Featured post

Weekend Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2019 (August 17-19)

The first round of Premier League Fixtures are in the books and it can be very easy to get carried away from one set of results and make swe...

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Weekend Football Thoughts 2015 (August 22-24)

This is out a little later than I wanted to this week simply because I was out at a wedding on Sunday evening and that needed some recuperation time on Monday evening.

I do have a few thoughts from the third round of Premier League fixtures which were played last weekend as pre-season begins to be shaken out of the players and quality begins to make a difference in matches.

Louis Van Gaal's tactical issues
Any time a team begins a Premier League season with three consecutive clean sheets and seven points from a possible nine has to be applauded, but I can't help feel that Louis Van Gaal missed a trick in Manchester United's game against Newcastle United.

First things first, on another day Manchester United win that game with the chances created, but the goalless draw does raise some questions which need to be answered.

The chances created suggests Van Gaal got most things right on Saturday and needed perhaps a little more luck, although the final ball from some of the attacking players had to be better too. So I can't criticise that at all.

However, I am not convinced by the two deep-lying centre midfielders that Van Gaal relies upon in some of the games against teams Manchester United should be beating at Old Trafford. Bastian Schweinsteiger at least gets up and down the pitch, but bringing on Michael Carrick rather than Ander Herrera was a poor decision as Manchester United began to take control and push Newcastle backwards.

Herrera is a goalscorer who wants to get the side ticking forward, whereas both Carrick and Morgan Schneiderlin were not effective doing that. Neither is a goalscoring midfielder and I do feel Louis Van Gaal missed a trick by not employing the Spaniard in the second half to give Manchester United another attacking threat from midfield.

We can't always look back at the Sir Alex Ferguson years, but the gambles he took in tight games helped Manchester United become the force they are today and I just think Louis Van Gaal can take some of that element on board. It will be a big test for Manchester United at Swansea City next Sunday to show how much progression has been made at Old Trafford although I'd be happy to have the two shielding midfielders in an away game that is going to be very difficult to negotiate.

Slaven Bilic is under big pressure at Upton Park
I wonder how happy all those West Ham United fans that didn't like Sam Allardyce for not playing the 'West Ham way' are feeling at the moment? Slaven Bilic came in with a lot of positive sounds being made from the fans, but his opening weeks in charge have not been so good.

There were boos in the Europa League Qualifying Rounds, but Bilic had made it clear that competition was not his priority so I think some fans might have given their former player the benefit of the doubt.

A win at Arsenal seemed to justify Bilic's decision making in the Europa League, but back to back home losses to Leicester City and Bournemouth had the fans extremely upset. Those are bad losses for West Ham United who can't afford to be relegated before they move into their new Olympic Stadium and lose the huge financial rewards of the new television deal in the Premier League.

The Jekyll and Hyde nature of the West Ham United performances won't have helped how the fans perceive the team and I think Slaven Bilic is under big pressure already. The board can be a little nervy and they won't allow West Ham United to be sucked into a relegation battle while the next set of games are not exactly appealing with trips to Liverpool and Manchester City as well as a home game against Newcastle United to come.

Before he knows it, Slaven Bilic could be under immense pressure and perhaps fast hitting favouritism for next manager to leave his post.

Tottenham Hotspur need more attacking options to aid Harry Kane
I don't understand those clubs who wait until the final week of the transfer window to make a really serious move to address problem areas of their team, but that is where Tottenham Hotspur find themselves.

It is a particular concern when there is a particular weakness in the squad that everyone can see- with Spurs it was clearly finding goals outside of Harry Kane with both Emmanuel Adebayor and Roberto Soldado either in the doghouse or leaving the club.

There is a lot of pressure on Kane to repeat his success of the 2014/15 season and Tottenham Hotspur have been linked with both Saido Berahino and Yannick Bolasie to give them speed and another player that can score goals for them. Berahino is the player that seems to be most sought after, but Tottenham Hotspur should really have gotten him brought in already instead of fighting for every penny against a stubborn club like West Brom.

Both Jeremy Peace and Daniel Levy are unlikely to back down and it has just left Mauricio Pochettino in an awkward position to try and help Spurs get into the top four this season. They have only earned 2 points from a possible 9 in the Premier League when the signings they wish to make could have trebled that number of points and those points could easily haunt them at the end of the season when you think Spurs were leading in their last two games.

I'd be surprised if new faces are not brought in before the window closes on Tuesday, but Tottenham Hotspur are desperate for more attacking options and should have had players in place before the season started.

Will Southampton have a season that many expected they would have last season?
When Southampton sold the likes of Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert last summer, a lot of people thought the side might have been in for a fight against relegation.

Instead Ronald Koeman came into the club as the new manager to replace Tottenham Hotspur bound Mauricio Pochettino and guided them to an incredible 7th placed finish in the Premier League. It was a really surprising season that ended with a place in the Europa League.

So when Nathaniel Clyne and Morgan Schneiderlin moved on this summer, not many were concerned for Southampton after seeing how they dealt with things last season. However, the start to the season has been poor for The Saints who are trying to balance the Premier League with the Europa League and so have earned just 2 points from a possible 9 in the League.

There has been a lack of ideas in the final third and even some of the defensive strength looks to have taken a backwards move after Southampton conceded 5 goals in their first two Premier League games. Southampton are in danger of also being knocked out of the Europa League and need to turn things around quickly if they want to avoid having a season that many tipped for them twelve months ago.

Pedro is not a guaranteed success in the Premier League after one game
When Manchester United were linked with Pedro, I was excited about the move because I think he would improve the club. So when he signed for Chelsea there was disappointment and the 'meltdown' some Manchester United fans had following his one goal, one assist debut for The Blues was not really a surprise to me.

Once again, I would have signed Pedro because I think he would have given Manchester United a different type of threat in the final third and has decent pace and creativity that Louis Van Gaal has spoken about.

So why would I urge caution about his 'guaranteed' success in the Premier League? Because I have seen it happen to many others before him and only time will really tell what Pedro is going to achieve here.

Players like Angel Di Maria and Juan Sebastien Veron had such impressive starts before faltering, while even Mesut Ozil looked a world beater before slowing down. All of these players came in as 'world class' stars that would have been 'guaranteed' to end up as top Premier League players, but they were worn down by the physical nature of English football and perhaps lost some confidence.

Of course there are others that settle in quickly and just get better and better, for example Alexis Sanchez, but I would just urge the rush to make Pedro the next superstar in the League until I see the kind of form he is producing in three/four months and whether a 'hot start' is replaced by inconsistency or whether he has kicked on and embraced the League like Sanchez did following a move from Barcelona.

Manchester City might have a chance to turn the screw on title rivals
Three wins, three clean sheets and the only team with a 100% record in the Premier League coupled with the five dropped points that Arsenal and Chelsea have had already and you can understand why Manchester City are favourites to win the Premier League title.

Some Manchester United and Liverpool fans might feel they can challenge for the Premier League title, but I am sure Manchester City looked at Chelsea and Arsenal as their closest challengers before the season began.

The wins over Chelsea and Everton have been particularly impressive, while the 0-3 win at West Brom can't be underestimated even if Tony Pulis admitted he had made tactical errors.

Now Manchester City can turn the screw on their title rivals with games against Watford, Crystal Palace, West Ham United, Tottenham Hotspur, Newcastle United, Bournemouth to come in the Premier League before a trip to Old Trafford in late October.

On current form I wouldn't pick any of those teams to surprise Manchester City by even taking a point, but of course the Champions League fixtures will be played between some of those games which can cause difficulty. However, this is a real chance for Manchester City to put themselves in a very strong position in the Premier League after just nine games, especially as their rivals have tougher matches to play in that time.

Manchester United play Swansea City, Liverpool, Southampton, Arsenal and Everton during that time; Liverpool play Manchester United, Everton and Tottenham Hotspur; Chelsea play Everton, Arsenal, Newcastle United and Southampton; Arsenal play Newcastle United, Chelsea, Leicester City and Manchester United.

With those sides looking like they might take points off one another, Manchester City could find themselves in a very healthy position as they head into the Manchester derby on October 25th. This is the time for them to prove they are not going to wilt like they did last season and the way Manchester City have come out this season suggests they are going to show that on the field too which is a big issue for their rivals.

No comments:

Post a Comment