Premier League winners and losers: Lukaku, Liverpool’s SAS & more
Kieran Beckles looks at the winners and losers of the weekend as West Brom make a big statement against the champions
Romelu Lukaku It’s been a mixed weekend for Chelsea strikers. Fernando Torres showed his fighting spirit in a 1-1 draw at Tottenham Hotspur as the Spaniard was his side’s standout performer until a second bookable offence, which saw the former Liverpool man dismissed. Jose Mourinho placed his faith in Demba Ba, Samuel Eto’o and Torres when sending Romelu Lukaku on a season-long loan to Everton on deadline day. It could be a decision the Chelsea boss is left to rue. Romelu Lukaku was, in the words of his ecstatic manager Roberto Martínez, unplayable at times against Newcastle United on Monday as the Belgian scored a first-half brace and made an assist for Ross Barkley’s goal. The 20-year-old has plenty of confidence, searing pace and strength beyond his young years – all attributes which made Torres a big hit on Merseyside. Lukaku scored 17 top-flight goals during a loan spell at West Bromwich Albion last season. He could go past that figure this term. The Belgian showed signs of a burgeoning partnership with Barkley, while the likes of Kevin Mirallas, Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines will be able to play to Lukaku’s aerial strengths. Merseyside could have a new prolific number nine on its hands – but this time, he’s decked out in blue.
Liverpool’s deadly SAS Had this been 12 months ago, Liverpool fans would almost certainly be casting an envious eye towards their close neighbours if the Toffees had Lukaku in their ranks. But the Reds have two lethal assassins of their own in the shape of Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suárez. The Uruguayan’s imminent return raised fears that the 26-year-old could unsettle Sturridge, who had scored four goals in five games prior to the club’s trip to Sunderland. Realistically, no such dilemma was ever going to occur. Top players bring out the best in each other – something which Steven Gerrard regularly alludes to when discussing his partnership with Suárez (and previously Torres). Sturridge and Suárez were both on the score-sheet in their last Premier League game together in April, and it was like the pair had never been separated on Sunday. While Sturridge’s opener had an element of luck after a Gerrard corner, the England international turned provider to help Suárez make an immediate return to goal-scoring ways. Brendan Rodgers has tinkered with how the Reds are set-up to procure the best out of the pair, playing a 3-5-2 variation. With Crystal Palace and Newcastle United up next, expect SAS to fine tune their partnership against two struggling defences.
Midlands heroes: Aston Villa and West Brom It would be impossible to omit Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion from this week’s winners’ column. Steve Clarke would have been bitterly disappointed to miss out on Lukaku, who excelled at The Hawthorns last season. But the Scot proved a wily operator in the transfer market as he brought forwards Stephane Sessegnon and Morgan Amalfitano to the club. The pair were the standout performers in a 2-1 win against reigning champions Manchester United at Old Trafford, while Saido Berahino scored a worthy winner. Meanwhile, in Birmingham, Aston Villa continued their excellent run of performances against the big six this season. Paul Lambert’s men have already beaten Arsenal, while impressing in admirable defeats by Chelsea and Liverpool. But Villa’s 3-2 win against title favourites Manchester City overshadowed their Emirates exploits. It all helps cultivate one of the most unpredictable Premier League seasons since its birth in 1992.
David Moyes It was never going to be easy for the Scot to succeed Britain’s greatest-ever manager. In the wake of their third loss in six games, former Red Devils goalkeeping coach Eric Steele claimed Ferguson advised Moyes to retain his coaching set-up. The 50-year-old, very much his own man, understandably brought in his own staff as he sought to do things his way at Old Trafford. But something isn’t right at the Red Devils. Clarke’s men outplayed United on Saturday. Whilst Moyes has openly admitted United lack the world-class stars to launch a serious tilt at the Champions League, his side currently lack the X-Factor to retain their top-flight title. It’s too soon to write off the 20-time champions. But Moyes needs to work out his best side – and fast – if the Red Devils are to reel in their rivals. Rio Ferdinand’s performance in the Baggies loss was particularly disappointing and Moyes may need to address his management of the centre-half who has rarely played so many games in succession over the past couple of seasons – undoubtedly a reason behind his renaissance.
Fulham and Martin Jol On paper, the Dutchman’s Fulham appeared set to build on last season following a busy summer of transfer activity at Craven Cottage. The Cottagers boss recruited established Premier League stars such as Darren Bent and Scott Parker, Dutch first-choice goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg, whilst adding some flair with Adel Taarabt’s loan signing. However, they’ve taken time to gel and Fulham are at the wrong end of the Premier League table following a horror start, culminating in a 2-1 loss to Cardiff City on Saturday. It’s been six months since Fulham registered a top-flight win at Craven Cottage and Jol’s hopes of a contract extension beyond next summer look in doubt. Fulham continue to produce error-strewn performances and patience is in short supply in west London. Jol won’t expect any favours from former Fulham manager Mark Hughes at Stoke next weekend.
Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa After joining the French revolution at Newcastle United in the January transfer window, the 24-year-old – who penned a five-and-a-half year deal at St James’ Park – was at heart of some “disturbing” Magpies defending at Goodison Park on Monday night. Cruelly wearing the No13 shirt, the France international was calamitous alongside the vastly experienced Fabricio Coloccini as Newcastle conceded three first-half goals. Alan Pardew hauled the centre-half off at the interval and introduced Mike Williamson in a bid to clog his leaky defence. It worked, as Newcastle stemmed the Everton tide -and the Magpies boss will almost certainly start Williamson for the trip to Cardiff next weekend. Where does it leave Yanga-Mbiwa’s Magpies future? He has been a regular fixture since joining from Montpellier but faces a real battle to win over his disillusioned manager.