Anthony Martial makes his £36 million pricetag look like pocket change
If you’re a Man United fan, you grow up dreaming of the opportunity to play for your club, don the famous red shirt against fierce rivals Liverpool, and slot home a tremendous goal after outfoxing the entire opposition defence with an incredible darting run. Van Gaal’s deadline day signing was able to live that dream last week, coming off the bench to cap off a sublime 3-1 victory for his new club.
Such an impressive cameo was judged to deserve a first start this week against Southampton, and the French teenager did not disappoint with a flourishing brace at St. Mary’s in United’s 3-2 victory over their hosts.
At a time when Wayne Rooney has been truly struggling to contribute in front of goal, Martial has needed to hit the ground running in order to provide the goals for a side that looked in short supply during the opening rounds of the season. Though £36 million looks like an incredibly hefty fee for a mostly unproven teenager, three goals in his opening two games seem to give hope for what many are already calling the next Thierry Henry.
There’s more than one way for Diego Costa to show his fire
Following their last encounter in the season’s opening Community Shield clash, Mourinho’s unquestionable supremacy over fierce rival Arsene Wenger seemed to be in doubt, although the strength of the animosity between the two managers looked greater than ever.
As a result, this year’s first league meeting between the two teams failed to disappoint, as a great amount of drama at the conclusion of the first half resulted in Arsenal defender Gabriel being shown a red card for allegedly stamping on Diego Costa’s foot following a bust up between the latter and Gabriel’s defensive partner Laurent Koscielny.
Later replays revealed that (true to his reputation) Costa had been overly hot-headed in the initial confrontation, man-handling Koscielny to the point where it was unbelievable that the match officials did not penalise him more seriously than with the yellow card he was given.
Wenger was quick to point out how much of a turning point this was in what turned out to be a 2-0 loss for his team, calling for retrospective action to be taken against the Chelsea forward. Though Costa has now been handed a three match ban for his actions, it seems unjust that Arsenal are still forced to endure the result of a match that eventually saw them reduced to nine men, especially as it would have been easy for officials to use video evidence in order to exact the correct punishment. Surely it’s only a matter of time before they bring on the video review system for football…
Defences can win just as many points as attackers
This week saw a shake-up in the Premier League, with early championship contenders Manchester City finally breaking their 100% start to the season with a home defeat to West Ham – a team who now seem to have firmly established themselves as giant-topplers after already beating Arsenal and Liverpool away from home.
Though West Ham seemed to be cruising after a first half that demonstrated textbook counter-attacking football, a long range Kevin De Bruyne effort just before halftime left the match finely poised at 2-1 to the away side.
A nervy half of frantic defending followed, where the visitors were able to leave with all three points thanks to some heroic performances from goalkeeper Adrian and central defender Winston Reid.
This wasn’t the only occasion over the weekend when defensive capabilities helped to claim the victory, with returning goalkeeper David De Gea highlighting why he was so highly sought by Real Madrid over the summer in Manchester United’s match against Southampton. With the game finely poised at 2-1 to the visitors, the Spaniard was able to pull out a world-class save following José Fonte’s headed effort at a corner, preventing a potential equaliser that could’ve turned the tide of the whole match. It just goes to show – a tight defence can be just as much of a lifesaver as a prolific attack…
The North-East is in dire straits
The bottom of the table makes for very bleak reading for those from the north-east of the country, with Sunderland and Newcastle both unable to claim their first win of the season after the opening 6 matches.
While Sunderland have conceded the most goals in the league this season (averaging over 2 goals a game with a total of 13 goals conceded already), Newcastle are demonstrating the opposite problem, boasting the league’s smallest goal tally so far, scoring only their 3rd goal of the season in this weekend’s 2-1 home defeat to Watford.
As a result, these two teams currently hold the league’s worst goal differences, something that is particularly concerning for Dick Advocaat’s side given that the majority of the fixtures they have played have not been against the league’s traditional top teams.
A 2-0 defeat to fellow relegation candidates Bournemouth at the weekend demonstrated how much off the pace Sunderland are at the start of the season, something that will have to change rapidly if they are to survive the drop once again this season.
Leicester could be the new Invincibles?
After a season that has already produced many twists and turns at this early stage, perhaps the most entertaining side has been Leicester, who, ably led by emerging talents Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, have been able to cement their place as the only side yet to register a loss in this early stage of the season.
Despite question marks being raised after the announcement that Claudio Ranieri would be taking over the manager’s postion from Nigel Pearson, the Tinkerman’s impressive start has earned Leicester a formidable reputation as a team able to stage heroic comebacks.
Over the last couple of weeks Leicester have been able to claim points despite being at one point 2-0 down to both Aston Villa and Stoke, clawing back to a 3-2 win and 2-2 draw respectively. With a never-say-die attitude like the one they’re demonstrating at the moment, could it be time for Leicester fans to reassess their aspirations for this season, and aim higher than mere survival from the drop?
Phil Smith – Sports Team