Premier League’s best, worst in this season: Sterling and Payet star, Moreno woe

October 9, 2016 2:07 pm
It’s been an entertaining season already and we’re only in October. Here are some of the most memorable moments from the campaign to date.
Given that he was only one of England’s many, many failures at Euro 2016 this summer, the post-tournament scapegoating of Raheem Sterling felt distinctly unpleasant. But the Man City winger has since offered an emphatic response to his critics. Under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola, Sterling isn’t just the player he was at Liverpool, he’s better than the player he was at Liverpool. He looks confident, inventive and considerably fitter than he was last year. It’s early days, but this could be the season when he ceases to be thought of as an excellent prospect and recognised simply as an excellent player.
New managers should always try to make sure that one of their new signings defines their ideology. Jose Mourinho had Zlatan Ibrahimovic, an emblem of his pursuit of immediate excellence. Arsene Wenger had Patrick Vieira, demonstrating his commitment to youth and a good scouting system. David Moyes had Marouane Fell… OK, that’s enough examples. Ronald Koeman’s efforts to make Everton more resilient are encapsulated by Idrissa Gueye, the tough-tackling, quick passing patroller of midfield. For a little over £7 million, he could be the bargain of the season.
Dimitri Payet has had a poor start to the season by his standards, but he did single-handedly save his boss Slaven Bilic’s job on Saturday. There hasn’t been much to please the West Ham fans in their new stadium (see below) but his solo effort against Boro was the sort of goal that they will be wistfully recalling in their dotage. A sublime run, classically executed with the just the right amount of, “he’s waited too long… he’s waited too long… he should have got the shot off earlier… OH, WHAT A GOAL!”
By and large, half time entertainment isn’t usually very entertaining. Occasionally you’ll see a corporate guest fall over while attempt to bounce the ball off the crossbar in a pair of slip on shoes, but that’s as good as it gets. Or at least it was until Derby County put on an elaborate skit where a giant fish fought with, consumed and then regurgitated a member of the coaching staff. clubs of England, the bar has been raised. How on earth do you follow that?
If you’ve ever felt as though you’ve been too hard on yourself, you are nothing compared to Jamie Vardy. Yeah, you might lay awake at night agonising over your shortcomings. You might punish yourself in the gym if you’ve overindulged the night before. But have you ever punched yourself full in the face for missing an easy goal scoring chance? Vardy has. There was no messing about here. It wasn’t a little slap. In front of a global TV audience of millions in the 2-1 defeat to Hull City on the Pemier League’s opening day, he pretty much beat himself up. You have to admire that sort of commitment.
There are always issues when a club moves to a new stadium. English football’s devotion to tradition is one of its most endearing features and it hurts when habits, sometimes passed down the generations, are suddenly broken forever. But has any move ever been as traumatic as West Ham’s departure to the Olympic (London) Stadium? There have been repeated incidents of violence between fans and, last weekend, some sections of the stadium made their feelings quite clear in a number of songs, the lyrics of which we can’t reprint here. But they’re stuck there now as Upton Park has been demolished.
After successive failures at Manchester United and Real Sociedad, there’s no doubt that this is Moyes’ last crack at the English top flight and it really hasn’t started well. It’s not entirely his fault, of course: Sunderland have been appalling for years. In nine seasons in the Premier League, they’ve only broken the 40 point barrier three times and they’ve never reached 50. But Moyes’ pessimism in the summer struck the wrong note and some of his signings, most notably Papy Djilobodji, have been disastrous. A spirited performance in defeat against Manchester City on opening day offered hope. But it didn’t last long.
At some clubs, promotion to the Premier League signals a period of ceaseless preparation, an entire summer spent in a desperate push for reinforcement, on and off the field. But not at Hull. Preparation there was so lax that manager Steve Bruce threw his hands up in the air and walked out. Caretaker boss Mike Phelan began the season with so few players that he could barely make a substitution. A number of hasty last-minute signings have at least filled the squad out, but even now, with a valiant haul of seven points on the board, Phelan is yet to be rewarded with the full-time job. What on earth are the owners playing at?

Claudio Bravo struggled in his first game for Manchester City.

Pep Guardiola’s decision to boot out Joe Hart in favour of a goalkeeper who could pass the ball out from the back was a bold one. Dropping former Barcelona star Claudio Bravo in as his replacement for the Manchester derby was even bolder. What Guardiola really needed from his new man was the sort of performance that would silence the doubters instantly. What he received was quite the opposite. Bravo was at fault for United’s goal, looked nervous throughout especially with the ball at his feet and probably should have been sent off for a studs-up tackle on Wayne Rooney. Still, he has looked better since then.

Poor Alberto Moreno hasn’t started a league game for Liverpool since his aberration at the Emirates on the first Sunday of the season. The hapless Spanish full-back first gave away a needless penalty that Theo Walcott missed and, 69 seconds later, left Walcott alone long enough for him to make up for his mistake. The Reds may have won 4-3 but since that little display, Jurgen Klopp has felt it might be a better idea to let the versatile James Milner play there instead. Given his performances thus far, you can see why; Moreno may not be getting back in for a while.
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