Man City superb, Mourinho in chaos
Iain Macintosh runs the rule over the latest 2016-17 Premier League action in this week’s edition of Heroes and Villains.
HEROES MANCHESTER City have been impressive in the past. At times during Manuel Pellegrini’s first season, they were very good, but they’ve never been this breathtaking. They’ve never been this beautiful. They’ve never thrown down this sort of performances. It’s not just that they’re winning; it’s that you watch them and you cannot envisage them not winning. How do you stop them? How do you combat that sort of movement? This is only Pep Guardiola’s second month in charge. How good will City be in a year?
Troy Deeney said that more should be made of Watford’s excellent performance than Manchester United’s uselessness, and we’re delighted to oblige. Across the park, the Hornets were faster, stronger and more determined. They didn’t fluke their victory; they were worth it, and that’s no mean feat. They’ve had to work quickly to settle new signings and to acclimate to another new manager with a new formation and a new style of play. People often criticise the Pozzo Family and the ruthlessness of their decision-making, but they haven’t gotten much wrong so far.
We expected Everton to improve under the more pragmatic leadership of Ronald Koeman, but we didn’t expect them to improve this much. I mean, it’s Everton, isn’t it? They’re so Everton-y. But for all the summer talk of seven title challengers, is it possible that an eighth just made itself known? After Leicester’s success last season, perhaps it isn’t as silly as it sounds. They have the players. They have the manager. They have money to reinforce in January.
Spirits are high on the other side of Stanley Park too. Liverpool were excellent in West London, as they blew Chelsea away with a ferocious first half display and then held out to claim all three points. There are still nervy moments at the back, and they haven’t kept a clean sheet yet, but they are devastating in attack, breaking forward at pace with strings of clever, onetouch passes. Liverpool’s schedule was so packed last season that Jurgen Klopp didn’t really have time to cultivate his ideas on the training field, but he has that time now, and he is using it wisely.
Like Liverpool, Arsenal are one of those teams that can conceivably beat anyone and lose to anyone. There were moments in their 4-1 victory over Hull when they looked as if they were going to slip up, but the boost that their confidence will take from resisting that selfdestructive urge will be profound. Santi Cazorla was in particularly fine fettle, and if they could just get through 90 minutes without looking vulnerable, you might start having dangerous ideas about Arsenal making a proper title challenge.
VILLAINS You can lose by a single goal to Manchester City and put it down as one of things that happens when superpowers clash. You can lose in the Europa League and point to a mix-and-match starting XI that’s failing to gel. But when you lose to Watford, you’re outplayed by Watford and you look sluggish and unbalanced all afternoon, that indicates some real problems. Jose Mourinho needs to make tough decisions. Paul Pogba is woefully out of form. Wayne Rooney hasn’t played well for months. It’s early days, but this isn’t working.
Who concedes four goals against West Bromwich Albion? No one ever concedes four goals against West Bromwich Albion. The idea of it is absolutely scandalous. That’s twice as many goals as the Baggies had shots on target last week at Bournemouth. We don’t want to take this away from Tony Pulis, but something is seriously, seriously wrong at West Ham, and it has nothing to do with their new stadium. Slaven Bilic needs to turn this around quickly because teams that concede eight goals in seven days to teams such as Watford and West Bromwich Albion don’t survive in the Premier League.
What on earth was that, Chelsea? We’ve heard plenty about Antonio Conte’s hard, physical preseason training sessions, but the Blues looked distinctly lethargic against Liverpool. Even more concerning is the fact that they were an absolute shambles at the back. Liverpool’s first goal was borne out of some of the worst marking in recent memory, with Gary Cahill trying to handle Liverpool players on his own while four of his teammates chose to marshal empty patches of grass.
Stoke City are in trouble. They have just a single point for their efforts. They have a double-figures negative goal difference, and they are no longer capable of defending themselves at set pieces. Mark Hughes has steadily improved the technical ability of his team since he took over from Tony Pulis, but this season has seen all the resilience seemingly drained out of them. Sacking season is coming, and if he wants to avoid being the first casualty of the season, he needs to turn this around.
No wonder Papy Djilobodji played only a minute for Chelsea. He doesn’t look up to the Premier League standard at all. For the second game in a row, a catastrophic error from the 27-year-old Senegalese defender cost Sunderland dearly. David Moyes is working tirelessly to change the mentality at the club and implant some sort of backbone to this collection of perpetual failures, but you have to wonder what on earth he was thinking when he spent £8 million on a player such as this.— ESPNFC.
Mourinho speaks to Luke Shaw after the left back was substituted during the humbling defeat