With the first round of Premier League fixtures concluding last night, this blog will evaluate this round’s winners and losers. This will be a regular feature, running every Tuesday, as well as the occasional Thursday if there is a full set of Premier League fixtures. Whether a team is in the winners or losers column will not solely be dictated by the team’s result, but also the club’s status; so a draw between Stoke and Arsenal might see Stoke in the winner’s column, but Arsenal in the loser’s column.
Aston Villa – The Villains may have had a little more than their fair share of decisions in their victory against the Gunners, but they were absolutely brilliant going forward and have got their season off to a fantastic start. Christian Benteke may have grabbed the headlines, kicking off his season with two goals, but it was the performance of Gabby Agbonlahor that really stood out, with the forward simply unplayable at times.
Chelsea – Their performance faded dramatically in the second half, but it was still an excellent display by the London club to put them firmly in the winner’s column. Mourinho’s first game back in charge saw a very different style of play to his previous reign, with Chelsea starting the game with an incredible intensity and displaying remarkable fluidity; the interchanging play between Hazard, Oscar and De Bruyne was nothing short of breath-taking at times. Chelsea certainly have a promising season ahead of them.
Crystal Palace – I know they lost, but bear with me. Selhurst Park was absolutely rocking in Palace’s first game back in the Premier League and it was obvious that the intense atmosphere inspired Ian Holloway’s side. Crystal Palace put in an incredibly committed display against a side that will be aiming for the Champions League places this season and were unlucky not to earn a draw, losing out only to a late and controversial penalty. Palace will need displays like this to survive this season.
Fulham – Away to a renovated Sunderland side could have been a very tricky start the Fulham regime, but the London side achieved a 1-0 win. Fulham fans can be optimistic for this season; having made several astute signings, with Scott Parker joining this week, and their new owner will hope that this win will really kick start their season.
Liverpool – The Reds achieved a 1-0 victory at Stoke, only claiming the win after new keeper Simon Mignolet saved a late penalty. However, that assessment flatters Stoke considerably, as Liverpool could have won by four or five, with the trio of Couthino, Aspas and Sturridge carving Stoke open time and again. With Suarez suspended for the next five games, or possibly on the way out of the door, Liverpool should take heart from this performance and have faith that the Merseyside club can continue their record of scoring more goals without the Uruguayan than with Suarez.
Manchester City – After making a real statement of intent with their huge summer spending and on Monday gave debuts to Navas, Fernandinho and Negredo. Manchester City had a very good evening, thumping Newcastle United 4-0. However, the victory was marred by an injury to captain Vincent Kompany, who City fans will hope isn’t out too long, because he will be vital for any title challenge.
Manchester United – A great first couple of weeks for David Moyes has seen him win the Community Sheild, and on Saturday his side thrashed an impressive Swansea team. Manchester United beat Swansea 4-1 without hitting top form, with Danny Welbeck and Robin Van Persie scoring a brace each. Manchester United fans will hope that their team follow their usual habit of moving through the gears as the season progresses, as the champions look to defend their title.
Norwich – The Canaries navigated a tough start to their Premier League campaign by holding Everton to a 2-2 draw. This could have been a tricky tie for Norwich, as they seek to not only avoid relegation for a second year running, but also climb the table. Norwich fans will have been relieved to see expensive new striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel open his account so early in the season.
Southampton – West Brom had a great season last term and are sturdy opposition, especially at the Hawthorns. Sothampton overcame this challenge to secure a late 0-1 win, courtesy of newly capped England international Rickie Lambert. With Pablo Osvaldo the latest in a raft of new signings, the Saints will be looking up the table, not down it.
West Ham – The Hammers gave the newly promoted Bluebirds a rude welcome to life in the Premier League, condemning the visitors to a 2-0 defeat at Upton Park. West Ham will be hoping to build on last season’s 10thplace finish with another mid-table finish. Hammers fans will be hope that a rejuvenated Joe Cole can continue his fine start to the season.
Arsenal – It was just a terrible start to the season for Arsenal, with injuries, a sending off and conceding a soft penalty all compounding a 1-3 defeat at the hands of Aston Villa. Regardless of their bad luck, Arsenal were simply not clinical enough in front of goal, with numerous chances spurned as they slumped to defeat. Arsenal have a lot of work to do in the transfer market if they are to maintain a Champions League place, never mind make a title challenge.
Cardiff – The Bluebirds were shown what life in the Premier League is really like, as they were efficiently despatched by West Ham. Cardiff fans will be hoping that new signing Andreas Cornelius recovers quickly from injury, because the Bluebirds were simply not dangerous in the final third of the pitch and goals will be vital this season if they are to survive relegation.
Everton – A 2-2 draw with Norwich is by no means a disastrous result, but even so Roberto Martinez will have hoped for a better start to life as Everton boss. If Everton want to continue over achieving as they did under Moyes, then they will need to beat sides like Norwich. One reason for optimisim is the excellent performance by young Ross Barkely who looks set to shine this season. (https://footballtalklife.wordpress.com/2013/07/15/nine-young-english-players-who-deserve-a-chance-in-the-premier-league-next-season/)
Hull – Completely and utterly outplayed by Chelsea, Hull made a difficult start to life in the Premier League. Things improved for Hull in the second half as Chelsea began to fade, but there is still a lot of work ahead for the newly christened Tigers. Hull will need to be better in all aspects of the game if they are to survive this season.
Ian Holloway – His team may be in the winner’s column, but Holloway is not. This is because rather than use the post-match press conference to praise his side’s admirable performance, Holloway took the opportunity to accuse Premier League referees. Holloway was understandably upset over conceding a late and questionable penalty, but whilst his rants are amusing, it is arguable they have held back his career. Holloway has done an excellent job with limited recourses at Palace and did much the same with Blackpool. However, the big boys have never come calling because the man can’t be trusted not to run his mouth.
Jonathan Walters – I am sorry, but the Stoke player has to have his own entry in the loser’s column. Another missed penalty on Saturday against Liverpool, how many does that make now? Seriously, why is this guy still the Potter’s penalty taker?
Newcastle – It couldn’t have gone much worse for the guys in black and white as they went a man down and were thoroughly despatched by Manchester City. There is no shame in a defeat to Manchester City and Newcastle just need to dust themselves off and move on.
Stoke – Toothless as usual is the best way to summarize Stoke’s weekend. They were very fortunate not be four or five down towards the end of the game, but spurned an opportunity to claim what would have been a vital point when Walters missed a late penalty.
Sunderland – After making so many signings over the summer, Di Canio will have hoped that his side could overcome Fulham at home in their first game of the season. The Black Cats succumbed to a 0-1 loss and will need to improve if they wish to avoid the relegation battle they faced last season.
Swansea – The Swans face a similar situation to Newcastle, battered by the other Manchester club, United. The reigning champions beat Swansea 1-4, but the Welsh team are a good side and their season’s success won’t be reliant on beating Manchester United. Laudrup’s job this week will be to make sure his team don’t dwell on this result. A positive from the game was record signing Wilfried Bony opening his Premier League account for the season, and having already scored in the Champions League, Daddy Cool looks a great acquisition already.
Tottenham – I know they won, but barely, and only thanks to a late and controversial penalty converted by new signing Robert Soldado. Spurs did nothing to dispel their reputation as a one man team, seeming to lack a cutting edge without Gareth Bale. Fans will hope that the rumoured moves for attacking midfielder Willian and winger Lamela ease the pressure on the possible Real Madrid bound Gareth Bale.
West Brom – Steve Clark’s team massively overachieved last season, but are without top goal scorer Lukaku this term and did not get off to great start this weekend. West Brom lost their first match at home, conceding in stoppage time to a Rickie Lambert goal. It will be hard for West Brom to repeat their heroics of last season, but they will need to be better than this to avoid a slip down the table.
Why Jose Mourinho’s treatment of Luke Shaw has crossed the line
The Portuguese manager has been highly critical of Luke Shaw this season.
The fractious relationship between Jose Mourinho and Luke Shaw plumbed new depths when the left-back was substituted at half-time in Manchester United’s FA Cup victory over Brighton & Hove Albion. The 22-year-old had been handed a rare opportunity to impress at Old Trafford but lasted only 45 minutes.
Speaking about Shaw in his post-match interview, Mourinho said: “Luke, in the first half, every time they came in his corridor, the cross came in and a dangerous situation was coming. I was not happy with his performance.”
The differences between the pair now appear to be irreconcilable. Shaw, who was signed by Louis van Gaal in the summer of 2014, has been used sparingly by Mourinho. The former Southampton starlet has made just 18 Premier League appearances under the Portuguese in a career that has been blighted by injuries.
Being substituted at half-time is almost as embarrassing as it gets for a player and Shaw’s mood will not have improved after being publicly criticised by his manager. It’s certainly not the first time Mourinho has chosen to talk candidly to the media about his concerns with the 22-year-old.
Some players require an arm around the shoulder to perform at their peak, while for others it takes a kick up the backside. Mourinho, opting for the latter, does nothing without reason and has clearly tried to spark a reaction from Shaw, without success.
From being one of English football’s brightest prospects after making his World Cup debut aged just 18, Shaw, who has seven England caps to his name, is in danger of not fulfilling the potential that convinced United to spend what was then a world-record fee for a teenager.
Mourinho’s tactic of singling out individuals who have not met his standards is in stark contrast to Sir Alex Ferguson, who never blamed his players in public. It has divided opinion among pundits, with Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier claiming the United manager is ‘destroying’ Shaw.
Mourinho is an expert at using smokescreens to distract from his side’s unconvincing performances. And this latest controversy has moved the narrative on from United’s shock Champions League exit at the hands of Sevilla.
Tough love is one thing, but the sustained, public attack on Shaw is unacceptable. If Mourinho genuinely believes he is not good enough to represent United, then fair enough. But to continually vilify the youngster’s performances is a step too far and one that could irreparably damage Shaw’s confidence.
This is not to say that Shaw is a completely innocent bystander. Mourinho’s predecessor, Louis van Gaal, also questioned his desire and general conditioning when he joined United four years ago. Indeed, the Dutchman signed Shaw up to a tailored exercise regime in an effort to improve his fitness.
But while van Gaal’s treatment had the desired effect, Mourinho’s has done the opposite. Being publicly humiliated on a routine basis does neither party any favours.
In all likelihood, Shaw’s disappointing United career will come to an end this summer. A fresh start away from the toxicity under Mourinho is exactly what he needs.
Keanan Bennetts has perfect opportunity to impress Mauricio Pochettino this week
The left-sided star has a chance to impress in first-team training during the international break.
With the international week in full flow, plenty of teams in the Premier League have seen their squads diminished by call-ups to national teams.
Tottenham Hotspur are one such side. Nonetheless, with most of the first-team squad away with their respective nations, work continues at Hotspur Way.
In order for Spurs to have a full complement in training, plenty of young talent needs to be pulled in to the ranks.
Mauricio Pochettino will, therefore,e get a chance to see some of his young players training with regular first-team players such as Fernando Llorente, Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura.
One player who will be training with the first-team this week is talented wide-man Keanan Bennetts, according to London Live.
The 19-year-old left-winger has been catching the eye for the club’s youth team in recent weeks, making the news after scoring a fantastic goal for the under-19s against Monaco in the UEFA Youth League last month.
Bennetts has also been attracting interest for his positional dexterity. The wide-man has played at left-back in recent times and it could be that is his future best position.
This week he will be up against some excellent players such as Lamela and Moura, who did not receive selection to the Argentina and Brazil national teams, respectively.
If he can prove himself with this calibre of player, Pochettino will have to take notice.
It is coming to a point in his Tottenham career when Bennetts has to make such an impact. The teenager is out of contract at Spurs in the summer and needs to ensure he is kept on for at least one more season.
Tottenham fans who follow the youth teams are certain he is deserving of such a chance. If he can show Pochettino what he is capable of this week, then a new deal will surely be in the pipeline for the talented wide-man.
Despite improvement, Everton should not rekindle Thomas Vermaelen interest
The Belgian defender has been in better form for Barcelona this season.
Rumours have emerged today suggesting Everton could be back in for Belgian defender Thomas Vermaelen.
Catalan newspaper Sport has reported that the 32-year-old could be offered a new deal by Barcelona, with a team from the Premier League interested in signing him.
Sport Witness has openly hypothesised that Everton could be that team. Whilst there is no confirmation or substantiated report that is the case, the boot certainly fits.
Last summer Everton tried to sign Vermaelen.
As reported by the Liverpool Echo, at the time Barcelona vetoed a loan move to Everton as they felt the defender could be a useful asset.
The Belgian certainly has. After struggling with injuries and form throughout most of his Barcelona tenure the former Arsenal man has enjoyed a good season.
The 32-year-old has been a genuine asset to the Catalans, despite still being used sparingly, and such form has even seen him win back a place in Roberto Martinez’s national selection for Belgium.
If it is Everton interested in Vermaelen it is easy to see why. Centre-back has been a major problem for the club this season.
However, Vermaelen, or a player of his ilk, is not the answer to the Toffees’ woes.
The Belgian is obviously a talented player with plenty of experience, but Everton need to freshen up their back-line.
Ashley Williams and Phil Jagielka’s age has shown in recent months.
The pair have been, at the best, inconsistent for the past 18 months and Everton need fresh young talent in the heart of defence if they are to succeed.
Vermaelen is not only 32 but also immensely injury prone. Everton need reliable figures to plug their leaky defences and the Belgian can simply not be relied upon.
Whilst on paper it seems a good deal, and one Everton could certainly turn to their benefit.
The truth is supporters of the Goodison Park outfit will hope they are not the club reportedly keen on bringing Vermaelen back to the Premier League.
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