'Bit of a miserable start isn't it? Do you want people to read this?'
'It's not my fault not much happened, it's the World Cup, there's always a hangover after a World Cup.'
'What do you mean?'
'Spurs & Arsenal fielded squads shorn of World Cup stars, Man Utd are already half injured or shipped to Italy, Liverpool, Man City, Tottenham & Arsenal ground out perfunctory wins against theoretically inferior opposition and Aston Villa won away.'
'Villa won away? Good one.'
'No, they did.'
Last season, there were a shade under 27 shots per game in the Premier League. So that's 13 or so per team. This week we've seen an average of about 11 each, which is on the low side & interestingly some of the shot shy teams have pulled off good results. Top of this list is Swansea who registered 2 goals and a win from a paltry 5 attempts. Aston Villa also converted 7 shots into a win and the WBA v Sunderland game involved a mere 17 shots yet 4 goals and a point each.
There's been a definite lack of verve amongst the so-called top teams & though all but Man Utd got going with points, none have generally impressed. City's prevention of any shots on target is admirable, but in parts against Newcastle they looked a little leggy and vulnerable; in other parts they looked efficient & comfortable with their 1-0 lead, but like Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham, they ended up on the favoured side of a closely contested game.
The Transfer Window:
The transfer window hangs heavily over the league right now, these games almost feel like a passing interlude before the business of tabloid sensationalism takes back over & gossip & craziness ensue. City & Chelsea claim to be finished for the time being & both look well set, but a lot of squads seem to have problematic weaknesses and more obviously an excess of soon to be unwanted players. Tottenham and Man Utd especially seem to have a list of high-earning but available players waiting to find out whether their next few months are to be spent in the reserves, Turkish football or a relegation battle.
'I'm happy to stay and fight for my place.' has become the byline for knowing you've got as good a contract as you're gonna get and i'm expecting a loan tsunami to hit soon enough. Until that wave rolls out, the league has an untidy feel to it, so, not a good time to drop points or give a start to rivals prior to the settled period immediately after the window... wait for it... 'SLAMS SHUT'.
Man Utd, not so bad?
The reaction to the Utd defeat from fans & media alike has been entirely unsurprising, after all a home defeat against perceived lesser opposition is all too Moyesian & familiar, but the numbers weren't too bad. Limiting Swansea to so few attempts is a decent endorsement of what Van Gaal will bring & if replicated will bring a lot more positive results than not. His experiments are currently hampered by widespread injury & disillusioned squad bloat & the pressure is seriously on Ed Woodward to get his shit together, and soon. When young players such as Tyler Blackett are getting PL starts not because of their immense promise but because you've not replaced 3 veteran stalwart defenders & have no options, you need to act fast.
But, beyond this, they posted a fair attacking number here & can consider themselves unfortunate to lose with a 3:1 shot ratio. Of course, the mirror is always held against Ferguson's ferocious and hungry, swarming teams who were characterised by a sheer will to win & a relentless commitment to driving forward in the face of adverse scorelines; one feels Van Gaal will instill different values that may well be similarly effective in achieving good results in time. After all, calculated & regulated systems are the 'in' thing these days & Ferguson's hubristic style is now a part of history.
Obligatory Tottenham bit:
Exam question: Tottenham, having appointed a new coach and appearing to have a settled squad, are looking forward to a new season. Following a steady but successful pre-season, how would you imagine they will fare in their first match?
(a) A comfortable victory
(b) A well organised and impressive display
(c) A clusterfuck from start to finish
Please provide supporting evidence for your answer
Half a team deemed unready due to late returns from the World Cup, a red card and a penalty conceded within half an hour causing strategy to fly out of the window, a red card for West Ham evening things up and a last minute winner from a novice centre back (playing right back) charging through into a striker's position.
A lively cameo from Townsend has made me think 'impact sub' might be a good role for him and nobody could be disappointed with Dier's debut; he's already showed in 90 minutes that he's likely to get loads of game time this season & this was no 'Sun Star Man he scored so he's the best' performance, he showed good maturity & played well. Given Big Sam has been a banana skin for both Pochettino (this was his first victory against him) and Tottenham (last year... ugh), it was very pleasing to leave the Boleyn Ground for another year without any damage.
Onwards now to a two-bit Europa League play-off where the real interest will be personnel choices and trying to read between the lines as to who is becoming unwanted, and who will become core to Pochettino's system.
Individual stat highlights of the week
- Early signs that Raheem Sterling may become more focal in the absence of Suarez; his performance including 5 dribbles, 4 shots, a couple of KPs, an assist and a goal certainly had a bit of everything that matters.
- Same match & Wanyama made 9 tackles whilst Fonte hit 13T&Is. Pochettino may have moved on but it appears Koeman is to keep his legacy of hard work.
- Jedinak put in 14 T&Is, so no change there from 'Mile the Wall' & Alexis Sanchez & Cazorla both had strong offensive games for Arsenal.
- Patrick Van Aanholt got an assist to go with 13 T&Is
- 6KPs for Joey Barton
- 8 dribbles for Eden Hazard
Thanks for reading!
Make sure you check back next week and indeed every week for the 'Weekly Round up' and in between i'll be looking to incorporate some more varied and detailed stat articles and probably some Spurs stuff too.
Til the next time,
James @ 'The Big Ripple'