Week six of the Premier League is almost in the books and this week saw Man City and Tottenham maintain their unbeaten runs, wins for Liverpool, Bournemouth and Arsenal as well as crushing defeats for Sunderland and West Ham. But what are the story-lines that may carry forward into future game-weeks? We had a look..
What now for Wayne Rooney?
José Mourinho made a big call when he benched England’s all-time leading goalscorer in favour of Marcus Rashford for Manchester United’s weekend victory over Leicester.
While many will see this as the beginning of the end for Rooney, United still scored three goals from set pieces and even though the first half performance was filled with pace and vigor, the second half was gravely ponderous in comparison.
The Portuguese tactician will likely try to work the floundering forward back into his starting XI as he is not ready to put complete faith in his young Mancunian replacement. This might cause the ire of many a “Red Devil” fan however as indicated above, the scoreline slightly flattered the home side as for all their good play in the opening period, clear cut chances created were few and far between and were in not for Leicester’s weakness from the dead-ball this match would have been much closer.
2. Defensive Problems for Chelsea
For years under successive managers Chelsea were seen as the defensive benchmark of the Premier League, structurally sound and well drilled, they were always hard to break down and even harder to defeat from set pieces.
That is why their newfound frailties under Antonio Conte are all the more shocking. Branislav Ivanovic looks a pale shadow of his former self, Gary Cahill looks like a ticking time-bomb without John Terry and even the reliable Cesar Azpilicueta looks out of sorts.
The re-addition of David Luiz hasn’t helped and the shielding of N’Golo Kante has been ineffectual especially last Saturday evening against a rampant Arsenal. The Gunners pace and direct style caused Chelsea a world of problems and it looks as if Conte will have to go back to the drawing board to shore things up until January if he is to keep their Champions League ambitions intact.
3. Fortress Anfield once again
Since taking over the Liverpool hot-seat Jurgen Klopp has continually spoken about making Anfield the hardest place in the league for teams to visit. It finally looks like beneath that newly developed main stand with the funny camera angle, he is achieving this target.
Two games, nine goals scored and only two conceded point to a changing mentality on Merseyside and have established them at the forefront of the Champions League contenders. In Saido Mané they look to have found the perfect foil to go alongside Coutinho, Firmino and Lallana in a formidable attacking quartet.
Their defence seems to have solidified for the time being and as the new signings adjust to Klopp’s “gengenpressing” style of play, this will only lead to further improvements in their rearguard. What will be very pleasing to the German is that this style seems to be at its best against the top 4 sides, against whom he has a very formidable record.
4. West Ham’s woes continue
This was supposed to be the season of the happy hammer. New Stadium, new signings, new sponsors, new money, new start.
This couldn’t be further from reality however as Slaven Bilic’s side have collected just one win from six games, conceding a massive sixteen goals. The unrest from the stands has been quite vocal and the Croat has been slashed in the betting for the “sack race” in all major betting outlets.
There is no obvious answer to their issues, especially those at the Olympic Stadium. These are the same players who led the Irons to a successful finish last year and caused a stir of optimism for this season’s campaign. What is obvious is that Bilic has no idea of his best starting XI as he continues to chop and change looking for the best set of players to implement his attacking philosophy. He has received the dreading vote of confidence from the co-chairmen so it is imperative that he turns it around soon.
5. This could be Sunderland’s year
After all the near escapes under Poyet, Di Canio and Allardyce, this could finally be the year where the north east club succumb to the Championship trap door.
Saturday’s defeat to Crystal Palace was symptomatic of a team who just do not believe they are good enough even with a two goal lead. This is compounded by a manager in Moyes who showed a complete lack of ambition away at Tottenham last week and although excuses can be made regarding the lateness of his appointment and lack of recruitment, the team appear to have regressed since a battling defeat to Manchester City on the opening day.
Something is going to have to change and fast because Jermain Defoe’s goals alone will not keep them afloat. They need to find a spine of a team that will allow them to be consistent and get the best from creative players, Januzaj, Khadri and Ndong. Lee Cattermole and Jan Kirchoff continue on their battle to gain full fitness but it is Moyes’ approach to getting points which will need to change before their fortunes can be altered.