Premier League Team of Week 2: Aguero puts Terriers down

Aguero

Another weekend of pulsating Premier League action is done. Cardiff vs Newcastle happened too. But who made it into Twelve’s team of the week? Two players who were included last week made it in again, even though their teams lost. As a wise sage once opined, ‘it’s a funny old game.’

But of course we’re focusing on player performances here, and not team ones. It’s not Paul Pogba’s fault he plays for Manchester United, is it? Anyway, after matching four of Garth Crooks’ selections last week, we have just two in common this time around. Sorry, Garth.

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Brighton vs Manchester United preview

Brighton vs Manchester United Preview: Can Pereira become the new Carrick?

While Manchester City have already won one trophy and beat Arsenal in their first match of the new season, the black clouds are hovering over Old Trafford. The red part of Manchester has still not been reconciled with the lack of transfers as United remain weak in some positions that need to be strengthened.

In spite of that, Jose Mourinho’s men delivered a 2-1 win against Leicester City in front of their own fans. It wasn’t a performance to remember, but three points with some positives meant fans could be proud in these days of negativity around the most crowned club in England.

Toby is not needed when you have Bailly-Lindelof pairing

It is obvious from the last season that the Manchester United back four requires changes. José Mourinho didn’t get what he wanted this summer and that was a new world-class central defender. Harry Maguire, Diego Godin, Yerry Mina and Toby Alderweireld were all very close to signing for United according to press speculation, but the first game of the season proved that the Portuguese boss has maybe found the perfect combination.

The young Swede has grown a lot in his first year at the club and seems ready to push on. Lindelof made a team-high nine clearances and was incredibly composed in defence and attack with some fantastic balls forward. That put him as the best United defender against Leicester as per Twelve’s algorithm. Just in front was Eric Bailly who walled the Foxes with his tackling, blocking and well-timed interceptions.

Return of the Shaw

Another big reason for United fans to be optimistic this season is the return of Luke Shaw. He provided a really good performance last weekend, and made it into Twelve’s team of the week. Apart from scoring a goal to double the lead, Shaw constantly bombed up the left flank and recovered well. Most people already dismissed the 23-year-old because of his not-so-good pre-season performances, and because a lack of options in his position was a big cause of frustration.

Mourinho wanted to replace Shaw with Alex Sandro this summer, but we never saw that deal happening, so the England international has got a new chance to shine. He made a couple of mistakes defensively but also had the most touches of the ball (99) which is something on which he can build his form.

Did Andreas Pereira show he can be Carrick’s heir?

Against Leicester, United set up in a 4-3-3 variation with Andreas Pereira as the single pivot with Fred and Pogba in front of him. It was the 22-year-old Belgian’s first Premier League start for the Red Devils. It seems the talented midfielder finally persuaded Mourinho that he’s capable of playing at the highest level.

Of course, Pereira only started because Nemanja Matic is injured, but José still entrusted him in an important role. Pereira, who is a more creative player than the defensively-minded Serbian, was primarily tasked to begin attacks from deeper positions.

He was very comfortable in possession, especially in situations where he needed to avoid the opposition press with his quick and vertical passes.

Twelve’s algorithm rewarded his performance against Leicester as the third best when looking overall, but what’s worth mentioning is that Pereira scored the most defence points (904), leaving Bailly and Pogba behind by almost 200 points.

Also, with Pereira’s deep and static positioning, Fred and Pogba were able to push forward more, allowing the latter to be at his best when playing with more freedom deeper in the opposing half. Yes, Pogba showed us he can play in a deeper role as France lifted the World Cup, but with United he struggled and was often disputed last season when playing in double pivot in 4-2-3-1 variance.

Can Pereira fill Michael Carrick’s boots? It would be ridiculous to expect that in full, but a very promising future lies ahead of him.

What’s for United against Brighton & Hove Albion, and vice versa?

Among all the negativity and moaning, Mourinho was still man enough to praise a „monstrously” good performance by Paul Pogba. The World Cup winner will still be the key player for the Red Devils against Brighton this weekend. We will also expect Luke Shaw to build upon his excellent performance against Leicester. There is a lot in front of Alexis Sanchez who again didn’t show any magic but wasn’t either the worst player in the team. It could just be that Mourinho’s men need more time playing together.

The Seagulls, who finished 15th last year, were downed by a deadly Roberto Pereyra double last weekend. They lost 2-0 at Watford, in the first game of their second season in the top flight since earning promotion. It’s been a busy summer on the south coast, with 16 new players arriving and 18 players departing.

Among the arrivals, it could be Iranian winger Alireza Jahanbakhsh who can pose a threat to the Red Devils. The Iranian international was directly involved in more goals than any other player in the 2017/18 Eredivisie season. Jahanbakhsh netted 21 goals while adding 14 assists to his tally. At the World Cup he created danger on the right flank where Carlos Quieroz deployed him as a winger.

If he starts here it will be a big test for him, as United comfortably denied Leicester on that side. It could also be a double-edged sword because United mainly attacked through their left side and Shaw’s forward runs often left acres of space behind him.

It will be very interesting to see how Chris Hughton copes with the pressure from last week’s defeat and a lot of new faces in the dressing room. On the other hand, Manchester United will be eager to get their revenge for last May’s 1-0 defeat. It will all be decided on Sunday.

Prediction: Brighton & Hove Albion 1–3 Manchester United

Crystal Palace vs Liverpool preview

Crystal Palace vs Liverpool Preview: Flight of the full-backs

Crystal Palace vs Liverpool always sees goals. The Reds have travelled to Selhurst Park six times in league and cup since Palace returned to the top flight in 2013, and every match has seen both teams score and at least three goals in total. Liverpool have conceded first but gone on to win nine league games under Jürgen Klopp, with two of them being at Palace. Expect drama, expect goals, and expect the full-backs to be heavily involved.

Last weekend was a remarkable one for wide defenders. No, not you, Ruddock, I’m talking about full-backs. Of the 18 players credited with an assist on the opening match week of the new Premier League season, six were full-backs. Not only that, but the only two players to set up two goals were left-backs. Neither Benjamin Mendy nor José Holebas will feature here, but plenty of talented, pacy and creative players will. Read More

Tottenham Hotspur vs Fulham

Tottenham Hotspur vs Fulham: Can either team get going?

Tottenham Hotspur vs Fulham features two teams who will be looking to improve upon their performances last weekend. Tottenham’s lacklustre effort in their 2-1 win over Newcastle last week was much expected from a Spurs side who had 12 players playing in Russia at the World Cup, nine of whom featured in the semi-finals. From the start, Tottenham looked tired and players were lacking discipline in closing down their opposition which allowed Newcastle freedom on the ball. 

Tottenham became the first Premier League club not to sign a player since the summer transfer window was introduced in 2003, and with no fresh faces in the side they looked to Lucas Moura for inspiration. The nimble Brazilian impressed in only his third Premier League start, as he was everywhere on the pitch and was comfortable to dribble the ball forward, making a number of excellent solo runs. Read More

Chelsea vs Arsenal preview

Chelsea vs Arsenal preview: Mutual test on rebuilding process for Sarri and Emery

While there was no surprise in the result of Unai Emery’s baptism into the Premier League against defending champions Manchester City, the ease with which Pep Guardiola’s men cut through Arsenal was dispiriting. The Gunners didn’t seem to land a punch, not even a cursory jab, as the Post-Wenger years truly began for Arsenal.

The fixture list is unkind to Emery as he continues his Premier League sojourn at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea. Like Arsenal, Chelsea brought in a new manager seeking a jolt and renaissance from the tedious final days of Antonio Conte.

Maurizio Sarri’s Premier League debut in the Chelsea’s dugout went rather swimmingly. Admittedly, Huddersfield were a lacklustre opponent who could have serious troubles with relegation this season, and it wasn’t peak Sarri-ball replete with intricate movement and delicate build-up. However, the emphatic scoreline without the team’s standout attacker for the majority of the game was a sure-footed start. Read More

Manchester City vs Huddersfield preview

Manchester City vs Huddersfield Preview: Mended Mendy Can Help Ease De Bruyne Blow

Manchester City’s campaign to be the first repeat champions of the Premier League since their crosstown rivals Manchester United in 2008-09 got off to an auspicious start on Sunday, but then quickly took a big hit with news of Kevin De Bruyne‘s injury.

With Arsenal fairly comfortably dispatched thanks to goals from Sterling and Bernardo Silva, one can be forgiven in thinking that relegation favorites Huddersfield Town will be a much easier task, even without City’s talisman. However, in some ways the Terriers visit is perhaps a truer test of how far City have progressed than an Arsenal side still feeling out what Unai Emery wants from them, and will allow fans to see how City intend to cope with De Bruyne’s absence.

When asked on what new ideas he had for the upcoming season, City manager Pep Guardiola focused his attention on how to attack teams with 10 men behind the ball. Read More

Roberto Pereyra Premier League

Premier League Team of Week 1: Pereyra’s buzzing for Hornets

Three hundred and sixty players were named in match day squads this weekend. Two hundred and seventy-nine of them saw some action (with David Wagner the only manager who didn’t use all three available substitutions), but who made it into our inaugural team of the week?

At this point we could just throw up an image of the top 11 players on this week’s leader board and have done with it. But of course they don’t make a ‘team’ in the conventional sense. Granted, nine of the top ten performers do fit into a recognisable formation and feature here, but the best rated goalkeeper is at number 39, and there’s no right-back in the top 50.

It’s not easy to pick a formation for this team either. According to football-lineups.com, nine different tactical set ups were deployed in the Premier League this weekend. I’ve gone for a 4-3-3, as it seems to work best with the players available. Read More

Jorginho Chelsea Sarri

Jorginho alone can not solve Chelsea’s defensive issues

Chelsea are looking for a fresh start under newly-appointed manager Maurizio Sarri. The Italian eccentric replaces fellow countryman Antonio Conte and intends to replicate the work he was doing at Napoli for three years. Jorginho has followed him from Naples to help him achieve that.

The first true test for Sarri’s team came against Manchester City last Sunday. Even though the FA Community Shield is not always taken 100 percent seriously, a competitive City side exposed some of the Blues’ weaknesses Sarri has to work on. Most prominently, the pressing which was reminiscent of Napoli’s in the past few seasons did not work as effectively as it has to when the Premier League season starts.

Conte relied on a system with a back three and two high-volume runners on the wings. Sarri, however, immediately implemented a 4-3-3 system, similar to the one he played at Napoli. With the signing of Jorginho, he even has his crucial centre-midfielder from the San Paolo at his disposal, which might look like a promise that Chelsea would have a stable defence going forward. But Jorginho alone cannot provide full stability. The 2-0 loss against Manchester City on Sunday was proof of that. Read More

Arsenal Manchester City Preview

Arsenal vs. Manchester City Preview: The Emery era begins

The blockbuster match up of the opening weekend of the Premier League is champions Manchester City coming to the Emirates Stadium to face Arsenal.

Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City broke a number of records last season on their way to 100 points and now face the task of trying to top one of the best seasons of all time. Arsenal limped to their worst finish since 1994-95 and saw their legendary coach Arsene Wenger retire.

Manchester City Drop Attackers into Midfield

The backbone of Manchester City’s title team were Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva; both of whom in most systems would line up as attacking midfielders but in Pep Guardiola’s system were used as more traditional midfielders but with the freedom to attack. Having both start from deep allowed Manchester City to add another attacker to the starting XI while still having numerical superiority in midfield.

This also unlocked De Bruyne and Silva to post some of the best attacking numbers in the league even from a deeper starting position, coming up the second and seventh most highly rated by the Twelve model. Read More

Liverpool

Liverpool vs. West Ham United Preview: Naby Keita key for Klopp

Liverpool go into the season as second favourites to win the 2018/19 Premier League title. If they are to make their supporters’ long standing dream a reality, they will need to be stronger at home. They may have gone unbeaten at Anfield for only the seventh time in their top flight history in 2017/18, but they also only won 12 times; the Reds only won fewer in nine of the preceding 25 Premier League seasons.

In fairness to Jürgen Klopp, five of their seven draws were against teams who finished in the top eight, and it looks unlikely West Ham will do that well this season. Or won’t they? After all, with four days to go in the transfer window, the Hammers were the second top net spenders behind Liverpool.

The east Londoners also have a new manager in the shape of Manuel Pellegrini, which makes it tricky to know how they’ll play at Anfield on Sunday. The Chilean has employed a 4-2-3-1 formation in five of their six pre-season matches, but the combination of Slaven Bilic and David Moyes only used that system five times in the league last season. The Hammers picked up just one point from those games, so hopefully their new signings perform better than the players they have replaced. Read More