Hot-Seat Watch for World Football Players, Coaches After Weekend of August 15-17
Competitive action is underway in one form or another in every major European nation now, giving us our first chances to see how coaches and players under pressure begin to perform in 2014-15 season.
We continue our look at how those names are faring by seeing if they matched up to expectation over the weekend—or if they still leave plenty to be desired with their performances or decision making.
The last list can be found right here; some names remain on our hot-seat watch—those that don't, we can safely assume have impressed early on this campaign...or perhaps haven't taken to the field just yet. Cesc Fabregas, for example, made a stunning return to English football—but there are plenty to take his place on our watch list.
Louis Van Gaal
Things didn't go to plan for Manchester United as they took on Swansea City in Louis van Gaal's first competitive game in charge.
Even worse, the defeat came at home, at Old Trafford, the place they need to turn into a fortress once again if Van Gaal is to turn around the ship which, if it didn't sink outright last season, is certainly listing badly and still taking on water.
United face Sunderland away from home at the weekend.
Whatever happened to Iker Casillas, the world's best keeper? From a loss of form to a loss of his place, 18 months on the bench at Real Madrid and then a poor World Cup.
Fair to say, the eyes of the world are on Casillas due to his standing in the game and the club he plays for, but his performances continue to flatter to deceive.
He got the nod to start the Super Cup against rivals Atletico Madrid on Tuesday but had little to do until late on—when Raul Garcia scored past him from close range after a corner. Rooted to his line, Casillas looked anything but imperious and domineering and will surely start the league season as No. 2 to Keylor Navas.
Any sign of the more adventurous, more exciting West Ham United yet?
No. Not if you saw their game against Tottenham Hotspur on the opening Premier League weekend, anyway.
The Hammers had a great chance to take the game to Spurs and win the three points as they had a penalty awarded, plus Spurs going a man down as a result, but the spot-kick was missed and Sam Allardyce's team barely created anything of note thereafter.
Despite a raft of summer signings, the front four were disappointingly familiar faces with disappointingly familiar limitations. Much more is needed—avoiding late defeats at home, for starters.
Along with Casillas, Sergio Ramos had a fairly torrid World Cup and Real Madrid fans would have been hoping to see him quickly get back to his best in the club shirt.
Against Atletico Madrid in the Super Cup on Tuesday, it's fair to say that didn't happen.
Ramos was booked and perhaps lucky not to see red for an arm to the head of Mario Mandzukic, made a couple of individual errors when barely tested defensively and was in part responsible for not clearing the corner for the late equaliser.
Far better is needed from the first-choice centre-back in La Liga.
Pep Guardiola has come into this season with a new formation, but now also needing a new defender after Javi Martinez was taken injured.
Bayern Munich remain the best club in the Bundesliga but the pressure is on for Pep to replicate domestic success in Europe this term.
Guardiola's season didn't exactly get off to the best of starts with a Super Cup defeat to rivals Dortmund, while a 4-0 win over minnows in the cup won't placate anybody.
Hatem Ben Arfa
Newcastle might have opened the campaign with a tough game against league champions Manchester City in the Premier League, but Hatem Ben Arfa was nowhere to be seen.
Having fallen out of favour with his manager last season, Ben Arfa has been sidelined after returning to pre-season "overweight"—a claim he rejects, per ESPN—and has been given the squad number 26 rather than his usual 10, a fairly clear sign that he is no longer in Alan Pardew's thoughts.
Ben Arfa will likely leave, if there are any takers, but has a long road back to anywhere near the top of his game.
Monaco were riding the crest of the wave this time last year, spending big, enjoying the limelight and going on to finish second in Ligue 1, winning a Champions League spot.
The spending hasn't continued though and James Rodriguez has left, leaving new boss Leonardo Jardim with a big job just to keep Monaco in the position they were, let alone improve them further as the gap widens between themselves and PSG.
Two defeats in his first two games are not exactly the way he wanted to start, especially with Bordeaux running riot in the second half to beat Monaco 4-1.
Celtic are expected to walk the Scottish Premier League title again this season, and likely will do.
Ronny Deila is the new man in charge though and fans will be looking to him to ensure Celtic make a splash in Europe too, at least getting to the group stage of the Champions League.
Celtic were already "knocked out" by Legia Warsaw in the qualifiers, only to be reinstated after the Polish side fielded an ineligible player. The reprieve means Celtic face Maribor in the third qualifying round and a far-better display has to be brought forth by Deila to ensure his side reach the groups.
Arsenal have strengthened in the transfer market this summer, but their main out-and-out striker continues to be Olivier Giroud—their only senior striker, in fact.
Yes, they have promising young centre-forwards and a host of seniors who don't play as a No. 9 but could, but the burden continues to fall on Giroud to put in performances and score the goals to lead the Gunners' line.
He didn't do that against Besiktas in the Champions League qualifier and questions continue to be asked of whether he is good enough to do so over the course of a season to challenge for major honours.
Rafael Benitez took Napoli to third place in Serie A last season, but summer signings haven't been overly ambitious or exciting and their Champions League participation for the season is in some doubt.
Their first-leg qualifier against Athletic Bilbao ended in a 1-1 draw, at home, giving the Spanish side a valuable away goal.
Benitez simply must take his side into the Champions League and oversee an improvement in league-points haul this term, or else be seen as having regressed a Napoli team which finished second and won the domestic cup in 2012 before he took over.