Premier League: 8 things we learned from the weekend
Manchester United draw, whilst Man City sweep aside Everton by Mitch Hooper
Coutinho may well be Liverpool’s new Gerrard
He may not have scored against Arsenal but the little Brazilian did hit a scorcher of a shot in the opening few minutes that smashed against the crossbar. Though he plays in a completely different position to Gerrard in his later years at the Reds its clear that Coutinho will be the go to man this year, as Stevie G was for a decade before him.
A cracker of a goal in the opening game paved the way for what has so far been an impressive season for the diminutive attacking midfielder. Signed for just £9 million from Inter Milan a couple of seasons ago, if Coutinho keeps up his current form what are the odds on his being the Reds transfer saga of next summer, following on from Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling before him.
Coutinho’s previous seasons in a red shirt have seen him impress but lack a finished product, if he can finally do that (and it appears as if he can) expect the hawks to be circling next summer.
Arsenal have finally found stability at the back in Cech
If it wasn’t for Petr Cech Arsenal would probably have lost 3-0 against Liverpool last night. Top quality saves from Christian Benteke and Phillipe Coutinho were the highlights, with there being no doubt that Wojciech Sczeczny or David Ospina would have failed to pull them off last season.
With Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker ruled out Cech was in for a busy game. Though their deputies Gabriel and Calum Chambers impressed in part they also looked completely out of their depth for large parts of the match. Brazilian Gabriel was jittery and Chambers gave the ball away at every opportunity, leaving Cech to bail them out on several occasions.
When he signed it was said Cech would win the Gunners at least twelve points this season, despite an iffy opening display against West Ham where he was at fault for both goals. After watching the match against Liverpool, he’s already one point up. Eleven more to go.
Terry should be worried by Chelsea’s interest in Stones
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho could not have been any more supportive of John Terry if he tried when asked about the red card on Sunday. “No, no blame,” was his reply. “It’s a ball into space behind the full-back, who is pressing high. The striker makes the movement and then ... Mr Clattenburg decides a red card.”
Unless an unlikely appeal allows Terry to get off the centre back will spend the next three weeks mulling over his mistake, allowing both Gary Cahill (dropped on the weekend) and Kurt Zouma to stake their claims for a starting place.
In truth it wasn’t Terry’s fault the Blues conceded twice against West Bromwich Albion. Nemanja Matic looked sluggish in the centre and Cesc Fabregas again showed why Mourinho is so reluctant to start him in the middle, failing to cover and showing no defensive nous whatsoever.
With news coming through today that John Stones has handed in a transfer request its looking likely that he’ll be at Stamford Bridge come the close of the transfer window. That’s another challenger to Terry at the back. Will he be able to bounce back - ironically against Everton - upon his return from suspension?
United may live to regret van Persie leaving
Despite bossing the play completely against Newcastle United, Manchester United rarely looked like breaking through the Magpies defence, with Chris Smalling’s late header that was cleared off the line the closest they got.
Wayne Rooney has got off to his typical slow early season start and never really troubled Newcastle’s defence and whilst Javier Hernandez did look bright when he came on, is a man who van Gaal clearly has so little trust in (having farmed him out on loan to Real Madrid last year) really the answer to their attacking problems? Beyond that is youngster James Wilson, who looks bright but doesn’t yet look ready for a starting spot.
Summer departee Robin van Persie has scored two in his previous two games for Fenerbahce and has generally looked bright, a lot more than can be said for United’s forward line. Would it really have been a bad move to keep such a high quality finisher at the club? Despite his advancing years van Persie would no doubt have finished at least one of the chances that came United’s way on Saturday. And to think he only went for £4.7 million.
Shaqiri a bargain for Stoke
Whatever it was that encouraged Stoke’s new record signing Xherdan Shaqiri to move to Stoke City the fans will be grateful for it. The Swiss midfielder could be seen with a smile on his face before the match against Norwich, erasing doubts that he didn’t really want to join.
His performance in the match also managed to put a smile on the fans faces. Starting on the right of a front free the stocky winger impressed with an inswinging free-kick that Mame Biram Diouf headed home, as well as showing some deft, neat touches in and around the box and chipping in in the defensive third.
Though bought off after seventy minutes looking absolutely on his feet and lacking match fitness, Shaqiri showed enough on his debut to show he will be a talisman for the Potters this year. The only question is, at just £12 million and with clubs such as Inter Milan and Bayern Munich on his CV, why did nobody else snap him up?
Southampton to struggle this year
Everybody said it last year but it does look like this season will be the one that Southampton’s recent upward surge stops. Though it’s unlikely they’ll go down they look hard pressed to repeat last season’s impressive top 7 finish.
Clubs can go one season with losing their best players but two? When Morgan Schneiderlin departed this year the Saints fans were confident in finding a replacement. Though new signing and Netherlands international Jordy Clasie looks classy (excuse the pun) he is not on the level of the Frenchman.
With Nathaniel Clyne poached by Liverpool as well Southampton’s recruitment team had a tough task on their hands. Cedric Soares was purchased for £3.7 million from Sporting Lisbon and has looked good but there are only so many times you can replace top class players with cut-price transfers.
It’s unlikely that impressive performers from last year such as Graziano Pelle, Dusan Tadic and Jose Fonte will all be able to maintain their impressive form but their is one bright spot in returning England forward Jay Rodriguez, who missed all of last season with injury.
Pugh the man for Bournemouth
Marc Pugh’s goal in Bournemouth’s 4-3 win against West Ham on Saturday meant he has now scored in every division in English football, following in Rickie Lambert’s footsteps. The winger took his goal with a great certainty, beating Carl Jenkinson (who had a torrid afternoon against him) and curling past Darren Randolph in the Hammer’s net.
His manager Eddie Howe told the press after the game that “he deserved that accolade, scoring in every division. You’ve not met a more dedicated, nicer guy. He’s been left out of the team but he takes those decisions like a man and shows he’s a true team player. So when someone with that attitude does well it pleases me no end. With every challenge he has responded, grown and improved at the club and his attitude off the pitch epitomises everything we stand for. He does a lot of community work and charity work, so nothing pleases me more than seeing Marc do well.”
Sunderland fans deserve better
Despite another all too familiar dreadful start to the season Sunderland fans turned up in their droves - 40,000 of them to be exact - on Saturday to cheer on their team against Swansea at the Stadium of Light.
The Jack’s manager Gary Monk was - for want of a better phrase - gobsmacked. In his post-match press conference he kept reiterating how incredible the Black Cats fans had been and he was right.
After their dismal display against Norwich it would have been of little surprise to anyone if the stadium was half empty, yet the fans gave Dick Advocaat’s team the benefit of the doubt. Despite an encouraging result they really do deserve far, far more.Click here to stay up to date with AtTheMatch