chances, but a glorious cameo in the form of substitute Joan Simun Edmundsson, a lad from the Faroe Islands who became the first-ever player from that corner of the globe to play in the Bundesliga. He promptly marked the occasion with a brilliant takedown and finish from a ludicrously tight angle to win the game.
Koln should have taken at least a point, and looked pretty toothless up top, but who cares. One of my teams is flying unexpectedly high…