Six Super Sunday talking points: Coutinho masterclass, Moreno mishaps
Holly Thackeray | August 14, 2016
Six Super Sunday talking points
Pubs across the land were brimming with punters for Super Sunday’s spectacular line-up of televised Premier League matches, beginning with Jose Mourino’s first top-flight match as Manchester United manager against Bournemouth and Liverpool’s exciting visit to Arsenal, plus a host of debuts.
There were plenty of talking points to chew over as the weekend football came to a close, so Coral run you through six of the most intriguing topics to have arisen, with next week’s second matchweek also in mind…
Mata opens Mourinho era in style
As the team sheets were revealed for Mourinho’s first Premier League match in charge of Man Utd, few would have expected supposed outcast Juan Mata to feature from the start.
After Mourinho hauled off the substitute barely 30 minutes into his Community Shield cameo, tabloids had the Spanish playmaker’s days down as numbered.
Yet who should not only be selected for the starting XI on the right of a supporting trio behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but also score the first PL goal of the Mourinho-era?
First PL goal of Mourinho era by Juan Mata pic.twitter.com/MMHO2pDFhC
— Semperfiunited (@SemperFiUnited) August 14, 2016
Compatriot and fellow surprise midfield inclusion Ander Herrera’s hoofed punt down-field turned into a masterstroke. Simon Francis’ subsequent folly and miscommunication with Artur Boruc allowed Mata to chase the loose ball and slot home in the 3-1 win.
It was a triumphant moment for the man many had written off under Mourinho, and Mata’s performance was not all about the goal, with his alert, incisive passing enough to put pressure on all of Wayne Rooney, as well as homegrown hero Jesse Lingard and expensive signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan – whom he beat into the XI.
Did Ibrahimovic and Rooney partnership work?
A couple of slick interchanges between superstar striker signing Ibrahimovic and skipper Rooney in a pre-season friendly against Everton had pundits predicting a profitable partnership between the poaching pair.
While, on the other side of the fence, there are doubts about fading Rooney’s capacity to play as a technical number 10.
So, as both players got on the scoresheet against Bournemouth, are these early signs of a fruitful understanding? Not really. It is prudent to bear in mind that players are still rusty and yet to gel. But, with both up top United evidently lacked pace and pressing.
Watch Ibrahimovic’s first PL goal:
— Utd Goals (@UtdGoals) August 14, 2016
Despite his strike, Rooney looked cumbersome in his role, regularly giving the ball away. While the only blot on Ibrahimovic’s copybook after he opened his account with a low long-range strike, was uncharacteristic selflessness in squaring a later ball when he should have struck.
So, on paper this may look a potent pairing albeit only one match in, but there were real clues with the lack of link-up play that it may be a case of too many cooks…
Should Blind start with Bailly?
Yet again strong and imposing new centre back signing Eric Bailly impressed on a Red Devils bow, as in pre-season, taking to the PL like a duck to water and claiming another Man of the Match award.
Perhaps a little rash at times, the Ivory Coast youngster showed no fear or nerves, narrowly avoiding keeping a clean sheet in tandem with pass-master Daley Blind as his partner.
It seems a given that Chris Smalling will return to the starting XI after his suspension is served, but should he? The England centre half has been best at the back for the Red Devils for sometime but Blind has also done little wrong.
With his lack of physicality the only real quibble, the Dutchman has been as integral as Bailly in this brilliant start to life under Mourinho and it would be a shame to see his technical talent benched.
Perhaps a return to an anchoring midfield role next to dynamic Paul Pogba and one other could await, with United now priced at 5/2 to win the Premier League with Coral…
Coutinho can go up another level under Klopp
Sadio Mane made a brilliant bow in red, but it was Philippe Coutinho who was the undisputed star of the show on Merseyside.
The bombastic Brazilian curled in a superbly swerving free-kick to first draw Liverpool level, before adding another cutely taken killer blow as the Reds romped to a nail biting 4-3 victory.
Of course, Coutinho is no stranger to awesome long-range goals against Arsenal, and in fact hit a memorable stunner back in 2014.
Highlight reels are no good to Jurgen Klopp, however, and the German can really take Coutinho’s consistency up a notch.
What a Free-kick from Coutinho pic.twitter.com/JQ4IZ0jq6O
— Strictly Soccer (@_StrictlySCCR) August 14, 2016
It’s no surprise Arsenal got back in the game when the Samba Boy left the pitch, and if the Reds have silverware ambition this season this is the man who needs to run proceedings every match, and keep contributing goals.
It’s one of Klopp’s most important tasks to not only keep the apparent PSG target at the club but have him acknowledged among the league’s best.
With Liverpool’s attack firing on all cylinders they are ahead of Arsenal now at 13/2 to win the league but, with defence still wobbly, it may just be worth backing them at 4/6 for a top four finish with Coral.
Arsenal must spend on centre half
Well. The chorus of boos said it all. There were doubtlessly eyebrows raised in many a living room, nevermind at the Emirates, as Arsenal deployed two young centre backs versus the Reds in Calum Chambers and Rob Holding with the latter a dismal debutant.
Klopp’s fielding of Roberto Firmino as a false nine in a rotating front three with electric duo Mane and Coutinho tore the Gunners rearguard to shreds, making this a real test of mettle for the youngsters.
Though the defensive disarray cannot be blamed on two green young-guns thrown in at the deep end, and the responsibility must rest on the Arsenal hierarchy, including coach Arsene Wenger, for not bringing in recruits.
There’s still a fair wedge of the summer transfer window to go, and we’re only one matchweek into the Premier League, but it is an unforgiving division. So, Wenger must act now and loosen the purse strings as surely the need for a strong centre half is now pressing if it wasn’t before.
If Arsenal (now 11/10 to miss out on the top four) have true title intentions, it is time to invest in an authority figure. And quickly.
Liverpool need another left back
Last but not least, Liverpool do not get away with their lack of investment at left back either. Alberto Moreno was the main culprit in their defensive shakiness, not only conceding a penalty but failing to track Theo Walcott for his opener.
Stranded up the pitch as Walcott breezed into the box unmarked, Klopp may enjoy the Spaniard’s forays down the flank but, as he also went to ground and hacked down the English attacker, there is no denying he can be a defensive liability.
It seemed fair to give the defender the benefit of the doubt but, after another pre-season with Klopp, he is still making the very same errors.
The Reds next play Burnley, where they are 5/4 to keep a clean sheet against the new boys on the block, which is a great chance to start shoring up at the back.