Arsenal are starting to look good, Mancini seems confused and time's running out for Fernando.
1. There is life after Robin van Persie
The cries of disbelief were deafening from The Emirates stands at the sale of Robin van Persie to Manchester United, but after an unbeaten start - with only one goal conceded, the dissenting voices have died down to a dull roar. Ignoring Van Persie for one second, this always seemed like an incredibly productive transfer window for the Gunners, adding strength to their forward line with the additions of Lukas Podolski from FC Koln and Olivier Giroud, top scorer for last season’s French champions Montpellier. As yet, Giroud has hardly set the world alight, but he would not be the first foreign import failing to instantly settle into the hustle and bustle of the Premiership. Indeed, though it seems hard to imagine now, a certain Didier Drogba was a figure of fun for much of his first season and a half in England. Time will tell with Giroud, he looks to have the attributes normally attributed to a Premiership centre forward - pace, strength and good movement, he is finding opportunities to score, but as yet has failed to convert. Podolski’s start in an Arsenal shirt has been in stark contrast, with the German forward finally finding a home away from home and discovering a way to perform outside of Koln. His goals, link-up play and dynamism have added a whole new dimension to Arsenal’s attack and if he can maintain anything like his current form, Arsenal can be genuine title contenders in what looks set to be another topsy-turvy Premiership season.
Alongside the return of the so far fantastic Abou Diaby, the continued excellence of Mikel Arteta and the newly added drive of Podolski, much of Arsenal’s renewed post RVP optimism has been created by possibly the signing of the summer - Santi Cazorla.
So far, the £16.5M outlay on the former Villarreal and Malaga has looked a steal for the World and European championship winner. Classically Spanish in style, Cazorla has adapted seamlessly to the pace of the Premiership, striking up a fantastic understanding with his new teammates. It would be interesting to know whether Cazorla would have been a target for Arsene Wenger had Van Persie stayed, but what is clear is that his signing has elevated Arsenal from where they were at the start of last season. Maybe the regret for Wenger now should not be having to let RVP go, but why he didn’t spend the money on Cazorla to replace the outgoing Cesc Fabregas last season.
2. Does Mancini know what his best team is?
Ending a forty-four year wait for a league title last season may have sent a sense of disbelief through the Man City ranks, and it would appear Roberto Mancini still hasn’t fully recovered. Not happy with just winning the Premiership, Roberto wants more. More players, more trophies, more recognition of his master plan and of course, more money. Having added even more players to an already bulging squad, Mancini seems to be trying to find a way of playing as many of them at once. Pre-season saw a switch to three at the back, a move which accommodates the recently acquired Maicon. But what of Samir Nasri? Surely he can’t play as a wingback Roberto? Back to the tried and tested formation from last season.
City are placed well enough after the first few games of the season and were unlucky to be beaten by an excellent Real Madrid squad, but how long can that possibly last without a solid foundation. There are many benefits to playing three defenders and it is a system that suits Man City’s squad, but Mancini needs to decide quickly whether or not to persevere or he could find his side with ground to make up in the league and in Europe as well.
3. Time and excuses are running out for Fernando.
Since his £50M move to Chelsea, Fernando Torres has looked a shadow of his former Liverpool-spearheading, European Championship-winning, Spanish-talismanic self. It is true that before the move he had recently returned from a long-term injury and had been far from his best since the return, barr a brace coincidentally against Chelsea which seemed to signal the start of a return to something like the pre-injury Torres. Perhaps if Liverpool had not conceded to the weight of 50 million nuggets of Roman Abramovich's hard-earned, Torres may have continued his rehabilitation in the familiar surroundings of Anfield in front of fans who idolised him. Instead, he was forced to spend much of his time playing second fiddle to Didier Drogba, sat on the bench, with little opportunity to justify his massive price tag.
Chelsea’s unexpected Champions League win last season proved to be Didier Drogba’s final game for the Stamford Bridge club and, with no direct replacements signed over the summer, either by design or chance, Torres is once again the main-man, starting all of Chelsea’s major games this season. Yet, despite showing glimpses of the form of three years ago, the inconsistency is still there. The hyper-acceleration that was once so evident appears to have gone. The intelligent movement is not nearly as incisive as it once was and against Juventus Torres, through frustration or possibly a lack of self belief, dropped deeper and deeper throughout the game, looking for the ball instead of doing what he used to do best - making intelligent runs in behind defenses and scoring bucket fulls of goals.
It is early days, but if Torres doesn’t start showing a return to the form and abilities that encouraged Chelsea to pay £50 million and until January at least, the man they've charged with scoring Chelsea’s goals, the Abramovic cheque book may be waving in some other manager’s face with Fernando heading back to his role as £50 million bench-warmer.