7 Truths: Martial Magic, But Rodgers Is In Trouble

Anthony Martial is making everyone look stupid - apart from himself - while Liverpool's strikers also come under the microscope.


1. Time to call it: Martial is the real deal
When Anthony Martial came off the bench to score a stunning solo goal on hisManchester United debut, he was widely hailed as the 'new Thierry Henry'.Even by Thierry Henry himself. All that gushing was, of course, ludicrously premature. We pointed out at the time that Federico Macheda scored an equally eye-catching debut goal for United, but then drifted into obscurity. Wait a few years, we said, before bandying about terms like the 'new Henry'.
Manchester United's Anthony Martial (right) helps Southampton's Virgil van Dijk as he lies injured with cramp - PA Photos
Yet all that caution seems less and less appropriate after the French teenager's two stunning goals for United against Southampton at St Mary's. On both occasions he showed both skill and sang froid in almost comical abundance as he coolly slotted home. Even better, he then proclaimed himself as an all-round-good-egg and credit to the game by helping Southampton's Virgil van Dijk as he lay stricken with cramp.

Louis Van Gaal said last week that he'd bought Martial "for my successor", but that caveat is already starting to look absurdly redundant - though nothing like as stupid as some experts look having doubted Martial the day after the transfer window closed.

2. The league table may not lie, but sometimes it spins the truth
Louis van Gaal - Imago
It's one of the oldest laws in football: the league table never lies. The raw stats of wins, losses, draws and goals scored and conceded are supposed to be incapable of revealing anything other than unvarnished truth.

And in a sense that remains true, with Manchester City clearly the best team in the country on 2015-16 form so far, while Manchester United, with their wily capacity for winning despite underwhelming performances, are probably just about decent value for second place.
Manchester City v West Ham - Reuters
Yet how on earth is the gap just two points when City have looked so fluent - barring Saturday evening's brainfart against West Ham - and United so flawed? Southampton could so easily have beaten United on Sunday, and if it weren't for the six saves produced by David de Gea they would have done.

Are they really so close to City? Maybe. After all, both sides lost in Europe last week - though City lost to Champions League runners-up Juventus in a masterclass of technique and tactics, while United lost to a PSV outfit who got taken down by Heracles on Saturday.

No, the gap should be bigger, and City may yet come to rue the fact that it isn't. In both 2013 and 2015 they had purple patches of outstanding form, but each time failed to put together the sort of winning run that they'll need if they are to win the title. Fail to make hay while the sun shines once more at Eastlands, and Louis van Gaal might claim the title a year ahead of schedule.

3. Son Heung-min could drive Spurs towards Europe
Son celebrates his first goal for Tottenham - Reuters
It seemed like a classic Tottenham signing: £22 million for Son Heung-min. The word ‘flop’ floated around as apathetic Spurs fans accepted that a miserable season was on the cards. Was the South Korean really going to support Harry Kane?

As it transpired, the question could be reversed. Son put in a marvellous display against Crystal Palace – conquerors of Chelsea in their last away outing. He sparkled on his debut against Sunderland, bagged a quick-fire double in midweek in the Europa League before grabbing the winning goal on Sunday.

His exploits sparked a wave of positivity from Spurs fans, a theme shelved for the past few years. With another goalscorer in their ranks, there’s no reason Tottenham can’t push for a top-five finish.

4. Brendan Rodgers is on borrowed time right now
Brendan Rodgers looks glum at Liverpool v Norwich - Reuters
Humiliating defeats usually sound the death knell for managers who get fired, but in the case of Brendan Rodgers it could be a dispiriting home draw which ushers in a new era at the club. Liverpool's drab showing against Norwichsuggests a poverty of ideas and inspiration that might well prompt John Henry and the Anfield board to cut their losses.

Things might be different if one of the brightest young managers in world football wasn't currently kicking his heels - but the fact that Jurgen Klopp is ready, waiting and indeed by all accounts willing to take over makes things all the stickier for Rodgers. Next up for the Reds are matches against Carlisle,Villa, Sion and Everton, three eminently winnable matches followed by one that is crucial to club morale. If Liverpool's board don't see marked improvement by the end of that sequence then they will surely consider their managerial options.

5. Roberto Mancini showing he's still a class act
The former Manchester City manager's return to Inter Milan - with whom he won a hat-trick of titles in the mid-2000s - didn't start well. He managed only to guide Inter to eighth place in Serie A last season, despite having taken the reins in November, and he provoked raised eyebrows by insisting at the end of the campaign that the club needed eight or nine new players. Eyebrows or not, the club chequebook was dusted off as the likes of Geoffrey Kondogbiaand Ivan Perisic arrived in the summer, allowing Mancini to unveil a completely new-look side.

And Inter's gamble - if bringing a multi-title winning manager can be characterised as such - appears to be paying off handsomely. Inter made it four wins out of four on Sunday as they eked out a 1-0 win away at ChievoVerona (who had themselves looked excellent before Sunday's defeat, having started the season with two big wins and grabbed a 1-1 draw at Juventus) and Inter look as good as anyone in Serie A right now. Add in the benefit of not having to worry about Europe, and there's every chance that Mancini could lead this squad to a title once again.

6. Whisper it quietly, but Erik Lamela is starting to flourish at Spurs
Tottenham's Erik Lamela - Reuters
Burdened with the tag of ‘chosen one’ in the wake of Gareth Bale’s departure, Lamela has been a huge disappointment in his two seasons at White HartLane. It seemed he would never come good, with the Argentine having an unwanted gift for assisting opposition counter-attacks with woeful passing.

But that may be about to change. Lamela buzzed around against Palace, displaying the sort of trickery that made Spurs shell out on him in the first place.


He’s not the new Bale, but if he continues to improve then he could serve a purpose in north London other than being a punchline in various Arsenaltaunts.

7. Danny Ings is the English Diego Costa
No, not in terms of duffing people up on the pitch. Just in terms of looking a good 10 years older than his age. Would you believe that the man pictured here turned 23 just two months ago?
Liverpool's Danny Ings back in his days at Bournemouth in 2011 - PA Photos
In case you're wondering if it was four years in Burnley which put an extra decade on him, here's a picture from his days starting out at Bournemouth. In this pic - taken in February 2011 - he was just 18. And as you can see, back then he still sucked his thumb!

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