Week 5 is in the books and as we seemed to have some fun conversations last week with this post so we will start the early Week 6 preview with "SEVEN QUESTIONS" da da DAAAAAAAAAA (read in a deep evil voice).
Question 1 - Is is a two horse title race?
They say defences win titles and of the pre-season contenders/dark horses only Chelsea and Manchester City look like they apply to this rule. Their squads are vastly superior to their rivals and of all the sides you could consider these both have the big game mentality. In Sergio Aguero and Diego Costa they have the best two prime forwards and the rest of the squads aren't bad are they.
Of their rivals and without wanting to upset anybody here
Liverpool cannot defend and in Daniel Sturridge have a star forward too often on the treatment table. Their star player Steven Gerrard is showing his age all of a sudden while the star in waiting Sterling is so young. The distraction of Europe is also new to them.
Arsenal also cannot defend and hardly have any defenders left. Their midfield is wonderfully attacking but they lack a defensive midfield to protect the back line. They seem to still expect to lose the big games.
Man Utd - new team, not one outstanding defender, new manager and a suspect mentality in the current players when things go against them makes them Champions League chasing this season at best. As a Utd fan who started watching when this was the norm I can accept this.
Everton and Spurs - Europe, no world class players and too familiar losing to the big boys.
After playing out a 1 all draw on Sunday City and Chelsea will be looking to get back to winning ways week 6 and I couldn't argue going all in on both sides if you can make the money work.
Question 2 - Is the derby game the perfect game to get Liverpool going or the worst?
Liverpool have had a poor start to the season losing 3 of the opening 5 games. After pushing Manchester City all the way last year they are 6 places and 4 points worse off than the start to the 2012/13 season that saw Luis Suarez missing the opening 6 games.
Losing at Man City is I guess understandable but loses to Aston Villa and West Ham surprise after the performances of last season. Manager Brendan Rodgers summed up the situation for his team explaining that as part of the progression they had shown over the previous two seasons, the expectations and standards are at a level higher and a level the squad need to adjust to. Losing Daniel Sturridge to injury consistently is a problem to any title challenge as is the huge expectations placed on Raheem Sterling. Watching Sterling at West Ham you wouldn't know it though. As he has been since late last season he was Liverpool's ever consistent threat and improves almost game by game. If he can stay injury free Liverpool and England have a potential special player but he cannot play twice a week, every week.
At the back Dejan Lovren has brought attitude and fight to the defence but has been caught out of position many times early in his Liverpool career. He will surely settle down but needs the now reliable Martin Skrtel to steady him down in the next few weeks. As a pair they can be solid if not outstanding and based on the shocking defending of Mamadou Sakho the clear starting choices.
So back to the question is the derby game the ideal home tie to settle Liverpool down and back to the imposing side of last year? The secret to last year's irresistible attacking play was the pace, movement and invention of the Suarez, Sturridge and Sterling trio. Missing two thirds of them against Everton should even the game up. Adam Lallana may have done enough to start and he will add craft to the play. But it is in Suarez replacement the game may hinge. Mario Balotelli has had a typical start to his Liverpool career with one goal and booking. He is the classic on his day performer and a big game goal scorer as well.
Everton have also looked less the side of last season conceding and incredible 13 goals in 5 games. Gareth Barry and Sylvain Distin have started to look their age while John Stones is going to make mistakes at this stage of his career. Leighton Baines seems to have lost a yard to me and as we saw in the World Cup/since any fast or clever player can now comfortably get in behind him. Memories of last year's Liverpool blitz have to be in their minds, it was too much trauma not to be.
Little note on Brendan Rodgers. Fair play for not blaming the midweek European game at Anfield. Sure, away games with the travelling will be a factor later on in the season and the excuse will be used then but it would have been so easy to use this as an excuse this time. He didn't and in public informed his players of the standards they have set themselves. That is how is should be done.
As with most Liverpool games the opening 25 minutes will be crucial. If Everton can hold out then perhaps though we will see a game where two of last season's performances lick their wounds and play a more controlled system of play fearful of further defeats. However, assuming he can put his kit on this time, it Just feels like a Mario day to me. Whether that is a red card or a 91st minute winner the fun is watching the man.
Question 3 - Who should play the role behind Lord Welbeck in the other weekends derby, Ozil or Ramsey?
Mesut Ozil was a man under pressure in week 5. Very few Arsenal fans felt he deserved his place in the starting 11 and yet the one who mattered did as Mr Arsene Wenger finally put him back in the only role he can play, behind the forward. It is due to the riches in the Arsenal attacking midfield that he found himself out wide in the first place. Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere, Alexis Sanchez, Aaron Ramsey even Danny Welbeck can all play the role while none of them can successfully play the wide left position. Squad imbalance I suppose but one meaning Wenger has to put square pegs in round holes.
To allow Ozil back to his best position Ramsey got the deeper midfield role which saw him give 100% effort as normal but also give the ball away consistently. He picked up a yellow card and Wenger with the match won with ease took him off learning the lessons of the Champions League qualifier a couple weeks back. Wilshire missed out and once again you got the feeling Arsenal didn't miss him. His up and down form continues to be a worry for England fans.
Tottenham fans go through the ringer more than anybody. One minute they look a side capable of chasing a top four spot next they get blown apart buy a top team or lose 1-0 against the bottom of the table. With no win in 3 Spurs fans hopes will be lower than the Bale years but maybe that is what they need.
So will Ozil start behind Welbeck? Well knowing Wenger he will stick with a winning team but Arsenal fans is this your best team against the arch enemy?
Question 4 - Are Manchester United picking a team of stars or the best team they have?
With Liverpool's poor start Manchester United have taken no advantage whatsoever and that more than anything annoys.
A panicky blow out of cash in the summer has seen a vastly improved midfield assembled (although no match to Chelsea and City currently) but too little consideration was made to the defence. The squad options at centre back of Phil Jones, Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo and Tyler Blackett are not top four material. On the plus side they are all young and way of their prime so can only improve. On the negative side LVG has set the side up as if the defence is solid and the centre backs are dominate. Of those CB only Rojo and Smalling remain for next week's visit of West Ham and you don't feel confident of a clean sheet in that one.
Regardless of the chosen defenders it takes some doing to fall apart against the level of opponent even away from home as they did yesterday. LVG has system problems to go with his personal selections. Danny Blind who looked solid last week playing the holding midfield role in the diamond had his lack of pace exposed in the second half against Leicester City where a 3-1 lead was somehow lost and ended in a 5-3 defeat. Too often players ran of and behind him and he was unable to chase them down. Playing a diamond does really require outstanding fullbacks who can deal with being double teamed (a tactic Leicester did not exploit) and this will likely be exposed further against better teams.
Wayne Rooney continues to be a problem. As pointed out by Ferguson his has lost his acceleration therefore at the point of the diamond becomes a player you can mark. Also pointed out by Fergie is that his passing is very overrated (his passing stats back this view) and against Leicester he continued giving the ball away or even kicking straight out of play. Even his assist was under hit to Di Maria. Further although I would never, ever, question his effort he also is no ball winner and with Utd playing two up he needs to be. LVG said he wasn't happy with Rooney's performances as a forward having just weeks ago said he was a forward and not a player who should play deeper. A look back in history helps identify this problem. In his penultimate season Fergie played Rooney at the tip of a diamond at Newcastle where he excelled. Given time and space in the game he ran the show and Utd carried on with the idea into the next fixtures. Two games later and the opposition adjusted to closely mark Wayne and he was moved to a wide midfield role before moved back to a forward before the season ended. The following season he was dropped against Real Madrid in the Champions League knockout games for Danny Welbeck's pace and movement.
Maybe LVG wants to get all of his big names on the pitch and I may be on my own as a fan here but I remain doubtful that Rooney playing behind Falcao and RVP is a solution for the long term with the players around him. Difficult decisions for LVG and ones he was given £150m to answer. He need to find a system that balances the clubs attacking values against the brittle line available. Marcos Rojo is a natural CB and with injury and suspensions will be forced to play there against the hammers. As a Utd Fan here is hoping he stays there. After the attacking success at Leicester I assume the Falao, RVP and Rooney trio remains and I guess as I have dropped Rooney he scores this week but long term and away from home I'm not sure it's the answer. More concerning I'm not sure LVG knows just yet how to solve the puzzle. He will have too and he has the history to suggest he can turn it around but for the first time there is some doubt.
As for the fantasy view Rooney's points return will risk taking a dive is he maintains the midfield role along with with better and cheaper options in RVP and Falcao. In fact he may become a differential pick if you can catch him right (Christmas period springs to mind)
Question 5 - Will Alan Pardew survive the sack this week?
An old Pardew Newcastle favourite saved his bacon this weekend as they came from 2 down to take a point at home to Hull City thanks to Papris Cisse. A trip to a Stoke side who have lost both home games 1-0 seems like just the ticket to keep the momentum going, I fear though this will not be the case.
Stoke have played well in patches and surely cannot go three in a row at home without scoring. They are a pretty decent side as well as proven by their fantastic away win at Man City. Newcastle have had a number of heavy defeats in the last 20 or so league games and I can see 3-4 goals for Stoke in this one and a clean sheet to go with. To me this is the banker of the week ahead. Based on my fantasy picks so far you will proceed with caution.
Question 6 - Will the Saints go marching on ,on on?
When Southampton sold Luke Shaw, Dejan Lovren, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert plus losing their manager many thought they were in for an early season struggle. Five games played and who sit 2nd in the Premier League table!
The saints have made some clever summer signings and the team has importantly largely continued in the same playing style that made them many fans second team. This weekend the attempt from Wilfried Bony to join team troll saw him sent off and hand the game to Southampton in what looked a tricky away day. The first half had been Swansea's but like all title chasing teams (did you like that 1998?) they sucked up and won the tie late on.
Next up is what looks a home banker against Queens Park Rangers. Many of you will have Forster, Tadic and Pelle and they remain cheap if you didn't. QPR have conceded four in both their away games so far without scoring so the form line says this trio should do you well.
Question 7 - Who was you star and flop pick of week 5
For me the star was the only bloody player in double figures Danny Welbeck. The flop was Ken's man love Hugo Lloris with 1pt