Ahead of every weekend this season, I will answer questions from Sportsnet.ca readers on a variety of topics on the Premier League. If you’d like to ask me a question, hit me up on Twitter at @jamessharman, and be sure to use the hashtag #SNAskSharman.
Let’s dive into this week’s mailbag…
From @SpursSpin: With Tottenham failing to bring in additional support during the summer transfer window, how do they ensure their current group maintains their fitness throughout the Premier League and Champions League seasons? Is there potential for an academy player to make his way up to the big club?
Sharman: Tottenham really is one of most intriguing teams to watch this season. A large part of me respects them for trusting what it has and keeping the status quo. But there is another part of me that is rolling its eyes, and suspiciously pointing at ownership, and accusing Daniel Levy of simply tightening the purse strings to help pay off their glorious new stadium.
The footballing concerns are many; most managers admit that you always need some new recruits in the squad each year to keep players on their toes. Don’t forget that this is Mauricio Pochettino’s fourth year at Spurs – that is highly irregular in modern footballing terms. Will his message begin to get diluted within the room, especially with so many familiar faces? There is no evidence to suggest this is the case, but it is something to keep your eyes on, especially with all the young stars inked to long term contracts.
All that said, Lucas Moura feels like a new signing, Eric Lamela was hurt for most of last year, Harry Winks is perhaps set for a breakout season, and with Josh Onomah and Kyle Walker-Peters chomping at the bit to prove last year’s U-20 World Cup win by England was no fluke, things are looking pretty good for Tottenham, despite the summer hibernation.
From @JtotheBRD: Who will be the first to leave Manchester United: Jose Mourinho, Paul Pogba or Ed Woodward?
Sharman: As executive vice-chairman, Woodward has the business side of things ticking over to the tune of five billion dollars net worth. Pogba is coming of a World Cup-winning campaign in which he reminded everybody why he is a once in a generation talent. Mourinho has a philosophical difference with both men, and he spent all summer bemoaning the lack of transfers, and the fact United had to tour the U.S. Add all that up, and it doesn’t look good for Jose, does it?
Let’s just assume for a moment that the Pogba rumours are all true, and that he wants out, with Barcelona his preferred destination. In this case, United would blame the manager for forcing out the Frenchman, a player who almost single-handedly made the latest United home kit the biggest seller in club history.
It also doesn’t help that at the moment the top teams are all playing wonderful and attacking soccer, while United look stuck in the past. You do wonder if transfer targets (not to mention United’s own players) look at Manchester City, Liverpool, Bayern or Barca and feel that they’d much rather be playing somewhere else.
United’s struggles are not all on Mourinho, but to answer your question, Mourinho is the one on the hot seat. Having said that, we are only entering Matchday 3 of the season, and a win against Tottenham on Monday would change the narrative for at least another week.
From @scotmanb: Do you ever see the Premier League playing a game overseas like La Liga plans on doing?
Sharman: Oh, there will definitely be meaningful matches played at some point. The “39th game,” as it has been called, has long been discussed, and I am sure the Premier League will be watching La Liga’s plans with interest. That said, it doesn’t look as if La Liga’s plans will be smooth sailing, with the clubs having not been consulted prior to the announcement being made. It should be noted that the “39th game” has been shouted down by many of the Premier League’s power brokers, and is very much off the table for now.
Football is changing, and the clubs have all the power – or I should say the rich clubs have all the power. Let’s be honest, a European super-league will become a reality one day. Maybe it will be a global super-league, as greed will always usurp what is best for the game, and as consumers we will all buy in, begrudgingly at first. I am not suggesting that this will happen tomorrow, but the economics involved make it all but inevitable. What this means for the rest of domestic football, who knows. I’d suggest it will soldier on, and continue as a relevant form of entertainment.
From @Ghoul_Daddy: A new coach was to supposed to mean a new attitude, so what is the matter with Arsenal?
Sharman: Calm down, it’s only Matchday 3! I get it, Arsenal is still looking for its first points of the season, but it isn’t as if Man City and Chelsea were easy opponents. Let’s look at the positive for a moment. Against Chelsea, the Gunners should have scored four first-half goals, and even with those misses fought back from 2-0 down to 2-2 before the break. Didn’t that show some character, and some nerve, qualities clearly lacking under Arsene Wenger in recent years? Was it also not refreshing to see Unai Emery yank off Granit Xhaka, and Mesut Ozil during forgettable performances? Isn’t it great to see the faith being shown in youngster Matteo Guendouzzi?
Admittedly, the defending has been atrocious, and even with Laurent Koscielny injured, I’d have though organizing the defence would be one of the first things you would do as a coach?
I suspect Emery is still in his “finding it out” stage, which might explain why Petr Cech remains between the posts, but give the man some time will you? Arsene Wenger’s spirit still walks through the corridors of the Emirates (he actually might literally be doing this; I bet he still has a set of keys). It’s going to take time for Emery to turn things around at Arsenal.
From @aaronganz: What hope is there for Newcastle United this season?
Sharman: The hope is that your manager loves the club more than he despises the owner. Mike Ashley clearly realizes he has one of the best managers in world football, but Rafa Benitez is man who will only stand for nonsense for so long. There are many rich clubs in world football who would give their left boot to have Benitez, and there is only so much a man can take. Given that Wolves and Fulham should stay relatively safe in their first seasons back in the Premier League, Newcastle could easily find itself drawn into a relegation scrap.
Over the next three weeks, the Magpies face Chelsea, Man City and Arsenal. With one point from its first two games there is every chance it could be sitting in the drop zone in short order. With problems behind the scenes, this could quickly turn toxic. I hope I am wrong, as I feel a Premier League with Newcastle is a stronger Premier League, but perhaps Kenedy’s performance against Cardiff City last week is a sign of things to come on a bigger scale.
Aaron, I would hope for as many “sale” rumours as possible, as it appears obvious the owner doesn’t really enjoy owning a football club, and certainly has no ambition to make it more than it is.