Liverpool Show Their Title Credentials
The Reds completed another highly impressive victory as they overcome an underwhelming Chelsea at Stamford Bridge 2-1 on Friday Night. Liverpool surged out of the blocks with a close range finish from Dejay Loveran and a spectacular 30-yard strike from captain Jordan Hendersen surged them into an early 2-0 lead. Despite Diego Costa pegging one back on the hour mark Chelsea never really threatened and Liverpool were fully deserved winners. The Reds had Chelsea pinned in their own half for much of the opening half playing with an intensity and pressure that showed their title ambition this season. Jurgen Klopp’s men have now won 7 points from a possible 9 against Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea away and have put themselves in a fantastic early season position. It was a first defeat for Antonio Conte, however the truth is this defeat has been coming. Chelsea scratched out wins at the death against West Ham and Watford and were calamitous at the back in their 2-2 draw at Swansea last Sunday. Chelsea’s ponderous defence and ineffective midfield was again exposed here despite David Luiz performing admirably on his return to the club. I tipped Liverpool to be the big improvers this year and finish 2nd in the Premier League and their early season form suggests they have the confidence and the ability to make a sustained challenge for the title under Jurgen Klopp.
Double Setback For Mourinho
Jose Mourinho is suddenly back under the microscope after back to back defeats in the Premier League and Europa League during the week. Mourinho enjoyed an excellent start to his Manchester United career with three convincing Premier League victories and the Charity Shield in the back pocket. However the 2-1 result at Old Trafford in the Manchester Derby to old foe Pep Guardiola and Manchester City without Sergio Aguero will have damaged him slightly. I was a little bemused, if not surprised, at his post-match comments when he took aim at his players and the officials. No one is suggesting Jose Mourinho will experience a similarly disastrous season or meltdown at Manchester United as his final year at Chelsea descended into. However, his post match press conference did have some familiar echoes of his fateful final few months at Stamford Bridge as he took aim at players and officials. In his final game at Chelsea at Leicester, Mourinho described his work as being "betrayed" as he explained a number of tactical positions his players had failed to take up which he had outlined at length in the build-up. While he did not go to that extent here, he similarly did explain how "sometimes players disappoint managers”. While some old school players respond well to a public dressing down, others might be unimpressed and would have preferred if Mourinho defended his players in public and gave them the hair dryer in private. United went on to put in a dismal display in losing at Feyenoord 1-0 in the Europa League on Thursday night as Mourinho left some key men at home. He will want a quick bounce back at Watford this weekend otherwise those same demons he experienced at Stamford Bridge last season might start coming to the surface.
David Moyes Tough Start At Sunderland
One wonders if David Moyes is regretting his choice to swoop on the Sunderland job so late after Sam Allardyce was announced as England manager in late July. Taking over a squad that has been accustomed to relegation battles and with plenty of holes in it, Moyes was able to sign 10 players late in the piece. However, unsurprisingly, the side has failed to gel to date winning just 1 point in their opening 4 matches. It is not unfamiliar territory for Sunderland who have now gone a remarkable 6 Augusts in a row in the Premier League without a victory. It has been a turbulent 3 years for Moyes after his wonderful 11 year stint at Everton. His Everton sides were praised for their consistency and their ability to punch above their weight, twice claiming Champions League positions during his tenure. However, as his old side brushed Sunderland aside at the Stadium of Light on Monday, Moyes had to endure his old fans at the club he served so well gleefully singing "you’re getting sacked in the morning." Moyes seemed overwhelmed with the size of the job at Manchester United and failed to last one season. While at Real Sociedad he lasted exactly a year and accumulated just 46 points from 38 matches in charge before he was sacked. While expectations at Sunderland are far lower, relegation would be another hammer blow for David Moyes as his managerial career takes tumble after tumble.
Guardiola Has His Side Ticking
Pep Guardiola has made a lightning fast start to his Manchester City career in a truly ominous sign for his rivals. The stats read 7 games, 7 wins with 21 goals scored and only 4 conceded. It is early days, however they are the sort of numbers you associated with his teams in Barcelona and Bayern Munich. The difference with those teams is they achieved that dominance over a period of years, not games. Many critics, including myself, thought those teams were at glorified "one team leagues" where Pep could do as he pleased against teams that rolled over in many respects and England would prove the ultimate challenge. However so far City have looked imperious at times with their manic pressing and crisp passing game. They dismantled traditionally tough Stoke away, in a place that is meant to be the true rough and tumble playground of English football. The 4-1 victory was done with alarming ease in the end. However it was their performance in Saturday's Manchester Derby which really raised eyebrows. City overwhelmed United with their quick passing football and ravenous pressing game. They swarmed the midfield and cut United open with sheer ease and could easily have been 3-4 up before Claudio Bravo’s howlers changed the momentum of the game. While Guardiola did temper his attacking instinct a little in the last 20 minutes as City dropped deeper, they still posed a huge threat on the counter attack. While it is early days and City do have a tendency of starting the season fast, Guardiola appears to have his charges firing and they have asserted themselves as clear early favourites for the title. Guardiola and his men will be looking for another goal spree when they take on struggling Bournemouth at home on Saturday.
Koeman Makes Flying Start At Everton
New Everton manager Ronald Koeman has guided the club to the best Premier League start in over a decade with 10 points and equal second place from an opening 12 points on offer. Koeman has made a much needed fast start as he sets about his goal of bringing the club back into European Football after a couple of turbulent and disappointing couple of seasons under Roberto Martinez. Koeman's initial task at Everton was to tighten a defence that leaked alarmingly last campaign. When Manchester City came in for John Stones, Koeman needed to plug some holes in the transfer window. Koeman signed veteran goalkeeper Martin Stekelenburg after the pair had an excellent working relationship at both Ajax and Southampton. Ashley Williams came in to replace John Stones and, whilst at 32 he is no spring chicken, he has made a solid start to his Everton career. Koeman also picked up Idrissa Gueya, the Senegalese midfielder from Aston Villa, for just 7 million pounds. Gueye has made an immediate impact in the middle of the park. With his tough tackling and ability to shield the defence, he has already become a trusted and central figure to Koeman's team. Koeman's work already appears to be paying dividends with Everton conceding just 2 goals in the opening 4 fixtures. Much sterner tests than the likes of Sunderland and West Brom wait in the wings, however the return to form of Romelu Lukaku will be crucial to Koeman. Lukaku scored his first Premier League goals for 6 months with a thumping hat-trick against Sunderland. The physical and skilful centre forward was chased hard by Chelsea and other top clubs during the window, however Everton resisted. Everton will be looking to continue their excellent start to the season when they take on Middlesbrough at Goodison Park on Saturday.
Hammers With On and Off Field Issues
There was a lot of hype about West Ham this year after an excellent 2015/16 season and their move to the vast surrounds of the Olympic Stadium. However, after 3 defeats from 4 Premier League matches and a shock early exit from the Europa League before the group stage, Slaven Bilic's men have endured a torrid start to their campaign. Things escalated on the weekend when West Ham suffered a shock 4-2 loss to London rivals Watford, despite leading the game 2-0 after half an hour. West Ham fans have been far from impressed with various details of their new home ground, after leaving the hostile and atmospherical cauldron that was Upton Park after 116 years. The club had to endure embarrassing scenes on the weekend of their own supporters fighting in the stands. Concerns over a lack of security and fans failing to adapt to the new stadiums ‘no standing’ policy has seen tensions come to the surface and spill over. West Ham are currently working on a solution to move some of the young families that are attending games away from some of their more vociferous supporters. Ten West Ham fans were ejected on Saturday coming after ten West Ham fans being banned for life after incidents in the Europa League games and their home clash against Bournemouth.