In the spirit of staying optimistic, I’m going to highlight some positives from the weekend. Just one negative though: James McClean, celebrating like that against your old club is neither sporting nor cool.
- Louis van Gaal got it right
I feared the worst coming into this game, especially seeing how Arsenal demolished United the previous week, and remembering how Everton destroyed United on the break last year. But van Gaal was tactically spot-on. Bringing Phil Jones for Daley Blind into central defense eliminated the opportunity for Lukaku to bully the backline. Dropping Memphis Depay for Herrera was a good call, simply because the Dutch winger has been neither clinical nor consistent enough. I’d still like to see Herrera start more just because he has the ability to pick passes that other players can’t see.
- Chelsea’s commitment is admirable
Chelsea committed the greatest number of fouls this weekend (22), but Jose Mourinho does not mind. In showing their desire to get stuck in, it is (perhaps) a sign of their willingness to find a way out of their malaise, and a sign of support for their embattled manager. I was a bit cynical with Mourinho’s defensive focus in dropping Hazard against Aston Villa, but last season’s Player of the Year has looked like a shadow of his former self, and perhaps Mourinho was right to send a clear message to Eden. Chelsea will face more challenging opponents than Aston Villa, but it’s a start on the road to recovery.
- Liverpool and the pressing game
He’s only had three days, but Jurgen Klopp’s philosophy is already starting to show. The energy at which the Reds pressed the Tottenham players on Saturday made it seem like it was 12 against 11 at one point. It worked perfectly for the opening 25 minutes, where Tottenham, so often the fitter team in these battles, could not cope with the gengenpress. Sadly for Liverpool fans, that faded as the match went on, as the Spurs found a way to pounce on Liverpool’s defensive weaknesses, which continues to need fixing, but they will only get better from here.
- Shout-out to the Toon Army
Anyone who picked Wijnaldum and Sissoko this week on Fantasy Premier League would have made a windfall. In restoring Sissoko into the center, McClaren gave the Frenchman almost free reign to dominate the midfield. Wijandlum’s presence in the box, Mitrovic’s positioning up front and Perez’s fluidity in movement are all encouraging signs for Newcastle. It’s a much-needed first win of the season for the Magpies and sets up a tantalizing Tyne-Wear derby next weekend. Poyet, di Canio and Advocaat all played Newcastle in their second game, and won. So no pressure, Big Sam.
- Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez are truly world-class players
If there’s any question about Wenger’s ability to get value for money, think again. Because in the last three summers, he’s been vindicated by his three marquee signings. Yes, Ozil may have taken a while to settle, but he’s beginning to show glimpses of the form that persuaded Arsene Wenger to part with £42 million. I still think Arsenal needs to strengthen defensively, but £10 million Petr Cech is a steal. As is £35 million Alexis Sanchez, who has, no doubt, been Arsenal’s go-to man this year.