Monday Morning Midfielder: Gameweek Two

Two gameweeks down, 36 to go.

Week two in the Premier League was somewhat out shined by the reported signing (now official) of enigmatic striker Mario Balotelli to Liverpool, but that doesn’t mean the weekend was devoid of action which no doubt likely made for a few twists and turns to your fantasy weeks as well.

We’ll have to wait until next week to chronicle how Balotelli fared in his first game with his new club, so in the meantime let’s rundown some of the action from this last weekend in the Premiership.


1. Manchester United Are Must-See TV, But For The Wrong Reasons

Jack Rodwell ruined the day for United.

Jack Rodwell ruined the day for United.

There’s no denying Manchester United’s place in the history of English Football; the club’s record of 20 Premier League titles will likely stand for quite some time – if it’s challenged at all. They’ve also either produced or cultivated some of the finest talent the world has seen on the footballing stage, and along the way have managed to become one of the most wealthiest sports franchises on the planet.

But for all their former success and seemingly endless budget, the sport remains (as most other sports do) a “what have you done for me lately” – game. And all the Red Devils have managed to do since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson is slip further and further into the realm of mediocrity.

Indeed the club has become “must see TV”, but not for the reasons you might think. People are tuning in not see spectacular play by star studded players (not that you’d see that right now anyway), but to see how this once-dominant club is almost assuredly going to stub their toe yet again.

Apart from some strong play by Juan Mata, there doesn’t appear to be much working on the United machine. The defense, in particular, seems out of touch and lacking of a true central defender, which makes the signing of Angel Di Maria (an attacking, creative midfielder) all the more suspect as you’d think that money would be better spent beefing up their back line. It would appear that Louis van Gaal would rather take a rout similar to what Liverpool took last year, and that ‘s to just attempt to outscore everyone. Good luck with that.

Look, there’s talent in the side so it’s not all exactly “doom and gloom”, but this just feels like a repeat of last year; a roller coaster ride that should see the club finish outside of the top four yet again.


2. Too Early To Predict A Title For Chelsea?

The easy answer to that question is obviously yes, because no one in their right mind would predict a title run for any club after just two weeks – especially after back to back matches facing newly-promoted sides, would they? And, to be clear, I’m not going that far, at least not yet. But you’ve got to admit they look awfully impressive.

They already had the best defense going into the season, and that defense only got better with Mourinho making what looks to be the clear cut right choice in making Courtios his number one keeper. Now they’ve added two world class players to the areas they needed help the most: central attacking midfielder and striker. Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa have been as-advertised and then some, with Fabregas creating chance after chance, and Costa looking every bit the goal machine he’d become over the past year while at Atletico Madrid. Add to that someone who, in my opinion, is the finest player with the ball at his feet in the entire league in Eden Hazard, and you’ve got a complete team.

Yes, it’s early. Yes, they haven’t really been tested. And yes, it’s a long, grueling season that’s sure to take it’s toll on the club. But if the small sample we’ve seen thus far proves to play out over a full season, then it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they’re hoisting the trophy come season’s end.

3. Too Early To Predict A Title For Manchester City?

Jovetić with the brace against Liverpool

Jovetić with the brace against Liverpool

Alright, admittedly I wrote the previous section before I was able to watch City hand Liverpool their heads on Monday night. And, after doing so, I immediately knew I had to pose the same question for “The Citizens”. Like Chelsea, I won’t just yet venture out onto the ledge and predict a repeat for City, but it’s clear after just two weeks who appear to be the dominant teams.

City probably don’t quite have a defense on the same level as Chelsea’s, but it’s close. And as far as the rest of the squad is concerned, you’d have to say that City’s midfield and attacking options are at least equal to – if not slightly better than – their counterparts from the west London side.


4. Your Fantasy Points Leader After Two Weeks: Eric Dier – Defender, Tottenham

Dier celebrates after scoring against QPR on Sunday

Dier celebrates after scoring against QPR on Sunday

Yes, you read that right. With a whopping 29 points from two goals and two clean sheets, defender Eric Dier is your leading fantasy scorer. The 20-year old has been nothing short of electric, getting forward and being a presence not only in his half of the pitch, but the opposition’s as well. And while he’s obviously not going to continue to keep up his goal scoring pace, he’s vaulted himself into must-add territory if you participate in a draft-style format.

Coming over from Sporting Lisbon during the summer, Dier has, thus far, proven to be a crucial signing. In fact, despite the return of centre back Jan Vertonghen, new manager Mauricio Pochettino has insisted on finding room for the young stallion, and, instead of relegating him to the bench, moved him out to right back after playing in Vertonghen’s spot the previous week. This demonstrates Dier’s versatility in being able to handle playing multiple defensive positions, as well as Pochettino’s confidence and faith in the young man to play anywhere along the back line.

The move to right back should continue to be a fruitful one for fantasy purposes, as it will allow Dier to continue to get forward on a consistent basis. From there he’ll be able to play more crosses, as well as get behind defenders on overlapping runs.


5. Everton Blow Another Chance At Three Points

I’ve saved the worst for last.

For two weeks now I’ve seen my beloved Everton play arguably some of the finest first half football, only to fall asleep at the wheel in the second and settle for draws on both occasions. The match this past weekend against Arsenal was particularly painful, as Everton were completely dominant for 75 minutes or so of the match until Oliver Giroud and his wonderful hair came off the bench and changed the game entirely for the Gunners.

Getting away from the negative because it’s only going to make made, one glaring positive was the play of Romelu Lukaku. As I predicted last week, Martinez deployed him out on the right wing which allowed him to operate with more space, instead of playing centrally in a hold up role and having to drop too deep to receive the ball. With Arsenal’s fullback’s getting forward, this left “Big Rom” in several one-on-one match up’s with the severely overmatched Per Mertesacker. On one occasion, Lukaku out muscled the big German to the ball which left him with acres of space to race down the sideline and play a lovely little ball into the streaking Steven Naismith for the team’s second goal.

This is very encouraging as hopefully it means he’s finally fully fit after the long World Cup run this summer, and hopefully will lead to Martinez positioning him out wide more often.









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