Friday, 13 September 2013

Six New Signings On Show in the Premier League This Weekend

This weekend sees the return of the Premier League following a two week hiatus for  international games. As if an international break three weeks into the season and right after the transfer window wasn't frustrating enough for managers, this stretch of games only amounts to four before the players are off with their national teams again. This weekend is the first round of games since the transfer window closes and so is the first chance to see the last big movers in action for their new clubs for the first time. Here's a look at six of the most anticipated debuts in the Premier League this weekend.

1. Marouane Fellaini

One of the most prolonged transfer deals of the transfer window reached its conclusion ten minutes before the deadline when Marouane Fellaini officially became a Manchester United player. No surprise really. Moyes knew and trusted him at Everton and it was pretty much a given that he'd do some shopping at his old club. Be it for Fellaini, Leighton Baines, or both.

Fellaini and United get their wish

At Everton, in the absence of a fit striker, Fellaini was often used by Moyes as a lone striker or as a second striker. This was not so much the case in the previous 18 months with the arrival of Nikita Jelavic at the club. Given the abundance of striking talent at his disposal in Manchester, Moyes will most likely use Fellaini as a pure central midfielder, box-to-box, responsible for both defending and attacking. He will take the place of Tom Cleverley I think, who hasn't quite got the physical presence United need in this area to add to the finesse of Michael Carrick.

Moyes attacking set-up

While not just a physical presence, Fellaini is also a fairly talented footballer and will give United an extra something going forward as well as the obvious aerial threat from set-pieces given his size. One thing United have lacked in recent seasons is goals from central midfield. Last season the midfield quartet of Carrick, Cleverley, Anderson and the now re-retired Paul Scholes contributed a total of nine goals between them in all competitions. Fellaini alone contributed twelve to the Everton cause, without any involvement in European competition.

Personally I would like to see Kagawa playing at no.10 just off van Persie with Rooney shifted over to the left in an inside forward role and Ashley Young dropped. That said, I'm not the manager. David Moyes is and he will more than likely confine Shinji to the bench for most of the year.

2. Erik Lamela

OK so he didn't sign on deadline day and has already technically made his Tottenham debut with a 20 minute cameo against Arsenal but we are yet to get a real look at Erik Lamela in the Premier League.

The future of Tottenham Hotspur?

I like the look of him. He's quick and strong which will serve him well given the physical nature of the English game compared to Italy. Adapting to the change of pace (and playing in front of actual fans instead of empty stands) may take time. We've seen it before. South Americans haven't always been roaring success stories in England. Oscar in his sophomore year at Chelsea is busy being one of the more recent exceptions to this rule. See also Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez. Juan Sebastian Veron at United is the most obvious case of a qualified failure.

Lamela is different to Veron in that he's arriving at the start of his career. Veron arrived from Lazio in the prime of his career and at that stage found it too difficult to adapt his game to suit the league. In Europe he was phenomenal but in the Premier League he was often anonymous. Lamlea is young enough to be able to adapt his fledgling game to the demands of English football. As I said he's quite a big lad but will need to spend time in the gym. Cristiano Ronaldo is the  perfect blueprint for this. Working tirelessly at his physique to evolve from the skinny teenager who arrived at United to the 13 stone tank that took the world by storm a little later on. If Lamela applies himself properly, he has the talent to make Tottenham fans forget all about that Southampton left back they sold over the summer.

3. Mamadou Sakho

Liverpool slipped this one under the radar in some respects, signing the French defender from PSG early on deadline day when news of Mesut Ozil was dominating the headlines. £17m is a lot of money for a defender, particularly one aimed at boosting a defence yet to concede a goal in the league this season.

Jamie Carragher's retirement meant Liverpool were always going to invest in defenders this summer. They've added Kolo Toure, Sakho and Tiago Ilori to ranks already boasting Agger and Skrtel. Toure has impressed in the opening few games but his lack of pace along with his age and injury proneness means he is unlikely to be much more than a squad player this season. Sakho on the other hand should be one of the first names on the teamsheet.

The hair... what is going on?

I think Sakho and Agger will be Liverpool's first choice pairing this season and rightly so. Successful defensive pairing in recent years, Vidic and Ferdinand, Terry and Carvalho, both have one ball winning defender and one ball playing defender. Sakho, like Vidic and Terry is very strong in the air. Agger, like Ferdinand and Carvalho is not quite as dominating a physical presence (although he is a formidable header of the ball) but more of a skilled footballer capable of picking out the right pass into the midfield or further forward rather than just hoofing it clear. It goes un-noticed at times but Daniel Agger is a great passer of the ball and would not be out of place in central midfield.

4. Samuel Eto'o

Not quite the marquee striker signing Chelsea fans were hoping for but a useful addition to the squad nonetheless. In adding Eto'o, Willian, Schurrle as well as the recalled Kevin De Bruyne, Chelsea are now overloaded with attacking talent.

Sammy and Jose: A pairing that won it all in 2010

It will be interesting to see who gets the squeeze. I can't see any room for Torres anymore. Despite his goal and general good performance in the Super Cup I don't think Mourinho trusts him enough to put him in for the big games. Similarly Juan Mata, who Mourinho doesn't seem to be a fan of may find himself confined to the sidelines more often than not. Willian, prised from the clutches of Spurs at the last moment seems like the last type of player Chelsea need right now, especially for the hefty sum of £30m. Mourinho will have to be at his brilliant best to keep all these players happy.

Although Jose used him on the right wing at Inter, Eto'o is most definitely a striker and so should be competing with Ba, Torres and Shurrle for position at the front of the Chelsea attack. I really don't know what Mourinho will do with the right side. I'm fairly certain Hazard and Oscar will be first choice at left and centre. I'd put Mata on the right but I'm a much bigger Mata enthusiast than Mourinho seems to be.

Chelsea's attacking threat. One of many deadly combinations.

Interestingly, Eto'o claimed in 2005 while at Barca that he'd 'rather sell nuts in his local village than play for a pathetic club like Chelsea'. The fans at Stamford Bridge gave Rafa Benitez a torrid time last year when he was manager due to comments he'd made about the club in a previous life. Will they do the same for Eto'o?

5. James McCarthy/Gareth Barry

Everton have sold their most important midfielder in recent years in Fellaini and replaced him with two players. James McCarthy from Martinez old club Wigan and Gareth Barry on loan from Man City. Barry is a short term fix, I don't think they had any major plans to sign him prior to deadline day. McCarthy however is a more long term investment. Neither are like for like replacements for Fellaini. So it will be interesting to see how the manager accommodates them into his line-up.

Everton now have several central midfield options I think they will use depending on the level of their opponents. We'll examine two specific ones here.

Option A involves using the promising Ross Barkley as an attacking midfielder with Barry and McCarthy generally sitting deeper, the Irishman being the one who gets forward more often whilst Barry holds. This option will be used in games they expect to dominate possession of the ball and attack for the most part.

Option A
Option B is a more disciplined containment option which Martinez will most likely use in the big games. This sees Barkely drop out of the team and Leon Osman used in a more defensive 3 man midfield formation. In this system Barry sits the deepest of the trio again, Osman will perform a more defensive role than Barkely. Similarly McCarthy's attacking forays will be more limited than in the previous option. Darron Gibson once fit will provide another alternative in the centre of the park. He's quite a useful player in that he can sit deep and hold but also can be used further forward in an attacking role if required. It is quite possible Everton will employ a formation like this on Saturday evening to combat Chelsea's attacking threat.

Option B

6. Mesut Ozil

It's quite rare that an absolute established superstar arrives in the Premier League. The division tends to make its own stars rather than import them. Think back to Shevchenco and Ballack arriving at Chelsea in 2006, Veron at United in 2001, Aguero at City in 2011. It doesn't happen all that often.

Settling In Should Not Be a Problem

Since he lit up the World Cup in South Africa three summers ago, Ozil has become a superstar.No question about it. His importance in Madrid was highlighted by the reaction of his former team-mates to his departure. Sergio Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo both were particularly outspoken about Madrid letting him go. There are very few, if any, players better in his position than Ozil. Over his three years in Madrid he totalled almost one hundred assists, over four times as many as the uber-creative Xabi Alonso managed in that same period. Let that sink in for a minute. This is to go with the forty plus goals he managed. It's no wonder Ronaldo wanted him to stay.

I've heard this bit of business by Wenger described as buying a high definition TV screen for your bathroom when the toilet is broken, referring to Arsenal's obvious defensive issues. While this is a valid point (and may prove Arsenals undoing this year), who wouldn't want a big TV in their bathroom?

In the bathroom, it is easy to see where the TV screen fits in. Attacking midfielder/advanced playmaker. Right behind the in-form Giroud. Arsenal do look very very menacing going forward.

Cazorla to the left of me, Ozil to the right.. Here I am...

Enjoy this weekend's games!

Special thanks to for the diagrams. 

The Deep-Lying Playmaker

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