By En Lim
Moussa Dembele, Maicon, Dimitar Berbatov, Clint Dempsey and Andy Carroll. These are just some of the big name players who moved during a frantic week of transfers that ended on 31 Aug. Some of these players were shoved into the limelight the very next day on the pitch, expected to perform up to hefty price tags they have been tied to.
Instant cult heroes
While not all of deadline day transfers managed to get playing time over the weekend, some of those who did proved why they were so sought after, and leading the pack was Moussa Dembele at Spurs.
The Belgian midfielder announced his arrival at White Hart Lane with an excellent solo goal, immediately justifying his transfer fee to the Spurs faithful. However, Dembele’s goal was not enough to secure victory for his team as Norwich deservedly pegged back at 1-1, stealing a point late on.
Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas must have thought it was groundhog day, as for the second consecutive week, his Spurs’ side lapsed in concentration and once again threw away precious points by conceding late in the game. Poor AVB now must be wondering who else he has to sign at the next transfer window to rejuvenate his out-of-sorts Tottenham squad.
Doing one better than Dembele was Steven Fletcher at Sunderland. Supposedly overpriced at 15 million pounds, the former Wolves striker defied his critics by twice putting his side ahead against a high-flying Swansea team, showing why Martin O’Neill was so determined to secure his services.
Unfortunately, Fletcher’s brace was not enough to ensure all three points for the Black Cats as the Swans maintained their unbeaten start to the season thanks goals from on-form Michu and Nathan Dyer who are fast becoming contenders for Player of the month.
But of course, not all cult heroes have to be goal-scorers in the game of football.
Big Andy Carroll’s loan to West Ham was called a strategic move by Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, but it certainly meant different things for West Ham and Sam Allardyce.
Welcoming Carroll with open arms, Allardyce put him in the first XI showing confidence in the striker’s abilities. This move paid off handsomely as Carroll assisted Kevin Nolan’s opening goal with a classic knock-down header, making sure that fans at Upton Park instantly applaud his arrival.
Despite not getting on the scoresheet, the English international showed glimpses of his old self and was given a standing ovation when he limped off the pitch. In contrast, Fulham's new signing Dimitar Berbatov however was unable to rescue his new side from a heavy 3-0 defeat, as the Cottagers fell apart and had no answer to West Ham’s effective style of football.
Manchester joy vs. Merseyside woe
The rivalries that exist within Merseyside and Manchester are world renowned and fans of Liverpool and Everton, City and United are constantly at each other’s throats. However this weekend, the fans could commiserate or celebrate with each other as their clubs in the same city experienced similar fates.
Seeking to make up ground on pace-setters Chelsea’s perfect start to the season, Roberto Mancini’s Manchester City side was expected to pick up victory easily at the Etihad Stadium against old boy Mark Hughes’ QPR.
Both sides had spent big prior to deadline day, securing enough new signings to form a internationally capped first XI. City once again, appeared unconvincing in play despite the 3-1 victory, as they yet again needed Yaya Toure and Carlos Tevez to rescue them from a poor outing,
Despite dominating the game, Mancini’s boys were wasteful in front of goal and suffered a scare when Bobby Zamora gave QPR a lifeline with his equaliser. But the experience and quality oozing in the City team proved too much for the stitched-up QPR side of big name signings eventually. The Hoops will take away some positives from the defeat in terms of Esteban Granero’s excellent debut, as well as the team’s resilience as they kept the scoreline respectable and put in a hard day's work.
City’s cross-town rivals Manchester United meanwhile were also unconvincing as they famously secured yet another injury-time win in Sir Alex Ferguson’s 1000th game in charge.
New boy Robin van Persie once again hogged the headlines with a remarkable hat-trick which included an injury-time winner, showing exactly why Ferguson wanted to sign him so badly. RVP’s virtuoso performance single-handedly saved United as they nervously edged out a Southampton side 3-2 to ensure they do not lose more ground to title-chasing rivals.
As for the Saints, Adam Lallana once again showed why he will certainly be a name on managers’ minds next season should his side not survive the EPL, as he inspired his team to twice take the lead. However, Nigel Adkins’ poor substitutions proved to be his side’s downfall, as he bizarrely took off Lallana and scorer Rickie Lambert while Ferguson’s tactical acumen saw Paul Scholes and Nani take the pitch and this turned the tide in United’s favour.
While it was joy for the Manchester teams, the same cannot be said for the Merseysiders. Still seeking their first victory under manager Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool fell apart at Anfield to an Arsenal side looking to prove a point having not scored a goal yet this season.
New boys Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla’s goals were enough to give the Gunners a modest sounding 2-0 win, when in fact, the scoreline could have been much larger. Arsene Wenger will certainly welcome this win as it would finally take the heat off him for failing to make any more deadline day moves to strengthen the Gunners.
Rodgers on the other hand is now facing an uphill battle to keep his Liverpool side to be even challenging for a Europa League spot. Having let Andy Carroll go and not signed any strikers in return, the Reds are left with two out-and-out forwards in Fabio Borini and Luis Suarez. Should one of them gets injured, it will spell trouble as the Reds have no proven back-up to score goals, and making what looks like a difficult campaign even tougher.
As Liverpool stutters its way into the season, bitter rivals Everton have had a perfect start to their campaign with two wins, and went into the game against West Brom in high spirits.
The Baggies who have also started the season well under new manager Steve Clarke, put the Toffees to the sword as their sharpness in front of goal proved to be the difference in the 2-0 win.
Shane Long and Gareth McAuley may have scored the goals, but it was West Brom’s defence that held firm and shut the door on waves of Evertonian attacks, ensuring the Baggies maintain their unbeaten start. Steve Clarke’s first foray into management looks to be a success story so far as he seeks to lead his side to rise above mid-table mediocrity this season.
The elusive first victory
While unbeaten records remain for some teams, others are still seeking that all elusive first win of the season.
Aston Villa’s poor start to the season continued on, as they barely hung on to one point against Newcastle at the stadium formerly known as St. James Park. Despite opening the scoring through Ciaran Clark, Hatem Ben Arfa’s scorcher of an equaliser left the Villa players dazed and wondering what they would have to do to get the first win of the season under their belts.
The odds are not looking good for Paul Lambert, who failed to make the best of the transfer window to boost the quality of his Villa side for the season ahead. Left with out-of-form striker Darren Bent and injury-prone Gabby Agbonlahor to lead the squad, Lambert’s team need to find goals from elsewhere to lift themselves from this gloom, or risk facing being stuck in the bottom three for the rest of the season.
While Villa's plight is lamentable (no pun intended), fellow winless team, Stoke City's situation is not as dire, even though they barely managed to salvage a 2-2 draw against Wigan Athletic.
Tony Pulis’ side struggled to settle and needed an opening salvo from Wigan to wake them up. In the end, trusty Peter Crouch came to Stoke's rescue as his trademark towering header saved the blushes of his side, giving them their third draw in a row. Stoke must be hoping that new signing Charlie Adam settles quickly into the squad, as his passing and set-piece taking abilities would be a lift for a Stoke team lacking in guile and creativity in the final third of the pitch.
Goal of the week: Moussa Dembele (Tottenham Hotspur). Right foot, left foot, a shot, goal. The Belgian’s quick feet left the Norwich defence for dead as he rifled a left-footed shot into the back of the net, to give him a dream start to his Spurs career.
Player of the week: Robin van Persie (Man Utd). Despite an awful penalty miss, the Dutchman more than made up for his mistake with three predatory goals to inspire his team to victory. He is fast proving to be the Red Devils’ new talisman.