Seven Top Talking Points from Week 2 of the EPL
Chelsea a pale reflection of themselves at the Etihad
In a week when Mourinho threw two of his medical team under the bus, he and some of Chelsea players would have woken up on Monday morning feeling like they were run over by that same bus.
A new record crowd at the Etihad – courtesy of stadium expansion – were treated to a performance from the home team which may not be decisive, we are in August after all, but is certainly one that is a warning served very early in the season.
The tone was set inside 20 seconds. David Silva slipped Sergio Aguero through on goal and Begovic saved with his feet. It was one of five shots from the Argentine in the first half. By the time Aguero opened the scoring just after the half hour, the wonder was how come Chelsea were only a goal down.
Mourinho had never substituted John Terry in all his time as Chelsea manager, but the captain didn’t come out for the second half. Mourinho’s explanation was that he needed pace to play a higher line and Kurt Zouma is the quickest of the defenders.
He is correct, but it served only to limit the damage because Chelsea offered little upfront. The received wisdom is never to make a substitution while defending a set piece. Falcao replaced Willian just as David Silva prepared to take City’s corner. Kompany got goal side of Ivanovic to make it 2-0.
The big Serbian’s form in the first two games must be a concern. Fresh off a roasting by Jefferson Montero last week, (more on him in a minute), he once again lacked the trademark dependability and authority that has seen him become a fixture.
Fernandinho’s third did not flatter City at all. But for 3 or 4 big saves from Begovic, the game should have been over by half time.
This writer wondered what Mourinho’s response would be to a defeat, and he stood before cameras and said the result was a ‘fake’, and not a true reflection of the game.
Balderdash. This looks far from the team that lost only 3 games all of last season. A good number of players – Ivanovic, Fabregas, Hazard and Diego Costa, to mention just four – still look like they are on holiday. They, and Mourinho, need to look in the mirror.
Montero electricity lights up Swans
A lot of talk in football these days is about statistics, formations and tactics. These are all very well, but a wide man who can beat players at pace and deliver an end product will always be relevant. That is what Jefferson Montero, Swansea’s Ecuadorian winger brings to the team.
I wondered how Daryl Janmaat would cope with him given how badly Branislav Ivanovic struggled. He couldn’t. Janmaat was sent off before half time.
On this form, Ivanovic and Janmaat will be just two of a long list of right backs that Montero will harass this season. More than being just a player who delights in taking others on, he possesses a cutting edge. Against Chelsea, it was his cross that led to Gomis’ header, which led to Ayew’s equaliser. Against Newcastle, he set up Ayew for the second goal.
A lot of things are going right for Swansea right now, and Jefferson Montero is the most eye catching of the lot.
Speaking of right backs, Matteo Darmian has made a very solid start to life in the EPL, already emerging as a key part in a United defence that is yet to be troubled significantly in the first two games. The attacking is not yet up to scratch, but Darmian has simply taken to his new duties without missing a beat, even playing the role of a wind up merchant.
After the Aston Villa game, Micah Richards said that Darmian taunted him for being ‘soft’. That is certainly not an adjective that can be used to describe the native of Turin. He is becoming a fan favourite already.
Excellent Everton stop Saints
They rode their luck early on, but after a perfectly executed counter which ended with a Lukaku header from Kone’s cross, Everton were in control at St. Mary’s. After a long injury absence, Ross Barkley looks back to his eye catching and decisive best. John Stones continues to show why he is much sought after by Chelsea, and Arouna Kone is making up for lost time. There is a lot for Roberto Martinez to smile about.
Less tinkering from the Tinkerman?
Claudio Ranieri, tinkerman and journeyman, ended up at the King Power Stadium this summer, and has merely picked up from where Nigel Pearson left off. The record in their last 11 EPL games going back to last season reads: 9 wins, 1 draw, 2 defeats.
In Jamie Vardy, new signing Shinji Okazaki, and wide men Ryad Mahrez and Mark Albrighton, Leicester have pace to burn, and West Ham duly felt the heat at the Boleyn Ground, resulting in a big reality check after last week’s win at the Emirates.
The other key observation so far is that Ranieri has also used the same starting eleven and the same three substitutes so far. Even the Tinkerman is reluctant to change a winning team.
How long does Advocaat have left?
Another week, another shambolic performance from Sunderland. Dick Advocaat may just be wishing that he had taken his wife’s advice and retired from the game during the summer. A poor performance at home to Norwich has led to a second defeat, and the race to find solutions is on.
The word is that Advocaat only returned because he was promised signings who could start, and that hasn’t happened. They still have 2 weeks till the end of the transfer window. If they wish to avoid yet another relegation fight, they cannot continue like this.
Arsenal victorious in an end-to-end game
Mesut Ozil rightly took most of the plaudits for Arsenal’s victory at Selhurst Park, but the truth is that when both managers look back at the tape of this game, neither will be very happy with the play in the defensive phase.
For all the good stuff Arsenal played in the final third, Coquelin was exposed time and again and would have been sent off, but for the extreme benevolence of Lee Mason who enabled him remain on the field long enough to be substituted by Wenger.
As far as Palace are concerned, the continued marginalization of Mile Jedinak, a savvy midfielder who breaks up the play, is a key reason they also appeared so open. They might also feel hard done by because Yannick Bolasie didn’t come out for the second half, and Arsenal could have been a man down like I said earlier.
All told, Arsenal deserved to win this game, but their defending needs sorting out.