the polo club boca raton EFL Cup third round
Yeah, sorry, but we’re starting with Wayne Rooney again. Jose Mourinho gave his midfielder/attacking midfielder/forward a shot as aNo. 9 against Northampton, but it required the introduction of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcus Rashford to turn the tie.
Rooney was not awful against League One Northampton Town, but those are a collection of words that damn with the faintest of praise. The joke was that Rooney had finally found his level, but even that failed to land on the truth. There were six or seven Manchester United players who outperformed him.
If Rooney’s role, putting him in direct competition with Ibrahimovic, did not offer convincing enough evidence that he will be dropped against Leicester on Saturday, his time spent on the pitch might have done the trick. After resting him against Feyenoord last Thursday, will Mourinho really play Rooney for 90 minutes on Wednesday evening and then start him on Saturday lunchtime?
Rooney has started only two of Manchester United’s last 118 Premier League games on the bench. Prepare yourselves for change.
Manchester United and Mourinho may have had little to gain and everything to lose from a trip to Northampton, but a few individuals had the perfect opportunity to improve their standing under the new manager. Of those, Ander Herrera tops the pile. He’s the kid sitting at the front of the classroom raising his hand so violently that his mouth is straining. Sir, please Sir, I have the answer. One is English, his country’s record appearance maker, loved by pundits but disliked by most United supporters. At his best, he is a delightful, delicate midfielder who quickens the pace of his team’s attacks.
If Mourinho goes for a 4 3 3 against Leicester, there can be no doubt as to who gets into the team on form and ability. De Gea, Valencia, Shaw, Smalling, Bailly, Fellaini/Carrick, Pogba, Herrera, Rashford, Martial and Ibrahimovic would be a very popular starting XI.
Another player who improved his chances of first team football is Loris Karius, who is now a viable challenger for Simon Mignolet’s No. 1 spot after recovery from hand injury. Karius kept a clean sheet on his competitive debut at Derby, and has made it clear that he has not joined Liverpool to be a back up goalkeeper.
The most impressive aspect of Karius’ performance was not his saves (Derby had just two shots on target), but his sweeping up of danger outside the penalty area. The Daily Mail labelled it a ‘Neuer Mk II’ display. That’s a big statement, but Karius is prepared to come 40 or 50 yards out of his goal if required; is Mignolet?
‘The moment Loris Karius raced from goal and executed a perfect sliding tackle to snuff out Derby Country forward Darren Bent, Simon Mignolet must have realised his long reign as Liverpool’s No 1 goalkeeper was over,’ Joe Bernstein wrote in that Daily Mail piece. As with Guardiola and Claudio Bravo, is this the style of goalkeeper Jurgen Klopp wants?
‘Tall, blond and Germanic, Karius doesn’t just look like the iconic World Cup winner Manuel Neuer, he plays like him too. This is goalkeeping 2016 style and the 5million signing from Mainz is destined to be Jurgen Klopp’s man between the sticks for many years to come.’
Big talk, but reasons to hold that belief. Mignolet is still likely keep his place for the visit of Hull on Saturday, but his form will be dissected in even greater detail. That No. 1 spot is up for grabs.
Jurgen Klopp says he has to think about who will play in goal for Liverpool against Hull. Rob Holding and Gabriel as central defenders, Mohamed Elneny and Xhaka in central midfield and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and Perez in attacking areas.
Arsene Wenger chose to give young players a chance to impress at the City Ground, but there was still experience. Six of the players in that starting line up cost 82m between them.
Sticking with Arsenal, and this is a competition that Wenger can finally win for the first time. While the fourth round draw paired Chelsea with West Ham, Manchester United with Manchester City and Liverpool with Tottenham, Arsenal were given a gentler task.
From sixth favourites on Monday to outright favourites by Thursday, with none of those other five even being knocked out. That’s what you call a lovely cup draw.
When victory can still be a negative West Ham struggled and strained their way through their tie against League Two Accrington, eventually relying on a 96th minute free kick from, guess who, Dimitri Payet. Six shots on target vs four shots on target is far from inspiring against at home to a team that lost 2 0 15 miles up the road at Barnet last month.
West Ham did improve after the introduction of Payet, Manuel Lanzini and Michail Antonio, but the problems at full back show no sign of abating. When Sam Byram (no form), Arthur Masuaku (no form) and Alvaro Arbeloa (33) are your only fit full backs, they’re unlikely to improve any time soon.
It’s hardly a technical assessment, but West Ham’s starting XI against Accrington makes you wonder whether Slaven Bilic has just made things too weird. Like the Fulham team that was relegated in 2013/14, you can make so many changes and bring players in from so many different teams and countries that things just become an incoherent mess.
Here’s those ten outfield players in full: Masuaku, Arbeloa, Ogbonna, Nordtveit, Obiang, Fernandes, Tore, Calleri, Feghouli, Zaza. Nine different nationalities, eight players bought this summer, one with any previous experience in England. To repeat: It’s just too weird.
‘But I could told you Vincent
This world was never meant for
And how you tried to set them free’
Now I’m told that Don McLean was warbling onabout Vincent van Gogh, but I simply can’t believe that there aren’t strands of Vincent Kompany running through that song. The virgin snow refers to the Manchester City captain’s first start of the season after injury. The lying crushed and broken came later, as Kompany walked off the pitch with another knock. Pep Guardiola confirmed the injury after the match, but will have to wait for the prognosis.
Kompany has now suffered 17 separate injures since the start of 2014, and last played more than 75% of league games in a season in 2011/12. It’s a question we’ve asked before, but when do City finally lose patience in their captain?
The arrival of John Stones clearly adds to the debate, as does Guardiola’s decision to play Aleksandar Kolarov as a central defender. The Spaniard has only been in charge for three months, but he must already be getting sick of the issue.
Oh Mark Hughes. There is no doubt that Stoke were unfortunate to lose to Hull City on Wednesday after dominating the match, but nor too that Hughes needed cup progression to keep the wolf from the door.
Stoke had 21 shots to Hull’s five, and 12 from inside the penalty area to Hull’s three, but what Hughes didn’t mention in his post match hard luck story is that he picked a near full strength side for the visit of one of the Premier League’s weakest teams. His opposite number made eight changes.