F365's Premier League Winners And Losers

Stoke top the winners for possibly the first time ever, while Arsenal are consigned to the losers owing to Arsene Wenger's reluctance to strengthen his squad sufficiently...

Last Updated: 01/09/14 at 10:52 Post Comment

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Winners

Stoke
Stoke top of the winners, what a time to be alive. But Mark Hughes and his team deserve a huge amount of credit for the Potters' 1-0 win at Manchester City, which came only five days after the champions made mincemeat of Liverpool's defence.

Stoke proved to be a much more resilient opponent, as City struggled to create chances and recorded only four attempts in the first half. Unlike the days of Tony Pulis, though, the visitors didn't merely play for a point, with Hughes starting two strikers and bringing on a third at half-time.

It was a fantastic solo goal that settled the match but, as Peter Crouch said afterwards, the game plan worked. "We knew we had that pace with Victor Moses, Odemwingie when he was on, Diouf as well...not so much myself," said Crouch, whose performance was hailed as his best for the club by the local paper, The Sentinel. "But we had that speed on the counter attack and as long as we could soak up pressure we always felt we could hit them on the break."

With Marko Arnautovic, Charlie Adam, Bojan and Peter Odemwingie on the bench, Stoke have options to be flexible in their approach, which could prove crucial in building on a first top-ten finish. Just as he did at Blackburn before City came calling, Hughes is guiding Stoke in the right direction. He has always produced his best work under restricted budgets, and this may not be the only shock the Potters pull off this season.


Mame Biram Diouf
A wonderful goal displaying such rare qualities that it conjures very specific examples of similar strikes - Dalian Atkinson against Wimbledon, George Weah against Verona, Saeed Al-Owairan at the 1994 World Cup.

While on loan at Blackburn in 2010/11, Diouf's dribbling ability was often betrayed by some erratic finishing. His cool head on Saturday underlines the benefit of spending two years as a first-team regular in the Bundesliga, during which he scored 26 goals for Hannover.


Transfer Deadline Day
With so many teams desperate for extra bodies, Monday should be an enjoyable occasion for those who care about deadline day. For the rest of us, it will be a relief to have the whole hullabaloo over and done with.


Chelsea
6-3, a ridiculous scoreline in Chelsea's win over Everton and an accurate description of my love life. It's just impossible to find someone who's happy to spend their Sundays watching Mark Noble goals on repeat.

After a subdued attacking display against Leicester, Chelsea were back to their devastating best at Goodison, with Diego Costa central to the Blues' victory. The striker is the epitome of a Jose Mourinho player - the manager manifested on the pitch. A nuisance for 90 minutes, Costa gets in the heads of his opponents, pulling them out of position and pushing their limits before taking advantage of any momentary lapses in concentration. It's hugely entertaining to watch, but he must be an infuriating adversary for defenders.

Despite Chelsea's brilliant attacking play, Mourinho was understandably frustrated with his team's defending as the Blues thrice allowed Everton to threaten a fight-back. "I know they are a good offensive side, but to concede three goals is too much," said Mourinho. "All of them I can clearly define the mistakes, the people involved and where we failed."

Given that the manager's primary strength is defensive organisation, supporters needn't be too worried about one porous display. After criticising the team last December - saying that even training dummies could score against them - Mourinho was responsible for a remarkable improvement that saw Chelsea concede only ten goals in the remaining 23 matches of the campaign.

That suggests we're unlikely to see a repeat of the defending on Saturday and, with the Blues convincing in attack, there is hope that a balance can soon be found. It's early in the season, but Chelsea already look a real threat to City's crown.


Swansea
Three games, three wins and the only side to join Chelsea with a 100% record. It has been an impressive start for Garry Monk in his first full campaign in charge.

Gylfi Sigurdsson was again pivotal to Swansea's success against West Brom, dictating the game behind Wilfried Bony and providing two assists, while Nathan Dyer's brace and a fantastic volley from Wayne Routledge emphasised the attacking threat throughout the front four. That Bony is yet to score this season in any of the Swans' three victories is perhaps more encouraging than it initially seems; when he begins to convert they should be able to kick on even further.


Liverpool
Liverpool don't miss Luis Suarez, Liverpool do miss Luis Suarez, Liverpool don't miss Luis Suarez. That's the abridged story of the Reds' start to the season, but Sunday's victory over Spurs provided the most conclusive evidence thus far that Liverpool will be just fine in the striker's absence.

That he failed to score a single goal against the rest of the top four last year suggests that Suarez would not have made the difference in defeat to Manchester City. Against Spurs, however, he scored twice and provided two assists in the stunning 5-0 victory in December. The Reds may have been two strikes short of repeating that feat on Sunday, but their attacking play was just as incisive as the performance that finished Andre Villas-Boas' tenure at White Hart Lane.

"The star of this team will always be the team," said Brendan Rodgers ahead of his 100th match in charge. It's the sort of skin-crawling sound bite that we've become accustomed to, but the manager is right in his assertion. Perhaps Suarez's greatest deception was convincing everyone that his 31 goals were the reason behind Liverpool's unexpected title challenge, when really the system has been refined to ensure success around changeable personnel.

With Mario Balotelli showing glimpses of his ability on Sunday, and Raheem Sterling maintaining his meteoric rise, this is an exciting time to be a Liverpool fan.

For more on the victory over Spurs, read Daniel Storey's 16 Conclusions.


Aston Villa
Three goals and two wins from five shots on target. That's not a bad return for a team tipped to struggle.


Burnley
The first point of the season, but a busy day of recruitment is required if Burnley are to stand any hope of survival. Scott Arfield has taken quickly to life in the Premier League - proving Gordon Strachan was wrong to overlook him for the latest Scotland squad - but Danny Ings needs a goal soon.


Morgan Schneiderlin
A holding midfielder who can score goals, you say? It certainly wasn't a bad time for Schneiderlin to attract more attention if he's hoping to join the Southampton exodus at the eleventh hour.


Dwight Gayle
Four goals in a week for a player on his third manager in just over a year at Crystal Palace. If Gayle can remain fit, it will be a big boost to Neil Warnock in his bid to keep the Eagles out of danger.


Leonardo Ulloa
Both of his first two Premier League strikes have come in the 22nd minute. I'm not sure of the value of this information, but it might be worth Stoke paying special attention to Ulloa around that time on September 13.


Losers


Football365 and friends
We were just getting back into the swing of things and now we have to wait two weeks for the Premier League to return. The worst part is having to pretend that we care about England, when secretly we'd always choose to watch Hull v West Brom instead. Bloody international football, harshing everyone's buzz.


Joe Hart
Someone let him know they stop the clock when there's been a goal.


Alan Irvine
"Does the A.I. on his jacket stand for 'Artificial Intelligence'?" asked a friend on Saturday night. Now that's just mean.


Manchester City
We've been here before. In the second match of last season, City suffered a shock defeat to Cardiff despite taking the lead through Edin Dzeko; a month later they lost 3-2 at Aston Villa after twice going ahead; and in November came another defeat at the Stadium of Light. Each time Manuel Pellegrini insisted his team would get it right and eventually they did, winning 11 and drawing one of the next 12 fixtures that followed the 1-0 loss to Sunderland.

The point is that City have proven they can recover from set-backs, powering through to the title despite sitting in eighth in mid-November after four defeats in the first 11 matches. However, considering the way Chelsea have started, they cannot afford to slip up with the same frequency as last season.

In the past decade, only two Premier League champions have amassed fewer points than City's total of 86 in 2013/14. Given the rate of improvement in Mourinho's teams between their first and second season, and a possible challenge from Liverpool and Arsenal, Pellegrini's side are likely to need more than their previous total to retain the crown. Bad habits cannot be tolerated.


Tottenham
A result that revealed the size of the task Mauricio Pochettino faces after back-to-back victories to start the season. Spurs weren't awful against Liverpool, they were just outclassed by a superior opponent with a more refined playing style.

On the whole, it has been an encouraging start under Pochettino but, as Daniel Storey wrote in 16 Conclusions, a new striker is desperately needed before Monday's deadline to allow Spurs to kick on. Will Daniel Levy show the sort of ambition that can help the club mount a top-four challenge? It looks doubtful.


Arsene Wenger
A point that perhaps could have been three had Arsene Wenger already addressed the glaring need to sign another striker. Yaya Sanogo, while not as poor as some suggest, has failed to score with 34 shots and 703 minutes. He is clearly not at the necessary level to be Olivier Giroud's stand-in.

In truth, there is nothing original that can be written on Arsenal's predicament. For too long Wenger has put faith in squads that have been missing key components for a convincing assault on the title. While funds have been a problem in previous years, now he has no excuses. If Wenger is happy to spend £80m on two players in successive summers, what harm would it do to invest the extra that's required to sufficiently strengthen the squad?

Attack is not the only position that should be bolstered, either, with Thomas Vermaelen still not replaced in defence and Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini on their way out in defensive midfield. These are not issues that have crept up on Wenger - he should have known what he had to do from the start of the summer.

It is set to be a very busy day in North London.


West Ham
"I think we started the match well. They play an easy system - they play long ball and fight for the second ball."

Damning words from Ronald Koeman.


Blooper Subs
First Muhamed Besic and his unnecessary flick, then Andros Townsend dallying on the ball. I suppose they were told to make an impact.


Steven Fletcher
When Sunderland last travelled to QPR in March 2013, Fletcher opened the scoring in a 3-1 defeat. He has scored only three goals since. Now 27, Sunderland's £12m striker is facing arguably the biggest season of his career; he needs to stay fit and start firing.


Louis van Gaal
The pressure is on. Not many managers are allowed 12 months of transition after spending around £150m on new players, and Van Gaal must now justify the hype that surrounded his appointment. Saying that the fans are "intelligent" enough to understand the need for patience will only wash for so long.

The most peculiar aspect of United's slump is Van Gaal's insistence on persisting with a three-man defence. As I wrote here, he has previously always favoured a 4-3-3 formation (or '1-4-3-3' as he describes it), changing the Netherlands' system before the World Cup only because of a serious knee injury sustained by Kevin Strootman.

It's therefore perhaps quite stubborn to insist on making a success of his 3-4-1-2 formation (or a variation thereof) when the players currently available don't suit the system. With everyone fit, and Daley Blind on board, it might make more sense, but it still marginalises a good number of the squad and demands a complete change of focus. With Chelsea already opening up a seven-point lead over United, a place in the top four and the FA Cup is almost all they have left to aim for.


Shinji Kagawa
The #FreeShinji campaign has finally worked. Perhaps he will prove a bargain for Borussia Dortmund after returning for around £6m, but complaints regarding the playmaker being played out of position at United became a self-fulfilling prophecy. It would appear he simply didn't have the mentality required to handle the move to a club of United's standing.

Matt Stanger - he's on the Twitter.

Shawcross isn't good enough to play for England. That's why he doesn't play for England.
- fashy

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ilarious, thanks for that. But if I may, I do suspect the reason of your partners' ire is not Tottenham, but most probably all the compusilve gambling :)

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wo police horses in a paddock. Horse 1: What's with the long face? Horse 2: I'm working St James Park this weekend.

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wo things. First, I can't stop reading your name as 'Dane Bowers'. Second, you used the words 'philosophy' and 'Redknapp' in the same sentence.

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