Solskjaer purrs after Pogba pulls strings in big win for Man Utd
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The table seems to be shaping up – although the two sides of north London might not agree – and with the window open for less than 48 hours now, Matthew Dunn has spotted a few holes still to be plugged based on the opening exchanges.
POG-GING THE LIMELIGHT FROM RONALDO
MANCHESTER UNITED’S win hinged upon THAT tackle, but with their recent transfer activity is this the last weekend that it is all about Paul Pogba?
Cristiano Ronaldo will be itching to hit the floor running after the international break and is bound to attract all the attention.
But that could just be the making of Pogba behind him.
Instead of getting the spotlight for mistiming his control and lunging after the ball, perhaps he will want to tussle for it with one of the game’s truly global superstars.
Sensing the eyes are on United again with Ronaldo’s arrival could just appeal to the vanity of a player who could be the driving force behind a title challenge rather than a sad reflection most weeks of what might have been.
CHELSEA HANDED AN EARLY ADVANTAGE
HANDBALL on the line has to remain a sending-off offence for the law to act as a deterrent and the fact that Reece James was a somewhat unlucky victim of tough justice is no reason to change it.
The learning point from his red card, though, is what happened next because it offered a parallel to 12 months ago when Frank Lampard’s Chelsea were reduced to 10 men against Liverpool at Stamford Bridge.
A very different Sadio Mane promptly rattled in two goals after Andreas Christensen’s dismissal and you cannot help feeling that even with Diogo Jota on board, that Liverpool strike force does not contain that same irrepressibility that would cut through 10-man defences in its pomp.
At the same time, the resolve Chelsea found to hang on in front of the baying masses at Anfield showed how far they have come in terms of belief, and they can be happier with the point in the circumstances.
There is a long way to go, but in the first clash of the genuine title challengers, Thomas Tuchel has struck the first psychological blow.
CITY’S ATTACK COULD STILL NEEDS SOME POLISH
THIS summer, Manchester City have been linked with Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Harry Kane.
And yet Pep Guardiola insists he is happy to go into the season proper with just Gabriel Jesus as a recognised striker.
Last season, in the Premier League, they got away with it. But this season it is not going to be about sticking five past the basement sides such as Norwich and Arsenal.
It is more about who nicks that winner in the tight games at the top of the table – such as the Spurs game where City came up woefully short.
More importantly, it was the lack of a top-class striker that arguably cost Manchester City the Champions League final.
Robert Lewandowski is still knocking in hat-tricks – just hours before the window closes. Just saying, Pep.
A CHRISTIAN WOULD BEAT LIONS IN THE LONG RUN
WITH fewer goals than Newcastle, Spurs are living a charmed life this season, their new-found resilience carrying them all the way to the top of the table.
Harry Kane is back to the player of old – unable to score in the Premier League in August – but there has to be more to Nuno Espirito Santo’s thinking than just relying on the England captain to hit his usual vein of form after the international break.
The player Spurs still have not replaced is Christian Eriksen and if they cannot move on Tanguy Ndombele before the window shuts, perhaps they need to find a way to repurpose him.
A midfield built on Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Oliver Skipp may have the strength of lions but a top-four place when the table matters in May will take some more invention.
AS ONE WINDOW CLOSES…
GOING two-footed into a hopeless challenge does not constitute leadership, Granit Xhaka.
For all the earnestness and belief Mikel Arteta has in person, very few of his players seem to take it onto the field for him and his project lies alongside his league position – at rock bottom.
Deadline day is not going to change that.
The big hole the Arsenal hierarchy have to fill now is the black one at the heart of the club into which everything is imploding.
Arteta has about a month to see what he can achieve with what the club have spent well over £100m on this summer, and in that time they in turn will take stock of whether he is really the man to oversee this extended period of transition while the kids like Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka properly come through.
Otherwise, forget transfer windows. The next international break will become the big window for recruitment, with Arsenal very much in the market for a new manager.
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