De Gea as the ‘new Taibi’
Woe betide the fickle nature of football reportage. A couple of bad games and Manchester United’s new goalkeeper is being treated as some bumbling hybrid of Jim Leighton, Massimo Taibi and Spongebob Squarepants. Short termism at its worst from those who forget that Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra took half a season to bed in. De Gea had a poor game against West Brom and was let off the hook by Nani’s brilliance in the Community Shield, but his dismissal as a lanky blunderer has more to do with a sham of an opening weekend than anything else.
A sham of an opening weekend?
Well, 14 goals in eight matches tells its own story. Too many teams are in a state of flux until the end of the transfer window and it will take two or three weeks before anything can be read into the various results. Bolton are not going to threaten the Champions League places, Chelsea will top the league at some point this season and QPR are not as bad as the Derby County team of 2007/2008. Some pundits may already be handing Manchester United the league title and insisting that a post-Fabregas Arsenal will fail to make the Europa League places, but any such predictions can be treated with disdain until at least ten games have been played.
Not mentioning Joey Barton
We’re really not, except to say that… we’re really not mentioning Joey Barton. Apart from just there.
Fabregas is gone, what of Arsenal?
Theirs was a constipated performance against Newcastle but the school of thought here is that Fabregas’s departure will free up Aaron Ramsey, a natural replacement for the Spaniard, to become the club’s next talisman. If Ramsey can dovetail with Jack Wilshere and Alex Song – and the signs were encouraging at the tail-end of last season – then Wenger will be able to concentrate on reinforcing other areas. Cahill and Mata would represent a good start but both moves are dragging to the point of extinction. The longer the North London try to do things on the cheap, the more hostile the Emirates gathering will become towards their once deified boss.
Player of the weekend
Ashley Young has shown enough in two matches to suggest Nani and Antonio Valencia are going to be playing swapsies for much of the campaign. As well as having an excellent non-injury record, Young’s intelligence on the ball and accuracy of execution put the other United wide-men in the shade. His return pass for Wayne Rooney’s opener demonstrated this – most other wingers would have looked to get to the by-line before crossing into the goalkeeper’s arms.
Liverpool’s new boys
The consensus is that Downing was a 7, Adam a 6, Henderson a 5 and Enrique a bit shaky positionally but generally sound against Sunderland. It’s too early for any conclusions, but the dropping of Dirk Kuyt proved a tinkering too far by Kenny Dalglish. Expect that to be rectified against Arsenal – Henderson dropping out – and John Flanagan to pay the price for failing to babysit Sebastian Larsson.