We review some of the key talking points – both in fantasy football in reality – from the weekend’s Premier League action.
Sturridge-Coutinho Combo Gives Rodgers Hope… For Now
Daniel Sturridge returns to Anfield in much the same fashion as he’d left it… scoring goals.
I’d predicted that Liverpool’s defence would be shored up with their switch to a back three but a five minute directionless spell across the backline saw the home side concede a quickfire double at the hands of Villa’s Rudy Gestede. The overall message was however positive, even if Brendan Rodgers took the occasion of a 3-2 win to perhaps prematurely hit back at some of his critics.
The combination of Phillipe Coutinho and Sturridge was the undoubted highlight of the game with both teaming up superbly for one of the latter’s two goals while the Brazilian also turned provider for their other goalscorer, stand-in captain James Milner.
The duo are now the only identifiable top class players at the club so keeping both fit and – in the case of Coutinho and the rumours emanating from Spain’s big two – at the club is an absolute priority for Liverpool’s prospects this season.
The England international took his two goals with a comfort in front of goal which the Liverpool faithful have scarcely seen from the likes of Christian Benteke or even the promising Danny Ings this season. He converted two goals from five attempts on goal landing a 40% conversion rate and claiming ten touches in the penalty area – as a result he was the most efficient forward of the Gameweek.
Going into a Gameweek 8 clash with Everton, Sturridge will almost certainly enjoy an upturn in selection having struck three in his last three against his fellow Merseysiders.
This statistic of course ties in with Sturridge’s impressive and frankly ruthless efficiency as a Liverpool player in general – with 37 goals in 57 and an average of 0.65 goals per game, Sturridge outranks the likes of Suarez, Torres, Owen and Fowler as the Reds’ most effective finisher in the Premier League era.
Has Erik Lamela Finally Arrived?
Last week’s Monday Manager devoted a section of analysis to Tottenham’s new arrivals Son Heung-Min and Delle Alli and although both scored a sturdy and respectable 1,135 and 1,125 PlayON points apiece, the show really belonged to the previously struggling Harry Kane and longstanding mercurial letdown Erik Lamela.
Kane bagged his first of the season and put the building pressure to bed as he compounded City’s misery to make it 3-1, before Lamela chipped in with a fourth goal to really ram home Spurs’ superiority on the day.
Lamela’s man of the match performance here suggested that after two seasons of decent but rarely outstanding input, the 23 year old Argentine is finally ready to make the step up at this level.
With Alli and and Dier impressing as the makeshift midfield pivots, Spurs’ front four looks a prospect to do damage to any team in the league and Lamela was at the centre of that. Combining fluidly with the likes of Eriksen, Son and Kane, Lamela turned in his finest performance in a white shirt to date – capping it with not only that goal but an assist for Toby Alderweireld too.
2014/15 was Lamela’s best season to date with two goals scored and seven assists across 25 starts. The wideman is already in line to break that with a goal and two assists from three starts in this campaign.
Claiming 2,435 PlayON points in Gameweek 7 and with Spurs taking on Swansea – over whom they have 100% win record in their last six meetings – he’s certainly one to watch over the coming fixtures.
United Leapfrog Neighbours
What a difference four weeks make.
Towards the end of the summer transfer window, Manchester United’s prospects did not look promising in the slightest: David De Gea was on his way out of the club and Wayne Rooney was primed to start the season as United’s only recognized striker, leading to the likelihood of Maroune Fellaini supplementing the team in a cumbersome and – worst of all in the eyes of United fans – unaesthetic target man role.
To top things off, the United moneymen splashed absurd sums on some largely unproven French 19 year old.
Then Real Madrid foiled themselves in negotiations, De Gea stayed and Anthony Martial – that 19 year old – has turned out to be just the antidote to Louis Van Gaal’s cohesion and striking problems.
United put in probably their most complete display of the season against an admittedly poor Sunderland side in a 3-0 victory, but the last pieces of the jigsaw appear to be finally coming into place.
Memphis Depay and Rooney both broke their respective Premier League ducks and Juan Mata is beginning to recapture the attacking threat that made him such an elite performer at Chelsea prior to the second coming of Mourinho.
Martial however, was again the standout performer. The youngster bossed the centre-forward role and coaxed starring performances from his midfielders with superb hold up and link play. To top it off, he more or less forced Rooney’s goal upon him just by firing it into the right area. That’s three goals and an assist from three games – frighteningly good stuff.
Having jumped Manchester City and outstripped last season’s champions Chelsea to the summit of the table, there’s apparently little United or their new arrival can do wrong at present. But with Arsenal, Everton and City on the agenda for the next three Gameweeks, the real tests – both in the fantasy football and reality – will soon come.