Premier League Spotlight

Creative criticism of Moyes' United

September 13, 2013
By James Dall
(Archive)

Premier League Spotlight previews the weekend's top-flight fixtures, highlighting the key points to keep an eye on as the action unfolds.

Man United: The clamour for Shinji

David Moyes shout United SPOTLIGHT
PA PhotosDavid Moyes could do with his side tonking Crystal Palace this weekend.

We've had three rounds of matches this season. Three of 38. Can't make that clear enough. There's no patterns formed yet, but that doesn't stop some -- particularly during an international break -- from clumsily crowbarring themes into a desired storyline. David Moyes isn't Sir Alex Ferguson, you see, and he hasn't already retained the Premier League title, which is unforgivable. So let's all lose our heads.

But how about we pretend we're not face down and drooling on the panic button and are instead sitting comfortably and breathing steadily. Bear with me: Fixture-wise, United's start to the season has been a difficult one, but their win at Swansea was good. A goalless draw at home to Chelsea was fine, if not a cure for insomnia. Losing 1-0 at Anfield was bad but not reason to vomit over your season ticket -- although the performance raised question marks about creativity, for even Robin van Persie needs half-decent service.

It was thought/hoped/prayed for that chief executive Ed Woodward would pull a rabbit of the playmaker kind out of the deadline-day hat; alas, a horror show of a window came to a close with United merely paying over the odds to sign Marouane Fellaini. The Belgian will likely prove an adequate, if not loin-stirring, addition to the squad -- but he isn't what they were crying (probably literally in some dark corners of Twitter) out for. With none of the Spaniards accrued that they had coveted, attention has subsequently turned to Shinji Kagawa, the talented Japan international.

There's a growing and almost tangible pressure for Moyes to pick the former Borussia Dortmund player (Richard Jolly profiles his "disappearance" in detail here.) Hence, after playing 160 minutes for his country, and also scoring a fine goal, eyes will be on the team sheet when the champions host Crystal Palace on Saturday lunchtime. Don't be surprised, though, if the midfielder doesn't start, considering the miles travelled and the Champions League game against Bayer Leverkusen in midweek. Also, bear in mind that it is -- with all due respect -- Palace, whose defence will not be as regimented as Chelsea or Liverpool's.

Arsenal: The right wrong signing

As United fans clamoured for an addition who could boast craft, Arsenal were busy wrapping up the signing of Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid for a club-record £42.5 million fee. It has since been a popular opinion that the Germany international is not the type of signing Arsenal needed as priority No. 1, and that is a viewpoint which has credence, as Olivier Giroud needed genuine competition while the defensive midfield area, particularly with Mikel Arteta injured, looks bare.

Conversely, Ozil is exactly the type of signing Arsenal needed: one of pedigree -- he's arguably among the top 10 players in the world right now -- that demonstrated they do have the financial clout chief executive Ivan Gazidis had bragged about at the start of the summer. Furthermore, the Gunners, like United in recent games this season, lacked creativity last campaign, so bringing in someone who has a penchant for defence-splitting balls makes sense. Fans of football should indeed look forward to his debut at Sunderland on Saturday, as this is a player for whom it is acceptable to greet his arrival by sprinting down the streets of North London in a wide-eyed frenzy.

Premier League
GettyImagesMesut Ozil's arrival to the Premier League should be greeted by fans of football.

Speaking of Sunderland, they've not hit the ground running as might have been expected following their summer fitness regime, although perhaps that is due to the drastic overhaul of the squad, meaning they are yet to gel. Or, maybe, the team is not responding to manager Paolo Di Canio's fire-from-the-nostrils approach. "If my players individually are going to concede a goal like we did today, we have to be worried," he said after the loss at Selhurst Park, publicly pointing the finger once more in what is a divisive managerial style.

Everton: Lukaku coup

Another team somewhat showing United how transfer deadline should be done was Everton, as they sold Fellaini for £27.5 million and Victor Anichebe for £6 million (we don't understand it either), while bringing in promising midfielder James McCarthy, experienced tortoise Gareth Barry and the raw and brutal Romelu Lukaku. There is now a buzz about Roberto Martinez's team, who have, as expected, already been a lot more passy under the Spaniard.

Of course, they're yet to win in the league this season -- an unwanted statistic shared by Sunderland and West Brom -- although, as discussed, 2013-14 is only three matches old. That zero in the win column will likely remain as such after this weekend, too, as they host Jose Mourinho's Chelsea, a matter made worse as Lukaku, the man brought in to add the finishing touch to all those, erm, touches, is ineligible to play versus his parent club.

West Brom: Clarke's optimism

"The deadline day was good for us," West Brom manager Steve Clarke said. "We've got some good players in, and hopefully that will show very quickly in the results." Having kept hold of Shane Long, signed Stephane Sessegnon, Victor Anichebe and Morgan Amalfitano but missed on out re-signing Lukaku, it seems Clarke is seeing a glass half-full.

Not only are they without a victory from their opening three games -- two of which were at home -- but they have yet to score a goal, with just four shots on target managed in 270 minutes of football. Sessegnon should add an unpredictability to their play, Amalfitano offers depth to what was a midfield lacking options, while Anichebe is capable of being "a handful." They go in search of their first win of the season at Fulham.


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