Manchester United and Manchester City got their 2020/21 campaigns underway over the weekend following an extended break, while Liverpool continued their title defence in convincing style. Express Sport’s Matthew Dunn returns with his Talking Points column every week.
THIAGO ALCANTARA, THE FIRST TIME I SEEN YOU I KNEW IT WAS THE TITLE
Thiago Alcantara will prove the best signing of the summer when Liverpool win their second title in a row.
Just a 45-minute glimpse of him at Stamford Bridge was enough to suggest that individual honours are on the way, too, in terms of the player-of-the-year awards. Judging from some of the gasps of my socially-distanced colleagues, the FWA honours if nothing else.
Jurgen Klopp’s team worked anyway – Thiago will simply make them operate in ways that lesser mortals could not have imagined.
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It was interesting that after Harry Kane provided four assists for Tottenham team-mate Heung-Min Son he said, “One of the passes I didn’t even look really, I just put it into the space because I knew he’d be running in behind.”
On Sunday, Thiago was picking out passes to players he had never met before. Just wait till he settles in.
EIGHTH TIME LUCKY FOR UNITED
Nothing dictates the success of a manager more than his recruitment which is why – for now – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should be absolved from blame for Manchester United’s disastrous start to the season.
After Victor Lindelof’s one-man horrow-show against Crystal Palace there was an immediate clamour for the club to go out and get a centre-half.
They already have seven!
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Axel Tuanzebe graduated from the academy – the rest were all signed. If they are not good enough, then surely that is the fault of Jose Mourinho, Louis van Gaal and – whisper it quietly – Sir Alex Ferguson?
The centre-back signed on Solskjaer’s watch, Harry Maguire, has been in line with his other largely successful recruitments – Bruno Fernandes, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Daniel James, fingers-cross Donny van de Beek and even Odion Ighalo.
The Manchester United board need to back him to go out and get it right again.
FODEN CAN BE DE BRUYNE’S NEW SILVA FOIL
Phil Foden can step seamlessly into the hole left by David Silva – provided Kevin De Bruyne is there to help him.
Foden’s goal was just the tonic after the negative headlines from his recent England duties and with De Bruyne to supply the ammunition, he should be aiming for much more of the same.
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More than ever, the Belgium international is key to Manchester City’s success in chasing Liverpool this season.
Now he has the extra responsibility of keeping the spotlight off a player who has had rather too much of that lately.
But with his energy and vision, De Bruyne can dominate play and create the space for Foden to properly find his feet.
CHELSEA NO HOPE OF KEEPING UP IN TITLE RACE
Premier League-winning goalkeepers are not often listed as a bunch but form an impressive group of individuals.
Peter Schmeichel, and Kasper of course, David Seaman, Petr Cech, Fabien Barthez, Thibault Courtois, Edwin Van Der Sar, Jens Lehmann, Alisson, Mark Bosnich pre-demons, Ederson, Tim Flowers and David De Gea and Joe Hart when they were good.
Those are the only no. 1s to have made more than a dozen appearances in title-winning sides. At the time, they were all right up there among the very best in the game.
Which is why Chelsea, for all their investment, will remain out of touch with the leaders until they find an adequate replacement for Kepa Arrizabalaga.
He is simply not good enough.
A WORD OR TWO ABOUT HANDBALL
When Stanley Rous was asked in 1938 to re-word the Laws of the Game, he wrote: “A player shall be penalised if he intentionally handles the ball – ie carries, strikes or propels it with the hand of arm.”
And we managed for 80 years.
The current handball law is 233 words long plus a diagram. It refers to “the bottom of the armpit”, “making the body unnaturally bigger” and being “extended laterally or vertically from the body”.
Mike Riley it is not so much a rule change as a “definition of deliberate”. If it had wanted a definition, football should have gone to Susie Dent.
What is wants is common sense. Now that the man in the middle is the one looking at the monitor, “intent” can be subjective again and some of the ridiculous penalties can be avoided.
Give us our old Law back!
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