1.Paul Pogba has not adapted to life in the Premier League yet
When Jose Mourinho broke the world record transfer record to sign Paul Pogba from Juventus, he said it was unfair to expect him to score 60 yard screamers, every time he touched the ball. This was a more than a fair statement. However Pogba was expected to exert his influence over the Manchester United midfield, and use his considerable talent to drive United forward. So far he has yet to do this. A prime example of this was the Manchester Derby, where Pogba was a passenger for 90 minutes.
Pogba, who should have made his mark on a highly anticipated derby, struggled to leave even the smallest of imprints. Pep Guardiola’s men had him chasing shadows. As United ended the game with one of their lowest possession rates in their Premiership history, with 39.9%.
For Pogba, the runs forward, the physical dominance, and the clinical passing expected of such an expensive player, were absent. Instead United got a performance that has allowed the meme artists on social media, a wealth of glorious gifs.
With Pogba playing alongside Marouane Fellaini as one of the two midfielders behind United’s attacking four, Jose Mourinho sought to put power and height in his engine room in a 4-2-3-1 formation. But his side were dominated in midfield.
Pogba lacked the positioning and discipline needed to make the formation work. It is a system that United have used in each of their three Premier League games, which all ended in victory, since the Frenchman made his move back to the club he left for Juventus in 2012, but in this game it failed to convince as Mourinho’s optimal formation.
Indeed, it appears to be restricting Pogba, who was too often bypassed and isolated against a slick City side who used the ball with composure, to find space in behind. Pogba only had one shot which he could not keep down, in the seventh minute, but the rest of the half did not see him cause any danger to City.
After the break, Mourinho made two substitutions — bringing off the ineffective Jesse Lingard and Henrikh Mkhitaryan for Marcus Rashford and Ander Herrera — then switched to a 4-3-3 system that Pogba excelled in at Juventus, and could be the way forward to avoid more wasting of his talent.
Herrera, making his own case for a starting role, slotted into a deeper role, allowing Pogba and Fellaini to operate further forward, and straight away there was more signs of life from the Frenchman as he made a dashing run toward the end of the 6-yard box and narrowly failed to connect with a flick-on from Rashford’s cross.
But Pogba failed to capitalise on this, and seemed to be lost marauding between the halfway line and the edge of City’s area, with no real substance offered.
Pogba, of course, has the calibre to become a match winner when it matters for United and these are still early days. If he is to reach his full potential, games like the Manchester derby are where he has to step up.
Against City, all the United fans got was an indication that changes are needed, with his own approach and with the team structure as a whole, before he can truly claim to be the world’s best midfielder.
Manchester United play Feyenoord in the Europa League on Thursday
2.West Ham have some serious defensive issues
With 33 minutes gone on Saturday, you could be forgiven for thinking West Ham were on route to their second win of the season. 2 headers from recent England call up Michail Antonio, had put the Hammers firmly in control. A spirited Watford fightback however, with goals from Odion Ighalo and a wonderful effort from Troy Deeney, levelled it before the break.
Watford would come out with the bit between their teeth in the second half, Deeney feeling that West Ham were “mugging off” Watford following Dimitri Payet’s rabona assist for Antonio’s second goal. Deeney said “There were some harsh words said to each other and everyone had that fire in their belly again” and West Ham never matched Watford’s intensity in the second half. With Etienne Capoue’s half-volley putting Watford in front for the first time in the game, and Jose Holebas sealing the visitors first win of the season with a shot from 18 yards out.
Post- match, Slaven Bilic was asked to sum up in 2 words “What Happened?” his response was “What happened, what happened exactly?”
What has happened is West Ham have now conceded the second most goals in the Premiership this season, with 9. They have also lost 3 of their first 4 opening league games, and were knocked out of the Europa League by Romanian side Astra Giurgiu for the second season running. The strength, physicality, and free flowing football of last season, has been replaced by a team that appears lost at sea. Bilic has had a horrendous injury list to contain with, but this still doesn’t excuse this kind of capitulation at home.
The one positive for Bilic was being able to start West Ham’s player of the season Dimitri Payett for the first time this season, and for the first 30 minutes the Frenchman was absolutely magnificent. His corner was headed in by Antonio as the hosts took the early lead and he then set up the second with the aforementioned rabona. After that Payet faded as his team totally lost control of the match.
Bilic summed up West Ham’s defensive performance best by saying
“We can not defend like that or we are not going to win a single game.”
And he’s right
Next for West Ham is a visit to West Brom at the Hawthorns on Saturday in the Premiership.
3.Stoke City are in trouble
Mark Hughes has done much to get Stoke away from the “Wet Wednesday” style of football that characterised his predecessor Tony Pulis style of play. Signings such as Bojan, Marko Arnautovic, and Joe Allen have all contributed to Stoke moving to more of an attractive style of play. Following the 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Tottenham, Stoke will need to find the kind of aggressive style that has helped them to sustain their position in the Premiership for the last 8 years.
Stoke began the day rooted to the bottom of the league table, having only taken 1 point, and scored 2 goals, and never at any time during the visit of Spurs did this look like changing. Stoke who had started brightly in the first half, were undone by a strike from Son Heung-min late in the first half. This was following the dismissal of Hughes, for coming out of his technical area to protest after Arnautovic was given a yellow card for diving.
The second half saw Spurs steam roller over with Stoke, with Son doubling his tally, and Dele Alli and Harry Kane opening their accounts for the season.
Stoke, with the worst defensive record in the league with 10 goals conceded, feel they have been at the end of poor referee decisions so far this season, which Hughes was at pains to point out post-match, but there is no getting away from the fact that this is the second time this season they have conceded 4 at home.
Hughes is aware of the issues facing Stoke at this early point of the season, saying post-match
“We’ve got things to work on, clearly, which is what we’ll do and we’ll have a better performance, I’m sure, next week,”
If Stoke don’t work on fixing these things, then there previous season top 10 finishes, will be replaced by a bottom 3 end.
Next up for Stoke City is a trip to Selhurst Park to take on Crystal Palace on Sunday
4.Leicester City aren’t going to win the league
It might be a bit early to be writing off last season’s champions, but with Liverpool inflicting their second defeat of the season, one less than they had in total last season, it’s probably safe to assume they won’t be on top of the pile come May 2017.
Leicester never really offered anything against Liverpool, who played in front of the biggest crowd to witness Premiership football at Anfield. What will worry Claudio Ranieri the most is that 10 of the 11 players who lined up against Liverpool, were part of the title winning team. The most notable absentee being N’Golo Kanté, sold to Chelsea in the summer. It was always said that Ranieri would do well to keep the 3 stars of the title winning year, Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, and Kanté. Kanté’s presence has been missed dramatically this season. Especially in this game, as a lack of presence throughout the middle of the park cost the foxes this game.
Ranieri had ruled out summer signing Nampalys Mendy through injury, which meant that Daniel Amartey kept his place in the heart of Leicester’s midfield alongside Danny Drinkwater after an impressive performance against Swansea City before the international break.
It will be tough for the 21-year-old this season, as he will constantly be compared to the departed Kanté something that his manager has been quick to dismiss. The midfielder’s performances before Saturday’s game have caught the eye, but he really struggled at Anfield, as did Leicester’s other midfielders.
Vardy cut a lonely figure up top as the Foxes could not withstand the pressure from Liverpool’s energetic midfield three. A change at the break saw Shinji Okazaki replaced by Ahmed Musa in the hope to use the latter’s explosive pace.
Musa ended up on the right wing as he and Mahrez averted from their narrow position when it was 3-1. But it was a case of too little, too late for Ranieri’s side. Bodies in blue shirts poured forward, which meant Liverpool had opportunities to spring a rapid counterattack by using the pace of Sadio Mane and Georginio Wijnaldum.
While this season was always going to fall short compared to the heroics of 2015-16, just four points after four games will leave Ranieri a little disappointed.
Leicester make their Champions League debut on Wednesday as they travel to Bruges to take on Club Brugge
5.Diego Costa is back to his best for Chelsea
Antonio Conte has arrived at Chelsea and has got the players, who significantly under-performed last season, playing the type of football that had Chelsea crowned as champions last season. Eden Hazard has already contributed more in 4 weeks than he did all of last season, and now Diego Costa seems to have remembered the player he used to be.
As Conte has got Hazard playing football, he seems to have taken the leash off of Costa. As a result this game saw both sides of Diego Costa with the Chelsea striker simultaneously at his spectacular best and most infuriating, scoring two fine goals and being involved in four bookings.
The Spain striker clashed with Swansea’s defenders throughout the game, and he was booked for a challenge on Federico Fernandez. It was a Fernandez mistake, which Costa punished for the opening goal. Fernandez tentatively headed the ball to Oscar, whose pass allowed Costa to score with a low finish.
Costa was constantly at odds with Jordi Amat during the game, and Costa was lucky not to have received a second yellow card for what appeared to be a dive under pressure from the Swansea goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski in the second half.
Chelsea will feel aggrieved that Swansea’s second goal was allowed to stand. Leroy Fer clearly fouled Gary Cahill in the build up to the Swansea goal, however Andre Mariner ruled it wasn’t a foul, and Fer’s finish was allowed to stand.
Up stepped Costa to equalise with a bicycle kick, and he would have been frustrated not to have earned a hat-trick, his performance more than merited one.
Costa was the focal point of Chelsea’s attack all game, and he now has 4 goals in 4 Premiership games, and a goal conversion rate of 36.4%. If Conte can accept that Costa is going to play on the edge, and for all that is made about Costa’s temperament he has never been sent off for Chelsea in the league, then Costa may well fire Chelsea into title contention.
Chelsea will play their first Friday night game of the season, when they take on Liverpool at Stamford Bridge.
By Rich Lee @RichLee2202