5 Things We Learned – Tottenham & Manchester United have stars whilst Arsenal have a headache
In the first of a new feature for the relaunched Offside Rule Podcast website, Jamie Thomas looks back at five things we can take away from the weekend’s Premier League fixtures.
- Kane is able for England
There are countless young England players who’ve been overhyped then failed to reach their expected potential. Earlier in the season, many were adding Tottenham’s Harry Kane to that list but we’ve been guilty of underestimating him. The 21-year-old striker’s been rewarded with a new five-year deal after netting 20 goals in all competitions this term.
Daniel Sturridge scored on his return for Liverpool and Raheem Sterling won another Man-of-the-Match award, while John Stones impressed for Everton and Luke Shaw’s finally finding his feet at Manchester United. England fans can start to feel a bit more optimistic about FA chairman Greg Dyke’s targets to reach the semi-finals of Euro 2020 and win the World Cup in 2022.
Picture this England line-up for Euro 2016: Forster; Clyne, Cahill, Stones, Shaw; Wilshere, Henderson, Sterling; Rooney; Kane, Sturridge. A lot of pessimism surrounds the England team, but with a side like that I reckon the future looks bright for Roy Hodgson’s men.
- Blind can fill Carrick’s spot
Manchester United have had few players in that central midfield role as talented as Daley Blind. He performed magnificently in the holding role to fill the void left by Michael Carrick who missed the Leicester game through injury.
While Foxes won’t be the toughest opponents Blind faces this season, he has already shown how valuable he is to the team. He assisted, nearly scored, and orchestrated the United midfield like someone who had been in the role for years.
If Louis van Gaal’s men are to keep hold of third spot and fulfil his ambitions for the season, then Blind will have an integral role to play in that.
- Hull of a drop
Hull were flying high in the Premier League earlier this season, but they have slumped into the relegation zone after four defeats in a row. Steve Bruce’s team are currently only two points above basement boys Leicester and one below safety.
They hosted a Newcastle side that have been hindered by off-field turmoil after losing their old manager Alan Pardew to Crystal Palace. Magpies chiefs undertook a lengthy process to appoint a new gaffer only to settle for his assistant John Carver.
Hull had the ball in the back of the net once but Ahmed Elmohamady saw his effort chalked off for a clear handball, which was reminiscent of Diego Maradona’s Hand of God. It wasn’t the winger’s day as Newcastle’s third goal took a huge deflection off him to catch out keeper Allan McGregor. City will be hoping they’re down but not out.
- Wenger’s welcome selection headache
Arsenal thrashed Aston Villa 5-0 on Sunday. While Paul Lambert’s men are a shadow of the team that won 3-1 win at the Emirates on the opening day of last season, it was a polished performance by the hosts nonetheless.
But with the likes of Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil returning from injury and Jack Wilshere, Danny Welbeck and top scorer Alexis Sanchez on their way back, Gunners boss Arsene Wenger will have some big calls to make ahead of upcoming games.
Squad management could prove key to Jose Mourinho winning or losing the title for Chelsea and the same will be true of Wenger’s team selection in the chase for a Champions League spot.
- Not top draw
The top-of-the-table encounter didn’t live up to its promise as a potential ‘title clash’ as the draw maintained Chelsea’s five-point lead. Mourinho’s men and Manchester City had lost to inferior teams in the FA Cup the weekend before but if this fixture had been a distraction, it wasn’t apparent in their performance.
Instead it ended in a disappointing stalemate. This wasn’t the exciting match we were anticipating but a very tactical one, with both sides desperate not to concede any ground.
Both managers had reason to be frustrated. Manuel Pellegrini felt they should have forced the win as they created more chances, while Chelsea had just three shots on target. Even the introduction of former Blues hero Frank Lampard failed to provide any drama.
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