What’s the point of forever spruiking football’s participation rates if the A-League continues to struggle and the game’s various stakeholders can never seem to get on the same page?
The English Premier League was back again which meant lazy weekends spent missing football were over.
In the topsy turvy world that is the Premier League, we witnessed some amazing results, lots of goals, red cards and, most of all, entertainment. Here are a few talking points from the first week of EPL action:
1. Same old Arsenal
They came away with a narrow victory but the new season brought with much of the same. There is no doubting their potency and with Alexandre Lacazette and Danny Wellbeck, they are well served up front. Toss in Alexis Sanchez and it could be a lethal front three.
Mesut Ozil was untouchable at times, setting the tempo and passing with aplomb. Four goals against a dogged Leicester was a testament to their quality on the ball rather than the defensive frailties of their opponent.
Defensively, zonal marking continues to be their undoing. They should switch to a man coverage or hire a new defensive coach. The return of Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi to the starting line-up should help shore things up and improve organisation at the back.
Whether the November lull will still happen is anyone’s guess but if they fix their set piece defending, Arsenal will once challenge for the top four.
2. Australians make a mixed start to the EPL season
With no Australians getting regular game time last season, it was a welcome sight to see some Aussies not just getting game time but making solid contributions to their clubs.
Aaron Mooy had a Premier League debut to savour, having a direct hand in two goals and enjoying a great win with newly-promoted Huddersfield. He swerved in a wicked corner that was ultimately bundled in at the far post for the first goal of the game, then followed this up with a wonderful left-footed cross that was headed in for Huddersfield’s second.
At Brighton, Matt Ryan stood the unenviable task of keeping goal against the most potent attacking force in the league. Manchester City dominated possession but Brighton stuck to their task and Ryan made a brilliant save late in the first half preventing a near certain goal with a reflex stop from close range.
Unfortunately, Ryan made a howler that resulted in City’s second goal. City went on to win 2-0 but hopefully Ryan will be given another chance to prove what he can do.
3. Manchester clubs flex their muscle
They dominated the transfer window by spending in excess of £350 million. Results were expected this season and both clubs started well by posting comfortable victories against lower ranked opposition.
City were utterly dominant against Brighton but could not find the killer punch until the second half. Shielded by Fernandinho, the new look defence looked powerful albeit against meagre opposition with Vincent Kompany leading a back three and Kyle Walker and Danilo exhibiting real power and pace down the flanks.
The attack was fluid with interchanging positions and a combination of passing and individual skill threatened to take the game from Brighton. City remained patient and 2-0 was a comfortable day out.
Manchester United showed the EPL that they mean business comfortably seeing off West Ham 4-0. The addition of Nemanja Matic released Paul Pogba to play a more advanced role and they bullied the midfield even in the absence of Ander Herrera.
Marcus Rashford was a handful down the left and Romelu Lakaku proved the early doubters wrong with a smartly taken brace.
Jose Mourinho has a tremendous record in second seasons as manager of a club and Manchester United will take some beating.
4. Talk of Chelsea’s demise is grossly exaggerated
Chelsea had a mixed pre season, effectively losing Diego Costa in a seemingly baffling decision by Antonio Conte. They then sold Matic to rivals Manchester United before buying Alvaro Morata and Tiémoué Bakayoko. With Eden Hazard and Bakayoko out, their depth was tested.
Chelsea were on top in the early exchanges against Burnley but the turning point was the red card to Gary Cahill. Burnley were 3-0 up shortly after this and the game was as good as over.
Credit must go to Burnley for taking advantage and they will be chuffed to have gained three precious points away from home after only taking seven points on the road during the entirety of last season.
As for Chelsea, it is hard to know what to make of a loss when you have two men sent off. They made a good fightback and Morata showed that he will be an excellent signing. It may be a difficult few weeks with Cahill and Cesc Fabregas suspended, but with Hazard and Bakayoko coming in, Chelsea will be back.
5. Unhappy return for Benitez as Spurs at their fluid best
Another game heavily impacted by a red card. Jonjo Shelvey was given his marching orders for stamping on Dele Alli. It seemed innocuous, but on a second look it was idiotic at best and a sure-fire coach killer.
With Christian Eriksen at the heart of everything, Spurs turned the screws with Alli and Ben Davies capping off splendid moves that were just reward for their efforts. Harry Kane’s August drought continued, but I doubt he will be bothered – that’s just another pointless talking point for the media.
At the back, one Kyle Walker was replaced with another as 20-year-old – Kyle Walker-Peters produced an excellent display on debut. While the footballing world were moaning about Spurs’ lack of transfer window activity, Daniel Levy and Mauricio Pocchetino just got on with business.
£50 million for Kyle Walker was shrewd business and with Kieran Tripper and Walker-Peters in tow, perhaps Spurs knew what they were doing all along.
6. Danny Rose should go and buy himself some perspective
I will usually restrain myself from commenting on non-sporting matters but my rant of the week is Danny Rose and his comment about not being paid what he is worth. Yes, the market dictates what you should be paid but Rose should eat some humble pie and have a look outside the little bubble he lives in.
Allegedly on £65,000 per week, he earns more in one week than most of us will in five years of work. His annual wage of almost £4 million is more than most of will make in a lifetime.
If that amount of money is not enough to pay the bills, cover the mortgage, pay for a trip to Maldives and set yourself up for life, then I don’t know what is.