Marouane Fellaini has had a rough time of it in his first season at Manchester United.
The midfielder signed on with United on transfer deadline day for a cool $46m, so he already had the burden of expectation on his shoulders. Manager David Moyes had been his boss at Everton and was already talking up the Belgian, but Fellaini made just three appearances before picking up an injury at the beginning of October.
Fellaini ended up needing surgery, so he didn’t return until February – right in the middle of one of United’s most turbulent times. He quickly became a target for the criticism of fans as he failed to live up to the expectations set by Moyes. His season was, perhaps, encapsulated by a moment against Bayern Munich. Fellaini had won the ball and ran it up to the halfway point but, with a Bayern player closing in, the Belgian kicked the ball into touch.
I will look to show what I can do next season. The supporters and the people have to give us time. I know we can win in one game against any team. But when you play for Man United you need to win every game. I have never won a trophy in England. I will work hard, the club will work hard, and the new staff will work hard to win trophies. As players we must take responsibility for our performances and it is up to us to help the new manager turn United back into a team capable of winning the title.
But after last week’s game against Hull, Fellaini’s spirits should’ve already received a boost. It was his first game under interim manager Ryan Giggs, who put him in a more advanced role. His performance was noticeably brighter, and Fellaini even notched his first of the season, his headed pass setting up James Wilson’s opening goal.
The Gunners took advantage of several West Ham mistakes on the afternoon, including a first-half turnover that sent Alexis Sanchez into the penalty area before setting up a simply tap-in finish for Mesut Ozil.
Arsene Wenger‘s side went on to score four more times in Arsenal’s 5-1 rout against the Hammers, and Frenchman suggested post match that much of his team’s success was due to their willingness to high press and force West Ham into mistakes.
“I think overall we had a strong team performance for 90 minutes with very few weak periods,” Wenger said. “There’s only one regret that we didn’t take our chances in the first half and that it was 1-0 up at halftime and how it plays on the mind when you can play for that.
“But we maintained the pressure on West Ham and overall we finished in a really strong way. We were always dangerous because we won it quickly back. When we were on the breaks because we we always looked patiently to make the difference.”
Sanchez led the Gunners on the day with a hat-trick, bringing his goal total on the season up to 11. The Chilean has largely helped Arsenal become one of the PL’s most dangerous attacks, with the Gunners having scored the most goals in England’s top flight through 14 matches (33).
When asked about the prospect of putting up big score lines on a consistent basis, Wenger said that while every game possesses different challenges he is quite pleased with Arsenal’s road form this season.
“I think every game gives you a different problem,” Wenger said. “But at the moment it looks we score more goals away from home than at home. Is that because your opponent comes a bit more out? Is that because you play with a bit more freedom?
“That will be interesting to analyze that. Do we play with a block that is less deep away from home? If you look at our results away from home they’ve been very convincing.”
As Wenger noted, the Gunners have done very well notching goals away from the Emirates Stadium in 2016. In seven away matches thus far in PL play, Arsenal has tallied 18 goals on the road in comparison to the team’s 15 at home.
Eight straight victories have Chelsea atop the PL, and the biggest now becomes: who will be the club that stops Conte’s Blues? An unlikely own goal from Gary Cahill gave the Citizens the lead on the stroke of halftime, but a thunderous comeback from the visitors helped give Chelsea three points at the Etihad. Goals from Diego Costa, Willian and Eden Hazard rung throughout Manchester in the second stanza, however, Costa’s exit from the match will surely be monitored by the Blues.
Additionally, City will play shorthanded moving forward after Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho picked up red cards during a late scuffle that ensuing following the Argentine’s rash tackle on David Luiz.
Spurs couldn’t have drawn it up better following last week’s disappointment at Stamford Bridge. Tottenham received great contributions from Harry Kane and Christian Erikson, who each netted braces on the day, while Heung-Ming Son delivered a stunning acrobatic effort to help the hosts rout Bob Bradley‘s team. The Swans sit bottom of the PL table on nine points and have conceded 31 times in their opening 14 matches.
The Gunners had no troubles with West Ham on Saturday as Arsene Wenger‘s side moved up to second place behind a five-spot from one of the PL’s top attacks. Alexis Sanchez paced the Gunners with a hat-trick, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mesut Ozil also scored for the visitors at the London Stadium. Andy Carroll provided the lone moment of consolation for West Ham after Dimitri Payet‘s free kick smacked off the crossbar and onto the head of the Englishman.
Fraser Forster put the Saints behind in the first half after a tremendous mistake in front of his own net, leaving Christian Benteke with one of the easiest finishes he’ll ever have. The former Liverpool striker added a second and James Tompkins also got in on the scoring for the Eagles as Alan Pardew‘s men snapped a six-match losing streak.
Jermain Defoe continues to be the talisman for the Black Cats, however, Sunderland’s good fortunes began off of a Robert Huth own goal. The Foxes pulled a goal back in the 78th minute through Shinji Okazaki but Leicester continued its struggles on Saturday with its seventh loss of the campaign. Sunderland has now won three of its last four matches, bringing David Moyes‘ side up to 18th in the table.
Tony Pulis‘ side has quietly made some noise in 2016, and while West Brom likely won’t pull off a Leicester-like feat this season the Baggies currently find themselves in sixth place as the halfway point nears. Jonny Evans and Chris Brunt netted in the first half for the hosts before Matt Phillips scored late to ensure all three points would go in favor of the Baggies. Despite nabbing a goal in the second half, Watford’s chances of picking out a result were halted when Roberto Pereyra was sent off.
Jonathan Walters and Marc Muniesa helped propel Stoke up ninth place on Saturday with their victory at the Brittania Stadium. For Muniesa, the goal marked his first in the PL. Burnley drops to 14th place following the loss, and the Clarets sit just three points above the relegation zone.
Slaven Bilic and West Ham have had anything but an ideal start to the 2016/17 Premier League season, and Saturday’s result against Arsenal was a humble reminder of how far the club must come if they are to compete with England’s big boys.
West Ham has now conceded nine goals in its previous two matches in all competitions, and have also failed to muster up a victory in six straight fixtures.
For Carroll, the English striker chalked the result up to Arsenal’s ability to punish West Ham when they became sloppy with the ball.
“It was a tough game and disappointing with the way it went. I was ready to come on at 1-0 but they went and scored,” Carroll said. “Their first was a little mistake and we got punished. You saw at the end how teams like Arsenal punish mistakes.”
Angelo Ogbonna cost West Ham in a big way during the first half after committing a turnover to Alexis Sanchez, who then set up Mesut Ozil for an easy tap-in near goal.
The Hammers had trailed 1-0 heading into the final 20 minutes, but Sanchez notched the first of his three goals in the 72nd minute and then proceeded to complete his hat-trick in a span of 14 minutes.
A Timo Werner penalty put the leaders ahead less than three minutes into the match, though Schalke rallied to equalize before allowing an own goal just after halftime. Both of the last two goals came through Sead Kolasinac in a roller coaster performance.
Leipzig remains unbeaten through 13 games, a remarkable achievement for a newly-promoted sign (although that’s a loaded statement given the big investment in the club).
Borussia Dortmund 4-1 Borussia Monchengladbach
Raffael’s early goal in the “Battle of the Borussias” failed to deter the hosts, who saw Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang net his 14th and 15th goals of the Bundesliga season (in 12 matches!).
USMNT teammates Christian Pulisic and Fabian Johnson subbed into the game for the hosts and visitors respectively, both in the 78th minute with the score line already 4-1.
Wolfsburg 2-3 Hertha Berlin
American center back John Brooks completed a game-high 93 passes as Hertha Berlin kept pace with the table’s top two sides with a late win over 10-man Wolfsburg.
With the score 2-2, Paul Seguin was sent off for his second yellow card in 11 minutes, with Hertha hero Salomon Kalou nabbing a winner in stoppage time. Seguin had scored earlier, but the red will be better remembered.