Gameweek four saw Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool all lose to less fancied teams. HT looks at the four talking points from the weekend’s Premier League action.
Two losses, a draw and 13th on the table after four games is not what Jose Mourinho would have wanted for his Chelsea side when the new season kicked off. The defending champions are already eight points behind title rivals Manchester City. Chelsea tapped into the transfer market and snatched up Pedro from Barcelona. The Spaniard made immediate impact, scoring and getting an assist to his name on his debut, but he failed to threaten the goal against Crystal Palace.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho believes the nature of the EPL to be such that despite his team's early struggles in the 2015 season, things can be turned around. (Reuters file photo)
The defence too needs work, with Mourinho struggling to find the right centre back pairing, interchanging between captain John Terry (subbed at half time against Man City and sent off against West Brom a week later), Kurt Zouma, and Gary Cahill. Chelsea conceded just 32 goals last season --- best defensive record in the league --- but have already took in nine goals so far, better only than bottom-placed Sunderland. If Mourinho wants to mount a serious defence for their title, he needs to find the right pairing at the back, they are still pursuing John Stones of Everton, and make his attack the menace for defenders it was last season.
What now for Van Gaal
Just over a year has passed since Van Gaal took charge at Manchester United, but the Dutchman says the club is still undergoing a ‘process’ in his bid to return them to winning ways.
His excuse last season was that the team ‘lacked balance’ and that the squad left to him by David Moyes --- under whom United finished seventh --- was not good enough. He managed the bare minimum in his first season --- returning United to the champion’s league with a fourth place finish --- but the football on show was boring to put it mildly.
Bafetimbi Gomis celebrates with Andre Ayew after scoring a goal for Swansea in their English Premier League (EPL) match against Manchester United at Liberty Stadium. (Reuters)
Nearly three transfer windows later, Van Gaal has brought in nine new players (including Angel di Maria who left for PSG earlier this season) to make the United side his own, but the football has still been lackluster, with many criticizing his possession style of play. United won two of their first three league games this season by 1-0 margins, dominating the opposition in possession stats but failed to look a real threat going forward.
An attacking Swansea side exploited their weakness at the back, scoring two in six minutes to deem Juan Mata’s opener redundant. The Red Devils continued to dominate the game (64% possession) but failed to break down a tight Swansea defence. Whatever Van Gaal’s ‘process’ is then, it needs to be completed fast or the very trident that symbolizes the club’s team crest, may be used as pitchforks by the fans.
Liverpool’s big men fail to deliver
Brendan Rogers brought in a host of new players to Liverpool this season, most notably attackers Roberto Firminho, Christian Benteke and James Milner. A 0-3 loss to West Ham at Anfield brings into question whether the transfer kitty could have been better spent on more defensive reinforcements.
Dejan Lovren was hopeless against the Hammers, careless throughout the game and then easily dispossessed in a dangerous area by West Ham forward Manuel Lanzini before the second goal. A red card for Philippe Coutinho summed up Liverpool’s outing.
City continue perfect start
Just weeks ahead of the new season, pundits questioned whether Manchester City’s squad could mount a challenge for Chelsea’s crown. Four games later, the question now is whether Chelsea have what it takes to stop Manchester City from going all the way. Having conceded none, scored 10 --- one of them a 3-0 win over champions Chelsea --- in four games, the 2014 champions are the team to beat this season, with new recruit Raheem Sterling beginning to show just why they paid 49 million pounds for a 20-year-old, gelling in well with his teammates and getting his first goal for the club in the 2-0 win over Watford on Saturday.