Cian O’Callaghan discusses the winners and losers from another action-packed Premier League weekend. It was an excellent gameweek for Liverpool, while Manchester City were stunned by Stoke.
For anyone wondering whether Liverpool will still be a contender for Champions League football this season after the departure of Luis Suarez, they got their answer yesterday and it was an emphatic one.
After the comprehensive defeat to Manchester City last Monday, a defeat at Spurs would have increased the nervousness among their fans about whether they had spent the Suarez bounty wisely and if the loss of the Uruguayan would leave them a couple of levels below their top-four rivals. But Brendan Rodgers’ side almost produced a repeat of the exhilarating performance which secured Andre Villas-Boas his P45 in the same fixture last year, with pace, movement and flexibility that was far too much for Spurs to handle.
Liverpool were unlucky to lose by three at City – individual defensive errors from new recruits to blame rather than a malfunctioning system – and the evidence thus far is that without Suarez and with Raheem Sterling excelling in a more central role, last year’s runners-up’s attack will still be too much for all but the best teams to handle. A promising debut from Mario Balotelli too to top off a great day for Liverpool.
The 19-year-old continues to improve at an exponential rate and Rodgers’ comment last season that the youngster was one of the best emerging talents in Europe wasn’t hyperbole as some suggested at the time; if anything it was understatement. Sterling is one of the best young players in the world and it could be him that effectively replaces Suarez in the team, if not quite matching his goal-rate.
Mark Hughes and Mame Biram Diouf
Having felt roughly treated by the shambolic manner of his sacking at Manchester City, Mark Hughes will have enjoyed his glass of wine on Saturday night. The Welshman has threatened at times in his managerial career to become a truly top manager but his nomadic ways and his relative failures at QPR and, perhaps, City have blotted his copybook.
However, his success with Stoke City in the last campaign pointed to his managerial reputation returning to an upward curve and the manner in which his side carried out his tactical plan at the Etihad on Saturday hinted at a continuation of that form this season. The Potters were organised, determined and, above all, ambitious; this was no standard park-the-bus upset.
Stoke carried a consistent threat upfront throughout and in Mame Biram Diouf, Hughes could have signed a player ready to fulfil his undoubted talent.
Six goals at Everton is hugely impressive at any time but the manner in which Chelsea scored them will have given Jose Mourinho the most satisfaction; as soon as Everton threatened to get back into the game, Chelsea simply stepped on the gas and re-established a comfortable margin.
While their defensive colleagues are no doubt getting flogged in a sadistic, medieval way on the training ground for conceding three times at Goodison Park, the front players should just about be getting up out of bed now.
A player opposition teams and fans are going to love to hate but will be adored and cherished by everyone connected with Chelsea. The personification of Mourinho and what he would like his teams to be; prickly, hard-working but deadly.
With David Nugent as their other forward, Leicester’s big-money gamble (by their standards at least) on the 28-year-old needed to work for the Foxes to stand a chance of remaining in the top flight. Two goals so farand a man-of-the-match display against Arsenal is a pretty damn fine start for the Argentine.
Seven points from their first three matches with a manager under huge pressure, with an owner desperate to sell and making several uninspiring signings is a start not even Paul Lambert would have expected.
An excellent and fully deserved first point on Saturday. However, for all the impressive organisation and intensity his team showed against Manchester United, they still look someway short of the quality they’ll need to survive this season.
His comments a couple of weeks back that he would prefer playing up front than on the wing due to there being “less running” required of him as a forward hinted at the attitude problems that hampered Zaha’s short-lived spell at Old Trafford. However, as he said himself after scoring the 95th-minute equaliser at Newcastle, being back ‘home’ at Palace near his friends and family could yet see his undoubted talent shine through again.
Three wins from three games. Still not convinced by Garry Monk mind you.
Another dull display lacking any cohesion, zip or movement from Louis Van Gaal’s new-look side. On the plus side, Manchester United looked a little more comfortable defensively – except when their centre-halves were required to do what centre-halves do in a 3-5-2, namely bring the ball out and start attacks – and there were some signs of the players slowly learning what was required of them.
However, aside from Angel Di Maria, Utd again looked blunt and unimaginative in attack and it remains to be seen how long Van Gaal will stick with an attacking trio of Robin Van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata that is so short on pace.
The arrival of Radamel Falcao on loan is a huge surprise, not that the Colombian isn’t a top-quality player but rather he isn’t renowned for his pace either and, with four assists in his last four seasons, his arrival will do nothing to help the deficit in the chance-creation department. With six new arrivals to bed in, it will be a couple of months before the team starts to take shape and rational judgements can start to be formed but Utd fans will pray they are not too far off the top-four pace by then.
Arsenal’s striking situation
Yaya Sanogo once again demonstrated just why Arsenal desperately need another top-class centre-forward before the transfer window closes. A failure to land one will mean after the early promise of the summer following Alexis Sanchez’s big-money arrival, Arsenal’s season will be still-born again.
Is it wrong to take such pleasure from seeing a player whose ego far outstrips his ability, continually make fools of those who pronounce him a world-class goalkeeper?
Back down to earth with a bump. Their first real challenge of the Mauricio Pochettino era and one that they failed abysmally. It was not that Spurs were dreadful, rather they were just outclassed by a superior team playing with an established strategy and a defined playing style. The defeat may be beneficial for Pochettino in terms of dampening expectations but having seen the gulf between the two sides on Sunday he will only be too aware of the size of the task facing him.
Paid the price for a subdued performance. A sharp reminder to Manuel Pellegrini and his squad of the size of the target on their back now that they are Premier League champions once again.
Having led their two opening matches until late equalisers deprived them of victory, a dispiriting defeat leaves them with just two points from their opening three games and with their manager hopeful that the concession of six goals to Chelsea hasn’t shorn some of his defenders of their confidence. Will need all of Roberto Martinez’s Christian television evangelist-style positivity to lift his troops for the next battle.
A convincing defeat at home to Southampton heaps more pressure on West Ham’s unpopular manager. Will be interesting to see if he reacts with a couple of deadline day panic buys, the success or failure of which could determine his future.
A performance so poor in losing to Aston Villa that Brucie labelled it the worst in his time at the club and didn’t even try to pin it on poor officiating. Badly needs a new striker to replace the departed Shane Long.
Cian O’Callaghan, Pundit Arena.