Utd still look to be carrying the burdens of last season. Lacking in confidence and nervous at home, I watched most of the game and it seemed that half the team wanted to attack and the other half was frightened to. Understandable, considering Rio Ferdinand has never been replaced, and with Vidic gone too, the team cannot function adequately while the defence is martialled by distinctly average players such as Tyler Blackett and Chris Smalling.
Utd need to spend big, yet have been quiet due to Van Gaal’s late return from the World Cup and his need to analyse from their opening games exactly what they need. Expect some big spending late August, with Real Madrid’s Angel De Maria a plausible option on the attacking side.
Props to Gary Monk who is doing a great job at Swansea in giving continuity to the passing philosophy instilled by Michael Laudrup (now manager of Lekhwiya in Qatar).
Man City looked a completely different team to the one Arsenal trounced in the Community Shield nine days ago and swatted Newcastle Utd aside comfortably away from home, 2-0. Chelsea are my tip for the title, but having watched £12m defensive midfielder Fernando in action, that might have to be revised; he was an absolute beast.
Liverpool struggled at Anfield, narrowly beating Southampton 2-1. Despite losing a plethora of players in the summer, Southampton played well and were unlucky not to get a point. Last season, Liverpool conceded too many goals but had the firepower to overcome that. Now their threat has been blunted with the departure of Suarez, they’re going to struggle to adapt – and I think we saw that at the weekend.
Monday evening, Burnley were two yards off Chelsea all night, yet managed to get an early goal after sloppy defending from a set piece. Chelsea stormed back and were 3-1 up by half time. Diego Costa equalised within minutes then got booked for a dive when a penalty should have been given and Burnley keeper Tom Heaton sent off.
Fabregas ran the show from midfield. His half-volley pass for Andre Schurrle’s goal - Chelsea’s second, was exquisite. It’s only one game, but on this evidence Fabregas will be the signing of the season.
At the Emirates, sleepy Arsenal were dismal against a Palace side coming to terms with the departure of manager Tony Pulis. Aaron Ramsey popped up in injury time to complete a fight back after Arsenal conceded a first half header to Palace debutant Brede Hangeland. The poor performance of Santi Cazorla might be deemed a concern – he looked distracted amidst rumours of cash rich Atletico Madrid sniffing around, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Wenger tried to claw back some of the £63m he’s spent this summer by letting the Spaniard go.
Goal of the weekend came at Filbert Street, where Aidan McGeady scored a cracking curler from the edge of the box in Everton’s 2-2 draw with Leicester City. West Ham were the weekend’s chumps, missing a penalty against 10-man Tottenham, then losing the game in the last few minutes to debutant Eric Dier.
By all accounts, Dier is a classy, composed ball-playing centre-back. Not so surprising… until you discover he’s English.
Aston Villa got off to a good start, beating Stoke 1-0 at the Britannia Stadium. Ron Vlaar and Philippe Senderos looked a commanding centre-back pairing. Early days, but with Roy Keane on hand to add his experience and death stares, Villa could be one of the season’s surprises.
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