Tottenham Top The Winners. Wow.

It's a rare sight but absolutely deserved after a devastating performance of pace and pressing on Sunday. They're joined by Chelsea but Man United are losers again...

Last Updated: 25/08/14 at 11:47 Post Comment

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Winners

Tottenham
Top of the table for the first time since 2009 and one of only two sides not to have conceded a goal after two rounds, with Manchester City playing Liverpool on Monday evening. It is not necessarily the results against two of their weaker London rivals that have drawn attention to Spurs, rather the nature of their performances under new manager Mauricio Pochettino which suggest this could be a quicker transition than first expected.

Against QPR, the biggest difference from last season was the level of pressing and speed to Tottenham's play, two aspects which Pochettino also focused on at Southampton. Under Andre Villas-Boas, Spurs were resilient, but often too slow to be entertaining, whereas Tim Sherwood tried to inject urgency but failed in organisation. On Sunday, there was balance between the two.

That was evident on TV, but even more encouraging for Spurs fans was this tweet from Jack Pitt-Brooke, a journalist for The Independent who attended the game: 'Early days obvs but Spurs' speed on the break today after winning the ball back was a bit Borussia Dortmund.' If that's the way in which Pochettino aims to develop the team, then supporters can hope to finally see the best of the attacking talents signed last summer.

The real punchline to the jokes about Spurs' recruits in 2013 is that many of them could still prove people wrong. There has never been much doubt over Erik Lamela, who just needed to remain fit to show what he can do, but Nacer Chadli's two-goal display on Sunday - and standing ovation when he was substituted - was entirely unexpected of a player reportedly offered to PSV two weeks ago as a makeweight for Memphis Depay. Similarly, Etienne Capoue is also beginning to pay back his transfer fee after a proposed move to Napoli broke down.

Sherwood will have allowed himself a wry smile at Nabil Bentaleb's composed performance alongside Capoue in midfield, but it was Lamela who really brought White Hart Lane to the edge of their seats. The club's record signing made only nine Premier League appearances in his first season, and surpassed his assists total with two against QPR, the second a perfect chipped cross following an incisive diagonal run. It seems his compatriot knows how to get the best out of the 22-year-old by increasing the tempo of Spurs' play and thus providing Lamela with space to exploit.

"It is true that Lamela can improve a lot. He is still young and when a young player arrives in a different country it is hard to adapt," said Pochettino after the game. "We all know his skills and we are very pleased for him and for all of the squad - today was a very good day."

However, it is this quote from the manager that provides the most encouragement: "We work a lot on the training ground but it is important that the players are free in their minds because they are creative players. You cannot put the players like that in the shade, you need to provide the organisation but after that they are free."

Maintaining Sunday's balance is clearly the priority for Pochettino, and he could prove to be the perfect blend of the contrasting positives under Villas-Boas and Sherwood.


Sam Allardyce
A much-needed result for the favourite in the sack race (he's till favourite in the football betting), as West Ham scored as many goals against Crystal Palace as they managed in their previous six Premier League matches.

The crucial change from the opening-day defeat to Tottenham was Mauro Zarate's involvement in attack as Kevin Nolan missed out with a fractured shoulder. The Argentine didn't play a single minute against Spurs but made the most of his opportunity at Palace with a fine strike in a lively performance.

Allardyce bemoaned Nolan's anticipated six-week absence on Saturday, but also conceded: "It didn't affect us at Palace and maybe that's a sign there's more to come. So perhaps this might be the best and strongest squad I've put together at the club."

With £12m signing Enner Valencia an unused sub along with Ravel Morrison, and £24m duo Matt Jarvis and Andy Carroll missing through injury, as well as Carl Jenkinson, that might be the most incongruous use of 'perhaps' we hear this season.


Swansea
A promising start with back-to-back victories, following only six wins in 24 matches at the back end of the previous campaign. Swansea have an opportunity to build on their early form with a run of fixtures that sees them face just one opponent that finished in the top seven last year (Chelsea) in the next seven matches. They will need to pick up points before a testing November.


Chelsea
They got there in the end, but Jose Mourinho was understandably less than impressed with Chelsea's laboured performance against Leicester. "We didn't play well first half," said Mourinho. "Leicester showed great defensive intensity, and came with fast transitions, trying to scare us on the counter-attack.

"We were a bit slow - slow moving the ball, slow thinking - and we needed to change. Sometimes you don't need to change players, just your attitude towards the game. And we did that."

It was perhaps a helpful reminder of the challenge the Blues face after the praise they received for a brilliant display against Burnley. While they repeatedly found gaps to exploit at Turf Moor last Monday, Leicester provided much more stubborn resistance, and even threatened to take the lead through several quick counter-attacks.

However, there was encouragement in Diego Costa scoring a second well-taken goal in two games - although he was guilty of some sloppy build-up play - while Cesc Fabregas already has as many assists (three) as all but one Manchester United player (Wayne Rooney) last season. It remains a mystery why Louis van Gaal reportedly pulled the plug on another move for the midfielder, along with Toni Kroos.

Chelsea face a difficult test at Everton in the teatime kick-off on Saturday, having lost on four of their last five trips to Goodison in the Premier League. That should prove a more accurate barometer of where they currently stand after two opening games against promoted sides.


Losers

Petr Cech
After Thibaut Courtois rewarded Mourinho's faith with an excellent performance against Leicester, Cech is left with a week to decide his future. Will he really want to follow in Carlo Cudicini's footsteps at the Bridge?


Sunderland
While Sunderland's draw with Manchester United has been reported as an impressive result for the hosts in some quarters, the truth is they blew their best chance to beat United at home for the first time since March 1997. They may not get a better opportunity to end that 17-year run.


Liam Bridcutt
Stuck on the bench as Lee Cattermole's back-up despite Gus Poyet saying when Bridcutt arrived in January: "If I was coach of Real (Madrid) I would take him because he deserves to go to the highest level."

It might be a long journey.


Everton
Another worrying collapse after promising so much in the first period. I wrote about Everton's fitness concerns last week and it was a similar story on Saturday, with the Blues recording only two attempts in the second half after surging into a 2-0 lead.

"The first-half performance is what we want to be doing," said Roberto Martinez. "But we ran out of legs a little bit and Arsenal, as you would expect, threw everything forward and you get into a position where the third goal is going to be vital."

Another drop off against Chelsea would point to an alarming trend that Martinez needs to address.


Arsenal's 'false nine' formation
A determined fight-back against Everton, but Arsene Wenger has a great deal to ponder as he searches for an alternative to starting Olivier Giroud. The Gunners have signed the joint-fewest number of players in the Premier League this summer, which should reinforce calls for Wenger to recruit another striker.

For more on Saturday's match, click here.


QPR, Glenn Hoddle and Harry Redknapp
If anyone still believed that Glenn Hoddle and Harry Redknapp should be candidates to manage England, QPR's display against Tottenham should have given them a rude awakening. The R's may finally be showing some semblance of sense off the pitch, but their performances on it are a very different matter.

It's difficult to know what Redknapp and Hoddle are thinking in their idea that QPR can play a back three with Rio Ferdinand and Richard Dunne. Dunne would probably have struggled in the system at his peak, so to ask him to adapt at 34 is simply ridiculous. The same too for Ferdinand, whose injuries and age have stolen the pace he used to possess.

'My feeling is that the back three is a system that is back in fashion for good reasons,' wrote Hoddle in his column for the Mail on Sunday. 'I've always been an advocate of its strengths, playing it with Swindon, Chelsea and England and now Harry Redknapp has introduced it at QPR, where I'm coaching.

'I think the World Cup demonstrated that it is very much a system for the modern game. I don't think there is any other system that is so flexible in allowing you to get into different shapes and formations so quickly.'

That might be true, but the only shape that QPR got themselves into on Sunday was a mangled mess as Spurs ruthlessly exposed their lack of pace at the back. Surely Hoddle and Redknapp should know that you need players who are suited to the system; it's quite clear that QPR are facing relegation if they persist with their current formation.


Southampton
A lack of cutting edge in a fixture they would have expected to win. Similar to a £12m move for Shane Long, it's unlikely that paying the same for Andros Townsend (three goals, two assists in 43 PL appearances) will solve Southampton's problems.


Manchester United
'86'- Time is running out at the Stadium of Light and, in truth, Sunderland look the more likely winners at the moment.'

Even the Manchester United Twitter account wasn't confident that Louis van Gaal's side could pull off a late victory against Sunderland. It was difficult to blame them after what had come before. United were laboured in possession and struggled to create chances in a fixture they haven't lost for 17 years. As Van Gaal said afterwards: "We have one point and that is not good enough for Manchester United."

The manager also claimed over the weekend that it would be a 'miracle' if his team win the league, reinforcing the view that signing Angel Di Maria for £64m is not a quick fix. At the moment, Van Gaal is playing with a Rubik's Cube of problems concerning who he should sign, who he should sell, how the team should play and where everyone will fit. "Now, this selection here was not in balance," he said before the draw with Sunderland. "There are five No.9s, six No.10s and so on. And we don't have defenders."

That will be a priority over the next week once a record-breaking deal for Di Maria is completed. Luring a player who was named man of the match in the Champions League final in May is undoubtedly a huge coup, but it won't suddenly transform United into title challengers which, for a fee of £64m, is what would normally be expected. As with Juan Mata, there is a possibility that Di Maria's impact will be hindered by the gaps that remain elsewhere.

What is clear, though, is that this is United's big shot at breaking back into the top four. Di Maria's arrival will take their spending to an unprecedented £200m in 12 months - a level of expenditure that the Glazers surely have no interest in maintaining. The squad that Van Gaal is building now is the squad that United can expect to continue with for the foreseeable future.

It is therefore alarming that United still won't look guaranteed of a Champions League place even with Di Maria on board. The hope for fans is that the team will soon be unrecognisable after going through Van Gaal's three-month detox, but after two unconvincing displays so far, the manager may decide to re-write his prognosis. United need at least one more centre-back, everyone fit, and Di Maria to hit the ground running to ensure that a gap doesn't open up between them and fourth place.

There is reason to trust in Van Gaal, and reason to be excited about Di Maria, but this is an era of pragmatism at United, even if their outlay in the transfer market opposes everything they used to promote.


Crystal Palace
A 3-1 defeat to end a week of turmoil. A new manager is required as soon as possible to move on from the furore surrounding their attempts to appoint Malky Mackay.

Matthew Stanger - follow him on Twitter

@poshchips...I resisted the temptation to post a follow-up along those lines last night, but perhaps that tells it's own story. Unfortunately though, I think it's only a phase they're going through. @Harry...If he insists on continuing without wingers (well playing as wingers at least) then that's a good question. However, I suspect you've got your own thoughts on that score.
- bernsteinforpm

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ever mind Flamini; I think its an even bigger weekend for Ramsey to find some semblance of the form that kept us in with a shout last season and had rags and some commentators (this website included) decrying him as one of the world's best midfielders.

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Take Your Marks In The Premier League Sack Race

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true Wenger player: 1% astonishing talent, 10% infuriatingly ineffective, 89% injured.

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Wilshere out for three months

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oved the article. i remember at school, after failing an exam, I would become obscenely secretly happy if I discover that others failed as well. Misery loves company...Now here is to hoping Chelsea joins the party and Stoke city wins the league...Cheers!

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