Hello and welcome to the winners and losers column where we go over this week’s round of games and discuss the teams, players and coaches that should either pat themselves on the back for a job well done or take a hard long look at their recent actions and should perhaps start making drastic life changes.
This column is in the spirit of good fun and as usual, your comments and opinions are welcomed.
Winners and Losers Week 4
Now this is just getting ridiculous. He is currently averaging a goal per game and at this rate, expect to see him be in contention for the EPL golden boot.
Can I mention how his form has kept everyone including this column from even bringing up Liverpool’s best player? A certain Uruguayan who seems to take a delight in going the extra mile to taunt opposition players and supporters with his antics. Still confused as to who I am talking about? Luis Suarez—remember him? The bloke that Liverpool fought so hard to keep at Anfield because he was their top scorer and creator-extraordinaire. Honestly people, here are the facts. Sturridge’s early season form has not only propelled Liverpool to the top of the table but also ensure that they remain unbeaten [with huge help from former player Jonjo Shelvey—but more on him later] in the league. And this is in addition to mitigating the loss of their best player last season. He is playing with a certain anger and determination to prove that he can live up to his potential, the ingredients are all there for the makings of a Kop legend.
For the most part, most new signings had a fantastic debut games. Poor Eto’o had the unfortunate distinction of missing a glorious chance to put Chelsea level late in the second half in the 1-0 loss to Everton. Gareth Barry got right into the mix of things for Everton with a goal-line clearance and last man tackle to prevent a scoring opportunity. And that readers, is how you make yourself indispensable to your team.
Wenger’s new kid on the block, Özil pretty much did everything we expected him to. He floated past defenders with ease, played his teammates in with ridiculous passes and created glorious chances with the simplest of touches. You know the running joke that Arsenal pass the ball around and round and never shoot? Well, their German playmaker has brought a more direct approach to their game in the final third. Honestly, the only concern for Wenger in addition to praying he never gets injured is to wonder if their guy upfront, Olivier Giroud is best placed to take advantage of Özil’s movements and passes. It also must be scary thinking he is the only striker available for selection—unless we throw Bendtner in of course. Long Live the Great Dane!!
Not be outdone in London, Christian Eriksen continued where he left things off at Ajax anc delivered a composed performance for Spurs against Norwich. His movement throughout the game was intelligent and look to see comparisons between he and Mesut Özil as the season progresses. The question of who was the best value for money and is the best playmaker in London [Juan Mata might have a thing or two to say] are just a couple of argument this column predicts will rage across the blogosphere and pubs all around North London.
Moyes’ second half introduction of Fellaini ensured all those fans with the afro-wig didn’t look out of place. Honestly, he had a decent debut but against 10-men Crystal Palace, it is hard to judge how much he improved the team. And it is this writer’s opinion that Anderson hardly made it a difficult for Fellaini to look good. Let’s see how he fares in the Champions league eh?
Adnan Januzaj, Zaha & Lingard
With all the news from Old Trafford about freeing Kagawa and making Rooney happy, this little Belgian got forgotten but his lively cameo which has drawn comparison to C. Ronaldo’s own debut for United [let’s not get carried away here folks] has certainly brought the spotlight focused on this talent. United had an impressive showing from Zaha, Januzaj and Lingard during pre-season. Moyes has said he is keen to ease them into the first team and is certainly living up to his word. He is raw enough for Moyes to justify not selecting him on a weekly basis but like his young colleagues [Zaha and Lingard], his talent seems to suggest it is worth the risk.
Especially when first team players such as Ashley Young, Nani and Valencia struggle for form and lack a directness to their attack. Moyes certainly has his work cut out for him and in a week where we are reminded of a certain Frederico Macheda, the caution here for fans is that managing new talent is a precarious process and could go either way. This column is looking forward to more games from this attacking. If for nothing, they bring a certain excitement to the United team that has certainly been lacking since CR7 and it was only until the capture of RVP that United begun to show glimpses of that swagger.
Mark Hughes aka Sparky
As predicted last week by this column, Sparky was going to pull all the stops to ensure he gets the better of his former club. Now, he didn’t exact the ultimate revenge and grab a win but a 0-0 draw gives Stoke valuable points against a team they could very well have lost to. Setting his team up in a defensive 4-5-1 position, his team achieved their task of not losing. His defense was immense with Huth and Geoff Cameron making game high 5 clearances each. Small victory for Hughes as he is showing that he is not dismissing Stoke’s inherent defensive qualities for more stylistic [read ‘attacking’] football. A slow process but his project at Stoke has this column mildly interested.
This boy can do no wrong right now and is in the form of his life. Wenger could probably play his as his side’s main target man and he’d deliver the goods. The season is still young and many of Wenger’s boys have given fans false hopes of a new dawn. It is cliché but only time will tell if Ramsey is playing above average of this is the new level of performance we can expect from him week in, week out. With the imminent return of Arteta and Santi Carzola, the Arsenal midfield is going to become a crowded place. Will Wenger continue to keep the faith and play Ramsey? This column is clueless as to what makes the Frenchman tick but what is for sure, this season will be exciting for Gooners. There are so many storylines to watch for this season but the biggest is surely will Ramsey end up being more important to Arsenal’s title campaign than new boy Özil?
Hatem Ben Arfa
Many might forget but this writer remembers when Ben Arfa and Benzema were the hottest young prospects in world football. Ben Arfa might end his career wondering what could have been but with more performances such as the one this week Aston Villa, he might just redeem himself. With 4 shots, a goal to his name and 5 succesfull dribbles, he was elusive in the final third and decisive when it mattered. He remains one of the few bright spots for Newcastle going into the season and if he can replicate this masterful performance, he could very well earn himself a shot at a big-club move to end his career. Inconsistency has been an issue for him but with Newcastle in shambles, his teammates and supporters need him to dig deep to pull the club from the quagmire it finds itself in. He could very well end up the ace in Alan Pardew’s sleeve. The unpredictable Frenchman can beat anyone on his day –the trick is convincing him each game is his day.
With 57% possession and twice as many shots as their opponents [Chelsea had 22 shots as compared to Everton’s 11], you’d be forgiven for saying the better team lost. In what might have been an opportunity to play himself into contention, Mata found a resolute Everton team that thwarted every attack Chelsea threw at them. Even the inclusion of Oscar, Lampard and Torres later on in the second half did not do much to bring a sense of urgency and accuracy to Chelsea’s attack. The Happy One must have watched Victor Moses’ performance for Liverpool and wondered if letting him go on loan was a good idea. He offered a direct line of attack that this Chelsea team missed. Time will tell if this was a costly error on Mourinho’s part. The air of invincibility around The Happy One and his team has been punctured. Let’s see how the team reacts and is this the last we are going to see of Juan Mata for a while?
Won 2, lost 1, and drawn 1. Their result is eerily similar to their cross-town rivals, Manchester United albeit, they are above by a solitary goal advantage. Nothing like raising the stakes before a derby game eh? Both Pelligrini and Moyes will be eager to win their first match against each other with their new teams and looking at City, you’d have to worry. They lost to newly promoted side Cardiff whiles their neighbors lost to the best team in the league currently, Liverpool. In a game they were unfortunate to lose all 3 points it should be added. City’s draw came against Stoke whiles United shared the spoils with a title contender in Chelsea. After starting with Dzeko in attack at the beginning of the season, it looks like Pellegrini has settled on Negredo as the first choice striker. Now that he has his squad selection tinkered with, all that needs to happen is the defense stops gifting goals [*ahem* Joe Hart] and Silva and co create chances for the forwards. Easy right?
City hasn’t looked threatening this season and this is despite their 4-0 romp of Newcastle in the season opener. With Yaya Toure the team joint-top scorer with Negredo [both with 2 goals], Pellegrini needs to find a way to make his side tick. This upcoming derby offers a chance to silence to rumblings in the media, including this writer. The engineer has some fixing to do and if he needs any reminder that he has to have some sense of urgency, Liverpool is 3pts ahead of both Manchester Club. The winner of this came should be closer to winning the EPL title.
The price of being your team’s standout performer is that opposition players mark you out of the game. Redmond was largely ineffective against a rather determined Tottenham side and looked bereft of ideas up until the 74th minute when he was substituted. It says a lot that his poor game meant that his team had no creative spark and resorted to damage limitation measures in the face of Spurs relentless attacks. 3 good games and 1 bad game. All is certainly not lost for Redmond and key in establishing himself as a legitimate talent will be how well he plays against Aston Villa and Watford. Both teams do not possess the quality of players on full display against Spurs and the ability to bounce back after a bad day in the office is what separates quality players from the others. This column has a soft spot for Redmond and is backing him to feature in the winners section of the column in the coming weeks.
Ferguson promised to have a talk with him during his tenure as coach. Now, Moyes has been forced to condemn his player publically and assure the football public that he is going to have a chat with him. Diving is unforgivable and United fans are already out of reasons to justify why Young is still at Old Trafford, his actions this weekend brought unnecessary attention to the team and took away from the Manger’s and several team players fine individual performances.
Speaking bluntly, it is fair to say Young’s legacy at United is going to be forever tarnished by the multiple diving incidents that he has become synonymous with.
Last week, Dzeko was featured here for the same reason that he makes his way into the losers section this week. His inability to convince his manager to play him. Álvaro Negredo by all accounts had a poor game mustering only 2 shots towards goal and having a woeful 67% pass completion rate. That kind of performance was not deemed bad enough to bring Dzeko on. Having said publically that he does not see himself as a bench-warmer and prefers to be in a starting role, you’d have to wonder if the days are numbered for him at City. For this column, he remains a talent that has never been truly given a chance to shine at the Etihad stadium.
I won’t pretend to understand the inner workings of a player contract but this writer will be surprised is Benteke did not have some performance clause written into his new contract. Despite losing to Newcastle, the Belgian again found the back of the net bringing his tally for this season to 4 goals—tied with Liverpool’s Sturridge. Villa have a potent striker in Benteke but it seems the rest of the team is failing to step-up to match the Belgian talent. He is by far their best player and unless Villa want to progress further, they will need to attract equally good players to join him because as his goal proved, he cannot do it alone every week.
Again, just how did Paul Lambert convince Benteke to stay at Villa Park?
This writer will like to thank Mr. Shelvey for his superhuman performance against Liverpool this week. 3 assists and 1 goal in a game that ended in a 2-all draw? Such performances are only seen in FIFA games and even then, it is rare to see such a masterful recovery. You essentially made the same mistake twice and twice cleaned up after yourself. Now, many might argue that you hindered your team’s chances of winning the game but full credit to the manager for leaving you on the field despite those 2 bad [very,very bad passes] leading to goal. It took immense courage to still be focused when you know full well you are letting your teammates down and for that, this column salutes you. Every so often you come across a game that reminds you why you love football so much. This week’s inspiration came in the form of Swansea midfielder Jonjo Shelvey. Football bloody hell eh?
Watch his assist to Sturridge:
GIF and Video Via 101greatgoals.com
Thanks for reading this week’s edition—As usual, leave your comments and thoughts. See you after next week’s rounds of game.