Finally the World Cup is over and done with and we can get back to the business end of things – Premier League Football. The World Cup might have it’s own charm, but nothing quite compares to league football. That’s when you wear your heart on your sleeve and every shot the opposition takes on goal feels like a personal insult. Ah the weekends have come to life once again.
This season promises to be a very interesting one with all the changes around the league – some expected, and some not so much. However, the opening weekend has managed to shine some light on some of the pre-season questions:
1. The answer to life after Suarez might just be Dejan Lovren
Last season’s unlikely title contenders were all but written off with the sale of Luis Suarez to Barcelona. The inability to get a world-class replacement in has all but added fuel to the fire. It is without a doubt that Suarez is a cracking player that might just be irreplaceable. However, is replacing him the biggest worry the club had going into the new season?
Daniel Sturridge’s 1st goal of the season was his 36th in 50 appearances – that’s quicker than goalscoring legends such as Rush, Fowler, Torres and Suarez. With the addition of Markovic and Lallana and the growing influence of Coutinho and Sterling, creating chances might not be too much of an issue as well. While the Reds might not score as many goals as last season, what they really need to be doing is shipping less in.
Since the days of Sami Hyppia, the Merseysiders haven’t had a defender to marshal the line. While Carragher was a full of passion and will forever be a legend, he wasn’t in the same mould as the Finn when it came to organizing the defence. Lovren on the other hand might be just the steadying presence Liverpool need to pull Skrtel and the rest into line.
If the Reds can distribute the goals contribution around and keep the defence steady, they might just find themselves in contention once again.
2. Louis Van Gaal is no Miracle Cure
Maybe it wasn’t ALL Moyes’ fault – maybe it’s the team. Darren Fletcher, the Red Devils’ vice-captain, sure doesn’t think so:
“People have been waiting for an opportunity to have a go at United for years and this is the perfect time. It’s a long season and I don’t think they will be saying those things at the end of it.”
He then went on to compare the current squad with the fabled ‘Class of 92’:
“It did have a feel of that in terms of people looking at the squad and maybe not seeing household names, but these players are good enough and the manager believes in them… All you need is a platform to go and perform and I’m sure they’ll definitely go and prove people wrong… This whole club is about bouncing back from adversity.”
One thing that Fletcher might not have taken into consideration is that the ‘Class of 92’ was fortified and backed by a solid foundation provided by the likes of Gary Pallister, Steve Bruce and Eric Cantona up front. With the departure of Vidic and Ferdinand can the United defence really stand the rigours of the season, or will they crumble. Until United sort themselves out at the back, their troubles may just continue.
3. Man City will continue to be a force… with or without Toure
I just don’t get Yaya Toure. For a couple of seasons he’s cited a million and one reasons for to leave…. yet he’s still there. Arguably one of the best box-to-box midfielders in the world and a vital cog in the thoroughly efficient machine that is Man City, is he irreplaceable? Not if the game against Newcastle is anything to go by.
New Citizen, Fernando might just fill the void left by Yaya Toure if he eventually does pack up and leave. The Brazilian looked assured throughout the game and while he might not provide the direct thrust through midfield as Toure does, for now he looks to be a steady presence covering the back four that’ll allow his more attack minded teammates the license to go forward and wreak havok.
City might not have brought in a marquee signing, but they’re strong across the pitch and quite possibly have added just that little bit of stability.
4. Yaya Sanogo’s feet have a mind of their own… and they’re usually not in agreement
It seems that every time I see Sanogo he’s trying not to fall down. It’s like his mind says “go left” and his feet go “ooh shiny”.
He might have bagged 4 goals against Benfica in pre-season and you might even think the first goal of the lot was a cheeky flick, but I’m not fooled. Don’t believe me? See for yourself…
Even Arsene Wenger’s first response to Yaya Sanogo’s performance was “That’s football, it always surprises you.”
Is it just me or does the ball hit him rather than he hits it? However, Ramsey’s not complaining cause it was Sanogo’s bungled pass that he put away to snag the Charity shield from City. While the Gunners have opened the cheque book and brought in Alexis Sanchez, they’re still lacking that cracking finisher – especially with their notorious injury record.
Yaya might come good and make me eat my words but unless that happens or they bring in a quality striker (and probably a more steel in midfield), the Gunners aren’t equipped to challenge just yet.
5. The Saints will keep marching on!
I have to give it to the Southampton. They did so well last year and were totally torn apart in the off-season losing several key players and their manager. But if their performance against Liverpool is anything to go by, there’s still a spark there and they are still capable of playing some really good football.
They’ve got an experience manager in Koeman and with a little luck they could have left Anfield with a point (or more). Clyne, Wanyama, Bertrand, Tadic and Ward-Prowse showed that they were more than willing to take the game to the Reds. I’d expect more good football from Southampton over the season.
All in all this promises to be one of the most interesting seasons yet, with all eyes on the Red Devils and (according to fans) their resurgence. Can Liverpool sustain last season’s form and prove their critics wrong or will it be a race between Chelsea and Man City… bring on the weekend.