Premier League: Six things we learned this weekend – Di Maria gets United firing; Pardew doomed at Newcastle; Arsenal already exposed

A look at the fourth week of fixtures in the Premier League

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The Independent Online

Angel Di Maria can spark Manchester United’s season into life

The British record transfer of Angel Di Maria may have set Manchester United back a whopping £59.7m, but that could prove to be a worthwhile signing if Sunday’s performance was anything to go by. The Argentinian was the spark that powered United to a comfortable 4-0 win over Queens Park Rangers, and more importantly, Louis van Gaal’s first competitive victory to lift spirits at Old Trafford and excite the expectant crowd once again.

He scored the first from a free-kick that left both the QPR defence and goalkeeper Rob Green flummoxed, bouncing in the area before finding the back of the net untouched. His bursting run down the left wing not only demonstrated his extraordinary control of the ball when running at full speed, but laid the platform for United’s second as his beautiful pass found Wayne Rooney who in turn fed Ander Herrera for the goal. While his second-half effort was fortunate enough to find Juan Matat who duly wrapped up the scoring, it looks like Di Maria will quickly become loved at United if he can reproduce those kind of performances week in, week out. It does bode the question though – why on earth did Real Madrid let him go?

Arsenal’s failure to sign a defender on deadline day has come back to haunt them immediately

While Arsene Wenger was busy signing Danny Welbeck from the Italian capital of Rome to appease those fans demanding for a new striker, the main concern was that Arsenal had just six first-team defenders available for the season ahead. Well, make that five, after summer signing Mathieu Debuchy was carried off the Emirates pitch on Saturday in the 2-2 draw with Manchester City.

 

The Frenchman faces up to three months on the sidelines with ankle ligament damage, meaning another recent arrival at the North London club Calum Chambers will have to fill in on the right side of defence for the foreseeable future. That leaves Arsenal without centre-back cover, and despite Nacho Monreal appearing in a central role in the past, his unreliability and Kieran Gibbs’ track record of injuries is a real concern for the reigning FA Cup champions.

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Mathieu Debuchy writhes in agony after suffering an ankle injury

The writing is on the wall for Alan Pardew

As the saying goes, once you lose the fans, there’s no going back. That couldn’t have been clearer on Saturday afternoon, as one fan had to be restrained from confronting the Newcastle manager while a banner reading ‘Pardew out’ was displayed prominently in the stands at St Mary’s. The build-up to the 4-0 defeat at Southampton was also marred by an incident involving Pardew’s assistant JOhn Carver swearing at a section of the Magpies’ fans, and it appears Pardew could be on his way if he doesn’t get a result against Hull next weekend.

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The Newcastle fans make their feelings clear over Alan Pardew

How unfortunate then that the man in the opposite dug-out at St James’ Park next Saturday is currently the favourite to replace Pardew, as Steve Bruce has been heavily linked with the job.

We should have listened to Jose Mourinho last season…

Remember the big horse-little horse declaration? Well it appears Jose Mourinho was right once again. The Chelsea manager proclaimed that his side were not ready to challenge for the Premier League title, and that given they could sign a prolific striker, they would challenge for the 2014-15 Premier League. We’re only four games into the season but you’d face a stiff test to find anyone that would doubt Chelsea’s title credentials, and in Diego Costa they’ve found the lethal finisher they’ve been missing since Didier Drogba’s hay-day.

Costa has scored an incredible seven goals in four Premier League appearances, unmatched since the Premier League was introduced, with his latest display landing him a hat-trick against previously unbeaten Swansea in Saturday's 4-2 win. His link-up play with fellow Spanish international Cesc Fabregas is a key reason why the Blues sit pretty at the top, two points ahead of second-placed Aston Villa, and it’s hard to see where, if any, weakness in Mourinho’s current crop could be.

10 signings later and Liverpool still haven’t solved their defensive concerns

Brendan Rodgers will have hoped the additions of Javier Manquillo, Alberto Moreno and most importantly Dejan Lovren will have shored up their leaky defence this season, but Aston Villa managed to expose them once again to prove there is still a weakness in the Reds side. Villa’s goal came through stand-in captain Gabriel Agbonlahor after a scramble for the ball in the area, but Liverpool should never have allowed the ball to drop to the ground as it should have been cleared first time.

Agbonlahor.jpgThey need only to look at their opposition on Saturday afternoon, as Villa’s defence has appeared rejuvenated and rebuilt this season having conceded just once in their opening four games. The unbeaten side sit second in the table, and if their defence can maintain the high levels they have set out this season, they’ll avoid the relegation scrap everyone had predicted with ease come May.

QPR should ready themselves for the drop, but to where?

One win from four matches is nothing to write home about – especially when it came against Sunderland – and Queens Park Rangers suffered their second 4-0 defeat of the season in the rout at Old Trafford. While a win would’ve been a surprise to us all against the likes of Di Maria, Radamel Falcao, Rooney and Robin van Persie, the manner of the defeat will certainly have Rangers fans worried.

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QPR owner Tony Fernandes

But the revelation that the Football League could fine the Loftus Road outfit a staggering £40m for a breach of Financial Fair Play rules – or drop them to the Conference as a result – will be a far more worrying prospect for the club. Such a sanction would cripple most teams, and while Tony Fernandes has been lauded by the QPR fans for his hands-on and honest approach, a £40m fine would certainly test his resolve to remain at the club. Premier League survival will be key for QPR’s future.

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