With 7 exciting rounds complete and a dreaded international break on the way, it’s time to take a breath and offer some musings on the emerging stories thus far:
1) Aguero scores the goals but “KDB” is the heartbeat
Well that was quick. After a blistering start to the season, a few pundits pondered out loud if anyone would ever handle this new blue juggernaut. A visit to Spurs, without their Belgian talisman, ended that fantasy abruptly.
Of course there were earlier signs of De Bruyne’s importance to the team. Since injuring his hamstring in the last league game at Swansea, City were held to a shaky draw away at Celtic in their last Champions League fixture. That Celtic team by the way were beaten 7-0 by Barcelona.
De Bruyne creates a chance every 26 minutes which leads the team comfortably compared to the rest of the City attacking quartet – Silva (32), Nolito (69), Sterling (104). A further slip up in their next fixture, a testing visit of Everton, may provide further proof he is the spoon that stirs City’s drink.
2) Rooney’s career is over!
The United captain’s benching seemed inevitable once results turned sour and he failed to blaze the trails in the early going.
The end appears near given the perfect storm forming at Old Trafford. The media in England hates Rooney whilst nurturing a man crush on Rashford as the next anointed savior of English football. Mkhitaryan returns soon and, having more class in his big toe than all others bar Zlatan, will absolutely find a place in the side. Martial glides past players like dribbling cones and cost in excess of $50M. Zlatan does not even know the location of the bench! So all that taken explain to us how Rooney starts a meaningful game for United ever again.
Also significant, a benching at 31 years old means so much more for him due to something Sir Alex Ferguson said years ago. Rooney needs constant football like he needs air to breathe in order to maintain his fitness and touch. So all signs point to Rooney’s play likely deteriorating further, more bad press, less oppurtunities given. A vicious and circular storm from which he will have no escape except he retires.
Thanks for the memories Wayne!
3) Liverpool’s murderers row in midfield could drive them on a title chase
Early signs point to us being entirely wrong in our preseason call on Liverpool.
We had the Anfield unit just missing out on the top 4 in our season predictions due to the uncertainty at the striker position and the problematic left back position. Klopp has addressed the latter more pertinent concern by utilizing James Milner’s energy and experience. A solution most would not have considered so credit to the Anfield coaching staff as it has mostly been successful thus far.
Regardless of the back end, worries on the striker have been massaged given the attacking midfield has proven so far to carry a million knives of varying uses:
Coutinho is capable of the sublime, as Arsenal found out, or the sometimes substandard ,as fans in row Z of any stadium could attest. But the issue for the opposition is he takes so many shots, leading all midfielders (29), that he will hurt you at some point.
Mane has been threatening, tied for 5th amongst midfielders in penalty area touches (43) and combining well with Firmino on the break.
Firmino has knitted the attack together well as the No.9 of the formation, dropping deeper between the lines as the creator in chief. His 20 chances created lands him 4th for all midfielders.
Add to this Llalana’s industry and cleverness in the final third and the pieces look to compliment each other as well as Klopp’s great Dortmund unit that won back to back titles.
4) Granit Xhaka has been proven a squarepeg in the Arsenal midfield
Let’s be clear. Our top poo poo transfer of the summer is a good player in our minds; but just not the right tactical fit as we explained previously which you can find here.
One of the main concerns was given Cazorla’s ever presence Xhaka‘s (in)ability to shield the back four would be problematic and we think we have been proven correct.
Exhibit A below – Arsenal’s only goal conceded against Watford. Watch closely as No. 29 gracefully allows the attacker through.
After that bit of manners and general frailty in the second half, Wenger swiftly benched Xhaka for Coquelin the next 3 games – Southampton at home, then a crucial away tie at PSG and finally away at Hull City.
Coquelin’s injury 31 minutes into the next crucial game at home against Chelsea saw Xhaka finally detach himself from the bench again.
Two beautiful long range strikes and a soft Premier League fixture list over the next 6 weeks may deceive Wenger (and the Arsenal fanbase) on Xhaka’s fit in this setup or maybe he grows into the role but we remain skeptical absent of evidence otherwise.
5) Chelsea should have paid $100M for a defender
We touched on this previously in our assessment of summer transfers that were essential for each contender. That said, we could not imagine the decline in that group would be so swift.
David Luis is David Luiz, Zouma remains a long term absentee and Terry inevitably picked up an injury as we suggested likely given his age. The real culprit though has been the more reliable Cahill who has struggled with the most basic passing in the back end leaving him solely to blame for points dropped away at Swansea and Arsenal and home to Liverpool.
Conte is a smart tactician and has attempted to mitigate this weakness by playing 2 defensive stoppers, Matic and Kante, to protect the backline but how effective that ploy will be over the season remains to be seen.
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