Review of Week 3
Surprisingly, Sunderland didn’t come a’ cropper against a goal-happy Swansea side last week and have got their campaign up and running with a point courtesy of their draw against the Swans. They may yet add to that tally this weekend when they take on a similarly ropey side in Aston Villa.
Chelsea gained their first win of the season, seeing off West Brom although for the second time this season they were reduced to ten men and yet again failed to keep a clean sheet, conceding two. Nervy times for the defence and Mourinho’s mental well-being.
Manchester City did what was expected of them and continued their winning ways with a smart victory of Everton. All of a sudden, they are everyone’s favourite for the league even though they are largely playing the same team that was variously derided as tired, uninterested, over-rated etc last season. Everyone’s an expert…
Saturday 29th August
12.45 Newcastle v Arsenal
In comparison to last season (and many seasons before that), Newcastle owner, Mike Ashley, has opened the purse strings. Amongst others, in comes the like of Dutch star, Georginio Wijnaldum, from PSV as well as a man whose face probably adorns Diego Costa’s pyjamas, fulltime madman and erstwhile striker, Aleksandar Mitrovic, from Anderlecht.
New manager, Steve McClaren, no doubt enticed by a club with Newcastle’s tradition and history, was likely minded to hold some reservations by the circus-style goings-on up north recently and would have demanded some serious recruitment as a prerequisite to his taking on the managerial role. Time will tell whether his talent as coach and the ability of his players will be enough to navigate the mad waters of the absurd in which they drift.
As a football club, Arsenal didn’t exist at the time but had they, Shakespeare would have been well within his rights to substitute their name for “the northern star” when he wrote of Caesar’s of self-aggrandising musings on constancy. Arsenal have once again dallied in the transfer market.
Although the previous two summers saw them break their mold and splash out on two top quality players in Ozil and Sanchez, only Petr Cech has arrived so far this summer. The opposite direction has seen no less than 14 players sold, loaned etc, among them one-time back-up striker Yaya Sanogo (remember him? Is Wellbeck the ‘new’ Sanogo?).
Although Petr Cech had an outstanding game against Liverpool on Monday night, his opening game between the sticks against West Ham in week 1 was, as this column noted, as ‘Arsenal’ as Arsenal can get, his slapstick goalkeeping contributing to their opening day loss at home. But for Cech’s heroics, Liverpool might have grabbed three points, although that would have been two more than they deserved.
In the second half, Arsenal showcased their considerable talents as Liverpool fell back but still lacked the goals required to win games. Worryingly for Wenger, Arsenal have only found the back of the net in one match so far and the natives are getting restless for some more firepower before the transfer window closes. Given Wenger’s stubbornness loyalty to his players, he may well decide that the team has is good enough for third place and at the end of the day, who could ask for more?
Now, common sense would dictate that, even with all of the above noted, Arsenal should be favourites for this tie but this column is feeling more stupider than usual so is going to flag the odds of a Newcastle win as the price is nice – 21/4 from Betvictor.
15.00 Aston Villa v Sunderland
Glamour tie of the weekend, this. Funnily enough, this time last season, Villa were riding high at the top of the table and lots of giddy talk abounded about a push for Europe which saw then-manager, Paul Lambert, secure himself a generous contract extension from an opium-fuelled chairman (better explanations on a postcard). Everyone remembers how that played out, with Villa swinging so low that they once went a month without scoring a single goal.
Tim Sherwood, however, did an admirable job saving them from the drop and will be looking to avoid the same type of dog-fight this time around. After their opening day win against Bournemouth, Villa have lost two on the trot at home to Man Utd and away at Palace with neither result being particularly surprising. But Tim will be targeting a poor Sunderland side and knows that if his team is to tread water in a Floridian state of mid-table anonymity, these are the matches they must win.
As noted before, the loss of Benteke is sizeable but it may be that Delph leaves the larger dent. Villa have done admirably well with their forward acquisitions (Gested has been mentioned on these pages before but keep an eye out for young Barcelona loanee, Adama Traore) but replacing the English international’s ability and leadership role in the engine room of the team isn’t quite as straightforward. Time will tell if another player can step forward or not.
Sunderland, as noted above, have opened their account for the season after three games so it’s not all doom and gloom. It’s very close to that, true, but let’s give them the benefit of the… Ah, why bother? Dick Advocaat doesn’t sound like a happy manager and might be regretting the decision to continue on in his role this season when he could have left on a high at the close of last season, his reputation forever sealed from criticism and rebuke.
The man is in the game long enough to read the signs but it seems like emotion and the thought of one last pay-out trumped reason when it came to making his decision in this regard. Or maybe the thought of Mrs Advocaat ordering him to empty the cat-litter first thing in the morning encouraged him to push thoughts of retirement to the side for one more season at least.
Either way, his Sunderland team are already looking awful and unless some quality reinforcements are brought in quick-smart, this could be the season where the Black Cats finally lose all of their lives and begin the headlong hurtle toward the waiting hounds beneath.
Villa are favourites at just less than evens from Betfred at 10/11. That’s where the smart money should go. Money found down the back of the couch might like to try a Sunderland win at 19/5 from Betvictor.
15.00 Bournemouth v Leicester
Another glamour tie although maybe that is being too cynical. This season’s Burnley, Bournemouth, may well suffer a similar fate to the team they replaced but they may not be quite as Soviet as Sean Dyche’s charges were. Although they were beaten by Liverpool in week 2, they were desperately unlucky that the referee decided to rule in favour of Liverpool’s winning goal in accordance with the old definition of interfering with play in an off-side context and not the newer understanding whereby Philipe Coutinho’s attempt to connect with the ball behind the defensive line prior to Benteke finishing it would be considered illegal.
Other than that Bournemouth were very impressive but at this embryonic stage of the season, if we are already speaking about them being “desperately unlucky”, then the echoes of Burnley are loud.
Leicester, having succeeded in avoiding the drop last season as a result of a barely believable run in the last nine matches of the season, have decided to reward the manager responsible by firing him and replacing him with a man that most people like but few now trust as a result of his managerial career over the past decade. And yet, Leicester have gotten off to a flyer and sit level with Liverpool after three games (W2 D1) including an opening day 4-2 thumping of Sunderland. Although they lost the living legend that was Cambiasso, early indicators are favourable for the Foxes and, without the oft-times nasty Nigel Pearson managing them, neutrals look forward to more good-humoured action from the Tinkerman, Claudio Ranieri.
The bookies have Bournemouth as heavy favourites but both the draw at 13/5 from Paddypower and a Leicester win at 27/10 from Coral look like good value.