After their first two games it was apparent that Bournemouth needed a goal scorer if they had any chance of staying up. Then in the next two games Callum Wilson popped up with a hat-trick and an overhead kick to move his tally to 4 in 4 for the Cherries. Having picked up four points from their opening games it’s clear that although Bournemouth have potential they need to acclimatise to the Premier League quickly. There are naïve mistakes they are making that you cannot afford to make in the Premier League. This is to be expected of course as it is their first experience in the Premier League for both club and manager. But the league is unforgiving. Not taking advantage of good chances left them with no points from their first two games. A stupid mistake cost them all 3 points at home against Leicester. The potential is definitely there for Bournemouth to have a good season and maybe fight off relegation but they need to wise up to the league they are in.
You can’t trust a good pre-season. Arsenal seemed to feel like they were walking into the new season as title favourites after their impressive pre-season. They won a trio of Friendly cups and even saw off Mourinho’s Chelsea for the first time in the Community Shield. Then the season started and they reminded us that they are the same old Arsenal. Can you remember the last time we were heading for deadline day and there wasn’t calls for Arsenal to sign a marquee striker? Neither can I. We are only four games into the new season and it seems we are going to get the same old Arsenal again. They can be very impressive on their day but not enough of a cutting edge to really push for the title.
Tim Sherwood got the job done when he took over at Villa last season by keeping them in the Premier League. Now he starts his first full season in charge of a Premier League side with a pre-season and transfer window under his belt. After losing the club’s two marquee players, Christian Benteke and club captain Fabian Delph, Villa have brought in 10 new players to really make sure that the side is now Tim Sherwood’s. If anything’s clear it is that it is now Tim Sherwood’s team who is playing every week. We need to see more from Villa before we can really judge if Sherwood has rid the club of its poor habit of being involved in the relegation battle every year. Currently they look like a team that will hover around the lower part of mid-table above the relegation fight, which should be what Villa fans are looking for. After a few tumultuous seasons, some stability should be a welcome change at Villa Park.
No matter who you are you need an active summer in the modern game. Last season it was clear that Chelsea had the most impressive first 11, position for position. The trouble with that was that they would be lured into resting on their laurels over the summer. A lack of new faces at the club has meant they now look stagnant. They were the champions last season, but a failure to further improve their squad has allowed their rivals, mainly Manchester City, to catch up and it seems surpass them. It was made clear by their late move for Pedro that additions are needed. Players have become too comfortable in their position due to a lack or no competition for their place. Chelsea could do with another big addition to their squad or at least a shake-up in the first team to remind players they need to earn their spot.
Sometimes a club and a manager just seem to be a marriage made in heaven. That’s how it is looking for Alan Pardew and Crystal Palace. The former Newcastle boss has led his Palace side to three wins in four games to start the season. Considering those opening fixtures included a visit from Arsenal and trip to Stamford Bridge that’s a very impressive start. What is more impressive is the actual performances Palace have put in. They look like they will be a real force in the league this season. The commitment and passion from the players is being complemented by the addition of top tier talent like Yohan Cabaye. On paper they look a goal scoring striker away from a team capable of a Europa league finish. But, summer signing Connor Wickham has played his part in Pardew’s system to great effect so far. Crystal Palace are a side that are playing with a freedom that is working for them. The players know what to do and are happy doing it meaning results are following. After only four games Palace have made it clear they aren’t just looking to survive now, they are going to make an assault on the top half of the table.
Roberto Martinez has to deal with the fact he had an extremely good debut season for Everton. It really looked like he was going to lead Everton into a Champions League spot at one point. Last year The Toffees came crashing back down to earth. But, the expectation remains all the same. The biggest talking point of Everton’s season so far has been the John Stones transfer saga. I don’t believe it is a good thing when the off-field antics are bigger news than your on-field exploits. Their win away at St Mary’s was a very impressive performance and one that you would expect of the players in that squad. They were not great in either of their draws and the Manchester City game is hard to judge because City are just that good at the minute. Since they seem set to hold onto Stones, if his head is in the right place I’d be inclined to believe Everton will have a better season than the one they had last year. The problem is after seeing how good they can be two seasons ago anything other than that level of performance seems like a letdown.
After Leicester City sacked Nigel Pearson, even though he guided them to their great escape, everyone said it was a mistake. Then when they replaced him with Claudio Ranieri everyone still thought it was mistake. This was the case until the season started. It gave us all a dose of reality. We weren’t giving the Leicester City players enough credit for their fantastic form that saved them. They carried that straight into the new season. Now after 4 games The Foxes are unbeaten in the league and sitting third. Unlike other sides there seems to be an understanding among the Leicester City players and a desire that is making them an incredibly hard opposition for everyone. What Leicester City’s start should do is make us appreciate the players’ influence more, through a tough summer they have come out at the other end looking like nothing has changed.
For a man that considers himself a super coach, Brendan Rodgers still doesn’t seem to have a clue which tactic to use with his team. His most successful season with the club was when he was blessed with a load of attacking talent. He made his side defend from the front to hide their deficiencies in defence, deficiencies that have still to this day not been addressed. Now it seems that a poorly implemented attempt at the long ball game is his chosen weapon purely because they signed Benteke. Even Benteke made a point of letting it be known he feels more comfortable playing with the ball on the floor. After getting by the first few games with dogged defensive displays and a certain portion of luck on their side they were humbled at home by West Ham. The pressure is once again back on Rodgers to prove he has the answers to take Liverpool football club back into the top four.
Manuel Pellegrini’s doubters have been answered with a swift and vicious response. That response was to put his side down as Champions elect as early as possible in the season. Even after just four fixtures it seems hard to see anyone toppling this rampant City side. The blue half of Manchester appears to have its swagger back. They look like the unstoppable force they were when they last claimed title the year before last. Key additions to the squad have lifted the overall performance of the existing squad. Raheem Sterling has fitted seamlessly into their style. Nicolas Otamendi’s purchase has put Eliaquim Mangala and even Vincent Kompany on notice that their start berths aren’t guaranteed after a disappointing campaign last season. City have already laid down the marker and everyone else is set to play catch-up for the rest of the season.
Louis Van Gaal’s side find themselves in a similar position to Liverpool at this stage. They got by the first few games narrowly but enough to call it a good start, before they were finally found out by a good side like Swansea. Van Gaal’s style of football is such that when they win it doesn’t look great, so when they lose it looks absolutely dreadful. They seem to have made good signings in this window, but the problem is it none of them were answers to United’s real problems. They are still short a centre-back and proper goalscoring striker. No one can dispute their additions of Schneiderlin, Darmian and Schweinsteiger, but they should have been complemented by players like Otamendi and Pedro. Now United fans are set for panicky end to the transfer window as they know they need further recruits. It is clear that although they have spent big in the last two transfer windows United’s problem still remain the same.
In Newcastle United’s case it would appear that spending doesn’t mean success. The issue Newcastle fans have had with Ashley is his lack of big investment in the players and then selling his best on for big price tags. This summer he answered their calls. The Geordies spent over £50mill in transfers. Yet, they have started the season with no wins in 4. Although they managed an impressive draw away at Old Trafford and lost out narrowly in hard fought game against Arsenal, it is points on the board that matter. They spent £15mill on Mitrovic who looks like he plays for fouls rather than goals. He looks like he could be a talent but that a big money signing for Newcastle and he has left them high and dry after his red card against Arsenal, drawing attention to himself for all the wrong reasons. Their investments may turn out to be good ones, but so far Newcastle do not look like a team that have spent big in the summer.
The Canaries 3-1 win against Sunderland was the exactly the response Alex Neil wanted after their opening day defeat to Palace. Two losses, a win and a draw isn’t bad start for a newly promoted side. What they won’t be happy about is not winning either of the home games. They will want to turn Carrow Road into a fortress if they want to survive after bouncing straight back up last season. Much of their squad is the same from when they were last in the Premier League, which makes it hard to judge their survival credentials. You wouldn’t say there is major change that would lead you to believe this side is better equipped to survive in than this league than when they were last relegated.
Southampton’s 3-0 home win over Norwich City was the first time this season they looked like the Saints we knew last year. However, it depends how much you take from home win against a newly promoted side who were down to 10 men for about an hour of the game. Taken those circumstances to the side they appeared to have their swagger back in the second half. The loss of Morgan Schneiderlin and Toby Alderwiereld can be cited as big losses that were clearly missed in the opening few games of the season. The form of players like Pelle, Mane and Tadic are going to massive to Saints’ hopes for the season. Those three appear to be the ones that have stepped to the forefront of the Saints squad replacing the likes of Lambert, Lallana and Schneiderlin before them. They are the key creative and attacking cogs in Koeman’s squad now.
Stoke now have muscles they can flex in the transfer window. When did we ever think we would see Stoke signing two players from Barcelona, one from Real Madrid and handing out over £12 million for Xherdan Shaqiri. It’s like Mark Hughes is going to extreme lengths to let everyone know that you don’t have to worry about a wet and windy Monday night at the Britannia anymore. So far this season it isn’t working. Two points from 12 isn’t the start anyone is looking for, let alone one with the high profile acquisitions Stoke have made. The 1-0 defeat to Tony Pulis’ current side will sting particularly hard considering their desire to remove the club’s association with his brand of football. Stoke need to be careful they don’t reach too far, they have made good signings but that doesn’t make a team. Let’s hope Hughes hasn’t just signed names for the sake of names rather than improving his squad.