Kieran Davies picks apart a week of international mediocrity and topsy-turvyness.
After a week of mundane football (or the international break as they call it), England looked as lacklustre as they have done for several years. It maybe goes to show how the problems in English football are deeper than a simple change of manager. Is it delusions of grandeur? Are they simply not as good as they think they are? Or has the rest of the footballing world evolved while the FA stick to a fragmented regime which is more about money than the beautiful game? One thing is for sure the game looked far more beautiful in the games involving the other home nation sides. Passion cannot be bottled (despite what Elizabeth Taylor would lead you to believe!) and this is an England side distinctly lacking this. Not learning from lessons from Wales throughout the summer, Baddiel and Skinner could make a living re-writing their Euro 96 song every two years to make it more relevant. Bad news three lions fans, there are more years of hurt ahead until you blossom on the world stage. For now, the school report card keeps repeating the same advice…͛must try harder. Now we get back to the real game that ignites that hunger in every football fan up and down the country, the Premier League. This weekends fixtures throw up some mouth watering match ups. The early kick off throws up the pick of the weekends fixtures, a Manchester derby. With both teams boasting 100% records, something must give in this one. Both of these sides fans are on a high after the starts they have made but this game will be the ultimate test. While Paul Scholes (a player used to ridiculing Liverpool for living on past history) proclaimed there is only one team in Manchester, his geography seems about as accurate as this statement. While United have spent big try to get back to former glories of a bygone Fergie era, the stats and trophy count tell you that there has been a shift in power and City are the ones who could now describe their local rivals as noisy neighbours. While United struggled to beat Hull City last time out, relying on a very late goal to secure the three points, City had a more routine win against West Ham. They will be without their talisman striker, Sergio Aguero, after he was cited for using an elbow on an opponent. While the incident may have warranted the sanction, how Andre Marriner can claim he didnt see this when stood no more than five yards away with a perfect view it does throw up the question, should the registered blind be refereeing professional football matches?
Conte’s Chelsea looked impressive in their brushing aside of Burnley. Eden Hazard lit up Stamford Bridge with a display we all know he is more than capable of but unfortunately seems to rarely produce. Maybe the Italian is the man to get the Belgian to earn that huge salary on a weekly basis. Theyve looked solid at the back too but expect that to change with the re-introduction of David Luiz to the defence. The man whos been sold more times than the UK steel industry, at all of his clubs he has never looked the assured rock at the back all clubs crave in a centre back. Luiz seems more like the player youve forced to play in the back four and sprints forward like a dog let off his lead at anyopportunity! Good luck with marshalling that one John Terry! The West London outfit travel to Wales this weekend to face Swansea City on the not so Super Sunday (just a single game this week!) They will be hoping Hazard is in more of a hitting the back of the net mood as opposed to a hitting the nearest ball boy this time!
Swansea were the victims of Leicesters first league victory since winning the title last season. For Ranieris men, things dont get any easier as they travel to a newly developed Anfield to face Klopps Liverpool. A stadium renowned for its atmosphere, has had itscapacity increased to 55,000 (approx) due to the expansion. Liverpool really havent got started this season, despite good performances against Arsenal and Spurs away from home, Jurgen will be expecting far more from his well paid stars! A win, a draw and a loss in their first three games is not awe inspiring by any stretch of the imagination. It will remain to be seen whether those additional 10,000 fans will be treated to a festival of football or just left as exasperated as the previous 44,000 have been with performances. Arsene Wenger will be glad to get back to footballing matters this week. He has no doubt spent the last week speaking to his bank explaining how the recent transactions werent fraudulent activity and they need not concern themselves with the large amounts of money streaming out of the Arsenal coffers. Like the team who beat them on the opening day, they need to apply themselves and start putting a series of wins together if they plan to be challenging for honours this season. Everton will feel they did enough to beat Stoke City in their last game but it took a very unfortunate Shay Given own goal to decide the game. These instances are the hardest on the keeper attributing him for the goal, when in reality Given made an excellent save only to see the ball rebound off the post, onto the back of his head and into the net. Mark Hughes Stoke side find themselves rooted to the bottom of the table at this early stage and winless this season. This weekend they face Tottenham at home. If Spurs fans are to be believed we will see the re-emergence of Harry Kane who has been missing since the back end of last season! He never scores in August fans have told me, well if that is the case and their fans are happy with him drawing a wage for doing sweet FA for a month, why not drop him? Get him selling matchday programmes or hosting matchday hospitality for the duration and actually get some use out of him. With Jansen looking like a domestic abuse victims ideal boyfriend (he cant hit anything hes actually aiming for), Pochettino needs to get his strikers firing.
Dimitri Payet takes on Watford this weekend at their new stadium. Since the Frenchmans absence, the Hammers have looked a shadow of the team we saw last season. They never really looked in the game against City and Bilic will be getting frustrated with his players and poor luck on the injury front. David Moyes has a few things to prove to Black Cats fans with a home game against Everton to show them that this will not be another season listening to Alan Shearer saying how Sunderland are a sure fire bet for relegation. With Borini out injured, they will be relying on Defoe more than ever now (although Borini could be sued under the trade descriptions act for selling himself as striker with his goal return), maybe the thought of facing his old side will be the kickstart Moyes needs. Also up in the North East and having a far more productive start to the season, Middlesbrough face Pardews Palace. Moving on from the exorbitant amount their side paid for an as yet goalless Benteke, their most recent addition Loic Remy lasted nine days before injuring a thigh and being sent back to Chelsea. Unless there is a dramatic u-turn at Palace, this could be a long season where they face a fight to retain their Premier League status.
Another side in the cluster of clubs who find themselves winless at the bottom of the table is Bournemouth. They host Pullis West Brom side this week, expecting to be able to give Jack Wilshere his first run out in a Cherries top. The Baggies will be naming their acquisition from Spurs, Nacer Chadli, in their starting line up while one of the stars from this summers Euros (Hal Robson Kanu) lacks enough match fitness to be involved. Burnley will be hoping Hull City give away possession in key areas as much as Liverpool did as they look to bounce back from a heavy defeat to Chelsea. While record signing, Jeff Hendrick will be named in the squad, Dyche will know all too well how important picking points up at home will be in their quest for safety from the drop. Expect people disappearing from social media like a Malaysian plane, others proclaiming their sides greatness akin to Hitler at the Nuremberg rally…….its just all in another week in the topsy turvy world of football! The only constant is poor refereeing and linesman decisions, oh joy!