• Chelsea have stood still and not bought in any players to stimulate squad
  • Jose Mourinho’s side cannot rely on club captain John Terry forever
  • Manchester City look weak at centre-half and some players lack intensity
  • Louis van Gaal has no fear, Manchester United could win Premier League
  • West Ham have produced another gem in the shape of Reece Oxford 

Martin Allen

Martin ‘Mad Dog’ Allen returns for his first Sportsmail column of the new season and reflects on the opening fixtures from the weekend.

The Barnet manager talks about why Chelsea’s lack of summer signings will lead to an open Premier League title challenge and why Louis van Gaal’s no-fear approach will benefit Manchester United this season. 

OXFORD GRADUATES 

My old club West Ham have had a few dry years with their acclaimed academy, but the next one is finally coming through: Reece Oxford. The place which produced the likes of Bobby Moore, Sir Trevor Brooking, Michael Carrick, Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole and Jermain Defoe has come up with another gem after a barren spell.

Sam Allardyce was criticised for not bringing through young players and giving them a chance, but the truth is simply none of them were good enough. Sam put Oxford on the bench last season when he was only 15. There is no doubt this lad will go on to be a top, top player for West Ham and England.

West Ham's 16-year-old midfield starlet Reece Oxford is the latest gem to come through the club's academy

West Ham’s 16-year-old midfield starlet Reece Oxford is the latest gem to come through the club’s academy

GOMEZ JOINS HIM 

What a great weekend it was for all England football supporters. I love watching England play and, on top of Oxford’s display, this weekend has seen a fantastic performance from 18-year-old Joe Gomez playing for Liverpool against Stoke. 

He is a young lad from Catford, in South London, who put in a performance with pace, power and was not effected mentally by the imposing figure of Jonathan Waters, who has given many defenders a torrid afternoon over the years. That boy will be playing for England soon.

Liverpool's Joe Gomez, signed from Charlton this summer, produced a fantastic performance against Stoke

Liverpool’s Joe Gomez, signed from Charlton this summer, produced a fantastic performance against Stoke

PREMIER LEAGUE OPEN SEASON 

Having watched this weekend’s action, for me it’s the most open Premier League title for years. Chelsea have stood still and not bought in any players to stimulate and test the current playing squad. Diego Costa was so key last season, but then with his hamstring problems their threat was diluted and they struggled over the line. 

They also relied on 34-year-old John Terry, who played every minute of every league game last season, but they cannot do that forever. They look likely to miss out on Everton’s John Stones, who they badly need.

Last season, they were defiant, well-organised, disciplined and did what was necessary after such a great start. It has been a poor pre-season and I very much doubt Jose Mourinho is happy with the way it is looking there. Arsenal need a key centre forward, a top quality player, to turn the tide. There is no question that is what is required to turn them into real title contenders.

Diego Costa was so key for Chelsea last season but his hamstring problems threatened their campaign 

Diego Costa was so key for Chelsea last season but his hamstring problems threatened their campaign 

John Terry (left), who played every minute of every league game last season, cannot be relied upon forever

John Terry (left), who played every minute of every league game last season, cannot be relied upon forever

Manchester City’s central player over the past few years has been Yaya Toure, but he is now 32 and his pace and power will be tested by the demanding Premier League season. 

His goals from midfield are crucial, but has he now got the legs to do it? They look weak at centre-half and I’m not sure their players have the same intensity and desire to be champions.

Can Manchester United step out of the shadows? Mr Van Gaal is very confident, oozes self-belief — which some would call arrogant — and he has won titles with every club he has been with. He has no fear, he says it how it is, and I think that this season they will be very close.

Manchester City’s central player over the past few years has been Yaya Toure but he will be tested this year 

Manchester City’s central player over the past few years has been Yaya Toure but he will be tested this year 

Louis van Gaal has won titles with every club he has been with and his approach will benefit Manchester United

Louis van Gaal has won titles with every club he has been with and his approach will benefit Manchester United

CLOSING THE GAP 

Also what I find very interesting is the teams that you would class as mid-table and just doing enough to stay up are closing the gap at the top. Teams like Southampton, West Ham, Stoke and Swansea have all made excellent recruitment, bringing in players with pace, power and quality. 

Recruitment is so crucial to the modern game. Strangely, clubs still do not invest enough on their recruitment staff or scouts to get out and find the players. For any Tottenham fan, it must be agony knowing all of that Gareth Bale money has been wasted on average players.

The likes of Southampton have made excellent recruitment, bringing in players with pace, power and quality

The likes of Southampton have made excellent recruitment, bringing in players with pace, power and quality

PROUD MOMENT 

Sixteen months ago when I took over at Barnet, we were sitting mid-table in the Conference. It was dull, it was drab, there was no spirit, energy, enthusiasm and players were fat, unfit, out-of-shape, slouched in the medical room and cheating the club out of its money.

Saturday was a very proud day, to see my Barnet players walking out at Brisbane Road in front of 6,000 people. Those players did us proud, to get this club up into League Two, they have worked tirelessly hard and against Leyton Orient unfortunately we just ran out of time. The team were superb and I left empty handed, but a very proud man of all the players and supporters that stood their ground right through until the end.

Barnet's return to League Two on the weekend was a proud day for manager Martin Allen despite the defeat

Barnet’s return to League Two on the weekend was a proud day for manager Martin Allen despite the defeat

VENABLES HAD IT RIGHT 

How fantastic it has been to watch the England cricket team bet Australia. All those people — so-called experts — who were calling for Alastair Cook’s head, do not seem to be saying too much now. All of those people who were clamouring for the return of Kevin Pietersen have all gone quiet. They have got together a hard-working, hungry, humble group of young players on the way up, who respect each other, respect the management and it’s clearly evident that they are only going to get better and better. 

All the ethics and values are clear to see in any top team. Many years ago, my manager at Queens Park Rangers, Terry Venables, left to manage Barcelona. The first thing El-Tel did was get rid of the world’s most famous and outstanding player, Diego Maradona. They all said the Englishman was mad. Barcelona, that year, won La Liga.

I met Terry soon afterwards and the first question I asked him was why he got rid of Maradona. He smiled and told me it was an easy decision. Football is a team game, he said, and it is not all about one player. Eleven players working hard for each other, will always be better than one doing his own thing. I think that fits into the Pietersen situation. 

England's Ashes success over Australia proved they made the right choice by not including Kevin Pietersen

England’s Ashes success over Australia proved they made the right choice by not including Kevin Pietersen

 

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