1.Herrera is a must for United
Match round 6 of the Premier League started with an early kick off, with League champions taking on Man United at Old Trafford. This was a very important game for United who had just lost their last 2 Premier League matches and are already 6 points adrift of rivals City.
The mid-week win in the League Cup was a much welcomed rest bite for Jose Mourinho and his team, largely due to the changed midfield that included Michael Carrick, playing his first match since the Community Shield, and fan favourite Ander Herrera.
United fans were calling for Wayne Rooney to be dropped against Leicester and their calls were answered with Ander Herrera taking a midfield place alongside Paul Pogba, and it has to be said the result of this was fantastic.
Ander Herrera’s energy in midfield was just what United needed having looked ponderous in their last Premier league outing at Watford. Herrera is a very hard working player who is better defensively than he gets credit for, but also breaks with pace, technically good and comfortable with both feet.
Herrera made 6 interceptions, 3 clearances and 1 block in the game and won 67% of tackles. He showed he is capable of doing the job Fellaini has been given this season, but Herrera gives you much more going forward which allowed Paul Pogba and Mata to express themselves, Pogba playing his best match since returning to United.
Whilst Herrera didn’t create any chances himself, his 88% pass completion rate along with great vision for a pass meant that most of United’s attacks were orchestrated by him, working in perfect unison with Mata and Pogba giving Jose a big problem whether to reintroduce Wayne Rooney.
Jose Mourinho was quoted after the match saying what a big part of the team he sees Herrera playing this season and after that display you won’t find many United fans that would disagree with him.
2.Spurs look a real threat
Mauricio Pochettino is widely regarded as one of the best young managers in Europe given the great job he did at Southampton and has been doing at Tottenham to date.
Last season Spurs finished 3rd, with Pochettino unhappy that they capitulated towards the end of the season allowing Arsenal to overtake them. This is a sign of how far the club have come under Pochettino being disappointed with an automatic Champions League spot but that has been the attitude instilled in the club by the manager.
Many thought that last season was Tottenham’s best chance to win the league, and that’s possibly a fair comment. However most also though that Spurs may have to settle for Europa positions this season with Man United landing Jose and splashing the cash, Chelsea under a new reign of Conte and City with Pep at the helm. When you add in the fact that Spurs actually had a relatively quiet transfer window for a team now playing Champions league football, and many stars not performing very well in the Euro’s it would be sensible to say that Tottenham may return to their ‘rightful’ place harbouring around the 5th to 6th spot.
But in actual fact, Tottenham have started this season very well indeed winning 4 and drawing 2. Spurs have scored 10 goals in the league so far this season and impressively have the best defence conceding only 3 goals.
This is a marked improvement from this time last season where Spurs had only 1 win, with 3 draws and 2 defeats. In this period last season, they had conceded one more goal but scored half the amount of goals they have scored so far this season.
The omens are looking good for Tottenham. What Spurs have is a great unit, a real team. They have a selection of hard working talented players who understand what the manager wants. By not adding a great deal to the team in the summer, Tottenham also have fantastic continuity from last season and this really shows. Whilst many teams have been spending big in the summer, clearing out players to address squad balance issues, Tottenham’s squad looks very comfortable around each other. This continuity has been a great bonus for the team which has helped to have such a good start to the season where they currently sit 2nd.
When compared against the traditional top 4 teams so far this season Tottenham show how well they have started. They are comparable on pass completion just 3% below City, United and Arsenal, however they have created the most chances so far this season. Spurs have also had more shots than any of the traditional top 4 team’s showing how well they are working as an attacking unit. All of this when Harry Kane is still yet to hit real form! Spurs have also conceded the fewest goals and no coincidence therefore kept the most clean sheets.
Tottenham are a real threat to the top teams this season, and will be certainly looking to once again take one of the automatic Champions League spots and will hope to capitalize from any Man City slips ups. Last season’s experience in the business end of the season will be priceless as the players now know what’s required to keep the pressure up at key times. Only time will tell how they cope into the winter months playing in the Champions League as well as the Premiership but I think they have all the tools required to push towards the top end of the table this season.
3. Sunderland are already in trouble
Sunderland are already favourites for the drop this season, and unless they have a change in fortune soon David Moyes’s return to top flight football could be very short lived.
Of the 6 league matches played so far this season, Sunderland have lost 5 and drawn 1 scoring only 5 goals and conceding 12.
What’s worse for Sunderland is this latest defeat came after being 2 nil up. Any team with Jermaine Defoe up front will score goals, he is a natural goal scorer and an asset to Sunderland. His 2 goals against Palace means he’s now scored 4 of Sunderland’s 5 goals in the league this season. David Moyes will know that a key man dependency as evident as this is not good for his side in the longer term, but also knows that they just cannot afford to throw away 2 goal leads. This was a game they should have won registering their first 3 points of the season. The next 3 game’s perhaps already a critical time for David Moyes as they play West Brom, Stoke City and West Ham team’s in and around the bottom of the league. These are potential 6 pointers and you have to say if Sunderland don’t get their first win of the season in one of the next 3 games Moyes’s position could already be untenable.
David Moyes has always been a manager who needs time to set his teams up and get them playing the way he wants. Unfortunately for Moyes time isn’t a commodity handed out very often in football these days.
With Defoe in the team, they will always have a chance but Sunderland need to get back to basics with their defending to stop what happened on the weekend happening again.
4. Chelsea need to start worrying about their defence
Antonio Conte’s arrival at Chelsea was welcomed by fans who after a disastrous last season are looking to once again be in amongst the top 4 jostling for the league. When watching some of Italy’s performances during the summer’s Euro’s, many Chelsea fans were licking their lips with anticipation as to what tactical nous will be back at the bridge this season. And to be fair, when Chelsea won their first 3 games on the bounce that was looking like a realistic expectation scoring 7 and only conceding 2 in that time.
But the last 3 league games have seen a complete change in fortunes with a draw and 2 defeats in a row, Conte’s first consecutive league defeats since 2009 at Atlanta.
In the last 3 games, Chelsea have scored only 3 goals yet conceded 7, more than 3 times that of the first 3 games. This must be a cause of concern for a manager who prides himself on astute defensive organisation.
John Terry’s absence from the side is also troubling as Chelsea seem ever so dependent on the 35 year old defender. David Luiz deadline day return to Chelsea was met with raised eyebrows given his lack of discipline in defence however it was Gary Cahill who was culpable in the match against Arsenal.
Arsenal were fantastic in the first half against Chelsea, reminiscent of the display last season against Man United at the Emirates, but Chelsea were at 6’s and 7’s at the back which needs to be addressed as soon as possible otherwise they will lose yet more ground on the top 4.
Kante’s importance to the Leicester side has become evident for all to see, however, as of yet has failed to make the same impact for Chelsea with some people questioning his importance in a team that usually has more possession than the opposition.
The lack of defensive work from Chelsea’s other midfielders, in particular Eden Hazard is also something Conte needs to resolve if Chelsea are to take a seat back at the top table of English football this season.
One reprieve for Chelsea however is their next match is away at Hull City, who themselves have had a slump in current form, you would expect Chelsea to get back to winning ways. But Chelsea will face much stiffer tests and will need to tighten up at the back to press the top 4.
5.New stadium, new problems for West Ham
West Ham were unfortunate in one way last season, with the unprecedented crowning of Leicester City as champions, West Hams great performances often went overlooked. Payet was fantastic last season and Bilic had built an exciting team that could compete with anyone in the league finishing in a healthy 7th position.
But there was another side note last season for the Hammers which was the last season played at Upton Park with a move to the recycled Olympic stadium on the cards.
It was a move that was supposed to launch West Ham to the next level, enabling them to complete with the traditional top 4. This may in the long run come to be true but so far this season it’s not been a great start to life at the ‘new’ Olympic stadium.
West Ham’s form has been as poor as the drearily named stadium, losing 5 of their 6 games this season. Defensively West Ham have looked abhorrent conceding 16 goals in just 6 games, scoring only 7. If you compare this to West Ham’s first 6 games last season you will see a stark contrast. At this stage last season West Ham has won 4, losing 2 scoring 13 and conceding only 7, less than half the goals they have conceded this season.
West Ham’s defence has been called comical by some pundits and childlike by others but this is not just a problem with the West Ham defenders; it’s the team as a whole that are failing to give the right level of commitment needed to defend as a coherent unit.
One major factor for the poor start has been put down to the new stadium, for West Ham it’s as if they are playing away each match until they have settled. But it’s not just the fact that West Ham are at a new ground, there has also been much criticism aimed at the stadium itself. The ‘London Stadium’ is not a football ground, no argument. Whilst the running track is covered, the fans seem so far from the pitch and the atmosphere has been affected.
Upton Park was known as one of the most intimidating stadiums with the famous ‘chicken run’ with fans literally two feet away from the action. This has been lost in the new ground and it seems teams are happy to play against West Ham there.
West ham have also been hampered by injuries and the late return of some players from the Euro’s, coupled with the fact that they possibly overachieved last season, it all culminates into a perfect storm for the club.
Confidence at the club is really low at the minute but West Ham have the perfect opportunity to turn things around in the next few games with visits from Middlesbrough and Sunderland either side of a trip to London rivals Crystal Palace.
You would have to say that with the quality in the West Ham XI, along with Bilic, a top manager in his own right, a win should be around the corner given the next 3 games coming up.
West Ham just need a win to get their season going, preferably at home, but the longer this slump continues the more pressure will stack on the shoulders of Bilic and the players, causing more anxiety amongst fans.
This is certainly one story of the season I didn’t see coming.
By Michael Thatcher