Even Moyes Managed To Beat Sunderland...

...so Louis van Gaal really needs to get his thinking cap on. Does he abandon his favourite formation to make room for Adnan Januzaj? It's also big for Arsenal's Germans and Big Sam.

Last Updated: 22/08/14 at 14:24 Post Comment

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Marcos Rojo
A new and presumably more resilient Chosen One for Manchester United, the Argentine is the first signing identified by Louis van Gaal specifically to fit into his three-man defence (though gaps elsewhere mean that the Chosen One may have to wait to play in Van Gaal's beloved vision of a 3-4-3).

It can be quite difficult for an expensive defender (and Rojo is expensive for a player said to have many flaws to his game) to justify his transfer fee in his opening match - ideally he wants the chance to pull off one or two aestheticaly pleasing tackles without ever looking too ruffled. He absolutely definitely doesn't want to be given the run-around by Jozy Altidore.


Louis van Gaal
Even David Moyes managed to win at the Stadium of Light.

But on that day in October Adnan Januzaj rescued his sorry side with a double strike that had Moyes indulging in one of those celebrations that a Manchester United manager should save for bigger occasions. Will Januzaj feature again on Sunday? Van Gaal may have to temporarily abandon the formation he has carried like a Crusader's flag throughout pre-season until he gets himself a right wing-back he can trust. Januzaj is not that right wing-back but he might just be the right winger he needs in Sunderland until more specialised cavalry arrives.


Der Gunners
"It will give us an added boost. With Germans anyway they've got fantastic mentality, you saw that last year," says Jack Wilshere, echoing his manager and several Arsenal fans in suggesting that Arsenal have missed Per Mertesacker and Mesut Ozil (reports that Lukas Podolski is up for sale would suggest that he is less highly regarded) in a stuttering start to the season that has seen them sneak a late win against Palace and toil to a goalless draw in Turkey.

So far it's all looked a tad laboured, with Wilshere himself struggling in an advanced midfield role alongside Aaron Ramsey. Perhaps the England man should not be so keen to welcome back Ozil, with the German likely to take his place sooner rather than later. But there's no doubt that Arsenal need numbers - the presence of the almost-forgotten Francis Coquelin and Ignasi Miquel on benches this week suggested that they are, as ever, only a couple of injuries away from bare bones.

With Arsene Wenger still talking cryptically about maybe, perhaps, possibly strengthening rather than actually buying in key positions, there's a fair wedge of pressure on Ozil and Mertesacker to bring new, fake blood to a squad that already bizarrely looks stretched by competing on two fronts.

Last season, Arsenal's trip to Everton saw them given what we're contractually obliged to call 'a football lesson'. A similar hiding could await if the Gunners are as sloppy and one-paced as they have been against Palace and Besiktas. No pressure, Mesut, but they're looking for a lift.


Nacho Monreal
The poor lad probably still wakes up screaming after Roberto Martinez targeting him in April by pushing Romelu Lukaku out wide. Same again?


Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar Hay was made (we have no idea what that means) against Ritchie de Laet and Riyad Mahrez last week but Everton's lusty left side will find it a tad more difficult against Alexis Sanchez and Mathieu Debuchy. Ding-dong.


Newcastle United
Plaudits are nice, pats on the back are lovely, but you know what's better than pats on the back and plaudits? Points, that what. Newcastle acquitted themselves incredibly well against Manchester City on Sunday - with new signings Jack Colback and Rémy Cabella particularly impressive - but the nascent table still shows them bottom.

Perhaps all they could reasonably expect from their St James' Park opener against the champions was to put up a fight, but more will be demanded against Aston Villa in Saturday's lunch-time kick-off. Their opponents often found Villa Park a suffocating arena last season and it will only take an early Newcastle goal to prompt the familiar Midlands muttering and shuffling of feet.

This Newcastle side is many people's - and the bookies' - pick to get closest to last season's top seven and there were certainly signs on Sunday that there's a new-found vim and vigour about Alan Pardew's side. But not testing Joe Hart with 12 shots suggests that there's still one quite massive issue to solve; Villa could provide some excellent shooting practice.


Aston Villa
Home games against Newcastle and Hull are followed by a quick-fire quartet against last season's top four. Points on board now would be very handy indeed.


Keith Millen
So your boss quit on the eve of the new season and the man lined up as his replacement turns out to be a [redacted], [redacted] - (actually we'd better leave this here - Ed). And you? You're the one charged with keeping your players' minds on the small matter of a pretty big London derby and dealing with a Selhurst Park atmosphere that is likely to be closer to 'confused' than 'uplifting'.

In a week of unrelenting negativity, there was some positivity on the pitch for Palace against Arsenal and Millen must somehow channel that into their clash with a West Ham side that already looks deeply flawed. He should be reminding them that they ended last season five points and two places above West Ham and have since strengthened their defence with Brede Hangeland and Martin Kelly. They may be a smaller club with massive problems off the pitch, but there are reasons they go into this clash as marginal favourites. And they don't all start with 'Carlton' and end with 'Cole'.


Sam Allardyce
You almost have to admire the man for sticking to his guns with such unrelenting bullheadedness. After a summer of signing Enner Valencia and Mauro Zarate, Allardyce still started West Ham's first home game of the season with Carlton Cole as a lone striker. That's Carlton Cole - scorer of 13 PL goals in three seasons. And even when Tottenham had a man sent off, Allardyce did not budge. Change the gameplan? That's crazy talk. And then he has the temerity to claim misfortune when Tottenham score a late winner! He's become a parody of his own curmudgeonly self.

But soon he may be a parody with portfolio as he remains clear favourite to be the next/first manager out of the Premier League. The fans are restless and failing to beat a managerless Palace will prompt yet more calls for change. Especially if it's failing to beat a managerless Palace with Cole playing as a lone striker.


Shane Long
One year ago, Shane Long was at West Brom contributing little to the Baggies' underwhelming, largely goalless start to the season. Now he's a £12m striker at Southampton and he's in all kinds of a hurry to prove that he's worth even half of that inflated fee.

After missing a gaping net against Liverpool after a lot of Long-esque chugging around the pitch, what better way to open your account (and 'silence the doubters' as Monday's Sun will undoubtedly claim) than a goal in front of West Brom fans who will undoubtedly delight in your every mistake.


Garry Monk
The easiest job in football man-management? Rousing ignored underdogs when nobody expects you to make a dint on a match. "Nobody's talking about us, lads...nobody gives us a chance..." Monk admitted that being ignored suited Swansea in the build-up to Louis van Gaal's debut game as Manchester United manager, but there will be no such escape this weekend.

Just as United were supposed to make short work of beating Swansea, so the Swans are now supposed to make short work of beating Burnley, who are 1/2 odds-on favourites to be relegated. Over to you, Garry, to rouse them for an altogether different challenge.


Hull City
Ah, here we go with the old Sunday-Thursday conundrum. And here we go with just one recognised goalscorer.


Stoke City
Swansea beating Manchester United was pretty big, but it only marginally eclipsed the shock of the Potters losing at home to Aston Villa last weekend with barely a whimper. This was supposed to be the new Stoke with Bojan and Marko Arnautovic carrying Mark Hughes' vision for attacking football with a solid base. Cue a massive anti-climax.

There's been an optimism around the Britannia Stadium in the build-up to this season but this is football, where optimism is very fragile indeed. This Stoke side should cut through a tired Hull like butter. A watching TV audience - with presumably nothing better to do on a Sunday afternoon - demands goals. And so will the travelling Stoke fans who had been primed for better than they saw on Saturday.


Loic Remy
The Frenchman's best chance of getting out of QPR before the end of the window is to impress his prospective new employers at White Hart Lane on Sunday. He's way too good for a(nother) relegation battle.

Sarah Winterburn

Sarah: Being a Yank I would suggest "Hay was made" refers to the old saw "you have to make hay while the sun shines". Meaning that when the conditions are right you have to make the most of them (it is really hard to make hay out of soggy grass). Now, perhaps you can help me with one of my all-time favorite British expressions "at sixes and sevens". I have asked many to explain where it comes from or what it refers to, but all have failed. And while you are at it, what is a purple patch? Reference to royalty?
- pwdaley

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