Skip to content

Quick Six: Januzaj’s breakout, best striker tandem, and other Premier League storylines

Oct 6, 2013, 9:35 PM EDT

1. A NEW STAR IS BORN AT UNITED?

Out of the darkness came a new hero, an unlikely 18-year-old thrust to instant stardom amid the uncertainty that’d enveloped the start of David Moyes‘s tenure. Can Adnan Januzaj really be the savior he’s being portrayed as after his two goals in Sunderland delivered Manchester United from   potential disaster?

Here’s teammate Michael Carrick after United’s 2-1, come-from-behind victory:

“In some ways I think he’s gone on the big stage now,” he said. “We noticed a big improvement with him [in pre-season] and he just looked a proper player. At half-time we told him to get in the box a bit more because there were chances for him.

“He’s got so much ability, he’s got a great attitude. He can be anything he wants to be – he’s that good.

“It’s just a start, I’m sure he’s not going to get carried away with it.”

Many outlets have taken the “anything he wants to be” part and ran with it. After all, narratives  have to be fueled, never mind Carrick was perfectly sanguine will delivering his player speak. Januzaj is a teammate, he’s young, and he was just coming off a two-goal performance. Of course you’re going to get some distortable quotes out of Carrick.

With Januzaj, there’s as much sizzle as steak right now. It’s impossible to miss the potential in the Belgian/Albanian/Serbian/Kosovar (he’d be eligible to represent any of those nations), but Januzaj’s new star’s also a function of United’s current plight. He’s the contract to the conflict between expectations and form.

That conflict was apparent on Saturday. For the first 45 minutes, a Sunderland team that was hard work and little else was the better side. In the second half, Manchester United woke up. In time, this will look like a good win — three points where other sides may get none — but considering what Manchester City and Arsenal showed on their trips north, United’s Black Cat test illustrated just how far behind they are.

[MORE: Sunderland 1-2 Manchester United: Januzaj's second half double lifts Red Devils.]

2. SUÁREZ, STURRIDGE SHINE, BUT ONE PIECE MISSING FOR LIVERPOOL

Whether they maintain this level or not, Liverpool’s Luis Suárez and Daniel Sturridge are the Premier League’s best striking duo at the moment. The tandem combined for two Liverpool goals in the Reds’ 3-1 win over visiting Crystal Palace, and after the weekend’s dust settled, Liverpool sat second, with only goal difference keeping them from the top.

Brendan Rodgers seems eager to temper any undo enthusiasm, though:

“It reminded me of a performance I had when I first became a manager, when I knew it had to be about more than just winning. At Watford we beat Swansea 2-0 at Vicarage Road. Everyone was elated and it was named the performance of the week but I was so disappointed because we didn’t keep the ball well. This was like that. Our movement and combinations in the final third was good but the lack of control behind that was very disappointing.”

It’s harsh, but there were obvious weaknesses in the Reds’ side on Saturday. Against one of the league’s worst teams, Liverpool too often allowed Crystal Palace to hit their defensive line with speed, the Eagles’ lack of execution (and talent) in the final third the only thing that kept this match from turning into a shootout.

That problem gets solved to a certain extent when Lucas Leiva returns. Without their suspended ball-winner, Liverpool moved Jordan Henderson in from right-wing back, pairing him at the base of midfield with Steven Gerrard. The result was unconvincing. Thankfully, they were only playing Crystal Palace.

The issue does, however, inform the debate as to whether Liverpool are title contenders. Or Champions League contenders, for that matter. With the Reds off to a 5-1-1 start, there are a lot of discussions surrounding the team, all of which come down to quality and depth. Even if you think the Reds have the quality to compete with the preseason contenders (a tough but not impossible argument to make), Saturday illustrated how thin they are. Lose one guy and things don’t exactly fall apart (they did still win 3-1, after all), but holes start to surface.

[MORE: Liverpool 3-1 Crystal Palace: "SAS" on the scoresheet again as Reds romp.]

3. MAYBE POCHETTINO WAS RIGHT ABOUT SOUTHAMPTON

Mauricio Pochettino didn’t say he was going to get Southampton into Champions League this year, and to the extent he said it was a goal, he did so in relation to Europa League. Teams don’t really shoot for the latter, the Saints boss explained. Champions League is everybody’s ambition.

Of course, people ran with it. That’s what happens. A coach of a club like Southampton even mentions Champions League? It goes at the top of the story. Southampton must be targeting Champions League! Welcome to the soccer world.

After this weekend’s action, however, Pochettino’s words took on a different context, with Southampton’s 2-0 win over Swansea vaulting the Saints into fourth place – above Manchester City, Tottenham, and Manchester United.

Seven weeks into the season, it’s too early to know whether Southampton can keep this up, even if a win at Liverpool and five clean sheets provide some reason to think this form can persist. But beyond that Liverpool win, there aren’t many eye-opening results among this year’s score lines. The schedule just hasn’t been that hard.

Don’t overlook Sunday’s result, however. Three years ago, Swansea were Southampton, albeit with a different style. They were the team whose results outstretched their stature while their methods underscored their results. They were the club giving reason to believe there was staying power behind their run.

Sunday’s game may have been a symbolic passing of that torch, with Swansea stumbling to 15th place. Then again, it might be us reading too much into early season results. Regardless, Pochettino continues to give us reason to talk about Southampton.

[MORE: Southampton 2-0 Swansea: Saints go fourth with fifth clean sheet.]

4. MARTIN JOL: STILL WAITING TO EXHALE?

If Martin Jol didn’t win, he was probably gone. We didn’t have any proof, but everything about Fulham’s situation told us the Dutch boss was in a win-or-else situation. His team was drastically under-performing, form that extended from that persisted from the end of last season. They were coming off a bad loss at home (to Cardiff City) and the new owner is coming to town with his NFL team this week. If Jol didn’t beat Stoke at home, Shahid Khan was unlikely to see a silver lining to this cloud he inherited as coach.

Thanks to Darren Bent‘s 83rd minute goal, Jol’s likely to get a reprieve, his team having beaten the visiting Potters 1-0. The question is whether he should. Fulham still sit 18th and are coming off a victory that was more obligatory than convincing. A one-goal win at home to visiting Stoke with the squad Jol has? That’s seems like a minimum standard, not a reason to let up. If we had doubts about the Cottagers before, what about the Stoke result makes us believe Fulham are on the right track?

When you’re struggling, you’re thankful for every win you get, so it’s understandable Fulham and their fans have loosened their grips since Saturday. But once the international break’s over, the reality may set in. A one-goal home win over Stoke is obligatory. It’s not progress.

[MORE: Fulham 1-0 Stoke City: Cottagers snare needed win.]

5. BACK TO EARTH FOR EVERTON

How good are Everton? Now we know. Their 3-1 loss at Manchester City wasn’t just their first in league since Roberto Martínez took over. It was a reminder of the limitations he’s inherited.

Take the first goal Everton allowed, a great piece of work from David Silva to Yaya Touré to Álvaro Negredo. The speed, timing, and execution of the move was world-class. It took world-class talents to execute it, and it would have taken world-class talents to stop it. Manchester City had them. Everton did not. Goal, Citizens.

City’s second goal was a brilliant piece finish from Sergio Agüero, who beat Tim Howard far post from a sharp ankle. Everton doesn’t have the type of talent that can finish that ball, and the closest player they have is on loan from Chelsea.

Then there was the penalty that led to the third goal, with Seamus Coleman judged to have taken down Pablo Zabaleta. Coleman’s a fine player, but he didn’t have enough to stay in front of Zabaleta without leaning into him. You could argue that the penalty was soft, but another defender may have avoided that position to begin with.

Not many, though. Most defenders are going to get caught by that Zabaleta run, just as very few strikers will finish like Aguero and only a series of elite players can complete City’s first goal.

But that’s the difference between that level and Everton’s. The Toffees have very good players and a seemingly excellent coach, but sometimes, talent wins out.

[MORE: Manchester City 3-1 Everton: The last of the unbeatens fall.]

6. FOR SPURS, LACK OF GOALS WORSE THAN THE WEST HAM LOSS

The scoreline’s troubling: 0-3 at home to West Ham United. That Spurs could only put four shots on Jussi Jääskeláinen should be just as worrisome. This is a team that came into the game with six goals in six games, and on Sunday, André Villas-Boas‘s squad didn’t do enough to improve that record.

Yes, be concerned about the lopsided nature of the loss, but also grasp this basic fact: Until this team starts scoring goals, they can’t be considered a serious contender for the league’s top four spots. Once it happens, we can make an assessment about this crew Levy, Baldini, and Villas-Boas have assembled. Right now, we have no idea what that end product will look like. .

In the interim, Spurs have given away three points they should have had. What are the odds they’ll want those back at year’s end? Especially if Liverpool challenges for top four? And Southampton proves as pesky as their rhetoric?

Today’s game was only one result. These things happen. Six goals in seven games? That’s the bigger problem.

[MORE: Tottenham 0-3 West Ham: Three second half goals give Hammer upset.]

Latest Posts
  1. 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.

  2. 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?

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.”

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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?

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. Men in Blazers podcast: Wayne Rooney’s implosion, Derby Day and an MiBNT update

    Oct 1, 2014, 11:40 AM EDT

    meninblazers

    That Wayne Rooney implosion? You’re gonna need Rog and Davo to break it down.

Featured video

PST Extra: Will Man United miss Rooney?