“I look like you!”
“Right. What’s your point?”
“I look like you! It’s banter!”
“No, you have a ponytail and a goatee.”
Manchester United’s second goal against Leicester City, scored by Juan Mata, won’t do anything to cheer up Wayne Rooney. You would imagine, coincidentally, that there will be plenty more leaked stories coming to the press about how awful the atmosphere is at Old Trafford, even if there is little evidence of it on the pitch.
The goal is a problem for Rooney in several ways. It involved Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard and Mata, all of whom could argue that they are now superior in the various positions Rooney has been tried in of late. Pogba’s a better midfielder, Mata’s a better number 10, and Lingard’s pace make him a better option on the wing. All three of them came together to set up Mata and kill off Leicester early in the game, allowing them the luxury of control for the rest of the match.
It makes a team look better, when they have a lead and the other side has to chase, and that won’t have helped Rooney any, either. But before the goal, United looked sharper, quicker and less leaden-footed. It is a system that can’t accommodate more than two of Mata, Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and it is one that has had to for too many matches. This could now go three ways. A defeat might spur some cowardice in Jose Mourinho to bring him back. Another victory might cast Rooney out, and that has two more ramifcations. One, he could agitate and cause trouble for Mourinho. Two, he could endeavour to build up his physique again, and lose the yips, and offer something for the team once more. It is this last possibility which seems the most remote.
Spurs win without Harry Kane. Kane might be out of action for a couple of months. Seeing the goal tallies from last season, when Heung-Min Son scored only four goals, you can see the problems that might arise. Kane was, despite a slow start to last season, the best striker in the league along with Jamie Vardy. This season, he had against started slowly, but seemed on his way back to form last weekend, only to suffer an injury.
Son struggled last season. Not dreadfully, but as you might expect any player from another country who isn’t world class, it has taken him time to adjust to the Premier League’s ways. It’s not necessarily better, but it certainly is different. Son’s boss, Mauricio Pochettino, suggested there is one simple reason for Son’s marked improvement: “In football if you work hard, then you get, payback.’ Working hard is a trademark of Pochettino sides, and that has not changed from last season. The surprise is an important, positive one. As Vincent Janssen is going through his own adjustment period, Son is there to provide the goals. They have no need to rely on Kane.
Dusan Tadic. It was another miserable time for West Ham at home. They have won just once in the league at home, since their move to the new ground. Despite signing many exciting new faces, it seems the squad overhaul, the move from the Boleyn Ground and a change in their training facilities, have all combined to hold them back for now. The second goal in their defeat to Southampton was the highlight of the match, with Tadic pulling of a brilliant dummy to make Adrian, with his steroidal weekend hair, look even more stupid.
Happy anniversary to Arsene Wenger, who celebrated the landmark in much the same way as he usually does in his time at Arsenal. His 20th year in charge has begun with some clear missteps, some impressive early performances, and the sound of fans hitting their heads against the walls of the Emirates Stadium.
While there is a reinforced sense amongst support that this is as good as it will ever get under Wenger - especially after last season’s debacle of allowing Leicester City to win the Premier League as everyone else dithered - this was a cheering win. Chelsea have long been showing Arsenal how to win things, and with their open use of millions of pounds of cash, it must be grating both that they are doing it the 'wrong’ way, and also the way which most of them must now long for. Buy the players you need, now, and try to win with them, not promise jam tomorrow.
The win came with three first-half goals, and a performance from Theo Waloctt, whose improvement has been recognised by Wenger. According to Wenger, "A Theo Walcott of that stature is a different player. His attitude this season is changed. He is ready to fight and commit.” We have heard all this before, and it is in every one of Wenger’s players. At some point they become sick of their surroundings at Arsenal, show everyone their individual talents surround those around them, and in Walcott’s case, agree the move to Manchester City that almost tempted him years ago, when pubs were still able to turn a profit.