This weekend saw even more Riyad Mahrez, Diego Costa playing himself in the oft-remade film ‘Arsenal lose to Chelsea’ and West Ham dominating away from home, again. Here are five things that we learned from the weekend’s football action.
1 Stoke slowly snapping out of their funk
Stoke City were a team in vogue going into this season. It’s well documented, but Mark Hughes has truly ushered in a new attacking era at the Britannia Stadium. Watching Marko Arnautovic on Saturday sweep down the wing and play in a weighted ball for an ever-exuberant Bojan to finish was a far cry from Rory Delap’s throw-ins and Matthew Etherington’s mediocre prime.
Stoke have had a rough start and their defence no longer looks quite the part, a trade-off for their increased dynamism in attack. These factors combined leave them in the bottom 3, but the table doesn’t honestly depict Stoke’s level of play. Leicester City were fortunate not to be facing a heavier deficit as Hughes’ side repeatedly turned them over. Another late flurry from the visitors reflected poorly on Stoke and handed both teams their third draw of the season already. Sparky’s jump leads seem to have worked for his team and Stoke’s results will soon see an uptick now the engine is rumbling.
Options are aplenty: Shaqiri is continuing to settle, Bojan is fit and Jon Walters will be a good differential pick while Mame Diouf is out because no-one ever, ever can bring themselves to pick Jon Walters.
2 Not all budget strikers were made equal
Callum Wilson and Troy Deeney were both talismen for their newly promoted clubs yet have fared differently when it comes to Premier League goalscoring. Wilson has spearheaded an attack that holds Bournemouth’s best chance of survival this season. He’s been energetic and clinical, a must for a forward playing for a lower table club. Eddie Howe has also been deploying him with no other recognised striker, which leaves a hefty burden on the former Coventry City man that he’s been able to handle.
Troy Deeney on the other hand is still looking for his first goal. In the Championship, pacy players and target men are reliable sources for goals. However in the past few seasons, pace has translated far more easily then what Deeney has to offer. Charlie Austin and Rickie Lambert spring to mind, but they are unusual when looking at the history of the newly-promoted. The burly Watford striker has notched some assists and perhaps hasn’t been helped by not playing in a free flowing side like Bournemouth — the Hornets’ defence looking like their best asset. Although we only have to check out Odion Ighalo, playing next to Deeney, to see how pace is often more damaging to Premier League defences.
3 Sunderland are the Andrex team of the year
The Andrex award is unofficially awarded to the Premier League team who’s defence most resembles soggy wet toilet paper. There’s always one specific backline that offers little to no resistance and subsequently gets relegated at the end. Two years ago it was Fulham. Last season it was QPR. This year? Hello Sunderland.
Bournemouth must be credited for their play on Saturday but Sunderland’s performances have been the collective embodiment of the word ‘soft’. It perhaps doesn’t help that Sunderland have taken a leaf out of QPR’s book in recruitment. In the starting eleven on Saturday we could find Jermaine Defoe who is declining rapidly and Younes Kaboul who hasn’t been good since the year Newcastle finished 5th.
When will everyone recognise that broken former Spurs players are not a good signing for a lower team? Kaboul’s suicidal performance at Bournemouth was not without good news, as his red card prevents his selection for at least one game. A dull silver lining in the gloomiest of clouds on Wearside.
4 De Bruyne has a place in Manchester City’s lineup
West Ham stole the show on Saturday night away to Manchester City, only after Kevin De Bruyne threatened to ruin it all for Slaven Bilic. More than any other player, De Bruyne was the one who had Hammers fans worried when he picked up the ball. The Belgian couldn’t ultimately bring it back but he proved to many that he will have a substantial role alongside Sergio Aguero and David Silva this year.
The doubters questioned whether another attacking midfielder was a necessary signing for Pellegrini. It was a reasonable qualm given how City’s attack had been steamrolling every cluster of 11 men that dared cross their path. But De Bruyne exerted such an influence on the match with his willingness to get on the ball and spread the play, you wonder how the team would have fared without him.
His case helped even more by Jesus Navas’ dire performance on the wing. De Bruyne will surely take his place when Silva returns. The need for Navas has been negated with the arrival of Raheem Sterling who provides the width City so sorely need and much more than the Spaniard. After making his first start of many, De Bruyne gave us a taster on Saturday of what he’ll look to serve up all season long.
5 Anthony Martial is making us look silly
Fantasy football players scoffed when they first saw Martial’s price. It was seemingly extortionate for a teenager that scored just 9 league goals in Ligue 1 last year. 3 bona-fide, Robbie-Savage-approved Premier League goals later and the tide has turned.
In a way that only fantasy football can, many people who consider their knowledge regarding football of the fantasy variety to be extensive have quickly been turned into fools. 8 million for Manchester United‘s starting striker and everyone thought he was overpriced? What were we all thinking?
Having Sunderland — this year’s Andrex team, lest you forget — at home seems like the most appetising fixture possible right now and it’s exactly what Martial is facing next weekend. If that doesn’t tempt you, nothing will.
Harry Wallace is a Leicester City fan and Fantasy Football enthusiast. Both have been known to be unsuccessful at times. Keep track of his football related thoughts on Twitter.