Angel Di Maria

A First Time Footballer

Having watched snippets of last weekend’s games and spent a fair bit of time with two of my football-mad friends, I feel relatively clued-up about the Premier League’s latest happenings. The core theme of my post this week is the unpredictable, exciting and, often, cruel nature of the Premier League.

I’ll begin with Manchester United. A couple of weeks ago, after Man United’s surprise loss against Swansea, I appealed to fans to give poor Louis van Gaal more time before giving up hope. I felt bad for the United manager – who hadn’t had much time to settle into his new role and was dealing with injuries plus a lack of decent arrivals over the Summer. So, I was pleased to see their hefty 4-0 win over QPR at the weekend: “By the end I hope to be a Premier League champion, if not this year, then in the second or third”, rejoiced van Gaal. Now Louis, whilst it was great to see a stadium full of delighted fans and a team refuelled with self-belief, you can’t afford to get too carried away. Even I am fully aware of how quickly the fate of certain teams can change from match to match.

Take Brazil in the 2014 World Cup – they more or less cruised through the group stages and were many people’s favourite to go all the way in the competition. This was before one of the biggest shocks in footballing memory took place where Germany thrashed the Brazilians 7-1 in the semi-finals – a game that will go down in history! The Man United manager might want to calm down a bit and not get supporters fired up in a frenzy with rash predictions about a league that has only really just started. Not only is it a rather hasty projection so early in the competition, but also the impressive victory was down to a number of factors that have the potential to drastically change throughout the season.

Di Maria was supposedly the man that made the difference at the weekend, scoring his first United goal within half an hour of his home debut – it seems that the £59.7 million signing was worth every penny. However, it’s a dangerous idea to put all your eggs in one basket – we saw how Uruguay lost all momentum after superstar Suarez was banned in the World Cup. Di Maria’s future performance is dependant on a lot of factors – not meshing well with his new club, personal issues or injury all have the potential to rule him out of the season. Furthermore, QPR put on a particularly poor performance and United still face some challenging games.

Aston Villa have also showcased the unpredictable nature of the Premier League – with a pleasantly surprising victory against Liverpool at the weekend. I was busy in my kitchen late on Saturday afternoon, when I heard an ecstatic screeching, followed by a series of bangs, coming from my living room. When I went to investigate, I found my Villa obsessed friend grinning on the sofa after Agbonlahor had just scored, 9 minutes into the match. From my limited knowledge of Villa, I knew better than to let him get over-excited – there was still plenty of time for it to go to pot. I was surprised to return, 63 minutes into the match, to find the score line still at 1-0 to Aston Villa. When the final whistle was blown, there was further screeching from the sofa followed by more than a couple of beers. To my restricted Premier League knowledge, Villa don’t have the most fantastic reputation with regard to their performance, so I have to hand it to them – they’ve had a brilliant start to the league, where they currently sit in 2nd place.

There is, of course, a however. They haven’t had such a promising start to their Premier League campaign since 1998-99 and even then they dropped from the top spot at Christmas 1998 to finish 6th at the end of that season. Furthermore, their next four games are going to be extremely tough, even the most optimistic Villa supporter isn’t expecting four wins, and so it looks like their luck could be rapidly changing fortunes. Even just by looking at the first few games played by only two Premier League teams – with an array of surprise wins and shocking losses – it’s easy to see why it can be such an addictive sport to watch. Hopes are regularly raised and dashed as the unpredictable, exciting and, often, cruel Premier League progresses. 


Top Signing Per Club: M-W

The transfer window has now closed and the Premier League sides will have to make do with what they have until January. Here @0riginalfooty takes a look at the top signing made by each club whose name begins between M and W.

Manchester City
Fernando (FC Porto, undisclosed). Fernando was signed to bolster City’s options in midfield and has slotted seamlessly into the side thus far. He is a strong and powerful midfielder who will do the dirty work in midfield to allow Manuel Pellegrini’s attacking options more freedom so they can maximise the damage they inflict on the opposition.
Other notable signings: Willy Caballero (Malaga, undisclosed), Eliaquim Mangala (FC Porto, £32m), Bacary Sagna (Arsenal, free).

Manchester United
Angel di Maria (Real Madrid, £59.7m). Louis van Gaal has smashed the British transfer record by acquiring the services of Argentine winger di Maria. Di Maria was influential in Real Madrid’s Champions League victory last season and was a key member of the Argentina side that reached the World Cup final. United have signed a world class player and one that has the ability to turn their fortunes around.
Other notable signings: Daley Blind (Ajax, £14m), Radamel Falcao (AS Monaco, loan), Ander Herrera (Athletic Bilbao, £29m), Marcos Rojo (Sporting Lisbon, £16m), Luke Shaw (Southampton, £27m).

Newcastle United
Jack Colback (Sunderland, free). Sunderland fans were furious that Jack Colback was allowed to move to their bitter rivals for no fee. Sunderland’s loss is Newcastle’s gain and Colback should play a big role at the heart of their midfield. He was recently called up to the England squad and, although he had to leave the squad with an injury, has a bright future in front of him.
Other notable signings: Remy Cabella (Montpellier, undisclosed), Karl Darlow (Nottingham Forest, undisclosed), Facundo Ferreyra (Shakhtar Donetsk, loan), Daryl Janmaat (Feyenoord, undisclosed), Siem de Jong (Ajax, undisclosed), Jamaal Lascelles (Nottingham Forest, undisclosed), Ayoze Perez (Tenerife, undisclosed), Emmanuel Riviere (AS Monaco, undisclosed).

Steven Caulker (Cardiff, £8m). QPR manager Harry Redknapp has been keen to add solidity to his back line this summer and highly rated English centre-back Steven Caulker fits the bill perfectly. QPR kept their first clean sheet of the season in their last match against Sunderland and there were encouraging signs that the Caulker-Ferdinand partnership is ready to blossom.
Other notable signings: Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United, free), Leroy Fer (Norwich City, £8m), Mauricio Isla (Juventus, loan), Alex McCarthy (Reading, undisclosed), Jordan Mutch (Cardiff City, £6m), Jack Robinson (Liverpool, undisclosed).

Fraser Forster (Celtic, £10m). A lot of the focus of Southampton’s summer spending has been on replacing the key players who left for pastures new. There are question marks over how successful their recruitment drive has been, however, one position they have certainly strengthened is in goal. Forster is a top young goalkeeper who has the potential to challenge Joe Hart for the England goalkeeping jersey and represents a major coup for The Saints.
Other notable signings: Toby Alderweireld (Atletico Madrid, loan) Ryan Bertrand (Chelsea, loan), Florin Gardos (FC Steaua Bucharest, £6m), Shane Long (Hull City, £12m), Sadio Mane (Red Bull Salzburg, £10m), Graziano Pelle (Feyenoord, undisclosed), Dusan Tadic (FC Twente, £10.9m).

Stoke City
Victor Moses (Chelsea, loan). Mark Hughes has largely spent the summer bolstering his attacking options and Victor Moses represents a good piece of business for The Potters. After an uninspiring loan move at Liverpool, he will be keen to get back on track with Stoke and rediscover the form that made him heralded as a highly rated prospect.
Other notable signings: Oussama Assaidi (Liverpool, loan), Phil Bardsley (Sunderland, free), Bojan (Barcelona, £3m), Mame Biram Diouf (Hannover 96, free), Steve Sidwell (Fulham, free).

Jack Rodwell (Manchester City, free). Rodwell’s career may have stalled at Manchester City but The Black Cats have pulled off a major coup in landing him. He is a tall combative midfielder but has rediscovered the attacking side to his game that was evident in his goal against Manchester United. Sunderland fans can expect Rodwell to really kick on and become a key player for them.
Other notable signings: Patrick van Aanholt (Chelsea, undisclosed), Ricardo Alvarez (Inter Milan, loan), Will Buckley (Brighton and Hove Albion, £2.5m), Sebastian Coates (Liverpool, loan), Jordi Gomez (Wigan Athletic, free), Billy Jones (West Bromwich Albion, free), Costel Pantilimon (Manchester City, free), Santiago Vergini (Estudiantes, loan).

Gylfi Sigurdsson (Spurs, undisclosed). Sigurdsson has been one of the stars of the Premier League season so far and has played a large part in guiding Swansea towards the top of the table. Swansea fans will expect more of the same from a man who looks to be enjoying his football again after an indifferent spell at Spurs.
Other notable signings: Tom Carroll (Spurs, loan), Marvin Emnes (Middlesbrough, undisclosed), Lukasz Fabianski, Federico Fernandez (Napoli, undisclosed), Bafetimbi Gomis (Lyon, free), Raheem Hanley (Blackburn Rovers, undisclosed), Stephen Kingsley (Falkirk, undisclosed), Jefferson Montero (Morelia, undisclosed).

Tottenham Hotspur
Eric Dier (Sporting Lisbon, £4m). Spurs haven’t splashed too much cash this window as Mauricio Pochettino has been briefed to bring the best out of the players already at the club. However, the signing of Eric Dier looks to be an excellent piece of business. Not only is he solid at the back, he is also a threat going forward and already has two league goals this season. He is still a young prospect and will be a major asset to Spurs in the future.
Other notable signings: Ben Davies (Swansea, £10m), Federico Fazio (Sevilla, undisclosed), Benjamin Stambouli (Montpellier, £4.7m), Michel Vorm (Swansea, £5m), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders FC, undisclosed).

West Bromwich Albion
Joleon Lescott (Manchester City, free). It’s been a summer of change for West Brom. The Baggies have brought in more new faces than any other side in the Premier League as they hope to draw a line under last season. Their most impressive signing is that of Joleon Lescott. Lescott has vast amounts of Premier League experience as well as playing international football and in the Champions League. Once fully fit, he will be a vital part of West Brom’s plans to stay in the division.
Other notable signings: Chris Baird (Burnley, free), Sebastian Blanco (Metalist Kharkiv, undisclosed), Jason Davidson (Heracles Almelo, undisclosed), Cristian Gamboa (Rosenborg, undisclosed), Craig Gardner (Sunderland, free), Brown Ideye (Dynamo Kiev, £10m), Sebastien Pocognoli (Hannover 96, undisclosed), Georgios Samaras (Celtic, free), Andre Wisdom (Liverpool, loan)

West Ham United
Alex Song (Barcelona, loan). Sam Allardyce has been told he must bring style rather than just substance to Upton Park and he has brought in some exciting attacking prospects to do just that. However, The Hammers’ most high profile signing is Alex Song who has joined on loan from Catalan giants Barcelona. The former Arsenal man is a quality defensive midfielder who has an excellent range of passing and will drastically improve the quality of the London club’s midfield.
Other notable signings: Aaron Cresswell (Ipswich Town, undisclosed), Carl Jenkinson (Arsenal, loan), Cheikhou Kouyate (Anderlecht, undisclosed), Diego Poyet (Charlton Athletic, free), Diafra Sakho (Metz, undisclosed), Enner Valencia (Pachuca, £12m), Mauro Zarate (Velez Sarsfield, undisclosed).

Weekend Preview and Predictions

@0riginalfooty takes a look at the fixtures for the third weekend of Premier League football. Last week we got six out of ten correct with two correct scores, will we do better this time around?


Burnley vs Man Utd (12:45)
Neither side has recorded a Premier League win this season and The Clarets are yet to register a point. In fairness to Burnley, they produced a good second half display against Swansea and they will be encouraged that they won’t be pointless for too long. United, on the other hand, have made a terrible start to the season and, worryingly, are showing no attacking creativity or incisiveness to strike fear into any opposition. Their midweek hammering by the MK Dons has made things even worse and confidence will be at an all time low. On the plus side, United have brought in a world class player in Angel Di Maria, one of the stars of Real Madrid’s Champions League victory last season. Playing away from home should take some pressure off the players and they will hope that the signing of Di Maria will give them enough of a lift to record their first three points. Judging by their current form, however, don’t be surprised to see them slip up once more.
Prediction: Burnley 0-1 Man Utd

Man City vs Stoke (15:00)
Manchester City may not have hit their best form so far but they have still recorded two relatively comfortable victories over decent opposition. In contrast, Stoke have made a stuttering start to the season by losing at home to an unfancied Villa side and only managing a draw against ten-man Hull. On the plus side, they did record a comfortable victory against Portsmouth in the Capital One Cup, although they will face a much sterner test here. Stevan Jovetic appears to have put his previous injury concerns behind him and looks a real threat going forward, which will really please Manuel Pellegrini. Provided City aren’t overconfident, this should be a straightforward home victory.
Prediction: Man City 3-0 Stoke

Newcastle vs Crystal Palace (15:00)
Newcastle, whilst only having one point on the board, have made a solid start and look set for a good season. Meanwhile, Crystal Palace have had a nightmare start to the campaign, although they avoided an upset against Walsall in the cup with a confident three goal victory. They have appointed Neil Warnock as their new manager, so they will have some stability on that front, and are set to re-sign Wilfried Zaha on loan so there should be a slightly more positive buzz around Selhurst Park. Having said that, Warnock’s record at this level is fairly poor and fans may question the appointment. Newcastle will feel confident going into this one and should have enough to earn their first three points of the season.
Prediction: Newcastle 2-0 Crystal Palace

QPR vs Sunderland (15:00)
Harry Redknapp and his side have made a really disappointing start to the campaign and there is already talk of him facing the axe. Sunderland, in comparison, have drawn both their matches and performed very well against a struggling Man Utd last weekend. Redknapp’s players will be shot of confidence after their thumping at the hands of Spurs and the fans will be expecting a big performance this weekend. Sunderland look like a tough side to beat and they should come away with another point here.
Prediction: QPR 1-1 Sunderland

Swansea vs West Brom (15:00)
Swansea have made a truly magnificent start to the season and Garry Monk will be delighted with the performances of all his players thus far. West Brom may not have made such a glamorous start but they have a couple of points on the board and Alan Irvine will be pleased with the battling qualities his side have demonstrated to date. Irvine’s side seem well organised and won’t roll over easily so Swansea’s 100% record may come under threat here. A draw seems the most likely outcome in this one.
Prediction: Swansea 2-2 West Brom

West Ham vs Southampton (15:00)
The Hammers bounced back from opening day disappointment to easily dispense of Crystal Palace with the free-flowing football that Allardyce has promised. Ronald Koeman won’t be too disheartened by his side’s performances so far, although they appear less dangerous in attack this season. This is yet another game that’s very difficult to call but West Ham seem to be on a high and should just about manage a victory, although with less ease than last weeks encounter.
Prediction: West Ham 2-1 Southampton

Everton vs Chelsea (17:30)
Everton have thrown away leads late on in their first matches of the season and will be bitterly disappointed to only have two points when they could easily have had six. Chelsea have waltzed to two comfortable victories against the promoted sides but this is their first real test. Jose Mourinho won’t underestimate his opposition and will be likely to keep it fairly tight, making sure they don’t lose the game, and try to nick the three points. Roberto Martinez won’t change his attacking philosophy and will go all out to try and win this one but Chelsea have the quality to pick them off. This should be an entertaining fixture and one Chelsea will just nick.
Prediction: Everton 1-2 Chelsea


Aston Villa vs Hull (13:30)
The Villans had made an excellent start to the season until their midweek home loss to League One side Leyton Orient. Goals seem to be the biggest issue for Paul Lambert’s side but they will be happy enough defensively ( Lambert will also be aware of their terrible run of fixtures following this match that combines trips to Anfield, Stamford Bridge and Goodison Park with hosting Arsenal and Manchester City. They will want to leave this match with all three points so they don’t slip too far down the table in a period where they are unlikely to pick up many points. Hull, like Villa, have also made a good start to the season and will be feeling buoyant about their chances of finishing well in the league. They will be disappointed to have crashed out of the Europa League on away goals but it could prove to be a blessing in disguise. Hull were, realistically, unlikely to win the competition and it would have added a large number of fixtures to their season that may have effected their league form. Villa could do with the win but a low scoring draw seems the more likely scenario.
Prediction: Aston Villa 1-1 Hull

Spurs vs Liverpool (13:30)
This should be a very interesting encounter and will give us more of an indication of how far Spurs have come since Mauricio Pochettino’s arrival. They have been very good so far this season and have won all their matches. Liverpool haven’t made the start they might have hoped for and, once again, defensive errors cost them against Manchester City. On current form there doesn’t seem to be too much between the two sides so we can expect an entertaining draw.
Prediction: Spurs 2-2 Liverpool

Leicester vs Arsenal (16:00)
Leicester have had a terrible run of fixtures to start the season but have performed admirably. Earning a point against Everton was a good result and there is no shame in defeat at Stamford Bridge. Arsenal have made a slower start than many people expected but showed good fight to score late goals in both their matches to earn four points as opposed to one. Arsene Wenger has been rocked by the news that Olivier Giroud has been ruled out until late December with an ankle injury and it remains to be seen if he drafts in a replacement for him. Leicester, on the other hand, have added experienced midfielder Esteban Cambiasso to their ranks and they will hope that he can provide some additional quality and bite to their midfield. Regardless of whether he plays or not, Arsenal should still have too much for them.
Prediction: Leicester 0-2 Arsenal