Get Stuck In: Six Things We Learned From Premier League Week Four
Editor’s Note: “Get Stuck In” is EPL Talk’s weekly column featuring review, analysis and opinion on all the happenings in the Premier League each week from different EPL Talk bloggers and podcasters. If you currently write for EPL Talk or would like to in the future and want to contribute to “Get Stuck In”, contact Jesse Chula at JesseChula(at)gmail(dot)com.
Abu Dhabi’s Gain Will Be Sunderland’s Loss – Earl Reed
In the hours leading up to match day four, a rumble crossed the Twitter waves. The rumor regarded Darren Bent’s heir at Sunderland, Asamoah Gyan. Those rumors proved accurate, and the Ghanaian striker has made a loan move to Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates.
I’ve spent this (Saturday) morning watching Sunderland coping with his departure. At least on this day loaned Arsenal forward Nicklas Bendtner was his replacement. Bendtner is a completely different type of player than Gyan, relying less on pace and more on size. He’s actually a lot like Connor Wickham, the youngster that manager Steve Bruce signed over the summer from Ipswich. When they secured Bendtner, I assumed he would pair up front with Gyan, with the Danish player serving as a stopgap while Wickham developed. When Steve Bruce brought on Wickham in the second half, putting both target forwards up front, I couldn’t help but wish that the Black Cats still had Gyan available. He scored a quick answer against Wigan late last season to help Sunderland avoid relegation. Without Gyan, the only ray of hope I see right now is Ji Dong-Won, who is more of a pure striker than Bendtner and Wickham. He picked up a goal in the 2-1 loss to Chelsea, but for me the Korean came on 15 minutes too late.
Gyan ends up in the Middle East, playing against inferior opposition, likely for an extra wad of cash. This seems mildly reminiscent of Samuel Eto’o moving from Internazionale to Anzhi in Russia. But any real comparison of these two forwards’ exploits is absurd. Gyan has barely scratched the surface of his career, and now he’s taking his talents to a competition that is certainly well below Premier League standards.
So does this mean Gyan sees the writing on the wall at the Stadium of Light? It sounds as though Gyan sought this out. Many of us saw the Black Cats as a sleeper team with their off season signings, especially the experienced John O’Shea and Wes Brown. Bruce’s position seemed precarious back in June, and now he must be teetering on the edge of dismissal. With that uncertainty, coupled with the new forward additions, maybe Gyan decided to weather the storm from afar. In any case, the departure of Sunderland’s leading scorer only adds to the concerns Wearside.
Don’t Sleep On Chelsea For The Title – Kartik Krishnaiyer
There has been a tendency among talking heads covering the English game to anoint Liverpool as a contender this season and to write off Chelsea. I myself was guilty of this transgression in our pre-season podcast just a few short weeks ago (August 7th). But what has transpired in the last month has been a re-asserting of a side that has won five trophies since Liverpool last claimed a piece of silverware (the 2006 FA Cup). The sale of Raul Meireles to Chelsea from Liverpool for a nominal fee of £ 12 million given the level of the player (and when compared with some of Liverpool’s costly midfield buys of the summer) has dramatically shifted the balance between the two clubs as has Chelsea’s smart purchase of winger Juan Mata, to fill a real need for the West London club.
It is worth noting both Meireles and Mata were available for Arsene Wenger and Arsenal to pursue, but the Gunners ended up securing other targets, which in my opinion are unlikely to make the same type of impact on the Premier League. Add the new signings to a core that includes Frank Lampard, the most prolific goal scoring midfielder of recent times, John Terry, Ashley Cole and Didier Drogba and you have the ingredients for a team that competes at the highest levels in England and Europe.
Another factor discounted which will factor in the coming renaissance of Chelsea is the return to health and form of Jose Bosingwa. Before his injury, the Portuguese International was among the best right backs in the world, and he appears to be finally regaining his form after two very difficult seasons. Additionally, Carlo Ancelotti and Frank Arnesen signing Ramires is now looking like a more comfortable Premier League player.
All of the early headlines have been focused on the two Manchester clubs, and for good reason. But Chelsea’s squad depth trumps Manchester United and their level of player accomplishment blows Manchester City’s group of high priced but largely untested and unaccomplished players away. Come May, we could be talking about how Chelsea lurked in the backgrounds and grabbed a Premier League title with steady play and superior squad depth.
Wayne Rooney is in the Form of His Life for Manchester United and Phil Jones is a Star in the Making – Jesse Chula
The Juggernaut that is the defending English Champions have now scored 18 goals in their first four Barclays Premier League matches while Wayne Rooney, United’s undeniable talisman, boasts eight of those marks thanks to two league hat tracks on the trot.
Much is currently being discussed in regards to Rooney being the best player in Europe at the moment while he’s also in the process of proving to the Premier League just what he’s capable of when fully fit both physically and mentally. Much opined on within the last year, the 25-year old English striker entered the 2010-11 season after an appalling summer – his embarrassing off-the-field shenanigans only served to augment his disastrous World Cup for England in South Africa.
Unsettled with the pressure to compete for England and the baggage he carried from his personal affairs, Rooney performed far from his attacking best much of last season. After a quiet and restful Summer, however, Rooney has been nothing short of brilliant for United as they currently top the table over Manchester City on goal difference.
Rooney is seemingly scoring for fun and has lost none of the pace, energy or determination that he’s known to display for United. On Saturday away to Bolton, Rooney covered large portions of the pitch as he looked to be enjoying himself while reacquainting himself with strike partner Javier Hernandez. Rooney was even seen clearing balls in the box as a sort of makeshift center back on Bolton set pieces.
United fans likely expected Rooney to be close to the kind of form he’s in currently but no one around Old Trafford would have expected defender Phil Jones to have made such an immediate impact for the Red Devils. On Saturday, Jones naturally fit in at right back and proved he’s much more than a quick, strong defender, but also a player who can augment United’s attack moving forward. Jones is a definite star in the making.
The Biggest Difference Between the Championship and the Premier League – The Gaffer
Watching Swansea play this season in the Premier League, it’s incredible how much of a gap there is between the Championship and Premiership. Sure, I knew it. But it’s one thing to experience it and see it with your own eyes when it’s your team.
Not surprisingly, the biggest difference is that it’s significantly more difficult to create chances inside the box in the Premier League than the Championship. Watch any highlight reel of goals being scored in the Championship and you’ll see how many are scored from inside the box, and how much time strikers have.
In the Premier League, it’s almost as if there’s a force field blocking teams from penetrating an opponent’s back line of four defenders. It’s harder to get past them, and the sneaky through balls are picked up more easily. In a typical Premier League game, teams are not going to have dozens of chances in an opponent’s box to score. And, if they do, it’s probably the result of a ball being floated in from a corner kick or free kick.
The gulf between the Championship and Premier League is immense. So when teams, like my Swansea City, get chances in the box, they have to be incredibly clinical to take advantage of the situation. In a game against Premier League heavyweights, chances will be few and far between. So when they come, it’s imperative that clubs such as Swansea and Norwich capitalize on them.
After four games, no wins and no goals scored, I’m still optimistic about Swansea. They’re continuing to play well and it’s only a matter of time before one of their shots, headers or deflections finds the net.
Manchester City Have Two ‘A’ Squads – Jesse Chula
Well, you get my drift don’t you? As City claimed three more points to continue their 100% start to the season, boss Roberto Mancini was able to rest a few of his key players who were coming fresh off international duty last week. Samir Nasri, Edin Dzeko, Mario Balotelli and Pablo Zabaleta were all on City’s expensive bench while also full internationals Gareth Barry and Nigel de Jong both failed to even make the bench. The bottom line here is that City have options, good ones.
Manchester City kick off their first ever UEFA Champions League campaign this Wednesday and look poised to progress out of the group stages due to equal parts talent on the pitch and the ability to utilize their strength in depth.
Gael Clichy is Pushing Manchester City Forward – Kartik Krishnaiyer
Arsenal’s self described “summer of hell” centered on the sagas of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri. However Arsene Wenger’s biggest mistake may very well have been allowing Gael Clichy to leave the Emirates for a nominal fee of £7 million.
The loss of Nasri could very well be irrelevant for Arsenal, if Gervinho emerges as a top tier winger, while Fabregas has been replaced by the competent if unspectacular Mikel Arteta. But the unproven nature of Kieren Gibbs combined with what has to be viewed as a questionable panic buy of 28-year old Andre Santos, makes Wenger’s decision look silly. Even more striking is the quick impact that Clichy has had for Manchester City, playing a critical role in the buildup play on the left flank while serving as a lock down, man marking defender. Clichy has been at the heart of several impressive Citizens moves during the first month of Premier League football.
Clichy’s positive impact has been greater for City thus far than Nasri’s. While Nasri was simply enhancing a position of strength in City’s midfield, Clichy was a bargain buy at a position of need for the club. The left back spot at City has been occupied by the underwhelming likes of Stephen Jordan, Ben Thatcher, Michael Ball, Wayne Bridge and Alexander Kolarov in recent years.
Clichy’s transfer could be a decisive move in the title race. It elevates City from a fight for third place to contender to chase down Manchester United and Chelsea, while it weakened an already questionable Arsenal back-line and put great distance between last seasons’ third placed City and fourth placed Arsenal. Doing business with rivals in near proximity to you in the table is always dangerous but in this case, Wenger played with fire, and appears poised to be burnt with little return in the bank or on the pitch to show for it.