Harry Kane never scores in August. We know that, because we have about 10 games over three years to look at as evidence. Tottenham Hotspur struggle at home at Wembley. We know that because they crashed out of the Champions League and because they’ve not won in two home Premier League games this season.
There are other conclusions that we can make already. Manchester United are the favourites for the league title because they won their opening three games, didn’t concede a goal, and after four games are top of the pile. They are the obvious favourites because the last four games have shown they are the best, and therefore they are the best until the facts prove otherwise. And we must know what we think about the future – any part of it.
Another thing. Liverpool are in disarray. Their heads dropped as they collapsed following Sadio Mane’s red card for smashing Ederson’s face in with his boot. Manchester City similarly made a statement of intent when they smashed their rivals with five unanswered goals.
We are four games into the new season. Hundreds of millions of pounds have been spent over the course of the summer, and managers and players are still to settle in. They are probably still not sure what everyone’s name is at their new club, or how to get to work. And yet the conclusions are already being drawn, and we are all expected to have an opinion on what everything means. Good luck to everyone who attempts that endeavour.
At the weekend, Renato Sanches made his debut for Swansea City, on loan from Bayern Munich. It has been an odd two years for Sanches. First, he broke into the Benfica team as a teenager. He showed such promise that, for months, he was linked with a move to Manchester United. Louis van Gaal’s sacking was meant to be no impediment because Jose Mourinho is Portuguese and has Jorge Mendes as a client. For whatever reason, the move didn’t work out, but not because of Sanches’s failure.
Instead, Bayern Munich – never usually fools in the transfer market – decided that £30m was a fair sum to shell out for a relatively untested young player and take him to the Bundesliga. The transfer was, in fact, a step up from the possible switch to United. Bayern might not be as impressive a name to commercial sponsors, but they are run more professionally, have more recent success, and the chance of yet more success in the near future. They are rarely a side to buy into unjustified hype in the pursuit of a signing.
So, then, we come to Sanches’s debut for Swansea City. It was a surprise he had signed for them, given links to Chelsea and Liverpool, but perhaps understandably neither of those Champions League clubs fancied being a rehabilitation centre for potential rivals.
The optics, as the most disgusting people in the corporate and PR world would say, would look terrible. Paul Clement, a mate of Carlo Ancelotti from when they had worked together at Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid, had special access to complete the deal. While he might speak like he is part of a CID team, Clement has a reputation as a decent and clever man, and rescued Swansea last season.
It was not an obvious move for Sanches to make, but a year in a difficult league with a manager who can help him develop and find his confidence again, is a pragmatic and reasonable one.
But, the debut. There were as many misplaced passes in the early stages as there were completed ones. He was unable to fit into a team that had changed formation from the one which had garnered them a win against Crystal Palace.
He played on the right side of midfield, which should ultimately suit his talents. He was unable to last a full match, and perhaps that was for the good of the team during the match after his struggles.
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The reaction to a poor performance were bizarre. Sanches had won the European Championships with Portugal just last year. He had attracted attention from the best sides in the world, but not yet been able to break through into Bayern’s first eleven. At his age, few would.
He is not the first player to struggle to make an adjustment to the top level, in a different country, nor will he be the last. There are no serious hints that he is unprofessional or failing to apply himself. He has said in the past that is to expected that difficult circumstances have to be overcome. He does not appear to be a brat, or indisciplined. But after a poor hour for Swansea he had been declared a fraud by many.
Manchester United are going to win the league. Manchester City made a huge statement of intent with their fourth game in the league this season. Jurgen Klopp can’t deliver heavy metal football with Liverpool. Spurs won’t win at Wembley this season. Renato Sanches is a fraud.
Some or any of these statements might be right over the course of the year, but there is no reason to think we actually know why. Extrapolating from limited evidence is something that all humans do.
But failing to recognise and correct for this habit is something only the foolish do – and football fans are not foolish, are they?