5 take­aways from the first two weeks of play

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

MANCH­ESTER City, Manch­ester United, Chelsea and sur­prise pack­age Hull City main­tained their 100 per­cent records in the Premier League this past week­end, but cham­pi­ons Le­ices­ter City and Arse­nal re­main win­less.

Here are five things we learned:

Pogba gives Manch­ester United ex­tra heft Paul Pogba made his sec­ond Manch­ester United de­but in a 2-0 win over Southamp­ton fol­low­ing his world-record £89 mil­lion ($116 mil­lion) re­turn from Ju­ven­tus, catch­ing the eye with his pur­pose­ful run­ning and shoot­ing. With the rangy Pogba, the gan­gly Marouane Fel­laini, the strap­ping Eric Bailly and tow­er­ing striker Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic – who scored twice – also in the start­ing XI, United look a more phys­i­cally im­pos­ing team than they have for some time. United no longer in­stil dread in their op­po­nents as they did un­der leg­endary for­mer man­ager Alex Fer­gu­son, but they look ready to go toe-to-toe with any­one un­der Jose Mour­inho.

Chelsea’s Costa is back to his best/ worst Chelsea have won both their open­ing league games 2-1. On both oc­ca­sions, Diego Costa scored a late win­ner. On both oc­ca­sions, he was for­tu­nate to still be on the pitch at the time. Against West Ham United, he net­ted an 89th-minute win­ner af­ter avoid­ing a sec­ond book­ing for a wild lunge on goal­keeper Adrian. At Wat­ford last week­end, he was booked for dis­sent – as he had been against West Ham – be­fore es­cap­ing pun­ish­ment for an ap­par­ent dive on the edge of the hosts’ box. With three min­utes re­main­ing he raced onto Cesc Fabre­gas’s through ball and tucked the win­ner past Wat­ford goal­keeper Heurelho Gomes. Costa’s 20 goals in­spired Chelsea to the ti­tle in 2015. He looked a shadow of him­self last sea­son, but if Chelsea are to mount a sus­tained ti­tle chal­lenge in 2016-17, new man­ager An­to­nio Conte will hope the trou­ble­some Spain in­ter­na­tional con­tin­ues to play on the edge.

Stoke no longer pro­vide Eng­land’s acid test When Pep Guardi­ola’s Barcelona were weav­ing their daz­zling pat­terns across the top-flight play­ing fields of Spain in the lat­ter part of the last decade, a com­mon re­frain in Eng­land was, “Yes, but could they do it on a wet, windy af­ter­noon in Stoke?” Guardi­ola took his Manch­ester City team to Stoke City’s newly re­named Bet365 Sta­dium at the week­end and the weather was ap­pro­pri­ately un­pleas­ant. But with Stoke man­ager Mark Hughes try­ing to in­tro­duce a more ex­pan­sive play­ing style, the Pot­ters are no longer the fear­some prospect they were un­der for­mer man­ager Tony Pulis. They proved no match for Guardi­ola’s men as Ser­gio Aguero and new re­cruit Nolito each scored twice in a one-sided 4-1 vic­tory. Burn­ley prove posses­sion isn’t ev­ery­thing Another ef­fect of Guardi­ola’s achieve­ments with Barcelona was a Europe-wide fetishi­sa­tion of posses­sion, but as Burn­ley’s 2-0 win over Liver­pool proved, it is what you do with the ball that counts. Jur­gen Klopp’s Liver­pool saw 80 per­cent of the ball at Turf Moor, but Burn­ley’s supreme de­fen­sive or­gan­i­sa­tion re­stricted the vis­i­tors to lon­grange pot­shots. Sean Dy­che’s side pre­vailed cour­tesy of well-taken first-half strikes by Sam Vokes and An­dre Gray to record their first win since se­cur­ing pro­mo­tion from the Cham­pi­onship in May.

Wenger is run­ning out of time, and pa­tience Arse­nal’s sup­port­ers could be for­given for feel­ing like they have been here be­fore. Just as in 2015, the north Lon­don club have made one ex­cit­ing sign­ing early in the trans­fer win­dow – Petr Cech last year, Granit Xhaka this – but once again they have failed to strengthen their squad fur­ther with any sig­nif­i­cant sign­ings. Just as in 2015, they were beaten at home in their open­ing game – by West Ham last year, by Liver­pool this – and are al­ready be­ing writ­ten off as ti­tle con­tenders. Man­ager Arsene Wenger an­grily hit out at scru­tiny of the club’s trans­fer pol­icy fol­low­ing his side’s 0-0 draw at cham­pi­ons Le­ices­ter City and said he would not spend money for the sake of it. But with 10 days un­til the trans­fer win­dow closes, the clock is tick­ing. –

Photo: AFP

Manch­ester United’s French mid­fielder Paul Pogba (right) pro­vides a more phys­i­cal pres­ence for Manch­ester United.

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