Manchester United are going through a defensive renaissance
The biggest transfer saga that is still yet to be resolved: will David de Gea be at Old Trafford come the end of the transfer window? Whilst the football world waits with baited breath, new signing Sergio Romero has immediately come in to a new look side and performed admirably with two clean sheets. However, few would have predicted that, with a strike force featuring the likes of Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and the newly signed Memphis Depay, United will have started the season with just two goals in as many games. Rather than this impressive attack standing out, a confident defensive unit has instead imposed themselves, featuring an emerging leader in English centre-back Chris ‘Mike’ Smalling and the under-the-radar right-back Matteo Darmian. One of only 3 teams to keep a clean sheet in both their opening games, United seem to have come to rely on their rather less prominent back 5 rather than their more prestigious attacking teammates.
The Everton forward was a bit quiet in last week’s 2-2 draw against Watford. Whilst he did contribute an assist, questions were raised regarding the front man’s presence in the match. A week later, Lukaku managed to injure a Southampton fan in the pre-match warm-up at St Mary’s (he subsequently clambered into the stands to apologise). However, that proved to be the end of his worries, as the Belgian later reverted to his very best during the match, demonstrating strength and pace that at times proved to be unstoppable for last season’s second-best defence. Lukaku scored twice in what ended up being a comfortable 3-0 victory, leading manager Roberto Martinez to contemplate introducing hitting spectators as part of the Belgian’s warm-up. A warning for anybody looking to attend Everton’s clash against Man City next week…
It’s a game of two halves
Although a tired cliché, this has never been more apparent than in Saturday’s clash between Tottenham and Stoke, both of whom were looking to bounce back from tight 1-0 losses in the first weekend. 2-0 up by half time, Spurs were looking firmly in control and ruing the fact that they hadn’t scored more, with last year’s emergent star Harry Kane still yet to register his first goal for the season. However, the substitution of said front man just after the hour mark sparked a series of events that led to Stoke eventually claiming a 2-2 draw, spurred on by the direct approach of substitute Stephen Ireland. Whilst Spurs fans will surely be disappointed by another self-inflicted collapse, things could not look brighter for Stoke City, who, along with the threat demonstrated by Arnautović, Afellay, Diouf and co. still have the return of Bojan Krkić to look forward to, not to mention another major coup in the recent signing of Xherdan Shaqiri from Inter Milan.
The odds seem to be stacked against Bournemouth – as do the decisions
Despite a second 1-0 defeat, there are plenty of encouraging signs for the top-flight newcomers. Indeed, several neutrals will be amazed that they failed to win, let alone take a point from Monday night’s fixture against Liverpool, with a bulk of the key decisions going the home team’s way. Shortly after a perfectly legitimate goal from Tommy Elphick was ruled out due to an apparent foul on Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren, the Reds’ newcomer Christian Benteke managed to register his first competitive goal for the side, despite Philippe Coutinho being offside. After yet another tinkering with the offside rule over the summer, it looks like the FA have neglected to teach their own officials the new amendments or else Benteke’s effort would have surely been ruled out as well. This loss of points due to poor officiating could prove costly for Bournemouth’s survival bid come the end of the season.
Manchester City have won the Premier League. Already.
Football pundits can be fickle sometimes. At the end of last season we saw a Manchester City side 8 points off the top spot and with a squad desperately in need of upheaval. Their side looked lethargic and there were doubts entering the current campaign whether they could even make the top four. Fast-forward a couple of matches and a pair of 3-0 victories over West Brom and Chelsea seems to have completely changed the tide of public opinion. The holders Chelsea are no longer everybody’s favourite to retain the title (despite the fact that they are behind the pace with a month’s extra holiday in the summer), and so the Premier League looks to have finished after just 2 weeks. Best of luck to Leicester in the Champions League…