Rondon will overcome slow start for West Brom

The Premier League continues with Round 16 this weekend as the most unpredictable season in recent memory will likely continue to bring us twists and turns that no one expects.

Every week, will chat with Sportsnet soccer commentator James Sharman about the big stories and issues in the Premier League, and preview the weekend’s games.

What are your thoughts on Swansea City firing Gary Monk? Was this the right move? Or should they have given him more time?
One win in 11 matches and a point up on the drop zone is the cold hard truth. Given that, the move has some logic, as disappointing as it is. I have been a Monk fan since he took over the club, guiding it to a record season last year, and Swansea came out of the blocks fast this season only to lose its way for some reason. Sadly, with enormous television money kicking in next year, a club such as Swansea cannot even consider the chance of relegation, and clearly Monk has been unable to right the ship.

Keep in mind this is a club that doesn’t afford its manager too much say in its transfer dealings, and Monk was saddled with a group of players and told to go make them play well again. Not always as easy as it seems. Sure, Jefferson Montero is out of favour after a solid start to the campaign, so certainly Monk needs to take some of the blame. But as much as his firing is hardly a huge shocker, it is disappointing as a year ago this was a young English manager rising through the ranks; a year later and he’s another young English manager on the scrap heap.

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How seriously do you think Manchester United will take the Europa League?
If United consolidate a top four position over the coming weeks, which I am sure they will, then I would understand that they might take their foot off the gas on Thursdays. It seems to be out there now that inside the hallways of Old Trafford the Premier League is very much the priority over the next few seasons, and that Europe can wait. Not that United have much depth at the moment given their injury situation, so depending on where they are once the Europa League starts back up, it could be they have little choice but to field relatively strong teams.

Expect United to spend some money in January too, which might change their approach to Europe. Van Gaal said recently that his team was not good enough to win the Champions League, and he was right, but surely United automatically becomes a favourite to win the Europa League, and a trophy is a trophy regardless. I am very intrigued as to what the club’s approach will be.

Joel Campbell and Olivier Giroud formed an effective partnership midweek in the Champions League. Could this be a solid duo going forward while so many Arsenal players are injured?
Talk about Joel Campbell’s breakout game! The Costa Rican has been abused terribly in recent weeks, but against Olympiacos he was exceptional. So too was Giroud, who wouldn’t get any respect if he scored 40 goals. His goals record at Arsenal is very good, but he’s still not good enough, right?

I don’t see this being a partnership per se. Campbell will get his chance so long as Alexis Sanchez is injured, and with Theo Walcott back from injury (for the time being) he will be given his chance up front in place of Giroud in the Premier League.

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Manchester City hosts Swansea City on Saturday. How much do the Blues miss Vincent Kompany? It’s been suggested they rely too much on the Belgian to hold together the defence. Is that a fair criticism?
The stats with and without Kompany are incredible—this season City have conceded two goals in eight league games with him in the line-up; without him they have conceded 14 in seven matches. So yes, they probably rely too much on a player who has a history of injuries.

However, when Nicolas Otamendi and Eliaquim Mangala sit in the heart of the defence their price tag is a combined $90 million, so it’s not as if City have skimped in that area. Kompany is so much more than a great footballer—he is the leader of this side, the voice and the organizer on the field. When we watched Juventus dismiss City this season in the Champions League we see a team that has leaders throughout it, a team ready to win every night in the top competition. I just don’t see that with City when Kompany is absent. City has such wonderful talent, as good as any team, but Kompany supplies an added factor that appears in short supply when he’s not there.

West Bromwich Albion visits Liverpool on Sunday. The Baggies spent a club record transfer free on Jose Salomon Rondon in the summer. What’s your impression of the Venezuelan forward thus far?
Twelve million pounds and only three goals doesn’t suggest a great season, but the fact is Rondon really looks like a Premier League player. He has a tireless work ethic, he is all over the pitch, and does the little stuff really well. He just hasn’t found his scoring boots. In fact all three of his goals have come with his head. Reports say his teammates love him, the fans certainly appreciate him, so I think overall he’s been very good. The goals will come for the Venezuelan—his career has proven that, and for a team that has settled under the radar all season, they have patience.

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