Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher will be right here each week to cast his expert eye over the forthcoming Premier League games.
The Liverpool legend will have his say on the teams, players, managers and stories surrounding Sky’s live fixtures – and in this column he discusses Monday Night Football opponents West Brom and Manchester United.
So read on for his thoughts on Daley Blind’s impact for The Red Devils, whether Louis van Gaal’s men can win the title, and Baggies boss Alan Irvine…
Is Daley Blind the answer to Man United’s midfield problems?
CARRA SAYS: The bigger tests will come when United take on Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal and Liverpool over the next month or two, but Blind has looked very neat and tidy with the ball so far. He has been brought into the team to do the role Nemanja Matic does so well as Chelsea – sit deep and offer protection to the attacking players in front of him – and you can see he is a clever footballer.
His dad, Danny, was also a very cultured and intelligent player who had a great understanding of the game, albeit at centre-back rather than in midfield, and Daley looks to have soaked up a lot of that wisdom. He is able to play in a number of positions and never seems fazed or overawed by anything, while he is a very athletic player as well so can get up and down the pitch if needs be. Blind looks like a very good signing, especially at around £14million.
You played behind the like of Lucas and Javier Mascherano at Liverpool. How much confidence does a good, solid holding player give you as a defence?
Blind has the ability to start attacks from deep, so when United dominate possession, he should stamp his authority.
CARRA SAYS: It gives you a lot of confidence, especially if you are a relatively young and inexperienced defence, something Man United are at the moment. But the likes of Wayne Rooney, Angel Di Maria and Robin van Persie should be happy to have Blind around, too, because he has the ability to start attacks from deep.
So when United play against the lesser teams most weeks and dominate possession, Blind should stamp his authority on the game from an offensive point of view, while when they come up against Chelsea, Man City and the like, he can snuff out their attacks. I think Blind will be crucial for United under Louis van Gaal.
With United not in Europe and out of the Capital One Cup, is this where their freshness could tell?
CARRA SAYS: United will certainly be fresher than the teams in the Champions League, who have at least another four games in that competition. Whether Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Man City end up qualifying for the knockout stages or slip into the Europa League, that is even more games to cope with, while United’s only action apart from the Premier League will be the FA Cup. They have whole weeks to work on tactics and team shape and to sort out any niggles their players may be suffering with, so I would expect them to get stronger as the season goes on. That’s quite a thought when you consider that, despite people saying they have had a poor start, they are fourth in the table and above Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton. Still, I can’t quite agree with Rafael and say they are capable of winning the title this season as, for me, Chelsea, the standout team so far, and Man City are the only realistic challengers to top the table.
West Brom narrowly lost to Liverpool last time out, but beat Tottenham and Burnley before that. Are they on the up now?
CARRA SAYS: The Tottenham result, which I don’t think anyone saw them getting, was a massive result for them as they hadn’t won a match before then and Alan Irvine was under pressure. They then ran Burnley ragged when I watched them win 4-0 at The Hawthorns in the Sky Sports studio, and they then ran Liverpool very close at Anfield.
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I think you can even say Liverpool were a little fortunate to win that game because when West Brom got it back to 1-1 with Saido Berahino’s penalty they had a couple of the chances and gave it a right good go before and after Jordan Henderson popped up with the winner.
Is Irvine the right manager for West Brom?
CARRA SAYS: Time will tell. There were a lot of questions asked when he got the job because things didn’t really work out for him at Preston or Sheffield Wednesday. He has a lot to prove and do, but he has a great reputation on Merseyside and beyond for what he did with Everton’s young players like Ross Barkley and Jack Rodwell. I’m sure he can take those experiences into West Brom, who have a strong group of youngsters, like Berahino, Craig Dawson and Andre Wisdom, a lad I know well from my Liverpool days and really like the look of.
Wisdom came into the Liverpool side under Brendan Rodgers a couple of years ago and performed very steadily at right-back and having spent last season playing regularly on loan at Derby in the Championship, he has only improved. I think he could end up as a centre-back in the future but as a full-back he very rarely makes mistakes and is always seven out of 10. If he keeps that up, I’m sure he and West Brom will be fine.
Watch West Brom v Man United on Monday Night Football, from 7pm, Sky Sports 1.