Crystal Palace 2 1 Tottenham 3 Things We Learned
The Premier League offered up an early treat on the opening day of 2015 as football fans were treated to a real festive feast on New Year”s Day.
There was an eight-goal thriller at White Hart Lane, six goals at St James” Park, five at the Etihad and four at Anfield as 33 goals were plundered across 10 games.
Unfortunately for supporters at Aston Villa, they didn”t see any. They”ll tell you that”s no surprise.
Anyway, here”s a look at five things we learned on the opening day of 2015:
Harry Kane continues his impressive march
Action ImagesIcon: Kane has hit 17 goals in all competitions for Spurs this term
If there was one footballer in England who would have been happy for 2014 to carry on and just not bother turning into 2015, then it would have been Tottenham striker Harry Kane.
Rewind 12 months and Kane”s career looked to be meandering; never mind failing to take off, he”d not even made it down the runway. Loan spells in 2012-13 at Norwich and Leicester had proven disappointing, with Kane scoring just twice in 13 Championship matches for the Foxes, having been discarded from a loan spell at Carrow Road after just three scoreless games. What followed were four months as part of Andre Villas-Boas” first-team squad, were he featured for just eight minutes of Premier League action.
But since being utilised by Tim Sherwood at the back end of last season (scoring three times in the last six matches) Kane has set about refusing the notion that he can”t make it at White Hart Lane – becoming a cult hero in the process.
Harry Kane: PL starts & Goals
As of January 1
"He”s one of our own" sing the Spurs fans about the 21-year-old, and Kane”s enthusiasm and growth, particularly under Mauricio Pochettino, has become infectious; so much so that he is now probably the second name on the Argentine”s team sheet, behind only Hugo Lloris.
Kane has forced his way into the starting XI with an outstanding scoring run in the Europa League (seven goals in as many games) and is now netting regularly in England”s top flight, with his brace against Chelsea making it five goals in as many games.
But more than that, his development into a complete centre-forward has been staggering. More confident, he looks quicker, stronger, more assured with his touch, happier to rough-up centre-halves and is a non-stop buzzard at the point of Spurs attacking play. Continue like this, and talk of England will turn to "should he start" rather than merely whether he should be called up or not.
Arsene Wenger deserves more
In the 85th minute at St Mary”s Stadium, with his side having been pretty dismal and trailing 2-0 to Southampton, Arsene Wenger sat in the dugout, with his hand rubbing his brow.
At that moment a fan ran in front of the Frenchman, arms outstretched, angrily looking for answers. It”s something that Wenger, after that barrage at the train station following his side”s last defeat, doesn”t need, nor deserve.
But on the field, his side have looked like getting it together in recent weeks, producing what they always produce and doing as they always do: finishing in the top four. And while that isn”t enough for some, you have to marvel at their consistency to do so.
However, the level of their performance on the south coast varied wildly from recent matches. Wenger said the Saints were "beatable" and he had a point; Ronald Koeman”s side certainly didn”t look at their best defensively.
But that doesn”t take into account the wild variance of his own side. Good enough recently to take 10 points from a possible 12, they were a couple of levels below a level today that you would merely deem acceptable, given the talent they have at their disposal.
Wenger expects better from “fans” barracking him at a train station. He deserves more than fans running towards the dugout to remonstrate. He now deserves a response from his players, who in another “big” game, let him down.
Manchester United still some way away – but why?
Louis van Gaal saw Manchester United draw 1-1 at Stoke City in the opening match of 2015 and was left unhappy with his side”s defending, moaning at their inability to deal with Peter Crouch at set-pieces.
On social media, some United fans continue pointed towards the result as a step forward, that the side are one in transition and that third should be the limit to their expectations this term. What rubbish.
In Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata, Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao, United had a front four that – going on their last transfer fees – cost a combined £147million, and all of whom are proven match winners. Throw in £28million Luke Shaw, £26million Ander Herrera, Michael Carrick playing extremely well and the outstanding David De Gea, and I”m sorry, but you SHOULD be winning at Stoke and you SHOULD be challenging for the title. To say that they shouldn”t is to pay too much attention to the club”s propaganda.
Van Gaal undertook an extremely-expensive remodel in the summer, paying huge fees and massive wages. Why didn”t he purchase a midfield general to dovetail with Carrick? Why didn”t he spend on a defensive leader? No one said he had to spend all his money on attacking players.
Filling both areas were necessities in the summer. But van Gaal elected not to. Now his side effectively play with a chasm between Carrick and Rooney/Mata – Angel Di Maria”s return will help, but his exact role has been undefined thus far – and three centre-halves, new to the system, who, in all honesty, their manager doesn”t particularly look as though he rates.
So why didn”t he buy a defender in the summer? Maybe if he had done, they”d be closer. For the overall value of their squad, they should be.
No New Year cheer for Paul Lambert
Action ImagesStruggling: Villa fans aren”t overly-endeared with their manager nor his side
It”s claimed that misery loves company, and at Villa Park over 27,000 Aston Villa supporters settled down to watch their side offer yet another damp squib of a performance.
There were plenty of Premier League goals to open the New Year. But unsurprisingly, Paul Lambert”s Villans failed to add to their paltry total of 11 goals this season as they draw 0-0 with Crystal Palace.
Supporters in claret and blue are starting to run out of patience with the tactics of their manager, after seeing his side draw a blank for the fifth time in 10 home games this term; Christian Benteke is the prototype for the modern-day No.9, but behind him is an insipid side who lack creativity, class and look scared to try to penetrate their opponents – whoever they may be.
But it isn”t anything new. Since Lambert”s arrival at the start of the 2012-13 campaign, Villa average just 1.01 goals per game in the Premier League, while they”ve won just 13 of 48 matches in front of their own supporters – failing to score in 19 of those matches.
Now, given their dismal goalscoring figures and utterly abysmal home record – two wins from 10 games – it”s laughable that the Villans sit 12th in the Premier League and something of an indictment over the “quality” of the division as a whole.
It”s also laughable that owner Randy Lerner – who lest we forget handed Lambert a four-year deal back in September – isn”t now asking serious questions of his manager; namely, can you rectify these problems?
Certainly, it doesn”t seem he can.
There”s plenty of fight left at the bottom
John PowellFighting: Rock bottom but Leicester aren”t giving up
The start of 2015 and it”s unusual for the fact that the bottom six ALL avoided defeat as they continue to scrap and battle for their lives.
Steve Bruce”s Hull City made it two wins in three games with a 2-0 triumph over Everton to be the big winners of the sextet, moving out of the relegation zone. QPR, leading 1-0 against Swansea until injury-time, will feel pained at conceding late to Wilfried Bony – though they still almost claimed an even later winner through Charlie Austin.
Leicester City showed tremendous fortitude to come from two down at Anfield to draw with Liverpool, while Burnley fought back THREE times to share the spoils at Newcastle. Crystal Palace meanwhile took a point from Villa Park.
And West Brom, having announced Tony Pulis as their new manager – a man who has never been relegated – took a point from West Ham, with Saido Berahino back among the goals.
All six are struggling, along with Sunderland – who themselves fought from two down at Manchester City before succumbing to Frank Lampard – but all are fighting for their lives.
The next five months promise to be busy at both ends of the table.
In pictures – All the action from the 3pm kick offs:
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