Carlos Tevez justifies his managers armband faith with a goal and two assists against QPR. Steven Fletcher grabs a double on his Sunderland debut, Michu is amongst the goals again, while Spurs’ faltering start under Andre Villas-Boas shows no sign of abating.
Robin Van Persie scores three and misses a spot-kick as United overcome Southampton. Santi Cazorla dazzles at Anfield as Arsenal’s resilience returns another clean sheet.
Scoring for the third match in a row, Tevez’s points returns continue to increase by the Gameweek, with a pair of assists also accrued yesterday. City are clearly far from their best right now, their play looks somewhat sluggish at times despite dominating games but their reliance in the Argentine to produce is obvious – Tevez has played a part in six of their eight goals thus far. He’d started the season as a possible option to Sergio Aguero; with his compatriot sidelined due to knee injury, he’s looking near-essential and a real captaincy option every time he sets foot on the pitch.
Edin Dzeko’s goal and assist return may warrant interest, although he still remains under the threat of rotation when both Serigo Aguero and Mario Balotelli are fit and available. The latter is due to have an eye operation on September 4 with assistant boss, David Platt, confirming that the Italian is not expected to be sidelined for a long period..
“It’s not a major procedure and he should be back quite quickly. I’ve heard suggestions he will be out for a month but that’s not true and I’m not sure where that came from.”
The City Defence
The City back four have now failed to collect a single clean sheet in any of their opening three fixtures. This clearly begins to dent the appeal of their expensive options at the back – particularly Joe Hart and Vincent Kompany. The City skipper was, himself,questioned on the failings of the City defence following yesterday’s result…
“No it doesn’t matter. We’ve always proved to be solid come difficult times…Come December, January and February we’ll show it. At this time everyone tries to play the game nicely…We left ourselves exposed but at the end of the season we won’t do that.”
Kompany’s quote would appear to indicate that, while clean sheets are desirable, right now. City are risking an attacking policy that is leaving them more open at the back. This will do little to boost the confidence of those who have already handed the City defence with heavy investment and with Stoke, Arsenal and Fulham to come next, City’s run without defensive returns could go on. Indeed, Roberto Mancini appears to identify the lack of goals when dominating sides, as the main issue with his side right now…
“I think we played well in first half, but we have one problem at the moment – when we have a chance to score we don’t score and the game can change.”
His instant impact at Swansea on Saturday went some way to vindicate Martin O’Neill’s summer-long chase for the Scotsman’s signature. The Black Cats’ pre-season was disastrous from an attacking perspective – they failed to score in four of six friendlies and also drew a blank in their opener at Arsenal but Fletcher’s eye for goal saw him net twice on his league debut for Sunderland. The creative potential of the Sunderland midfield could well be boosted by his eye for goal – Seb Larsson grabbed an assist at the Liberty as the Swans’ 100% record came to an end. Post-match, O’Neill was quick to praise the player, but stressed he is still short of full fitness…
“Darren Bent did very well here and Steven has come here to score goals. But he can also do well for us outside the penalty area, he has a lovely touch, but it was very pleasing for him to get off the mark. With all the euphoria of Adam [Johnson] signing for us he was maybe in his shadow a bit, but he is a very good player….He’s not properly match fit and he scores two goals today and it’s great. The crowd chanting his name, it’s fantastic and I think he’ll do very well when he is properly fit.”
While the backline faltered and conceded for the first time this term, Michael Laudrup’s midfield continued their strong start to the season with points aplenty yesterday. Michu yet again was amongst the goals, taking his tally to four already. Wayne Routledge and Nathan Dyer bagged a goal and assist respectively, meaning the trio have produced attacking returns in all three of their games so far under Laudrup. With Danny Graham failing to net, the Swansea midfield looks set for further investment over the fortnight international break due to an upcoming strong set of fixtures, though new signing Pablo Hernandez seems primed for a start on the flank, with Routledge perhaps the most likely to make way. At the back, the problems are quickly racking up for Laudrup – Chico will serve a three-match ban after his dismissal yesterday, while Neil Taylor is gearing up for a lengthy absence after fracturing his ankle. With both set to be sidelined, the likes of Ben Davies or Alan Tate could benefit at Taylor’s expense and both offer a cut-price route in the Swansea backline, while Tate also offers cover in the centre for Chico, along with Kyle Bartley and Garry Monk.
It hasn’t been the best of starts for Andre Villas-Boas. As Tottenham continue to stutter under their new manager, Fantasy faith is starting to waver after just three goals and no clean sheets in their opening trio of matches. It’s a real worry for Fantasy managers right across the team – Gareth Bale has failed to fire at all despite home matches against West Brom and Norwich in the last two, while Gylfi Sigurdsson’s game time looks concerning. We’d expected the Icelandic star to be more certain of minutes after Rafael Van der Vaart’s departure but he was afforded less than an hour yesterday – Emmanuel Adebayor continues to be utilised as a sub, with match-fitness a definite issue. Spurs still have a decent run of fixtures up next, with (rdg, QPR, AVL) in the next four but, such is their form, departures look more likely than transfers-in.
Robin Van Persie
The Dutchman’s goal-getting ability shows no sign of slowing down as he grabbed a hat-trick to seal a superb comeback for United at St Mary’s. His Fantasy owner would have been somewhat worried after a failed Panenka spot-kick attempt but Van Persie more than atoned for fluffing his lines, taking his tally to four in two starts since joining this summer.
Just three matches into the season and rotation has bitten hard. David De Gea was dropped to the bench for the trip to Southampton – a decision Sir Alex Ferguson explained post-match:
“In goal, it was a big decision but I thought David De Gea lost a bad goal last week. He has to learn quickly, you know. He’ll be back after the international break but Anders had his first game. I thought he was a little bit nervous at points but he’s a very good keeper also. I don’t think it’s a big issue but it’s something you have to deal with.”
Ferguson’s words are open to interpretation here. It may suggest De Gea will return for the Wigan game but with Anders Lindegaard clearly a viable alternative for United, the Spaniard’s owners could be ready to jump ship soon to avoid any further disappointment; investing in such a pricey keeper looks a real risk now, with Ferguson giving a clear signal that neither are nailed-on over the season.
The United Defence
Like City, United’s expensive Fantasy defensive assets are yet to deliver on their promise. However, Rio Ferdinand’s return did at least point to the potential of Sir Alex Ferguson’s forming a more settled unit at the back and, post-match, he stressed that he is now looking to build on the partnership with Nemanja Vidic…
“I think when you play two centre-backs regularly, you get consistent results…That’s always been the case…Rio was back and did better in the second half. He took time to get into the game in the first half but ended up playing very well for us. Nemanja Vidic is getting there. I think if those two keep fit and we get all the centre-backs fit, it will give us a really good chance.”
If he can maintain fitness, then, Rio Ferdinand appears to be a contention for regular starts, regardless of the availability of Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones.
Installing Steve Bould as defensive coach could prove to be one of Arsene Wenger’s best moves of the summer. The 2-0 win means Arsenal have now returned a clean sheet in all three of their league matches so far – the only side to do so. Considering the likes of City, United and Newcastle have yet to register a single clean sheet, the Gunners’ work at the back is surely set to pick up interest. Arsene Wenger stressed post-match that his players are intent on maintaining their impressive defensive record thus far…
“As long as that record lasts, the more everybody does defensively because they want to keep the record going. Football is always a good lesson in humility because we had the No 1 and two goalkeepers out and went to Stoke and Liverpool and haven’t conceded a goal. You never know in the game but when you have a good work rate and spirit in the team, you have a chance.”
While Carl Jenkinson offer a cut-price option, Bacary Sagna is expected to return over the next month, making the current right-back’s acquisition something of a risk. With Per Mertesacker and Vito Mannone preferred to Laurent Koscielny and Wojciech Szczesny respectively, Thomas Vermaelen and Kieran Gibbs perhaps seem the most nailed-on long term targets for Fantasy managers eyeing up the Gunners’ options at the back, with the Belgian’s superior attacking threat making him the most obvious option.