Gameweek 5 of the Barclay’s Premier League saw Arsenal FC gain the top spot from Liverpool, who fell to 5th place. A shocking 4-1 destruction of Man United by their local rivals Man City stole the show, while Paolo Di Canio lost his job after a 3-0 defeat to West Brom. A look at the happenings in the Premier League over the weekend.
1) Manchester City Steamroll Over Rivals United
Minutes prior to the kick-off , Manchester United fans would have felt an ominous chill on hearing probably the last thing they wanted to hear: Robin van Persie had pulled out of the match. A thigh strain sustained during training led to him having to pull out at the last moment. While Danny Welbeck took up his spot, Alvaro Negredo led the line for Manchester City instead of Edin Dzeko. For a match most were expecting to be a cagey affair, especially considering that both managers have had lukewarm starts to the season, the 4-1 final scoreline was one no one could have predicted. And it really could have been worse. While United had a larger share of the possession (59%) by the end of the match, City made much better use of the ball. Yaya Toure and Fernandinho were dominant in midfield, while Vincent Kompany (back from injury) was at his imperious best, not letting Wayne Rooney get any clean shots on goal. Negredo’s solid frame perfectly complemented Sergio Aguero’s quick incisive movements, while Samir Nasri and Jesus Navas were brilliant reminders of what Man United are lacking: creative midfielders. Nasri was especially excellent; between him and Aleksandar Kolarov, the left flank was the source of most of City’s attacks.
David Moyes will have a lot to think about, as United were limited to mostly route-one football. It’s telling that their solitary goal came from a direct free kick by Wayne Rooney. Moyes’ tactics will be called into question, and rightly so. In the absence of van Persie, he chose to replace the Dutch star with Welbeck, who is hardly a similar class of talent. The introduction of Tom Cleverley in the second half formed a much more cohesive 3 man midfield, though one wonders why he was . One also wonders why Moyes chose not to use the other players at his disposal, like Shinji Kagawa (who played well against Leverkusen), Nani (whose contract has been extended, presumably as a show of faith) and Javier Hernandez (who has repeatedly raked in goals when used as a ‘super-sub’). United fans are going to be baying for his blood if performances like these become a staple for the team.
2) Liverpool Suffer Unflattering Defeat To Southampton
Liverpool FC had a good run at the top of the table, but it was called to a screeching halt by Mauricio Pochettino’s Southampton side. Brendan Rodgers’ decision making was a little suspect, as he fielded 4 center-backs despite having Jose Enrique and Martin Kelly on the bench. The side’s lack of depth, and most notably the absence of any creative midfielder outside of Philippe Coutinho (who’s unlikely to feature before end-October due to a shoulder injury) , was exposed in a match where Liverpool were the poorer side on the pitch.
The match-winning goal was scored by defender Dejan Lovren in the 53rd minute, who headed the ball in from a corner. Lovren was lucky not to concede a penalty in the first half, as the referee missed his clearly mistimed tackle which brought down Daniel Sturridge in the Southampton box. Iago Aspas and Raheem Sterling played one half of the match each (the latter coming on after the break), but neither really contributed in any significant way (owing, again, to their physical frailty) to the Liverpool attack. Jordan Henderson was shunted from a Right Attacking Midfield position, to a more central role (on Sterling’s introduction) and finally right-back, but failed to impress in any of these roles. Steven Gerrard had an awful outing, and lost the ball on numerous occassions in the second half. The only positive take away was the performance of Simon Mignolet: the Belgian goalkeeper had a stellar outing that included a stunning triple-save. All in all, Rodgers will be dying to see Luis Suarez back in the side; the side that played against Southampton on Saturday has no chance of finishing in the top 4.
3) Di Canio’s Resignation Written By Sessegnon Goal
“Attitude is the most important [quality]. Obviously a player has to have talent but talent without attitude is nothing.” – Di Canio
The above quote sums up the kind of manager (well “head coach”, actually) Paolo Di Canio is. He has had a strained relationship with the squad since he took over the reins. It wasn’t just that he insisted on a regime of extreme hard work and abstinence from any forms ‘distractions’ (like partying, or drinking in general). It was also the fact that he regularly passed the blame for any failures directly on to the players. Even after this 3-0 loss to West Brom on Sunday, Di Canio was quick to implicate his players with his comment that “We don’t have many leaders in terms of desire to play with a premier style”. Reports indicate that a post match discussion with the players on the training grounds turned into an ugly finger-pointing argument. However, his fate may have already been sealed by the 20th minute of the West Brom match, when Stephane Sessegnon scored on his debut.
Sessegnon and Di Canio had a public break-up of sorts, with the Italian manager declaring that the player “didn’t care” about Sunderland. Sessegnon was polite enough not to celebrate on scoring his debut goal against his former side, but he would surely have felt a sense of satisfaction at getting back at the Italian. The match was a fairly drab and dull affair with little creativity from either side, though West Brom were the better team on the pitch. None of Sunderland’s new attacking signings Emanuele Giaccherini, Jozy Altidore and Fabio Borini (on loan from Liverpool) had any impact on the match. Sunderland currently sit at the bottom of the Premier League with one point from 5 games, and a goal difference of minus 8.
4) Arsenal Make The Most Of Set-Pieces
Stoke City continue their evolution under Mark Hughes: the players looked keen to pass the ball, even inside their own half. It was an ironical match, as Arsenal scored 3 goals from set-piece situations and Stoke City scored their solitary goal from open play. Aaron Ramsey continued his surprising goalscoring form, while Mesut Ozil seems to have become THE key player in the London side, having a hand in all 3 goals.
While Ozil has been earning plaudits for his passing and movement in his initial games for Arsenal, this time around he showed off one weapon he has at his disposal: dead balls. The first goal was a case of poor goalkeeping as Asmir Begovic failed to deal with Ozil’s curling freekick and allowed Ramsey to score, while the second came as a result of a solid header by Per Mertesacker from Ozil’s corner. The third was a pin-point curling indirect free-kick that seemed to be aimed right at Bacary Sagna’s forehead. Arsenal are looking a different side these days, one which is perhaps finally more focused on winning than on playing pretty, passing football.
5) Elsewhere . . .
Chelsea‘s Oscar vindicated boss Jose Mourinho’s decision to field him as their number-10, as he scored in their 2-0 win against local rivals Fulham. Many an eyebrow had been raised when Mourinho commented (last week) that Juan Mata would have to adapt his style to better suit Chelsea’s new style of play, and that Oscar was his first choice number-10. West Ham and Newcastle United were defeated after letting their leads slip against Everton and Hull City respectively. Leighton Baines was the main man for Everton, scoring twice through free-kicks, while Chelsea loanee Romelu Lukaku also scored one. Newcastle United will be ruing their inability to defend their leads, after going ahead twice through a brace from Loic Remy (on loan from QPR). Tottenham‘s new-look team seemed like they would have to make do with a nil-nil draw against Cardiff City‘s new-look team, until Paulinho managed to steal a goal in the dying moments of the game. For all their passing prowess, the Lily Whites seem to still be suffering from an inability to make the most of the chances created by their wonderfully creative midfield. Swansea City recorded an easy 0-2 victory over Crystal Palace, with the usual suspect Michu again getting on the score-sheet, while Aston Villa took down Norwich City in a match where Norwich’s Robert Snodgrass’s penalty was saved by Brad Guzan.
Norwich City 0 – 1 Aston Villa
Liverpool 0 – 1 Southampton
Newcastle United 2 – 3 Hull City Tigers
West Brom 3 – 0 Sunderland
West Ham 2 – 3 Everton
Chelsea 2 – 0 Fulham
Arsenal 3 – 1 Stoke City
Crystal Palace 0 – 2 Swansea City
Cardiff City 0 – 1 Tottenham
Manchester City 4 – 1 Manchester United
- Despite being deployed in a holding midfielder role, Tottenham’s Paulinho managed to get 6 shots on goal against Cardiff City.
- Swansea City’s Michu had 7 attempts on goal; the most by any single player in the Premier League this gameweek.
- Cardiff City’s David Marshall had the maximum number of saves this weekend (11), followed by Liverpool’s Simon Mignolet and Fulham’s David Stockdale (7).
Stats courtesy Whoscored.com
Goal of the Week
Sergio Aguero’s sublime finish after some impressive build up play by Nasri and Kolarov was a hands-down winner