5 Things: Manchester United, Michael Turner, Jozy Altidore, Koscielny Sees Red, Cardiff City

17 August 2013

Here are my five biggest takeaways from today in the Barclays Premier League.

1) Manchester United played like they didn't lose a step.
While they were second best for large periods of the first half, once Robin Van Persie beat Swansea's defensive line, that immediate loss in confidence gave United the ability to finish off the hosts before halftime. The second half was almost a repeat of the first; the lone difference being Wilfred Bony showed how good a partnership he and Michu should have during the season.
While Rooney may have been a side story, but his play on the pitch did not reflect his pouting nature he portrayed on the bench. His set up for Welbeck to make the game 4-1 reminded us that he is indeed a gifted professional. However, Rooney needs to understand that right now he's not needed up top. Robin Van Persie's play Saturday was as good, if not better than last year. Welbeck is finally coming into his own up top, and is playing the role in the manner that David Moyes wants to. With Rooney liking to track back, it only makes sense for him right not to play in this Manchester United midfield.
While one performance doesn't make me change my mind about where I see United finishing at the end of this season, United made this opener more comfortable on the scoreboard than actually was the case. In this funny old game of football, that's the only thing that matters.

2) Michael Turner's 5 minutes of insanity cost Norwich City a chance at three points against Everton.
I know this may sound harsh, but I'm putting the sole blame on Norwich City's five minute bad spell in the middle of the second half squarely on the shoulders of Michael Turner. Starting from the moment Turner was booked for a stupid challenge on Steven Pienaar, to the point Coleman's effort put Everton 2-1 in front, he was the underlying reason why Norwich City shared the spoils instead of winning this one.
It was just eight minutes after Whittaker's opener for the Canaries before Turner found the book for a rather stupid challenge on Pienaar. He was second best to a lackluster ball, and had he went for playing his position instead of taking the Everton man out at the ankles, the sequence of free kick to throw in to set up for Barkley doesn't happen. To make matters worse, Turner turns away from Barkley's effort on goal, instead of trying to block it, leaving Ruddy out to dry in the process.
The equalizer gave Everton a spring to their attacking play they had not shown prior to the hour mark. Before then, Everton's slow build allowed Norwich to get back into position rendering much of their attack useless. Five minutes later, the faster play paid off. When Pienaar was let in, the Canary defense was not set, and attacked Pienaar's position. That allowed Jelavic to get in behind, and place a shot that Ruddy could not parry out for a corner. The rebound went right to Coleman who was able to slam it home into an empty net.
Turner should be thanking both Whittaker and van Wolfswinkel for bailing him out. It was a botched effort on goal/cross into the box by Whittaker, but the only man to make a leap for it was the man on debut for the home side. Had Turner not lost his cool ten minutes prior, we're more than likely talking about 3 points for Norwich City, instead of Roberto Martinez's side getting a point.

3) Jozy Altidore is going to be one frustrated individual in short order.
The lone reason I cared about Sunderland/Fulham this afternoon was to see if I was going to be hopelessly wrong about the service Jozy Altidore would see this season. Unfortunately, if today is a snapshot into the service he'll see, Altidore is going to be in for a longer season than even I had expected. In today's match, against a lackluster Fulham side, Altidore had one meaningful cross in to work with, and one good ball down the middle in 95 plus minutes. Both times, Fulham's best defender Brede Hangeland made sure Jozy had a difficult time getting a shot on frame. Despite the lack of quality service, his runs still looked crisp, and he put in what I thought was a good shift under some underwhelming circumstances.
Jozy needs service if he's going to score goals. He's someone who can't do it all, but can make alot happen if he's got the right dance partner. Based on today's game, I would seriously doubt Altidore getting into double digit goals this year. While Di Canio may not want to, if he wants to see Sunderland safe this season, he is going to need to find some better play out wide. Whether or not this comes through the transfer market, teams got a fairly good blueprint on how to see defeat Sunderland. If Jozy doesn't see any help soon, I expect his play to suffer tremendously as he fights to keep interest in the action on the park.
Between Sunderland's crosses in, poor set pieces and Valentin's pathetic marking of Kasami on Fulham's goal, there frankly wasn't much to be positive about when it came to Sunderland. Fulham looked much stronger than I expected them to be, and were deserving of the three points.

4) Koscielny deserved both yellow cards.
Both calls against Laurent Koscielny may be deemed 'soft' to the masses, I have to give referee Anthony Taylor full credit for making the correct decisions, which ultimately led to Koscielny's dismissal. On the Agbonlahor penalty, just because Koscielny got the ball first doesn't give him carte blance to take out the attacking player. While I thought red would have been the wrong color of the card, yellow was more than fair. While it should have been a warning, it wasn't.
Six minutes later, he made an even crazier decision to lunge at Weimann studs up. While he made minimal contact, the referee knew he had to go. There are some things a referee will give players a last warning for, but lunging into a player is not one of them. If he had made full contact with Andreas Weinmann, that card could have easily been a straight red. Again, it doesn't matter the contact, the intent of the challenge does.
It was the final piece that caused the Arsenal jenga board to come crashing down. Even though Brad Guzan had to make one spectacular save after the sending off, Arsenal were too far forward and were caught out on a counter attack to be seen off 3-1 by an Aston Villa side that looks much better than many thought they would. Arsenal's lack of depth is something they better hope isn't exploited many more times this season, because it's already being tested at the start of the season.

5) Cardiff City given a reminder they aren't in the Championship anymore.
I've struggled with what I thought was the worst performance of the day. Between Sunderland, Stoke City, and Cardiff City, there was some pretty dire play. In the end, I have to go with the recently promoted Bluebirds.
Cardiff was just way too tepid today. From ball watching to giving up soft goals, they were given about as rude a reminder of the division they were as one could get. To make matters worse, they did absolutely nothing in attack. They only had about 5 minutes to start the second half where I thought Cardiff might try and make it interesting, but they ended up with nothing on frame. In fact, they only tested the West Ham keeper once, and it was a weak test at that.
While I think West Ham will be very comfortable in the mid table this season, today's performance was nothing to get excited about. Actually, if I was a Hammer, I'd be regretting they didn't win by more.

What were your thoughts on the start of the season?

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Johnathan Starling, the self proclaimed 'most brutally honest man on the net, dishes out his own unique brand of opinions, and analysis on the Premier League, Bundesliga, and all things US Soccer.

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