By Chris Worrall (@ChrisDWorrall)
Bony and Sterling seize their chances
With the loss of both Sergio Aguero and David Silva to international duty injuries, the time had come for two players in particular to step into their shoes. Raheem Sterling has struggled in the shadow of Silva and impressive new boy de Bruyne but was excellent in his hat-trick performance against an exciting if overwhelmed Bournemouth. As well as taking his goals well – the second in particular was sublime – he was a driving attacking force who continually led City’s attacks.
Perhaps more welcome however was the two-goal show from Wilfred Bony. Perennially injured, ill or a substitute since signing from Swansea City, this was his big chance to make the most out of what will be a significant run in the first team. It was a chance he took well: his goals were predatory, his link-up play was often fantastic (one lofted pass to Sterling was nothing short of gorgeous) and he gave the side a physical presence that gave a constant outlet against Bournemouth’s high pressing. He will always be in Aguero’s shadow, but with more performances like this one, he will prove harder and harder to drop.
Big Sam’s Big Challenge
There must be few Premier League jobs less appealing than Sunderland, but there was an inevitability when it was finally confirmed Sam Allardyce was the next through the Stadium of Lights revolving management door. Already, the scale of his task has been laid bare. Most of the post-match attention went to West Brom’s fortunate winning goal and an overblown alteration involving James McClean, but these masked what was another tepid Black Cats performance.
What must frustrate their fans so much is that the core group of players can and have played well: their run to the Capital One Cup final less than two years ago involved much of the existing team and was a joy to watch. However, with a long-running reputation for lacklustre training and problematic lifestyle choices, the teams flashes of quality are not enough against a tide of ill-discipline, poor tactics and a depressing lack of fight that washes across most of their seasons. Maybe Big Sam is the man to break the cycle, but this still feels like same old Sunderland.
What to make of Newcastle
With one of the most enthralling victories in the club’s recent history, Steve McClaren’s Newcastle roared back from their terrible start to the season in a way that seemingly only Newcastle can. Their combination of impressive spells against big teams and limp defeats to everyone else had reached near-boiling point after their drubbing at the Etihad two weeks before. Something had to finally come good, and my word didn’t it just?
Norwich are not a bad team at all, and Alex Neill had lost just once as manager before this game. However, they were blown away by a side that finally seemed to remember its inherent quality and lived up to its current skill and past reputation. With the derby next time out, Newcastle fans may well have a new and unexpectedly warm feeling… optimism.
Tim’s Time Tolls…
The words ‘keeping on swinging until it works’ would sounds great coming out of the mouth of a boxer battling the odds in a do-or-die fight against adversity. It sounds less impressive when coming out of the mouth of a professional football manager. His Spurs record and Villa cup run aside, Tim Sherwood’s goose may well and truly be cooked.
Initially brought in as a motivator against relegation, ‘Tactics Tim’ has tried this season to show off his intellectual acumen in the mould of a Rodgers or (pushing it) Guardiola. It hasn’t worked. Barring a fortunate opening day victory, his team has lurched from one game plan to another, ranging between faux-tika-taka to punts up to Rudy Gestade. Like a ship without a captain, Villa lurch in the sea of a game rolling with whatever comes at them in ineffective and inconsistent ways. The line between flexibility and cluelessness is called Tim, and be sure that he has never felt worse in his entire life.
Liverpool got a new manager apparently… it hasn’t been mentioned much…