The first Premier League weekend after deadline day and the first after a lengthy international had been welcomed amid much hype and expectations. Unfortunately, it was largely underwhelming and, let’s face it, a bit of damp squid.
However, successful debuts and controversies offered plenty of talking points.
1) New kids on the block
Of all the deadline day signings nobody had grabbed more headlines and attention than Mesut Ozil and the former Real Madrid man delivered on his debut, taking only 11 minutes to register his first assist for Arsenal.
The German’s arrival has undoubtedly lifted the Gunners camp and the North Londoners are currently top of the table thanks also, in no small part, to Olivier Giroud’s fine form in front of goal.
Like every world class player Ozil seamlessly slot into his new club and the feeling is the German will be pivotal to Arsenal chances of silverware.
Another deadline signing, Marouane Fellaini, enjoyed a relatively low-key debut as the Belgian came on for a 30 minutes cameo against Palace but displayed more energy and enterprise in half an hour than Anderson has done in the last four seasons and the Belgian’s afro could become increasingly popular at Old Trafford over the course of the season.
Meanwhile, Gareth Barry, Fellaini’s replacement at Goodison Park, was instrumental as Everton maintained their unbeaten start to the league and picked up their first win under Roberto Martinez.
An often maligned player, Barry proved to be a crucially important figure for the Toffees, shielding the back four and allowing Everton’s midfield to withstand their more talented counterparts.
2) City feeling the blues
Manchester City were widely hailed as the happy story of the summer, with Manuel Pellegrini seemingly proving to be everything Roberto Mancini was not and with City sealing their deals swiftly, thus avoiding the embarrassment that marred their cross-town rivals’ summer.
However, despite a relatively kind opening weeks in which they faced two newly-promoted clubs, City only picked up seven points from their first four games, their worst return since the 2010-11 season.
United and Chelsea, City’s main rivals for the title, haven’t been flying either but both clubs, United in particular, have had a much tougher run in the four opening weeks of the season and neither have spent as much as City have.
Billing next Sunday’s Manchester derby as a turning point for either club would be premature but United would probably go into the clash at the Etihad the happier of the two sides.
3) West Ham need to be more clinical
West Ham are a typical Sam Allardyce team, hard to beat and unpleasant to play against. However, even teams that consider their doggedness a badge honour might need to score from time to time.
The Hammers have failed to find the net in their last three league games and Big Sam rued their profligacy in front of goal as his side returned from their trip to Southampton with a 0-0 draw.
Losing Andy Carroll hasn’t helped as the Hammers clearly lack a plan B, given that Ricardo Vaz Te is about as useful as Piers Morgan at a Spurs’ fans convention and Carlton Cole has been released.
Allardyce needs to figure out a way to get his team scoring or Jussi Jaaskelainen’s heroics might soon not be enough to grind out results.
4) There’s life after Gareth Bale
Before Gareth Bale marked his Real Madrid debut with a goal, his former club had moved to the top of the table, alongside their North London neighbours.
Much had been said this summer about Spurs having a better squad than they did at any point over the last two seasons, but Andre Villas Boas’ team had resembled a work in progress against Arsenal a fortnight ago.
Against Norwich, however, Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela (who bravely played after his brother had been kidnapped by carjackers in Argentina and subsequently released after a ransom was paid) offered a first glimpse of what Spurs fans can expect this season.
Tottenham’s crisp, quick, passing game was a joy to watch and AVB’s football philosophy looks increasingly ingrained in his players. Whether this will be enough for Spurs to be successful this season, only time will tell.
Having developed a reputation for falling to the ground rather too sistematically and extremely too often, Ashley Young penned another embarrassing chapter in his diving encyclopedia against Palace as he stuck out his leg to make sure there was contact with Kagisho Dikgacoi’s shin, before disgracefully tumbling to the ground.
The United winger’s penchant for constantly looking to fall down at the merest hint of contact is becoming increasingly frustrating even for his own fans for, let’s be honest, Young is clearly not very good at diving.
“Ash has put his leg into the lad’s leg. The boy definitely puts his leg out and, rightly so, he deserved to get booked. I don’t want my players diving. I don’t want anybody doing it. I’ll definitely say to Ash it’s not what I want,” said David Moyes, who promised to reprimand Young.