Southampton Mauricio Pochettino’s Saints reached the dizzying heights of fourth spot in the Premier League after edging past Swansea City on Sunday. Southampton have been progressing nicely under the quiet, unassuming Argentine, racking up a record-equalling 14 points from their first seven top-flight games. Pochettino spent big in the summer as the South American splashed in excess of £25m on Italian striker Dani Osvaldo and Celtic midfielder Victor Wanyama. Whilst the pair are still finding their feet in the Premier League – the latter had a goal chalked off against the Swans; it’s the form of Southampton’s young English talent that has particularly stood out. Luke Shaw, missing for the Swansea clash, looks a shoe-in to become England’s first-choice left-back over the next decade, Adam Lallana is progressing into a real quality midfielder in the heart of Pochettino’s midfield, while Jay Rodriguez is a promising prospect. It was Lallana and Rodriguez who netted the vitals goals as the Saints were 2-0 winners, with Artur Boruc securing his fifth clean sheet of the season. If Pochettino can build on a strong start, this current Saints crop could emulate Gordon Strachan’s Southampton squad which finished eighth in 2003.
United young guns past and present In a nod to the work of Sir Alex Ferguson and the Manchester United staff, it was two Red Devils products who were thrust into the spotlight this weekend. Adnan Januzaj, brought to the Premier League champions from Anderlecht as a virtual unknown aged 16, was the driving force behind a 2-1 win at Sunderland. The 18-year-old showed a grace in possession that was befitting of a young Ryan Giggs as he relentlessly probed at a dogged Black Cats defence in the opening 55 minutes. The Belgian finally made the breakthrough as a neat exchange with Patrice Evra unlocked Sunderland’s rearguard – and he clinically finished past Irishman Keiren Westwood. Minutes later, Januzaj conjured a special winner as he caressed an instinctive volley into the corner of the net. It was the goal of the weekend – until Ravel Morrison has his say on Sunday. The playmaker went on a mazy run past three Spurs defenders and lofted a finish over Hugo Lloris as West Ham United ran out 3-0 winners at White Hart Lane. The 21-year-old’s huge talent has been well-documented, but it appeared set to remain unfulfilled when Sir Alex Ferguson finally ran out of patience with Morrison in January 2012. In a conversation with Jamie Redknapp, the United legend predicted the youngster would end up in jail or become an England star – and Morrison is on the winding path to a Three Lions call if he can continue to thrive under Sam Allardyce.
Jack Wilshere We’ve been here before; a young England international steps out of line (normally away from the pitch) and is subsequently scrutinised to the detriment of the player and national team. Last month, Tottenham Hotspur defender Kyle Walker was forced to issue an apology after pictures emerged of him inhaling ‘hippy crack’ during the summer. It all unfolded days before two crucial World Cup qualifiers. With the next batch of international fixtures on the horizon, it was Jack Wilshere’s turn to fend off the media spotlight after he was snapped smoking outside a nightclub last Thursday. It prompted a public telling off from Arsène Wenger, but the Arsenal boss stuck with his midfielder for The Hawthorns trip. The 21-year-old was defiant on Twitter following the controversy, posting a picture of France legend Zinedine Zidane enjoying a cigarette and a producing his very best smoke-related puns. And in typical Wilshere fashion, he popped up to net the north London side’s equaliser in a 1-1 draw. The Arsenal youngster has character, that’s for sure.
Tottenham Hotspur Spurs will be bitterly disappointed after losing ground on early pace-setters Arsenal and Liverpool for the second successive weekend, whilst Chelsea, Manchester City and United also recorded wins. André Villas-Boas spent wisely in the summer, building a squad with incredible depth. But as is often the case when there is an influx of new arrivals, Spurs are taking time to gel their new-look squad – and adjust to life without Gareth Bale. While a London derby was never going to be an easy assignment, Spurs can ill-afford to spurn points, especially against a West Ham side with such a poor record on their travels – hence why Sam Allardyce started without a recognised striker! In such a packed midfield, Christian Eriksen and Gylfi Sigurdsson lacked failed to magic up a moment of brilliance to unlock the Hammers, unlike Bale, who conjured a mesmerising winner at Upton Park in March. It’s a wake-up call for Villas-Boas and Spurs, who already trail top-four rivals Arsenal and Liverpool by six points.
Ian Holloway While the sentiment was appreciated (by Liverpool supporters at least), Ian Holloway’s pre-match comments about digesting You’ll Never Walk Alone being worth a 10-0 drubbing certainly sent out mixed messages to his squad. It’s difficult to imagine Roy Keane taking such a candid approach – were the Eagles showing up just for the tour of Anfield or to make a play for three points? It would be folly to take Holloway’s words in the purest meaning; the Palace boss is ambitious and adventurous as his Tangerines side proved when they sealed a 2-1 win on Merseyside in 2010. But Liverpool were at their whirlwind best in the opening 20 minutes, racing into a 2-0 lead, before Steven Gerrard added a third from the spot before half-time. Palace rallied in the second half to their credit as Dwight Gayle netted a deserved consolation for the east London side. Holloway believes his Eagles squad have the quality to go one better than his battling Blackpool side and remain in the top flight. But on this showing, the east London side are heading in one direction – back to the Championship.
Edin Dzeko The Bosnia-Herzegovina striker has been impressive in the opening months of the campaign. The 27-year-old has regularly praised Manuel Pellegrini for breathing life into his stalling Citizens career after a testing relationship with the Chilean’s predecessor, Roberto Mancini. Despite his four goals in seven appearances, Dzeko could find himself back at his familiar position on the bench after Álvaro Negredo continued his goal-scoring run. The Spaniard, who joined in a £24m deal from Sevilla this summer, is simply a more clinical finisher than Dzeko and appears to have a better understanding with Sergio Aguero. Negredo has netted three goals from the bench and added a fourth to his tally in a 3-1 win against Everton on Saturday. His Argentinian strike partner also found the net as the pair proved a real handful for Sylvain Distin and Phil Jagielka. The former Sevilla man, barring injury on international duty, merits a run of games alongside Aguero to see if their pair can build on a fruitful beginning.
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