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Talking football with Xabi Alonso

Blog - ESPN FC United about an hour ago
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John Brewin profile picture  By John Brewin
Aug 19, 2014

Fortunes of the big-money signings

The proof of the pudding is in the playing. ESPN FC rates the big-money debutants on the Premier League's opening weekend.

Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea, £30m)

Barcelona was in his DNA, they said, but Fabregas' return to the Premier League at Burnley suggested that whatever his genetic makeup might be, English football suits him best. Indeed, his "Englishness" and desire to be more direct is suggested as one of the reasons that Barca let him go. Chelsea fans will be delighted by a debut that reminded of his all-round abilities as a midfielder, including that fantastic one-touch pass to Andre Schurrle to put Chelsea into the lead. Arsenal and Manchester United followers could only look on with envy.

Rating 8.5/10

Diego Costa (Chelsea, £32m)

Costa, too, looks built for English football, an amalgam of Jose Mourinho's favourite type of striker -- the height and power of Didier Drogba coupled with the finishing abilities of Diego Milito, Mourinho's match winner in Inter Milan's 2009-10 treble season. Costa's finish for Chelsea's equaliser was ruthless, smashed in with total confidence. He was also unfortunate to be booked when Clarets keeper Tom Heaton clearly caught him as he burst into the box. It should have been a penalty. Holding the ball up strongly and linking well, Costa even played out wide when Drogba came on as a late sub. The returning Chelsea legend looks as if he will have to settle for second fiddle.

Rating: 8/10.

Diego Costa showed that he's the striker Chelsea have sorely been lacking.
Diego Costa put a poor World Cup behind with a debut goal at Burnley.

Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal, £30m)

Though ESPN FC's very own Steve Nicol thought that the costly Chilean's Premier League debut was "awful," the general view is that Sanchez was quiet against Crystal Palace, in a game in which his team struggled against a well-organised and determined opponent. He did not impose himself as might have been expected, and his most memorable moment came in an incredible piece of chest control out on the left wing that became a Vine hit. He still played a part in both Arsenal goals, supplying the free kick from which Laurent Koscielny equalised and was energetic throughout. There is much more to come from him.

Rating: 6.5/10.

Ander Herrera (Manchester United, £29m)

His withdrawal came as a surprise when Louis van Gaal pulled him in the 67th minute against Swansea City for Marouane Fellaini. It was true that his influence was waning, as Garry Monk's pressing tactics closed down United's every turn in midfield. But without the Spaniard, United lost the last vestiges of fluency. Herrera, always busy in seeking involvement, had found himself driven a little too deep to pick passes for a malfunctioning attack, so van Gaal decided to go a little more direct. It was a policy that did not pay off as Swansea soon scored their winner. Herrera left the field to applause and bemusement.

Rating: 5.5/10

Fernando (Manchester City, £12m)

Many City fans have long lamented the loss of Nigel de Jong and Gareth Barry but their latest Brazilian signing revealed that they may now have a player to replace that pair of 2011-12 title winners. He certainly looked an upgrade on the departed Javi Garcia in shielding City's defence at Newcastle United. Compatriot Fernandinho may face a battle to win his place back in the team, especially away from home, where City were often vulnerable last season. Fernando looked to be able to provide added security in front of defence when Yaya Toure is minded to maraud forward.

Rating: 7/10

Remy Cabella (Newcastle United, £12m)

Being also a Frenchman, and with a fairly similar name, it is hoped that Cabella can be the player Newcastle have desperately lacked since Yohan Cabaye was cashed in back in January. The signs on Sunday were that the man from Montpellier may lack his compatriot's physical prowess and taste for the nasty side of the game, but that Cabella possesses similar creative gifts. Though the Magpies were held at arm's length, Cabella's tricky running and neatness of passing gave Manchester City their deepest cause for concern. There were promising signs he can become a hero on Tyneside.

Rating: 7/10

Remy Cabella moved to Newcastle from Montpellier.

Dejan Lovren (Liverpool, £20m)

In selecting Lovren and Javier Manquillo, Brendan Rodgers blooded two of his seven new signings from the start against Southampton, and brought Rickie Lambert on from the bench against his old club. Lovren, another to desert Saintliness, has been bought for his organising qualities and they were evident in a game where Liverpool had to do plenty of defending. He was in no way responsible for Nathaniel Clyne's excellent equaliser and settled in fast alongside Martin Skrtel. His aerial prowess was particularly in evidence, and he helped shepherd a raw-looking Manquillo, at right-back, through a difficult first assignment.

Rating: 7.5/10.

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