To celebrate Halloween and with the Premier League season now in full swing, our football friend Nathan Spafford has given us the lowdown on each club’s Trick and Treat so far this season. If you’ve overdone it on the sweets this year then have a look at whether MAN v FAT Football might be a good remedy for the horrors of the scales.
Trick: The Gunners’ superb start to the season leaves very little in the room for trickery, but losing just once to bitter rivals Manchester United has to hurt for multiple reasons. That short squad depth is looking like being a potential jump scare in the second half of the season too.
Treat: The whole season had been a treat so far for the Gunners. Everyone of an Arsenal persuasion has gorged on sweet performances and sweeter results which sees the Londoners topping the Premier League table going into Halloween weekend. With one of the youngest and most talented squads in the division to their name, the present and future look extremely healthy for Arsenal.
Trick: Pretty much everything up to and including Steven Gerrard’s final day in charge. Losing 3-0 to newly promoted and far superior Fulham was a necessary evil to rid the club of the former England and Liverpool midfielder.
Treat: There hasn’t been much in the way of treats for Aston Villa fans this campaign, but the long-awaited dismissal of boss Steven Gerrard was a delight for the aptly-named Villains in the build up to Halloween. A campaign which began with a sickly 2-0 defeat to newly promoted Bournemouth never really recovered, but the sacking of Gerrard followed by a 4-0 win over Brentford and the arrival of Unai Emery as manager is a treat and a half.
Trick: No matter what Bournemouth do for the rest of the season, they will be having recurring nightmares about that joint league record 9-0 defeat to an otherwise tepid Liverpool side this season. That they went half a dozen games unbeaten under caretaker Gary O’Neil since then with one of the best defences in Europe is a script even the most ardent filmmakers would have struggled to write.
Treat: Similarly to Villa, Bournemouth have been treated by the sacking of their former England international midfielder manager in the guise of Scott Parker and the subsequent run of results which saw them on par with Liverpool, who spanked the Cherries 9-0 in August. Gary O’Neil sent Bournemouth on one of the longest unbeaten runs in the division so far this season; sweeter than any regular Cherries pie.
Trick: Brentford may have put four past Manchester United for their treat, but another United in the form of Newcastle went one better in October to put the fear into Brentford every time they come across a Magpie. That 5-1 mauling at the hands of Eddie Howe’s side showed the inconsistent frustration that Brentford still possess all too well.
Treat: Demolishing Manchester United 4-0 in the first home game of the season, while jeering Christian Eriksen for joining the Red Devils instead of extending his stay in West London. For anyone not of a United persuasion, this was fun to watch, but especially so for Brentford.
Trick: Losing manager Graham Potter to Chelsea seemed like a horror story which was always bound to happen sooner rather than later. Potter had performed tricks and magic aplenty during his successful spell in Sussex, but five games without a win since his departure to the capital feel particularly punishing for the Seagulls after such a stellar start to the season.
Treat: Like Brentford after them in real life, and before them in this list, defeating Manchester United on the opening day of the campaign at Old Trafford was the high point in a great couple of opening months before Graham Potter tricked everyone of an Albion persuasion (but that’s for another list).
Trick: There were quite a few moments to choose from under Thomas Tuchel before his September sacking and very few – perhaps none at all – since Potter jumped up one club alphabetically in the league to take over from the German. The 3-0 defeat to an otherwise limp Leeds United in August seems like a particularly sticky point for the Londoners which they will hope won’t be topped this or indeed, any other season.
Treat: Thomas Tuchel had enjoyed some great treats with Chelsea, not least the 2020/21 Champions League success, but this season was sour from very nearly the absolute start. Unlike London counterparts Arsenal, Chelsea never looked capable of putting up the numbers or fight to threaten Manchester City’s likely ascension to the Premier League crown once more. But under Graham Potter, there is the not-too-distant possibility of having the first ever Englishman to win the Premier League and the arrival of Potter-ball to Stamford Bridge.
Trick: Like last season, Patrick Vieira’s Crystal Palace are far more fun than the Roy Hodgson days without too much improvement in the way of points and league places. That has continued into this season, but a limp opening night defeat to London rivals Arsenal was a disappointing way to kick the campaign off.
Treat: The results are largely the same as they were under Roy Hodgson, but just like last season, the intangibles are so much more fun for Crystal Palace with one of the most dynamic, engaging and characteristic sides in the top flight of English football. That first half against Man City was quite something too.
Trick: At no point this season have Everton soared high or roared low. They are just there. And in a way, falling into that malaise is as scary as it gets for a football fan. The Toffees just want something to be excited about at Halloween.
Treat: Briefly but definitely had the best and most miserly defence in the entire Premier League, for what it was worth in early October. They don’t definitely look like going down like last season fooled us all into thinking and Frank Lampard might actually be a capable manager after all. It’s almost sickly good compared to this time last season.
Trick: It has been a good return to the Premier League at long last for Fulham, with redemption on the cards at this level for both the club and manager Marco Silva. October got off to a frightening start though with 4-1 and 3-1 defeats to Newcastle and West Ham. Seven points from three games since have staved off the nightmares a tad, though.
Treat: They’re not doing a Fulham. Sensible transfer recruitment, a solid style of play, Aleksandar Mitrovic living up to his potential in the Premier League and very few murmurs of discontent. It doesn’t really feel like Fulham. That’s as big a treat as it gets for the Cottagers.
Trick: Plenty to go at here, and far too many to condense to this list. Jesse Marsch’s defiance in staying at Elland Road is causing a few bad dreams for the Leeds’ faithful going into the Halloween weekend, particularly if they lose to a beleaguered Liverpool this weekend.
Treat: Ah, now we’re struggling. Without a win in the league since August, although that was 3-0 against Chelsea. That’ll do.
Trick: The L teams have produced their fair share of the letter this season. Leicester are looking better now, but the first couple of months of the season were straight from a disaster movie, with the Foxes looking like being the first character to die by tripping over a branch or some other stupid death. The 6-2 mauling by an otherwise muted Tottenham in the final September fixture was a real low point.
Treat: A dismal start to the season saw Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester reputation in tatters and the Foxes staring down the barrel of a potential relegation battle. That barrel had turned out to be full of shiny red apples in recent weeks and Leicester have come up trumps in bobbing for them with dismantlings of local and relegation rivals Nottingham Forest and Wolves in the past month.
Trick: A poor start to the season was compounded in the third game of the campaign when faced against bitter rivals Manchester United who had lost each of their opening two fixtures. Liverpool were unable to add misery to their foes, which sums up their sorry season to this point.
Treat: Hmm, another struggle. When the highs have been so high, the lows always feel so much lower. They will be easy to file in the corresponding list but that victory over Manchester City a fortnight ago will have to do for now. Tricky.
Trick: They couldn’t even beat Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa. Pep should have been sacked for that alone.
Treat: Erling Haaland has been everything expected of him and more as Manchester City look to claim a third successive Premier League title and that elusive Champions League title to boot. A far-from-perfect start from the team to date, but that is nothing new. Their Norwegian scoring machine is as big a treat as you could wish for.
Trick: Brentford took it easy on Manchester United in the second half of their 4-0 demolition, which is pretty embarrassing. Genuinely, this time.
Treat: More than likely occupying their ceiling this season in fifth place, Manchester United at least look competent again after the furore of the past couple of seasons. After those opening two embarassments, United have only lost to bitter rivals Man City in the league since and have gone unbeaten against Chelsea, Tottenham and Newcastle in their last three fixtures. It’s not perfect, but it’s more treat than trick.
Trick: On the pitch, there is very little for the uber-rich Newcastle to be worried about. There are some question marks about the source of those funds, but when it comes to the league, only that last minute defeat to Liverpool crops up as a sort of trick. Déjà vu more than anything.
Treat: They’re only fourth in the table. Newcastle have been solidly superb in the opening quarter of the season and could realistically occupy a top four spot going into the winter break for the World Cup. Their only defeat thus far was a last minute loss to Liverpool. There have been far too many great moments to mention so the entire season to date goes down as a treat. How nice.
Trick: Plenty to pick out, but going into a relegation and derby clash with Leicester in which the victor would likely keep their manager in a job and get a massive bump in their early dogfight against relegation, it seemed even keel before the match began. That Forest lost 4-0 without putting up much of a fight put the jeepers creepers into everyone of a Forest persuasion.
Treat: Not quite the entire season, but Taiwo Awoniyi’s penchant for clumsy and ugly goals is proving worth its weight in gold. His winner against West Ham was added to with another non-contender for Goal of the Month in a famous victory over Liverpool just last weekend. Forest are bottom on goal difference going into Halloween weekend, but things look a little healthier already.
Trick: They actually lost to Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa. That is worse than losing 9-0 twice. Somehow, Ralph Hassenhuttl continues to live to tell the tale as a sinner of the Saints.
Treat: Ralph Hassenhuttl’s Saints constantly swerve from their nickname status to sinners, such is the manner of their inconsistency which has become a character trait. The Austrian has overseen two 9-0 defeats and continues to come out of winless runs this season smelling of roses. A comeback win over Chelsea before defeat to Wolves signifies this, but the former result was a true treat for Southampton fans.
Trick: Just an entire lack of the star power and attractive winning football that everyone expected from a Conte x Spurs match up has been incredibly disappointing and tricked us all.
Treat: It’s not been a stellar start to the season for Antonio Conte’s side by any metric, especially for star players Harry Kane and Heung Min Son, but the 6-2 demolition of Leicester in September saw the latter and score a second half hat-trick and the Londoners look like the real deal for the first and so far only time this season.
Trick: The European adventure has once again been superb. The Premier League adventure has been a little less so. West Ham are destined to finish a solid but unspectacular 12th this season. It is what it is after the highs of the last few seasons.
Treat: The Premier League campaign has so far been forgettable (although is on the rise) but another momentous journey through Europe awaits with West Ham qualifying for the knockout stages of the Europa Conference League with perfect aplomb from their first four fixtures. Who needs domestic football anyway?
Trick: Where to start? The lowest scorers with just one win to their name in the league and looking no better under the guidance of Steve Davis until after the World Cup, Wolves are currently looking like relegation fodder. Terrifying.
Treat: Yeah, we’re stumped on this one.