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Are post-Abramovich Chelsea going the same way as Man Utd after Fergie?

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Chelsea owner Todd Boehly and manager Thomas Tuchel.

The Premier League opening day Mailbox ponders whether Chelsea are repeating Man Utd’ mistakes. Also: Haaland, predictions, Ronaldo, and plenty more…

Get your views into [email protected]

 

Are Chelsea going the Man Utd way?
If the last 10 years have taught me anything as a united fan, it’s that no manager or players can make up for the lack of organisation structure. Its been like hiring a bunch of coders from Google and Meta and then appointing a successful evangelist the product manager.

And I haven’t kept up much with the ongoings at Chelsea this summer but it’s bringing up some repressed memories of United’s first season after SAF and Gill.

There are non footballing brains running transfers. They unsuccessfully chased around targets all summer and now seem to be panicking at not having done enough and are out trying to close whoever they can sign (unfortunately our incompetence meant that signing was Fellaini – u are still better off – YET). We also lost a lot of defenders on free at that point btw (Ferdinand, Evra and Vidic iirc) but it was going to be completely fine cuz we had smalling and jones.

I wouldn’t wish what United fans have gone through on any club so I really hope this turns out differently for you. Maybe you guys can sign Ronaldo 🙂
Akshay (Maybe Ten Haag knows a tactic that doesn’t need CMs)

Farce-lona
While the rest of us argue about top 4 and relegation in the Premier League, the only story in football this year should be the Barcelona strategy – probably best described as ‘better to burn out than to fade away’. They are struggling to register players, struggling to pay their existing team’s salaries, and have decided to ‘spend spend spend’ by mortgaging their future up to 25 years ahead. It’s a frightening scenario for anybody that really cares about the club. The one clever aspect is that it broadens the base of people who don’t want the club to fail. But sooner or later, this house of cards is going to tumble. Laporte is betting the house on getting the Super League going, with Barcelona at the heart of it. There’s really no other way this plays out well for Barca, unless the next Messi turns up and keeps them at the top for 10 years. Lewandowski, Raphina, and co won’t take them to Champions League domination, good players though they are. This could end up being a high speed train wreck, because Laporte doesn’t want to take his foot off the accelerator, despite the cliff fast approaching.
Ved Sen (MUFC), London.

 

Ronaldo issue
To the left, to the left, everything you own in a box to the left…
So, the Neviller thinks Man United should bend over backward bend over drop their trousers and allow Ronaldo to f*ck them over. Because the little baby wants to play in the champions league playground and is throwing his toys out of the pram. Because Champions League scoring record. Because Messi.
We’re now told Ten Hag, the Man United dressing room, and even the tea lady is sick of Ronaldo hanging around like a bad smell. Hmm, if only there was a sucker willing to take him off our hands…
But alas, Ronaldo is running out of options. It doesn’t help that he’s fashionably late to the preseason schedule. And he leaves early like a boss. Like Gnev2 said he’s running the shop and everyone is tired of his sh*thousery.
So where do we go from here? Should Man United just terminate his contract? Or should we place a £25m price tag on him? But there are no takers…
If anyone has a solution, I’d love to hear it.
Melveaux

 


Here we go: Football365’s season predictions for 2022/23 as Liverpool v City splits us


 

Mug’s game
With everyone else mailing in their predictions for the season ahead, I thought I’d give it a go as well.

Until I remembered that, back in January, F365 printed my mail where I confidently stated the following about new Tottenham signings Kulusevski and Bentancur;

“Personally, I think both will struggle, and can’t see them making enough of a contribution to securing Champions League football.”

So on second thoughts, I’ll not bother.
Dario

 

Liverpool sixth
On the eve of the new season, predictions have been raining in but most people have been speaking as if next season just continues on where the last left off. You’ve mentioned yourselves how there was a ’21-point gap between Spurs and Liverpool’ last season. Are you aware this doesn’t carry over between seasons and every team starts with 0 points again?

People also predict that because team X has signed player Y the team must be better and if they lose players the team must become worse. Ask Man Utd fans about how it went last year when they signed 3 highly sought-after players to add to their team that finished 2nd. We’ve all seen enough PL seasons at this point to know football doesn’t work like this or else it would be too boring to watch. For example, the 4 teams finishing in the top 4 has only stayed the same from one season to the next once in the last 14 years.

A much better way to predict what will happen is to look at a team’s managers past record at other clubs. They all go through their own boom-bust cycle that saw them leaving eventually. So based on this, my big six predictions:

1) Man City: Contradicting everything I’ve said about boring predictions and managers boom-bust cycles, Guardiola always jumps ship before it starts going wrong after he stayed one year too long at Barca. Expect much of the same & a roughly similar points total to last year. Also, their expected points (xP) based on expected goals (xG) per game over the course of last season was so much better than anyone else’s its hard to look past them again.

2) Spurs: In Conte’s first season at Chelsea, he led a team built around Costa & Hazard to a title win with 93 points. This came after a slow opening 6 games that left Chelsea in 8th, 8 points behind leaders Man City. Conte has already had his bedding in period at Spurs to avoid these dropped points so I see no reason why his side built around Kane & Son can’t rack up 85+ points next season beyond ‘Lads, it’s Tottenham’.

3) Arsenal: Arteta hasn’t had any previous managerial positions so it’s hard to judge. Last season they were quite consistent but struggled against the other big 6 sides, if this season goes similarly then that may end up in the top 4 as other sides around them run into trouble.

4) Chelsea: Tuchel did 2 years at Dortmund & 2 and a half at PSG, getting sacked with them 3rd place in the league in a one-horse race. I suspect his time may be up at Chelsea, getting sacked mid-season. Chelsea then break out one of their classic records, bringing in a caretaker manager who performs a late season turnaround to nick the final top 4 spot from…

5) Man Utd: Ten Hag has never managed in a 20-team league before let alone one of the top 5 leagues. United to start strongly with some attractive football but to fade as the season wears on, missing out on Champions League football late in the season.

6) Liverpool: Klopp has taken this side far but this will be one step too many. He managed both of his previous sides for 7 seasons & he’s currently done 6 full seasons at Liverpool. In his 6th season at Dortmund, he took them to 2nd place in the league and lost in the Champions League final, sound familiar? At Dortmund he followed that up by spending most of the season bottom of the league, picking up form in February which saw Dortmund pull clear and sneak into the final Europa League spot. The Bundesliga is much more competitive at the bottom so it’s unlikely the same scenario will happen now but we’ve already seen how badly his sides can fall apart 18 months ago & with the World Cup interruption we may be in for it again this season.
Mick, Cardiff

 

Aribo! Aribo!
Great F365 predictions piece. I’ve a few unpopular predictions of my own:

– Gabriel Jesus will be a flop.

– Man Utd will actually be quite good. Comfortably back in top 4.

– Southampton (and therefore Ralph Hasenhuttl) will be just fine.

…and on that note, Joe Aribo will prove the best bargain. £6m or so (with add ons) is a steal.
Graeme, Glasgow

 

…Got to love predictions. They are always nonsense and show both why we love football and why you should never bet on it.

Anyways, here goes:

Top 4: City, Liverpool, Spurs (Very glad Conte didn’t go to United), Chelsea, (United, Arsenal for the 6.) (Remember when brackets were a mailbox thing?)

Goldon boot: Salah. Kane has won one golden boot since Salah turned up to Salah’s three. Kane will not bust a gut in the run up to the world Cup or will break. Haaland vs Nunez is interesting in that it will take top billing above Salah vs Kane whilst Salah keeps scoring.

First manager to leave: Frank Lampard will leave Everton the day after the transfer window closes without having won a point. He will blame the clubs transfer activity and his press mates will spend two years claiming it wasn’t his fault and he did the best he could have done under the circumstances. His next job will be at Fulham in 2025.

Champ league winner: Liverpool. I refuse to consider anyone else.

Player of the year: KDB. Isn’t there 5 subs this year? He won’t finish a game so he’ll be fresh as a daisy every game.

Most excited about: Non-league football with my kids.
Alex, South London

 

…I’ll just reiterate my predictions.

City to win the league, followed by Liverpool, United, Spurs, Chelsea and Arsenal.

Fulham, Leeds and let’s say Bournemouth to go down.

Villa or Forest to be the biggest surprise. Or maybe Everton achieving mid table mediocrity with Lampard.

Haaland will get the golden boot, Grealish to get most assists.

Haaland will also have the biggest impact, as hell help them win the CL, followed by Martinez or De Jong (if he joins) at United. Martial or Fred might be the classic “like a new signing”.

Jesus to be the biggest flop.

Biggest bargain is surely going to be Eriksen but Henderson or Lingard will be up there.

PFA player will be Kane or Salah because they are loved.

Tuchel to say bye first

City to win the CL.

Most excited to see United playing good football, and giving kids a chance.
Badwolf

Erling Haaland
Game of opinions
I agree with the view that F365 is on a wind-up with regards to Haaland. Either that, or King simply didn’t watch the match, and decided that no-goals, few touches from Haaland meant that he had been bad or something similar. Either way, it’s basically click bait. (And, as has been pointed out, uses the language of betting, despite the website’s stance.)

Haaland had two big chances and one half chance in an unfit team that wasn’t on his wavelength, while playing against the two* best centre-halves in the league, with one being pretty much the guy you would design if you had to engineer a defender to play against Haaland.

And even against Matip and VVD, Haaland just looked faster, sharper and stronger. This weekend he’s going to run into the Cat-Botherer and Diop, which should be more representative. Nevermind when he ends up bulldozing teams with weak centres. Fear for United or Arsenal (and everyone in the bottom half).

If that match, where he must have been close to the best city player on show, was evidence of his struggling, then I don’t know. Just look at that last chance he had: Adrian spilled a wicked long shot. He did not spill it far, and against pretty much every other player in the league, he smothers that, or gets close enough that there’s no chance of a shot. Haaland was there so fast, and so early, that it seemed like he had to have been two or three yards offside. In. A. Friendly. One that they were losing by two goals, which one random one at 90+7 wouldn’t change.

Honestly, the reason why I think Haaland won’t make that big a difference in the league is because City have already nearly maxed out how many points they’re getting. They’re playing so close to perfection, that any points dropped are already aberrations. And not due to how good they can be.

But failing to improve on that perfection definitely won’t be because Haaland had a ‘bad’ community shield.

Honestly, Ian King, maybe watch the match next time?
Andrew M, Streatham
*And if this comment doesn’t make it obvious I’m a Liverpool fan, so theoretically should be pro the idea of City getting weaker, then who knows.

 

…I was reading Ian King’s article on City and Liverpool, and have to say I agree and have been thinking the same. I wanted to elaborate a little on my opinion though, and as is the case with both these days, you can’t talk about one without the other. I’ll start with Liverpool.

They really should benefit from Salah missing the world cup, along with a few others. The timing of the world cup has been mentioned, but one thing that hasn’t really is the mentally draining effect tournaments have on players; especially those expected to (or do) make the latter stages. All past players for big teams talk about the concentration required and needing a recovery, and how much they need those few weeks off after a summer tournament. The same for the winners. Imagine winning a world cup, then less than a week later you’re playing Bournemouth away at the start of January. There’ll be mental consequences as well as physical.

Liverpool as a team look more matured and self-confident. I’m not sure Diaz will get the goals Mane did, and I’m not sure how happy Firmino is. It should also be noted that Liverpool made it as far as possible in 4 competitions because last season they could rotate. They’ve now lost Origi and Minamino. They do also have a potential problem in midfield. The main issue for me is the world cup and/ or how many of their midfielders are injury prone. Thiago, Henderson, Fabinho, Kieta all spend time out injured (I won’t even bother with the Ox and injuries), but you could see how a situation like with their centre-backs a few years ago could happen again. It would be unfortunate, but more plausible this season than any other. I still think they’ll win it though.

City have bought a forward, and he will score goals, but I think it will hurt them in big games, which could count against them by the end. The main reason for this is less control of the ball, and with their outgoings. Their midfield playmakers are starting to look a little thin. They have 3 players for the number 8 positions; one is only trusted sometimes now with age and De Bruyne gets injured a lot. Philips won’t deputise as an 8, or at least not in the City system. Grealish is also a downgrade on Sterling: he doesn’t have the explosive pace that’s needed because City mostly play in their opponents final third, and doesn’t have as big a knack for goal. Zinchenko and Jesus both knew the City method, and they are light on full-back cover now too. Foden on his day is a game-runner, but doesn’t as yet fill a position; not fast or intuitive enough to be a winger, not prolific enough to be a wide forward. Haaland is also not as dynamic a presser as any of the false 9 options. They look weaker on paper than in the last few years in my opinion, not stronger.

All in all, the oddest part of all this seems to be Guardiola questioning his own philosophy. These are players who wouldn’t usually fit his system, and despite 4 leagues in 5 years, he seems not to trust it, or at least wants to change it. I’m not sure if he thinks a bit more power and physical size will help him in the Champions League, but it may well cost him the league. I still don’t think this will matter against smaller teams, just the big ones.

Spurs are very interesting for an upset though. They look well stocked everywhere.
James, Galway

 

Contrived punishment
I’d like to thank Sean, LFC, Roseville, Ontario for mailing in. I love puns and pop culture references at the best of times, but the contrived nature of set up, the lack of shame at doing so all to jam in a play on Spinal tap (that I suspect was thought of long ago, perhaps by someone else) amplified the naffness to eleven.

Sean, don’t think you are not appreciated.
Daniel, Cambridge

 

Most embarrassing celeb fan
Now normally, I’d let Mediawatch do it’s own excellent thing, but Piers Morgan has been at it again and I couldn’t resist. Firstly, he says in his Sun column ‘he’d rather have rusty nails driven into his flesh than watch the All or Nothing Arsenal Documentary’. Now THAT would make for a great All Or Nothing. Have at it Piers.

Then he says he hates VAR with a passion and ‘hates those who like it even more’. VAR is suddenly going to be a very popular thing at the Emirates this season then.

Is any other team as embarrassed about a ‘celebrity’ fan as we are about Piers? Topical Top Ten F365?
Exiled Gooner (If only you could transfer annoying celeb fans on deadline day)

 

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Kulusevski changes the Spurs narrative as Conte’s side discover unexpected style

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Dejan Kulusevski scores for Spurs against Southampton

That Spurs brushed Southampton aside on the opening weekend was no great surprise. The manner in which they did it was.

 

There’s a long way to go, but the early signs are encouraging. Spurs kicked off their Premier League season on Saturday with a convincing home win against Southampton, and it was a performance that told a story of how head coach Antonio Conte has reshaped this team, and about how the best laid narratives of mice and men can go missing.

Spurs had some reason for trepidation ahead of this fixture. When the two clubs met at The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in February, Southampton won 3-2, the second of three successive league defeats and a result which set in motion a flurry of speculation over whether Conte would even still be there by the end of the season.

But he stayed, the rebuild has continued apace, and Spurs’ summer in the transfer market has been wisely praised as a number of briskly arranged arrivals of excellent quality have been signed on the basis of how well they will fit into a clearly defined system.

But Conte can also be somewhat mischievous at times, and when the team sheet was produced for the first Premier League game of the season, none of the club’s five big summer signings – Ivan Perisic, Yves Bissouma, Clement Lenglet, Fraser Forster and Djed Spence – were starting in the first XI.

And by the end of the afternoon, another narrative was looking a little shakier than it had done previously. The attacking pairing of Harry Kane and Son Heung-min contributed 40 goals between them in the league alone last season, and it is understandable that there might have been comment that Spurs may have been a little over-dependent on them.

Even though Spurs went to the top of the first (and obviously most meaningless) league table of the season with four goals, these two were not among the scorers.

The star of the show was a player who’s been living in the shadows a little. Dejan Kulusevski’s arrival from Juventus on an 18-month loan at the end of January was one of the less heralded moves of that window, but Kulusevski has become increasingly influential since his arrival.

He’d come a long way over the course of the second half of last season, but his performance against Southampton indicated that he’s not reached the limits of his capability just yet.

Ryan Sessegnon of Spurs

But before any of this could come to pass, Spurs had to get their Tottenham moment of the afternoon out of the way. A chill wind blew through the stadium when James Ward-Prowse gave Southampton an early lead, a sobering moment after all that pre-season optimism.

This might have been the cue for another round of Deep Tottenham Hotspur On-Pitch Introspection and Panickiness but instead, less than ten minutes later, they were level with a Ryan Sessegnon header, his first goal for the club.

Early nerves settled, Conte will have been more than satisfied, not only by the eventual 4-1 scoreline but also by the nature of his team’s performance. Southampton were largely ineffectual as Spurs’ confidence grew, with Kulusevski finding particular space in the gaps behind their defence.

After Eric Dier had put Spurs in front after 31 minutes with a glanced header and Mohammed Salisu had extended their lead with an own goal from two yards out that in days of yore would have found its way onto a video cassette compilation hosted by a stand-up comedian, Kulusevski added the fourth goal himself – a low-shot across goal which put the game beyond any reasonable doubt with almost half an hour still to play.

The strength of Kulusevski’s performance shows that opposing coaches preparing their teams for the omnipotent threat of Son and Kane may have to recalibrate their plans. It’s not that these two weren’t a threat against Southampton. Both had chances to score themselves. But if it was true that Spurs may have been a little over-reliant on their goals last season, the early signs this time around are that this might not be quite as much the case again.

Of course, results and league tables at this point of the season should be treated with due caution. The league table shows nothing that can’t be seen from looking at a list of results, and even results and performance levels at this very early stage can be taken with something of a pinch of salt.

Spurs supporters know this better than most. On the opening day of last season, Nuno Espirito Santo’s team beat Manchester City 1-0, and after three games they were the only ones left with a 100% league record. By November, Nuno was out of a job and Conte was on his way.

But the performance against Southampton was characterised by a number of unexpected – or at least under-reported – improvements (Kulusevski’s ability and increased importance to Spurs’ system has been no secret for Spurs supporters this year). That should, if anything, only offer encouragement. Son and Kane are still there, and both will now be likely champing at the bit to get their own goalscoring for the season kick-started.

Further goalscoring threats from different positions are A Good Thing in and of themselves. Having so many outlets for scoring goals is one of the many strings to their bow that Manchester City have had in recent years.

It’s also worth remembering that this was all achieved without the services of Richarlison, who missed this game after being suspended by the FA throwing for a flare into a stand at Goodison Park during Everton’s win against Chelsea towards the end of last season.

There’s no question that Southampton’s defence was extremely porous – the odds against Ralph Hasenhuttl becoming the first Premier League manager this season to be sacked will have been slashed – but for Spurs, a team with a reputation for flakiness and with expectation levels starting to rise, this will be considered an irrelevance.

A win’s a win, but a win in style can be something else altogether at this early point in the season.

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Ten Hag makes his Winners and Losers debut as Gerrard and Liverpool keep him company

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Ten Hag makes his Winners and Losers debut as Gerrard and Liverpool keep him company

In the first of what seems likely to be many appearances in the latter column, Erik ten Hag sits among the losers. William Saliba does not.

 

Winners

William Saliba
The world’s most expensive centre-half might feel justified in saying he and his new teammate had “not played much together” and thus “weren’t on the same wavelength” at all times in defeat. He certainly had a point in claiming that “centre-back partnerships are built over time” and thus gradual improvement was to be expected from a base of conceding twice at home. But William Saliba scoffed at that idea with an imposing performance against Crystal Palace, displacing the £50m element of a solid Arsenal defensive pairing and vindicating three years of questionable career management.

Saliba had enjoyed a full pre-season with his new cohorts, unlike some of the Frenchman’s contemporaries at other clubs. But the ease with which he stepped into an established defence on his Premier League debut at 21, in an away game so difficult that Arsenal lost it 3-0 four months ago, and carrying immense expectation on his shoulders, was remarkable. He was assured on and off the ball, an excellent passing range and assuredness combining with zero fouls against the trickery of Wilfried Zaha, Eberechi Eze and co. The best defenders seem to take it as a personal affront not only to concede, but to allow the opposition within 10 yards of goal; Saliba embodied that trait and will only get better with experience.

 

Unai Emery
Forever the manager who signed Saliba and Gabriel Martinelli for Arsenal. And Stephan Lichtsteiner, Matteo Guendouzi, Nicolas Pepe, David Luiz, Dani Ceballos and Denis Suarez but shut up and be nice for once.

 

Aleksandar Mitrovic
There was always a relatively unfair aspect to his reputation as a typical Championship bully who struggled when picking on defenders his own size in the Premier League. Aleksandar Mitrovic scored 20 goals in 71 games during relegation seasons with Newcastle and Fulham, then three more as the Cottagers went down and the Serb was often either rotated or injured in 2020/21.

While Mitrovic has never been prolific in the top flight, nor is he perennially ineffective. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Virgil van Dijk can vouch for that. Jordan Henderson, too, when he picks himself up off the ground.

With the conditions just right and the unshakable faith of his manager flowing through him, Mitrovic led the line like most suspected he was ultimately able to at this level. The questions have rarely pertained to ability but the temperament and confidence of a centre-forward enigma: one who freely throws elbows but needs an arm around him all the same.

Marco Silva is the perfect manager in that regard and he deserves just as much credit as his star striker for the towering back-post header, the penalty-inducing footwork, the pressing and the impeccable hold-up play. His tactical adjustments were crucial. Fulham averaged 58.1% possession in the Championship last season and created chances for Mitrovic at will. They had 33.1% of the ball against Liverpool and Mitrovic scored from two of his three shots.

 

Erling Haaland
The first Manchester City player to score twice on their Premier League debut since Sergio Aguero channelled his spiritual predecessor to silence the preposterous critics. Erling Haaland punished the West Ham defence as many times as he breached the Sky Sports swearing protocols and those hot Community Shield takes were rendered positively glacial by around the hour mark of the Norwegian’s actual competitive debut. No-one could have seen that coming. He was quicker, sharper and more composed than against Liverpool at Wembley, twice snapping into action and invading the sort of space behind the defence that many felt would not be made available to him in England.

Sprinting between Ben Johnson, Kurt Zouma and Declan Rice as Ilkay Gundogan span wonderfully for the first goal, Haaland repeated the trick and complemented his earlier penalty with a finish as cool as they come from Kevin de Bruyne’s second-half through ball. It was a centre-forward masterclass that challenged the prestige of the Premier League, so similar as it was to his regular deconstruction of Bundesliga defences both Austrian and German. His own post-match self-assessment of “a bit sh*t” was ominous when you consider this was him barely breaking into stride.

Haaland Man City

 

Scott Parker
In the emerging sub-genre of former England international midfielders whose managerial careers carry a vague stench of over-promotion in terms of both roles and media fawning, with coaching acumen that either makes them the greatest minds of their generation or absolute frauds with no in between, Scott Parker has been forced to take a step back from the spotlight. Doubts remain over his aptitude in the dugout but bigger names with grander reputations have taken precedent. Bournemouth dispatched one of those with an impressive victory over Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa, who might have been lured into a false sense of security by Parker’s pre-match claim that his squad was “lacking”, “short”, “light” and generally “much weaker than it was when we got promoted”.

The Cherries scored early and late, weathering the mild winds of Villa onslaught in between by making up for any perceived gulf in quality by doubling their efforts. Bournemouth ranked sixth for tackles, joint-fourth for interceptions and first for fouls of all Premier League teams on the opening weekend and that endeavour – a hallmark of Parker’s playing days – will be required throughout this season.

Barcelona keeper Neto has strengthened the manager’s hand and reports suggest Marcos Senesi of Feyenoord will soon do the same. This scrappy, hard-fought victory laid down a marker as to their bare minimum requirement as part of the team.

 

Jesse Marsch
He is still, critically in the minds of many a Leeds supporter, both an American person and not Marcelo Bielsa. But Jesse Marsch coaxed and coached a more focused team press while implementing four new signings, fielding the fifth-youngest XI of the opening weekend and inspiring a comeback victory through his substitutions. Most teams would struggle after selling their two best and most influential players but Marsch has proved there is life for and in Leeds after not only Bielsa but Kalvin Phillips and Raphinha, too.

 

Dejan Kulusevski
It’s mad to think that Harry Kane and Heung-min Son are fighting it out to be recognised as Tottenham’s second-best forward.

 

Thiago Silva
The oldest outfield starter on the opening Premier League weekend by two years and four months. And while Jamie Vardy was toiling against Brentford, Thiago Silva enjoyed a late afternoon stroll at Goodison Park.

 

Bruno Guimaraes
He’s really sodding good. The best player outside the Big Six and a vast upgrade on many of those in it.

 

Thomas Frank
Three managers used their full complement of substitutions. Thomas Frank keeps esteemed company with Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola in that regard, although his prior approach meant five changes were tactically necessary rather than basic rotation.

Brentford were poor early on against Leicester, ponderous and lacking aggression. By the time Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall had doubled the hosts’ lead at the King Power Stadium, the Bees had had two shots and little over a third of possession.

They stayed in touch until the hour mark, when Josh Dasilva and Keane Lewis-Potter were introduced. Three minutes later, Ivan Toney scored.

After Shandon Baptiste replaced Christian Norgaard with a quarter of an hour remaining, Frank waited a little longer to make his final changes. Mads Bech Sorensen and Halil Dervisoglu came on. Three minutes later, Dasilva equalised.

Mistakes were made and lessons learned, like not pairing Ben Mee with Pontus Jansson in central defence. All in all, a successful afternoon.

 

Losers

Manchester United
Erik ten Hag was appointed Manchester United manager on April 21, 109 days ago. Their pre-season commenced on June 27, 42 days ago. Their first summer friendly was on July 12, 27 days ago.

Their summer preparations have been relatively uncharacteristically settled, incomings and Cristiano Ronaldo’s future notwithstanding. Yet it took 14 seconds for that familiar sinking feeling to replace any lingering new season optimism.

Danny Welbeck and Leandro Trossard pressed all naive hope and confidence out of their hosts, Lisandro Martinez and Diogo Dalot panicked and Old Trafford had the atmosphere sucked out almost instantly.

It was as if the last few months had never happened. Manchester United slipped back into their old bad habits. Half-time, full-time and the second Brighton goal from Pascal Gross were all greeted by a chorus of boos.

The sliver of a silver lining to this menacing cloud is that it was a performance that might force a change in transfer window approach over the next three weeks. Manchester United’s eternal desperation to sign a central midfielder was common knowledge and this defeat only made it even more painfully obvious, while also highlighting their need for a centre-forward.

Ten Hag has to use this to his advantage. Or he has to realise that Manchester United’s transfer department remains an absolute mess, set the bar accordingly low with 33-year-old Marko Arnautovic and watch them still fail to clear it. That works, too. Chuck in Adrien Rabiot for good measure. That dressing room won’t know what’s hit them.

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag watches the defeat to Brighton.

 

Steven Gerrard
A common refrain among football supporters is that clubs should get their business done early in the transfer window. Steven Gerrard clearly agreed, completing his most recent signing this summer on July 1. Yet they were fairly beaten by a newly-promoted team that remains under construction and Aston Villa really did look little more than ordinary in the process.

Last season was his free hit. Things were never going to deteriorate to the extent that Villa were in genuine relegation trouble; Dean Smith three places above the relegation zone and Gerrard had copious funds made available to him in January.

But with everyone starting on equal footing, Villa have already stumbled behind the pack. This is their second sequence of five winless games since Gerrard’s appointment and with three months to go until their one-year anniversary, his identity and ethos is no clearer.

 

Liverpool
There is a confirmation bias factor which must be considered – particularly in light of modern trends – but Liverpool naming the oldest starting XI of the Premier League weekend and subsequently being beaten in the energy and aggression stakes by Fulham felt instructive. It was the first time since February 1994 that more than half of their starters for a Premier League game were aged 30 and over.

James Milner coming on before the hour mark hardly dispelled the sense that Liverpool need a little more fresh blood, especially in midfield.

More worrying for Jurgen Klopp will be those slow, sluggish starts. Liverpool have conceded first in each of their last five league games and while they have the requisite talent to overcome such deficits, it is a counterproductive routine to have settled into. There is a fine line between mentality monsters and basic complacency.

 

Jose Sa and Rayan Ait-Nouri
The two best Wolves players of last season rather summed up the defeatist feeling surrounding this campaign. Rayan Ait-Nouri’s defending was dreadful for the equaliser, if a little unfortunate when it came to the winner. Jose Sa will have provoked all the right people by being beaten softly at his near post.

Bruno Lage will welcome the Goncalo Guedes developments but it still feels as though Wolves need a little more imported inspiration.

 

Ralph Hasenhuttl
Southampton have conceded at least three goals in 33 of Ralph Hasenhuttl’s 138 Premier League games. That’s once every four matches or so and it honestly feels like that might not be overly sustainable.

It turns out that Jan (Bednarek) plus Yan (Valery) equals minus three. When that comprises two-thirds of your defensive heart, there will be issues. When the other third loses control of their feet in the manner Mohammed Salisu did against Spurs, it is almost pointless trying to resist it.

 

Brendan Rodgers
The first half was better than most expected but Brendan Rodgers and Leicester somehow still contrived to fall back into those negative patterns for the final half an hour at home to a team still wet behind the Premier League ears.

It was a better start than most envisaged for a transfer-less team that attracted a handful of pre-season relegation predictions. Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall’s goal just after half-time seemed to confirm the destination of all three points. Yet it was his removal which completed the reversal of momentum in Brentford’s favour.

Leicester invited needless pressure at 2-1 and a summer of deep breathing has not magically solved their defensive problems. There were eight players behind the ball as Dasilva shaped to equalise, including each of Daniel Amartey, Wilfred Ndidi and Jonny Evans occupying the same space within a couple of yards of the Brentford midfielder in forlorn attempts to block his effort. Too many chefs in the kitchen come to mind.

Three of Leicester’s five shots after Dewsbury-Hall’s 46th-minute strike came in stoppage time. The horse had already bolted and the juxtaposition between Rodgers making one substitution and letting a two-goal lead slip, while Frank made five and salvaged a point from a losing position, was telling.

 

Graham Potter
Imagine only beating this Manchester United side 2-1 at Old Trafford. How embarrassing.

 

Dele Alli
Harsh as it is to single out a substitute for 30 damning minutes in a 1-0 defeat, Dele Alli looks an absolute shadow of even his Tottenham worst and it is so weird.

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Everton ‘prepared to complete’ £45.5m transfers; ‘optimistic’ as £8.5m deal ‘at final stages’

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Reported Everton target Amadou Onana marking N'Golo Kante during a match

Everton are reportedly ‘prepared to complete’ the signings of both Conor Coady and Amadou Onana this week and are ‘optimistic’ over another deal ‘at final stages’.

Should all three transfers be completed it would mean six players will have arrived at Goodison Park this summer following the additions of Dwight McNeil for £20m and James Tarkowski for free, both from Burnley, and Ruben Vinagre, on loan from Sporting Lisbon.


MAILBOX: Time to move Alexander-Arnold, and Man Utd lost – but they were better under Ten Hag


Everton are said to have beaten West Ham to the signing of Onana, who enjoyed an impressive 2021-22 campaign with Lille, playing 41 matches across all competitions, including eight times in the Champions League.

The 20-year-old penned a new five-year contract last August after joining from Hamburg for around £6m, but the Hammers have persuaded him to move to the Premier League having reportedly agreed a £33.5m fee with the Ligue 1 side.

The Toffees are also close to announcing a deal for Wolves captain Conor Coady having agreed a fee of £12m plus add-ons.

And Fabrizio Romano claims Frank Lampard’s side are set to complete both signings this week.

Romano tweeted: ‘Everton are prepared to complete both Conor Coady and Amadou Onana signings this week, documents in progress with Wolves for the centre back who’s top of Lampard’s list.’

The transfer expert also revealed the return of Idrissa Gueye to Goodison Park is ‘at final stages’ with Everton ‘optimistic’ of getting a deal for the 32-year-old over the line.

It’s rumoured a fee of £8.5m has been agreed with Paris Saint-Germain for the midfielder.

Everton lost 1-0 to Chelsea on Saturday and Lampard said he was impressed with his side’s performance, before admitting new signings like Onana will better equip them to play the style of football he wants.

“It did please me. We’ll get the balance right,” he said. “At times we were a little bit direct when I didn’t think we needed to be. When we played through the lines we played really well and we gave Chelsea problems.

“I want us to be progressive, we’re not a Chelsea of having passes and passes and building like that. That’s not our style and it’s probably not the style the fans want to see.

“I’m very happy that we moved the ball quickly, but I think getting the balance of changing play and going longer at times with quality or playing through the lines – it’s important for us.

“The lads are working hard on it and I think adding players in midfield – like Onana who can receive the ball, accept it and move through the lines – is a big deal. As a coach you know you need your players to go out on the pitch and implement what you want to do.

“We saw a lot of it today. It’ll be great to watch the game back with the players to look at the little moments we maybe we can have an extra pass to play through, I can’t complain with the performance.

“It was one tiny moment, it was a small penalty but it was a penalty. That was the only difference and I think other than that you expect this game to be a draw against Chelsea, which would have been a decent start for us.”

 

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