Pitchside

Facts – 7 truths: Dodgy Mignolet, impressive Sterling and who Everton should sign

Pitchside

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1) Simon Mignolet may cost Liverpool again

Barely 20 minutes into Liverpool’s opening day encounter and the Belgian shot-stopper – at fault on more than one occasion last season – was flapping around his penalty area with reckless abandon in pursuit of the ball. It took him four attempts to capture the rubber sphere on his first assignment of the season – chances that won’t be permitted by the top sides.

Mignolet’s rash decisions spoilt an otherwise solid display as his stunning reaction save from Morgan Schneiderlin ensured his side would start 2014 with maximum points. Still, the question remains: will he earn the Reds more points than he drops this season?

2) Manchester City ominously efficient so early in the season

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It made pretty grim watching, but City’s 2-0 victory over Newcastle displayed many characteristics of potential champions: solid defending, a compact central midfield and attackers who took their chances.

Vincent Kompany was imperious, new recruit Fernando outshone Yaya Toure alongside him and David Silva and Sergio Aguero both took their sole opportunities.

When their World Cup stars – aka practically their entire squad – get up to speed, don’t be surprised if there’s more quadruple chatter before Christmas as City start blowing teams away with the same aplomb that was exhibited for large periods last season.

3) Don’t worry, Southampton fans – you’re not getting relegated

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There was concern that the exodus at St Mary’s would result in a relegation scrap, but their performance against Liverpool will alleviate those fears.

There are some pretty ropey teams in the division this season, meaning that Ronald Koeman’s side are a jug of cohesion away from challenging for a top-half finish.

Saints looked solid in defence, while James Ward-Prose and Dusan Tadic impressed in attack – the former with a series of tempting deliveries, the latter with some nifty inventiveness. If the pair can get closer to the isolated Graziano Pelle, then Southampton should score plenty.

4) Everton should take a punt on Hatem Ben Arfa

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Remy Cabella’s competitive Newcastle debut reeked of creativity and flair. Alan Pardew is not renowned for unleashing this sort of player, leaving the (allegedly) overweight and shunned Hatem Ben Arfa surplus to requirements on Tyneside.

It’s time for a Premier League club to take a punt on the attacking Frenchman, who is clearly a tremendously talented – if frustrating and injury prone – individual.

And why shouldn’t that club be Everton? He would fill the void left by the injured Ross Barkley and departed Barcelona loanee Gerard Deulofeu – players equally adept at attacking trickery and the latter equally inept at fulfilling defensive duties. Sign him up, Roberto.

5) Raheem Sterling has not plateaued

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It happens most seasons. A small, speedy English winger bursts onto the scene. They’re called up to the England squad. Then their career plateaus.

That was the fear when Brendan Rodgers removed Sterling from the limelight two seasons ago, but the youngster re-established himself last campaign and – rather peculiarly – continues to progress.

Gone is the player unable to convert a simple one-on-one as he exuded composure to coolly slot Liverpool ahead at Anfield. If the Reds are to secure another season of Champions League football, expect Sterling to be heavily involved.

6) Newcastle look refreshed after disastrous end to last season

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While he will undoubtedly be gutted with the result, Alan Pardew will be relieved that his Newcastle side put in an impressive showing to cast aside memories of last season’s abject finish. Gone were the boos and murmurings of discontent as Cabella and co. matched the champions for 90 minutes.

Pardew survived a summer which saw many fans demand his head, and returned to St James’ Park armed with a few intriguing signings. Based on Sunday’s display, Newcastle can harbour ambitions of leading the charge to usurp one of the top seven.

7) Liverpool need another striker

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Daniel Sturridge is competent leading the line, but he cut a frustrated figure for much of the clash with Southampton.

He benefited enormously from the presence of Luis Suarez alongside him last season, as the Uruguayan created space by drawing defenders around the pitch. Rickie Lambert is a decent acquisition, but what happens if one of them gets injured?

The Reds have been linked with moves for Radamel Falcao and Gonzalo Higuain, but even a player from outside that elite bracket would strengthen the Anfield club. If they fail to sign another striker this summer, they are relying on the injury gods being kind between now and January. Not a wise move.

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