Football fans received their first dose of Premier League action for over two months this weekend. Nails were bitten and fists were raised. But who were the winners and losers of opening set of games? Which teams need to improve, and where? Which debutants made the most impressive first impressions?
Sunderland Lackluster in Defence
After Sunderland conceded 53 goals last season, The Black Cats attempted to reduce defensive troubles through snapping up Younes Kaboul from Spurs, along with securing Sebastian Coates on a permanent deal. However the unfamiliar partnership catalysed the rate at which errors ensue, as they conceded 4 goals away at the King Power Stadium. This will be a disturbing start to the season for Dick Advocaat. The Dutchman has been presented with a handful of issues to deal with very early on, which does not give a positive indication for Sunderland fans going into the Premier League this season.
It’s important to note Leicester didn’t just get by through the opposition being off their best form. The Tinkerman had his side playing a positive, fast passing game. Ranieri showed his class as he got the best out of the players of the previous season, with the only new-signing in the starting line-up being Okazaki, with winger Mahrez stealing the show. The Algerian international was denied his hat-trick only by the woodwork, running the Sunderland defence ragged from start to finish. At times it was looking like a cricket score was on the cards.
Top Clubs Fail to Exert Dominance
Although Manchester United did manage to beat Tottenham Hotspur on the opening game of the Premier League season, the Red Devils didn’t always display the quality of football fans would be hoping to see from Van Gaal’s side. It is unquestionable that Spurs are a tough team to face, so I may be being slightly harsh when I find faults in United’s performance for not having the Lion’s share of possession. Failing to make short, sharp passing moves, and generally lacking the panache I was expecting to see going into this match-up. United only registered one shot on target during the match, meaning they will be hoping for more of an offensive spark as they delve deeper into the season, since it took a Kyle Walker own-goal to give them the 3-points.
The Champions were taken to a 2-2 draw against Swansea City, home at Stamford Bridge. As Courtois was sent off for a foul on Gomis just inside the area, The Blues struggled to break down the Welsh side once Oscar(who scored the opening goal) was replaced with back-up goalkeeper Asmir Begovic. Mourinho’s side displayed some decent spells of football during the the match but never dominated like they can when Costa and Hazard get going. This allows Chelsea’s competitors to get a headstart on them in the race for the Premier League title.
Despite their various attacking options, Arsenal failed to break down the Hammer’s defence, losing 2-0 home at The Emirates. New signing Petr Cech opened with a game he will be trying to forget. After first making a positioning mistake from a set-piece for the opening goal, he was then caught by surprise as Zarate beat the experienced goalkeeper at his near post from outside the 18-yard box. Slaven Bilic’s decision to start 16-year-old holding-midfielder Reece Oxford (the youngest West Ham player to play in the Premier League) raised a few eyebrows. However he more than lived up to expectations keeping the space tight in the middle of the pitch, forcing Arsenal to play most of their football out wide, and out of danger zones. New signing Payet will have also made a positive impression to the away fans watching as he registered his first assist for the club, displaying, skill, strength and pace throughout the match. Oxford and Payet will be two promising players and it will be exciting to see how they perform over the coming season.
Andre Ayew, son of Abedi Pele (arguably the greatest African footballer of all time), joined Swansea on a free transfer from French club Marseille and made an immediate impact on his debut finding his first goal for the club. Ayew would be considered a winger, however not in the traditional sense. The Ghanaian likes to cut inside and make late runs into the box. This is precisely how he got his name on the scoresheet as he outsmarted John Terry, getting on the end of rebound from Gomis’ header.
Rudy Gestede joined Villa from Blackburn for a fee thought to be in the region of £6million. The six-foot four-inch target-man came off the bench on Saturday and immediately made a nuisance of himself. Gestede is a player who knows how to make the most of his size, and eventually found the back of the net with a thundering header after getting on the end of a set-piece. Jordan Ayew (brother of Andre Ayew) was favoured to the French-born Beninese centre-forward, however after Gestede’s performance on Saturday he will making a solid case to see him up top on his own, or in a striking partnership.
Yohan Cabaye made his Premier League return on Saturday for Crystal Palace. The French playmaker showed off his slick passing and creativity throughout the game. Cabaye also sealed the game as he put Palace 3-1 up in stoppage time, sliding the ball into the bottom right-hand corner smoothly with the inside of his foot. It’s likely that the France international will be play a key role in any success the Glaziers have this season.
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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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