MX23RW : Saturday, September 25 06:54:05| >> :120:29071:29071:

In Off The Post: Sam Matterface's say on the weekend's Premier League action

Sports Mole columnist Sam Matterface runs the rule over the opening weekend of 2015-16 Premier League action.

Bright Bilic finds it easy against Gunnersaurus



How dare he?! West Ham manager Slaven Bilic came to Arsenal and had a gameplan. Employ a narrow diamond in midfield, outnumber Arsenal's technicians, defend as unit, exploit on the counter, and crucially, test the goalkeeper. To make sure of success, at attacking free kicks ensure there's a huge physical presence, because we know Arsenal do not like that!

Defending has never been Arsenal's strong point and it was particularly appalling this weekend. If I was Arsene Wenger I'd have to buy three notebooks to jot the things that would have concerned me yesterday.

Arsenal made Adrian make one meaningful save in the first half, and that was from a deflection. Olivier Giroud has started to give off the impression that he is too handsome to fight for a high ball in the box. They don't have a leader at the back and they seem to have infected Petr Cech with the 'Gunners Goalie Ghouls'.

They are also tactically inflexible, set in their ways. There was no width, which would have been the route to success against Bilic's formation, and inexplicably Wenger seemed to be accommodating certain players rather than worrying about the team.

Olivier Giroud of Arsenal looks dejected after defeat during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and West Ham United at the Emirates Stadium on August 9, 2015© Getty Images

Santi Cazorla was nudged out to the left after a dazzling season as a deep lying playmaker. Why? To ensure Ramsey played centrally? To give Ozil the number 10 role? Cazorla proved he is much more important, and was wasted cutting in from the left. And what about Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain playing 32 minutes at right-back?

To say it was easy for West Ham would be disrespectful to the assiduous work of their Croatian manager. He'd studied Arsenal, designed a formula and implemented it. However, Wenger played into his hands.

The Premier League is the best in the world and it attracts most of the best young, gifted and ambitious players and managers as a result. You can not be casual, or worse than that arrogant.

After the match I mentioned to Wenger that Arsenal had never won the league after losing on the opening day. He told me it was "obscene" to even mention the title so early. Not as obscene as Arsenal's performance, Arsene!

No longer boring to be a Villan!



Tim Sherwood is a shrewd bloke. He knows how to wind up opposition fans, and he is also aware of the credit that gives him with his own supporters.

The revelation that his players work 9am-3pm daily probably had the pros at Arsenal's London Colney HQ picking their jaws off the floor "Work? For 6 hours? On what?!?".

Tim Sherwood Manager of Aston Villa celebrates after his team's 1-0 win in the Barclays Premier League match between A.F.C. Bournemouth and Aston Villa at Vitality Stadium on August 8, 2015© Getty Images

Unsurprisingly, it was a set piece that finally poked them in front at Bournemouth.

Sherwood snarls, he smiles and he tells it like it is. How refreshing. He also works hard, lets hope he gets his rewards.

Pellegrini Propaganda



Manchester City's Charming Man, Manuel Pellegrini, won't be in charge of Manchester City in 2017. I know it, you know it, City know it and he knows it.

The contract extension he signed last week is there to serve a purpose. It has been offered and signed to ensure that the players and staff don't fall into the same trap as West Ham last season. Nothing more.

By pledging their "support", City hope that the players will have at least some doubt that the Chilean will be axed at the end of the season, but lets be clear, if Pep Guardiola is available in May, Manuel will be on the dole queue.

Manchester City's Chilean manager Manuel Pellegrini watches the action during the English Premier League football match between West Ham United and Manchester City at Upton Park in London on February 11, 2014© Getty Images

There is nothing wrong with that. Guardiola is a big fish. A coach of eminent ability. Pellegrini isn't in the same pond. He was only a champion thanks to Liverpool's inadequacy in 2013. His only other major trophies in 11 years in Europe (including one season with the biggest club in the world), are the League Cup with City and the Intertoto Cup with Villarreal.

Pellegrini showed last season his tactical failings in the big games (away at Liverpool sticks in my mind as the most startling of results). They were often and costly. If City aspire to be serial winners and have a desire to compete for the Champions League then they need to reel in a whopper to keep them swimming upstream.

The Entertainers are back!



Newcastle's wonderful side of the 1990s were Super Sunday staples because they enthralled us with swashbuckling football that led to thrilling wins and heartbreaking defeats.

Georginio Wijnaldum of Newcastle United celebrates scoring their second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Southampton at St James' Park on August 9, 2015© Getty Images

Steve McClaren may not get anywhere near Kevin Keegan's nearly men, but yesterday's encounter with a smart Southampton team was fascinating. The quality wasn't always sublime, but that was part of the attraction. You didn't know what was going to happen next.

More of the same please Steve.

On my head So'ton!



Last season West Ham scored the most headed goals in the Premier League, but this time around watch out for Southampton's aerial raids.

Shane Long of Southampton (7) celebrates with Victor Wanyama (12) and Graziano Pelle (L) as he scores their second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Southampton at St James' Park on August 9, 2015© Getty Images

In Jay Rodriguez, the dashing Graziano Pelle and Shane Long they are all good headers of the ball. With Sadio Mane racing down the flank on one side, and the crossing of Dusan Tadic and Cedric Soares, yesterday's two headed goals could be a sign of things to come.

Hear Sam Matterface on ITV Sport's UEFA Super Cup highlights programme this Tuesday night. He will also be describing Aston Villa vs. Manchester United on Friday night as talkSPORT's chief football commentator. He can also be followed on Twitter on @sammatterface.

ID:238446: cacheID:238446:1false2false3false:QQ:: from db desktop :LenBod:restore:11834:
Restore Data
Share this article now:
Did you know...?
Newcastle United manager Steve McClaren watches on during the pre season friendly between Gateshead and Newcastle United at Gateshead International Stadium on July 10, 2015
Read Next:
Match Analysis: Newcastle United 2-2 Southampton
>

rhs 2.0
Todays Game Header Right
Premier League
Championship
Scottish Premiership
La Liga
Serie A
Bundesliga
Ligue 1
Eredivisie
Primeira Liga
League One
League Two
National League
National League North
National League South
Scottish Championship
Scottish League One
Scottish League Two
Turkish Super Lig
Belgian Pro League
Swiss Super League
Russian Premier League
Ukrainian Premier League
Norwegian Eliteserien
Swedish Allsvenskan
NIFL Premiership
Belarusian Premier League
Segunda Division
Serie B
2.Bundesliga
Ligue 2
Major League Soccer
Brasileiro
Copa Diego Maradona
Uruguayan Primera Division
Liga MX
J1 League
Premier League 2 - Div 1
International Friendlies
Women's Super League
Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Chelsea54101211113
2Liverpool54101211113
3Manchester UnitedMan Utd5410134913
4Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton540174312
5Manchester CityMan City53111111010
6Everton5311107310
7Tottenham HotspurSpurs530236-39
8West Ham UnitedWest Ham522111748
9Brentford52215238
10Aston Villa52128717
11Watford520368-26
12Leicester CityLeicester520358-36
13Arsenal520329-76
14Crystal Palace512258-35
15Southampton504146-24
16Wolverhampton WanderersWolves510425-33
17Leeds UnitedLeeds5032512-73
18Newcastle UnitedNewcastle5023613-72
19Burnley501439-61
20Norwich CityNorwich5005214-120

Subscribe to our Newsletter


Transfer Talk Daily
Match previews - twice weekly
Morning Briefing (7am UTC)
Ultra close-up image of Kevin De Bruyne [NOT FOR USE IN ARTICLES]Get the latest transfer news, match previews and news direct to your inbox!