You may well be used to seeing or reading about football pundits teams of the week but here is my team of ‘Ones To Watch’ for this weekend’s forthcoming round of Premier League fixtures. The reasons for the following team members’ selection could be many and varied; whether it be a recent run of blunders, a run of supreme form, a return from injury or a Premier League debut all comers are to be considered.
The players I have ear-marked for an important weekend are as follows:
David De Gea:
Who else could it possibly have been? Following in the footsteps of Premier League greats such as Edwin Van Der Sar and Peter Schmeichel was always likely to be a tough ask, but the young Spaniards’s apparent lack of awareness and footwork in his first two competitive starts for United has heaped a whole heap of unexpected pressure on to his shoulders. Of course there are reasons for Sir Alex’s and Man United’s great faith in De Gea’s potential as a world class stopper and such reasons are probably those responsible for having thrust him from being an unknown Athletico Madrid third choice keeper to an Under 21 European Champion with Spain and Man United’s new £18 million number 1.
He is a real talent, of that there is no question, but is he just that for now? In an Athletico Madrid side prone to some interesting defensive lapses perhaps De Gea’s frailties were either more acceptable or less noticeable, take your pick. One thing is for sure though, and that is that Sir Alex Ferguson and the Old Trafford faithful won’t be so relaxed if he has another howler on his home debut against Spurs on Monday night. United fans keep your fingers crossed.
New Sunderland skipper John O’Shea is currently only rated a 50/50 chance to make his Premier League debut for the Mackems due to injury but if he does make the cut then what a start to his reign! A home debut against their fiercest of rivals Newcastle is bound to get to get the blood pumping and the butterflies a fluttering even for someone so experienced as O’Shea. At Manchester United he developed a reputation for being a man to call upon, a very competent and versatile defender capable of holding his own against many of the world’s finest wingers. Despite having never really set the world alight at United he gained invaluable experiences at one of the world’s greatest clubs and picked up a hatful of silverware along the way.
For similar reasons to O’Shea, he of the outstanding mane of curly locks makes the cut. In the wake of former Newcastle Skipper Kevin Nolan’s summer departure the Argentine centre back has taken the reigns as Captain and in only his second game of leadership he is coming up against local rivals Sunderland. One thing he does have over his opposite number is his prior experience of this particular derby and he will be hoping that this serves him well on Saturday.
At left-back is the much sought after Baines. After a fantastic season last year, rumours are rife that he may soon be leaving the cash-strapped toffees for Arsenal and if he is to depart then I’m sure that he is the sort of player who would love to leave a positive lasting memory of what he has to offer. Last season saw him establish himself firmly as Ashley Cole’s deputy at international level and after Everton’s opening weekend postponement he will be even more keen to hit the ground running and to contribute to a first win of the season.
Whether he likes it or not it seems that Arsene Wenger is determined to make the most of his most-prized remaining asset Samir Nasri while he still has him. Arsenal vs Liverpool is the first real glamour fixture of the season and it is not a game for those not committed to the cause, if Wenger goes ahead with his reported plan to field the unsettled Frenchman then we may just get to see how professional Nasri is. He is a player of questionable temperament off the field at times but he was brilliant on the field last year and maybe a starring role in a big game like this could be enough to peruade him to stick around a little longer.
We are all still in the dark as to whether Modric will remain a Spurs player or not beyond the 31st August but this Monday could provide him with a reminder of how the club have helped him develop into one of the world’s most feared playmakers. If the papers are to be believed then Roman Abramovic is lining up a bid in excess of £30 million for the Croat and this is testament to the fine ability of one of Spurs’ star men and speaks volumes about how he and the club have progressed in tandem since he moved to White Hart Lane. If this is his farewell game for Tottenham then it could provide the perfect platform for his departure, it doesn’t get much bigger in the Premier League than Man United at Old Trafford and contributing to a victory would also be of great benefit to his potential new employers at Stamford Bridge.
‘Nuff said, but I’ll plough on regardless. Last week was a shambles for Barton, amidst an actually pretty good performance his attitude was shocking. Twittering aside, if he was hoping to settle back into Premier League action quietly after an outspoken summer then he certainly didn’t go the right way about it. In fairness, his rather acrimonious return to action last week was not all of his own doing. First of all he was blatantly stamped on by Alex Song and then I genuinely believe that he thought Gervinho was trying to cheat his way to victory. What followed though was pretty pathetic, not content with sparking a 22 man brawl by aggressively heaving the Ivorian to his feet he then proceeded to hurl himself to the ground in apparent agony when the same member of the opposition gave him a little tap on the head. Surely this weekend will see a more reserved outing for Barton… Oh dear.. it’s derby week on Tyneside. More of the same then for Joey.
Last year’s PFA Premier League player of the year got off to a flyer last season. This year is set to provide a more testing challenge with an opening day clash against the Champions but Bale will be determined to prove his continued worth, what better way to do so than inspiring Tottenham to a major opening game scalp.
Robin Van Persie:
Huge game for the Gunners this weekend and new Captain Van Persie will be looking to mark this occasion with a performance which has the fans forgetting who Cesc Fabregas was. A hard-earned 1-0 win over Udinese in midweek will have gone some way to appeasing the fans but this weekend will provide a real acid-test of whether Arsenal can recover from the loss of their talisman and still compete with title challenging sides in the Premier League. With Fabregas gone and Nasri potentially on his way an awful lot could rest on Van Persie’s shoulders this season and I’m sure he will be relishing the challenge.
You would be forgiven for thinking that Manchester City have signed the greatest footballer of all time given the hype surrounding Aguero in the week following his brilliant debut against Swansea, but the Argentine will be more aware than anybody else that his magnificent cameo has just added to the weighty pressure that is upon him. City spent an awful lot of money securing his signature, as they tend to with most of their signings, but that doesn’t mean to say that he is a finished product. He is a truly brilliant prospect and could be the difference for City this season, but there is a long way to go yet and Aguero mustn’t get complacent. First things first though he must go out this Sunday and try to replicate some of the genius evident in last week’s debut.