Game Week 4 was a weekend that featured six red cards, shock results and goals flying into every corner. As teams desperately tweaked themselves in the hope they were ready for the rest of the season – many realised that their business was nowhere near complete. Just what did we learn from this past weekend’s results as the (much needed for many) international break begins?
Is the title race over already?
Manchester City continued their early run of dominance with a habitual win over Watford – continuing to look like title favourites as Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United all struggle to achieve any run of form.
The dynamic attacking force of Aguero leading ahead of Sterling, Silva and Navas has run teams ragged, and Watford showed they couldn’t deal with it despite a hard-working display. Add De Bruyne into the mix and an already strong and complete City side can be thinking about an advanced Champions League campaign on top of the Premier League title.
Sterling’s goal soon into the second half took the sting right out of the Hornets, with Fernandinho putting City 2-0 up not long after. A routine victory for Manchester City at home – they look like clear favourites for the title so far.
Chelsea on the other hand continue to look like anything but Champions with a 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace – and this time there are no excuses about sendings off as Pardew’s men twice took the lead in a terrific counter-attacking performance.
Former Wolves hitman Bakary Sako scored his first goal for the club after signing on a free this summer, taking the momentum out of Chelsea who had dominated possession and shots statistics up to that point. Falcao managed to introduce himself into the Premier League this season and may be in for a better campaign than 2014/15 with a terrific guided header past McCarthy.
Ivanovic appeared to be the weak link Pardew wanted to exploit, as 50% of Palace’s attacks were down the left-hand side. Indeed, he appeared to be at fault when Sako crossed the ball in for Joel Ward to get the winning goal in the 81st minute. This should have been a routine victory for Chelsea at home, but an in-form Palace continued to add to Mourinho’s misery. You begin to wonder whether Chelsea can challenge for the title as they now sit 8 points behind Manchester City, with only 4 games played.
A Shot of Reality for ‘King Louis’ and ‘Deluded Brendan’
Louis Van Gaal needs to accept responsibility as Manchester United faltered to Swansea, 2-1, who some would consider lesser opposition. On the contrary though, Swansea are the model Premier League club for a team moving up from the Championship, having made the most of their resources to become a top Premier League side.
Making the most of resources is not something you can attribute to Manchester United who have glaring problems up front. Whilst Swansea proved they can seamlessly replace any striker who leaves the club i.e. Michu → Bony → Gomis; United are crying out for options behind Rooney.
Van Gaal bringing on Fellaini late on showcased a sense of desperation in their attacking options, having scored just 3 goals in 4 league games this season. With the squad as it is, they should at least be putting in more dominant performances when you consider Depay, Mata and Schweinsteiger amongst other big names. Having brought in Anthony Martial from AS Monaco for a fee that could rise to a staggering £50 million, to make him the most expensive teenager ever, United would like to think they have their options covered. Is he ready to take the league by storm just yet? The jury is out.
Liverpool also got a shot of reality, as West Ham thrashed them 3-0. Brendan Rodgers will receive plenty of criticism after being given plenty of cash to spend on signings since coming in, including £32.5million for Christian Benteke and £29million for Roberto Firmino.
For all Brendon’s talk on character and heart, Liverpool’s attack lacks any real identity, and it’s his responsibility to figure out his best forward line without throwing players together and hoping it works. West Ham however, clearly understand their style of play and for that reason they’ll get wins this season, despite not being the strongest side in the league. With wins against Arsenal and Liverpool already, Bilic can be happy with his side so far.
Reinforcements needed all-round
Arsenal put in a good performance against a Newcastle side that were down to 10 men for the majority of the game. They did the job they needed to, winning 1-0 after a Coloccini deflected own-goal from an Oxlade-Chamberlain shot.
Oxlade-Chamberlain was the brightest light for Arsenal, providing a large threat on the right-wing. This should be the season he finally matures and establishes himself as a top player. However in reality, Arsenal should have eased past this Newcastle side. You just can’t help but wonder how great this Arsenal side could be with a world class striker (i.e. Benzema). Questions have to be asked of Aleksandar Mitrovic though, looking incredibly volatile – securing yellow cards in his first two games and receiving the early red against Arsenal.
Southampton grabbed a much needed 3-0 victory over Norwich City as Tadic scored twice in a dominant performance. Norwich did in fairness have Steven Whittaker sent off after 30 minutes but did not look much stronger with 11 men on the pitch. The question remains as to whether Koeman can replicate the form of last season. The Saints looked as dominant as they were in his debut season but such performances have been inconsistant. Graziano Pelle scored from a Sadio Mane pass and he looks like he’ll be more than sufficient in leading the line. Norwich however, look desperately in need of reinforcements. Apart from an energetic Nathan Redmond, Alex Neil has to deal with a squad that still doesn’t look quite at home in the Premier League.
Aston Villa dominated in their game, but poor finishing means they’ll look at this as two points dropped rather than a point won against a dejected Sunderland side. Sunderland can be happy with performances from new signings Ola Toivonen and Yann M’Vila who were involved in both their goals, but they looked incredibly vulnerable as once forgotten man Scott Sinclair twice scored against them and Micah Richards missed an open goal.
Sunderland have conceded far too many goals this season, and whilst the result should give them a bit of bite, they have plenty of reason to remain worried. We do also wish Tim Sherwood the best of luck recovering from his hamstring injury after letting out his frustration with Sunderland’s equaliser. Well played Tim!
Bournemouth and Leicester both put in another battling performance in a 1-1 draw. Both these sides could be considered as surprise packages so far having put in some strong performances against top opposition – Bournemouth being newly promoted and Leicester having looked down and out a couple of months before the end of last season. Both sides look like they’ll be safe this season – but it is early, and with the squads they have and a bad run of results their fortunes could change at any point.
Tottenham Hotspur and Everton battled it out in a 0-0 draw as West Bromwich Albion put in another good defensive display in a 1-0 victory over 9 man stoke.
The main point to take away from the games was that John Stones and Joleon Lescott both put in very professional performances, despite knowing they could leave their clubs before the end of the transfer window. Despite my worry that West Brom may go down, they’re getting ugly wins and Pulis has a knack of picking up points where it doesn’t look likely – with Rondon up front, perhaps they’re going to be safer than one might think.