Skip to content

Quick Six: Ramsey’s rise, Di Canio’s plight, and the storylines from the Premier League weekend

Sep 15, 2013, 4:48 PM EDT

(Highlights of Arsenal’s 3-1 victory Saturday at Sunderland.)

1. ÖZIL DEBUTS, RISE OF RAMSEY CONTINUES FOR ARSENAL …

The international break did little to quell anticipation of Mesut Özil‘s debut, with his recovery from a stomach virus unable to prevent the German Real Madrid refugee from taking his bow at the Stadium of Light. Despite some controversy, Arsenal took a 3-1 win from Sunderland, making it nine points from three games since their shock loss to Aston Villa on the league’s opening weekend. Despite all the deficiencies we’ve been harping on since that’s first week stunner, Arsenal are top of the table after four rounds.

But while Özil’s debut made him the headliner, teammates had as much (if not more) to do with the result. Olivier Giroud has been the league’s best striker, on Saturday scoring his fourth early, go-ahead goal of the season. Mathieu Flamini had a stand out day as the team’s deep midfielder, going 10 for 10 on long balls while completing 87 of 98 passes. Jack Wilshere even bounced back from his mid-week trough in Ukraine to calm England’s insecurities.

source:

Through four matches, Aaron Ramsey (left) has two goals, one assist, and has completed 87.7 percent of his passes. Combined with his Champions League performances against Fenerbahçe, the 22-year-old has been Arsenal’s best player this season. (Photo: Getty Images)

But again, the story was Aaron Ramsey. With two second half goals, the young Welshman continues his quick ascent from criticized prospect to breakout star. While Giroud may be the league’s best striker, Ramsey has been his team’s best player overall, his second half brace finally giving him a scoresheet presence to match his on-field influence.

And Arsenal wasn’t even at full strength, though coming off an international break, few teams are. Santi Cazorla wasn’t in Arsene Wenger‘s 18. Mikel Arteta and Lukas Podolski are still injured. Per Mertesacker was absent at the back. When they return, we can really start assessing how far the Gunners have come in the fight to keep fourth from Spurs.

[MORE: Sunderland 1-3 Arsenal - Gunners rise continues (Video).]

[MORE: Arsenal "lucky" in win at Sunderland.]

[MORE: Gunners sweating on Giroud's knee injury.]

2. BUT WHAT TO THINK ABOUT PAOLO DI CANIO’S ACT?

It was a gambit by a desperate team, one that always had a downside. In bringing in Paolo Di Canio to wake up a squad left comatose by Martin O’Neill, Ellis Short always risked the controversial boss would be unable to keep Sunderland in the Premier League. The downside if they stayed up? You’d be stuck with Paolo Di Canio.

source:

After Saturday’s game, Paolo Di Canio confessed he suggested referee Martin Atkinson to send him to the stands. After the loss, his team sits 20th in the Premier League with one point through four rounds. (Photo: Reuters.)

The former West Ham star is an authoritarian, a quality that’s more than a lazy assumption based on his fascist beliefs. He overworks his players, lacks tact when criticizing them publicly, and fosters an environment where their professionalism (or, their view of what a professional is) is not trusted. It’s an approach that can work at lower levels with inexperienced players who have relatively little recourse or power. At the top-level, with a squad full of veteran players who’ve played for more proven managers, Di Canio’s will breed frustration and disrespect.

It’s the type of thing that’s solved by winning, something Di Canio did at Swindon Town. And having survived a relegation battle last year, the manager entered this season with some credibility. But after Saturday’s loss, Sunderland are in last place, with one point through four rounds. Intentionally getting himself sent in Saturday’s second half off will only heighten concerns the combustible boss isn’t up to it.

(Highlights of the 0-0 draw between Stoke City and Manchester City Saturday at the Britannia Stadium.)

3. WEEK ONE SO FAR GONE FOR MANCHESTER CITY, ASTON VILLA …

Here’s a shocker: We were too quick to sing Aston Villa’s praises. Just as the dissection of Arsenal after their week one loss looks hasty, foolish, and short-sighted, the lionizing of Villa now seems premature. After a home loss to Newcastle, a defeat which would be disappointing no matter the team’s start, Villa is 1-3-0 and sit 16th. Only one team (Sunderland) have allowed more goals. Against Newcastle, they managed only one shot on target (Magpies: eight).

source: Getty Images

Aston Villa’s Brad Guzan allowed two more goals this weekend, bringing his (and the team’s) total to six conceded in four games. Only last place Sunderland (eight) has allowed more goals this season. (Photo: Getty Images.)

Manchester City are another team we overrated after week one, though perhaps with more justification. The Sky Blues have finished first and second over the last two years and made huge improvements this offseason, fomenting a justifiable bias. Most people thought they’d be better, with a 4-0 win over Newcastle on the weekend’s opening Monday only confirming that belief.

Since, the Citizens have strong together three disappointing performances, and while they’ve yet to replicate their loss at Cardiff City, a scuffling win over Hull City and a draw at Stoke City don’t exactly scream ‘ready to contend for a title.’ While City’s struggles haven’t kept them from holding down fourth place (one spot above rival Manchester United), the team doesn’t look ready to start their Champions League campaign.

Like Aston Villa, week one is so far away for City, as are the assumptions about their quality. The larger body of work shows significant tweaks are needed.

(Highlights of Newcastle’s 2-1, Saturday victory over Aston Villa at Villa Park.)

4. WHILE NEWCASTLE HAS DARED TO PUSH ON

Since losing at Eastlands to start the season, Newcastle haven’t lost. They hadn’t exactly wowed, though, playing poorly in a draw with West Ham before a 1-0 win over a bad Fulham, but with this weekend’s win at Villa, Alan Pardew‘s team has seven points from three games. Sitting eighth in the league, Pardew’s seen the early storm fueled by the Yohan Cabaye controversy and Joe Kinnear’s empty bag from Deadline Day pass without coming ashore.

And on Saturday, Newcastle has their first legitimately good performance of the season. They outplayed Villa on the road, taking advantage of their hosts’ defensive issues while limiting them to one shot on goal.

We’ll need to see more performances like these to know Newcastle’s ready to push on from last year’s struggles, but their year’s early challenges have already been cast aside. Newcastle is in better shape than we previously thought.

(Highlights of Everton’s 1-0 victory over Chelsea Saturday at Goodison Park.)

5. EVERTON BREAKTHROUGH CAN’T WIN OVER MOURINHO

Everton scored. They broke through in the win column. They recorded the type of victory the Toffees didn’t see enough under David Moyes. Toppling Chelsea, they’ve emboldened faith the Roberto Martínez era will allow them to push on, not merely consolidate.

José Mourinho doesn’t care. Scoreboard be damned, he thought his team was the better side on Saturday, despite finishing on the wrong end of a 1-0 result:

“We dominated the whole game and had 21 shots, we risked everything we could,” the Chelsea manager said after Steven Naismith‘s goal secured a 1-0 home victory. “In that sense I think it’s fair to say we deserved to win the game. But in another way, the team had 21 shots and some of them easy shots too, but we didn’t score.

“We made a mistake in the last minute of the first half where we lost the ball in a strange situation and we conceded a goal. Maybe because of that, we deserved to lose, because if you don’t score you can’t win …

“We didn’t deserve to lose because we were the best team and the team that tried harder to win the game.”

Aside from the last sentence, they’re actually relatively benign comments. Perhaps the only thing to add is shots on goal, which Chelsea led six to five. That hardly hints at a huge difference in the teams, particularly given Everton were defending a lead for half the game.

But there’s no reason for concern here. Everton will compete for a spot in Europe, leaving a 1-0 loss on the road in a coin-flip game a perfectly justifiable result. Perhaps on another day, Chelsea converts an early chance and wins this game, but as the tone of Mourinho’s comments notes, there’s no reason to dwell, even if it was the team’s first league loss their manager’s return.

(Highlights of Tottenham’s 2-0 victory over Norwich City Saturday at White Hart Lane.)

6. SPURS: NOW FEATURING OPEN PLAY GOALS

In the abstract, a 2-0 win at home against Norwich City is par for the course from Spurs. This is the type of result a Champions League-aspirant should be posting, and with a two-goal lead by the 50th minute, it was done in the kind of controlling style you’d expect from one of the league’s most-talented squads.

source: Getty Images

Christian Erikson (right) made his Premier League debut on Saturday, recording an assist in 71 minutes as Spurs went on to a 2-0 win over visiting Norwich City. (Photo: Getty Images.)

In other words, Spurs are now playing like they should, something you couldn’t say after three rounds of the season left them without an open play goal. That all changed in the 28th minute, with Gylfi Sigurdsson giving Spurs a lead he doubled four minutes after halftime.

Perhaps we could see some literary irony in a hold-over scoring two goals after Spurs’ prodigious summer spending (and selling), but most Tottenham supporters will look at Christan Eriksen’s performance and note the impact the new signings will have. The Danish international, bought from Ajax in the last week of the transfer window, went 71 minutes and posted an assist playing as André Villas-Boas‘s number 10.

It’s still going to take time for Spurs to gel, but every sign from Saturday hints things are turning it around. They outshot Norwich 23 to five, put seven on goal to the Caneries’ one, and held 69 percent of the ball. And being able to bring the likes of Sandro, Erik Lamela, and Lewis Holtby off the bench, Tottenham showed they have even more power in reserve.

Latest Posts
  1. Europa League Preview: Everton head to Russia, Spurs host Besiktas

    Oct 1, 2014, 11:10 PM EDT

    Aston Villa v Everton - Premier League Getty Images

    To expect a walk-through against Krasnodar would be a mistake and one the Toffees could pay dearly for.

  2. Asamoah Gyan sees straight red card, accuses opponent of racial abuse

    Oct 1, 2014, 10:28 PM EDT

    FBL-ASIA-C1-AL AIN-AL HILAL Getty Images

    It’s been a rough go of it lately for Ghana striker Asamoah Gyan.

  3. Dani Alves says England is his next stop – Where will he end up?

    Oct 1, 2014, 8:45 PM EDT

    Will we be seeing Dani Alves in Paris next season? Getty Images

    Alves is ready to move to the Premier League. So what clubs might he fit in?

  4. New England Revolution ink partnership deal with Sporting Clube de Portugal

    Oct 1, 2014, 7:58 PM EDT

    Courtesy: Sporting Clube de Portugal Courtesy: Sporting Clube de Portugal

    A great deal for the Revs, who will be able to add Sporting players on loan much like NYCFC can add Manchester City players.

  5. Report: Diego Maradona nearing deal to manage Palestinian National Team

    Oct 1, 2014, 7:02 PM EDT

    Diego Maradona Holds a Press Conference In Rome Getty Images

    Maradona pledged his support for the Palestinian cause back in 2012.

  6. Three things we learned after Liverpool’s latest defeat, this time vs. Basel

    Oct 1, 2014, 6:14 PM EDT

    FC Basel 1893 v Liverpool FC - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    Liverpool’s struggles continue. Here’s three things we learned as they remain winless in four.

  7. Galatasaray fans light up Emirates Stadium with flares in Arsenal match

    Oct 1, 2014, 5:51 PM EDT

    Danny Welbeck, Alexis Sanchez

    Take in a top-flight football match anywhere in Turkey and you’ll be hard-pressed not to see at least a few flares among the fans.

  8. UEFA Champions League roundup: Arsenal cruise, Liverpool lose, Real Madrid win

    Oct 1, 2014, 5:11 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C1-LUDOGORETS-REAL AP

    After eight games on Wednesday, here’s what happened around Europe.

  9. Arsenal 4-1 Galatasaray: Welbeck’s hat-trick leads 10-man Arsenal to victory

    Oct 1, 2014, 4:53 PM EDT

    Danny Welbeck, Alexis Sanchez AP

    The Gunners provided one of their most stunning performances of the season on Wednesday, dismantling Group D opponents Galatasaray 4-1.

  10. FC Basel 1-0 Liverpool: Streller sinks Reds in Switzerland

    Oct 1, 2014, 4:42 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C1-BASEL-LIVERPOOL AP

    Lackluster Liverpool now level on points with Basel, face Real Madrid in next two matches.

  11. Hat-Trick Hero: Danny Welbeck nails three in thumping of Galatasaray

    Oct 1, 2014, 4:15 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C1-ARSENAL-GALATASARAY Getty Images

    “He scores when he wants. He scores when he wants. Danny Welbeck, he scores when he wants.”

  12. Arsenal cruise to 3-0 halftime lead over Galatasaray through Welbeck, Sanchez

    Oct 1, 2014, 3:37 PM EDT

    Arsenal FC v Galatasaray AS - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    A first-half brace from Danny Welbeck and a third from Alexis Sanchez handed Arsenal some breathing room against Galatasaray.

  13. UEFA Champions League, at the half: Arsenal flying, Real Madrid being held

    Oct 1, 2014, 3:37 PM EDT

    Alexis Sanchez, Felipe Melo AP

    Arsenal are flying, so too are Leverkusen. Check out all the half time scores, here.

  14. Follow Live: UEFA Champions League – Arsenal v. Galatasaray

    Oct 1, 2014, 2:44 PM EDT

    Arsenal's new Chilean forward could become a hero at the Emirates. AP

    The Gunners opened the Champions League group stage in disappointing form, losing 2-0 to BVB.

  15. Follow live: UEFA Champions League – Basel vs. Liverpool

    Oct 1, 2014, 2:24 PM EDT

    Liverpool FC v PFC Ludogorets Razgrad - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    Can the Reds make it two wins from two in the Champions League?

  16. Zenit St. Petersburg 0-0 Monaco: Group C leaders cancel each other out

    Oct 1, 2014, 1:56 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C1-ZENIT-MONACO AP

    Zenit, Monaco remain top of Group C after a dour draw in Saint Petersburg.

  17. Report: Red Bull’s days in MLS are likely numbered

    Oct 1, 2014, 1:38 PM EDT

    Henry AP

    Thierry Henry may be on his way out of New York City as turmoil at the top could drive him out.

  18. Roma tags Manchester City back for Totti tweet

    Oct 1, 2014, 1:26 PM EDT

    Totti Getty Images

    The two sides had some internet fun after yesterday’s 1-1 Champions League draw.

  19. FIFA exec says they are looking into reducing Luis Suarez’s ban

    Oct 1, 2014, 12:20 PM EDT

    Suarez Getty Images

    The former president of CONMEBOL told Uruguayan TV that Suarez could return earlier than expected.

Featured video

PST Extra: Will Man United miss Rooney?