5 Weekend Football Conclusions

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It’s all about Alexis Sanchez at Arsenal: Some of the most exciting signings coming into the Premier League this summer have come from La Liga. Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas, Alexis Sanchez and Angel di Maria. The obvious take away from this is that the Latin world are providing some of the more exciting footballing talents. Sanchez has undoubtedly received the baton from Costa as the marquee player in the League. His double against Burnley coming a week after the brace against Sunderland ensures that his tally since moving to England stands at 10 goals in all competitions. What stands out to me is the manner in which the goals he has scored have mirrored Alexis as a player. The two goals against Sunderland came from his tireless running, hurrying and harrying. His controlled volley against Manchester City was a great example of how efficient a finisher he can be. The goal against Hull showcased his dribbling ability as he left Curtis Davies with twisted blood. The first of his goals against Burnley where he beat two considerably bigger defenders aerially captured the depth of his determination to succeed. Dave Hynter, the Guardian journalist describes him as “The Playstation player with the speed button held down”. Alexis Sanchez is winning hearts because he captures the spirit and skill that we want from our dream players. It’s very rare that the best technical players are the hardest working. Prior to the weekend, Sanchez was Arsenal’s 4th best tackler in the League. Says it all.

Marco Reus holds the key: It’s a scenario we’ve all seen before. Bigger club weakens less financially secure rival by purchasing their star players. Borussia Dortmund’s Marco Reus is one of the most wanted players in the world. The hardnosed mentality of the German footballer, his technique and flair explain why. He consistently has fine statistics. There’s also the fact that he’s just 25 and has a release clause of €25m (£20m) that takes effect from the summer. There’s talk that Bayern are keen on adding him to their list of annual steals from Dortmund and this obviously threatens to increase the animosity between both clubs. Watching him in the Saturday derby, Reus got on the scoresheet and shone but would Dortmund’s poor form and failure to win convince him his future should be at Munich? As a boyhood Dortmund fan (Not like that stopped Mario Götze) it’s a decision that won’t come easy. The main issue is the significance of such a move: Taking the best non Bayern player in the League would once again kill off Jurgen Klopp’s project. There’s also the risk that it reinforces a self fulfilling prophecy where the rest of the league continue to find themselves vulnerable to Bayern’s whims and are limited in confronting it. If Reus can buck the trend, perhaps it could be the start of something new in the Bundesliga where players and clubs feel emboldened to stand up to Bayern.

Alan Pardew is the ultimate survivor: Monsieur Pardeux is the second longest serving Manager in the league. Three seasons ago, he was Manager of the Year. On the flipside, the last two seasons have been plagued by fan protests, attacks on opposing players and managers (Just ask David Meyler and Manuel Pellegrini), “jokey” sack threats by his Chairman and psychoanalyzing pundits suggesting his players have given up on him. In what has been a remarkable week as witnessed by consecutive wins over Tottenham, Manchester City and Liverpool, Pardew has been hailed. Probably the greatest piece of proof that the “Newcastle would get relegated” and “Pardew Out ” movements were getting hysterical prematurely. The fact that they’re just a point behind Liverpool (Rodgers was Manager of the Year last term) would suggest they ought not worry. There’s the cat with 9 nine lives. Then, there’s Alan Pardew.

It’s still “one step forward, two steps back” at United: About a week ago, week ago, Sir Alex Ferguson summed up the state of affairs at his old club under Louis van Gaal as being “one step forward, two steps back” and the feeling is that the description still stands. The manner in which they clawed back against a Chelsea side who are champions elect suggested that things were getting better but the manner of their capitulation(forget the scoreline) versus City should cause worry. van Gaal is undoubtedly one of the best regarded of managers about but his tenure has been marked by some curiosities. The transfer policy of strengthening every position but the one where reinforcement was required most desperately is even worse than Arsene Wenger’s neglect of his defence. There’s also the fact that their start to the season is worse than last year’s under David Moyes. This is exacerbated by the fact that they’ve probably had the easiest start of all the big teams. You trust that eventually the penny will drop but the poor form of Robin van Persie, the injury susceptibility of Radamel Falcao and the lack of consistency from Juan Mata suggest the problems might be a bit more deep rooted. That’s not to say that there has not been a marginal upturn in style. More is needed.

Pochettino needs to give Kane a fair crack: In 2004, Arsene Wenger looked into his crystal ball and foresaw what I’ll describe as a dearth in the quality of young strikers coming through. He said ” Long term I think there will be fewer strikers coming through in this country. If you are only playing one up front you spend less time working with them in training and educating them. There is increased pressure on managers now so they don’t want to take as many risks”. Looking at that, it reads like he had Pochettino and Spurs in mind. As the teamsheet for the Tottenham vs Aston Villa came in and Kane was once again placed on the bench, the talk was “Why isn’t Kane playing?” In a climate where decent, homegrown strikers are so rare there’s been an understandable clamor for Kane to get more game time. Well, Pochettino is under pressure so he’s less disposed to experimenting. However, Kane came on and the winning goal came from his free kick taking his tally to 7 goals in his last 7 appearances. Watching Kane, I don’t think he’s the latest incarnation of Klinsmann or Keane but it must be said that he’s performed better than the likes of Emmanuel Adebayor and Roberto Soldado who come higher in the hierarchy. Even if he might not be the most technically proficient, the fact that he constantly finds himself in the right positions suggest that he’s worth a shot.