VAR saves Spurs at the Etihad again & Wolves hold United – PL 10
In the first edition of PL 10, Jamie Braidwood looks at ten big talking points from the weekend’s Premier League action, as the second week of VAR produced more questions than answers.
Manchester City 2-2 Tottenham Hotspur
VAR wasn’t the only reason City didn’t win
I could write this entire column on whether Gabriel Jesus’ goal in the dying seconds was rightly/wrongly disallowed by VAR, but the fact of the matter is that the match should never have been that close in the first place. City were excellent and deserved to win but they also gave up two cheap goals. Lamela’s opener came from Ederson losing his bearings and finding himself away from the centre of his goal while Lucas’ equaliser was a flick on from a simple near-post corner.
The goals will give encouragement to any side who will face City this season. Through Ederson’s positioning, Guardiola’s team leave themselves open — it’s no coincidence that Spurs’ only other effort was Harry Kane’s shot from inside his own half, presumably after spotting Ederson way off his line — and are yet to prove they can defend set pieces in this post-Vincent Kompany era. Not all teams will be as ruthless as Spurs were, however.
Wolves 1-1 Manchester United
United pay for lack of attacking options on the bench
Manchester United were extremely good for the first 45 minutes of their draw against Wolves on Monday night, with new signings Daniel James and Aaron Wan Bissaka injecting speed into a free flowing system designed to play off the pace of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial. Paul Pogba’s penalty miss later in the game will undoubtedly dominate the post match discussion, but it rather takes away from an overall poor showing in the second half, one which crucially highlights the lack of options available to manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on the United bench.
While Wolves were able to introduce the rapid Adama Traore at half time to devastating effect, United waited until the 80th minute to make their first substitution. Even then, it was the changing for one ineffective No. 10 for another in Jesse Lingard for Juan Mata, while the attacking options behind him in Andreas Pereira and Mason Greenwood are hardly inspiring. Contrast that to the dramatic impact Traore made and you can see what United are missing. Solskjaer’s starting eleven is strong, the first half showed that, but their lack of depth will be exposed throughout the season.
Chelsea 1-1 Leicester
A goalscorer is all Chelsea are missing
Frank Lampard’s wait for his first win as Chelsea manager goes on, but in the end Chelsea were incredibly fortunate to come away with a point. Leicester were shockingly poor in the opening 10 minutes and Chelsea should have killed the game off after going 1-0 up. But the away side steadied before James Maddison took over with an inspired second-half performance. Chelsea were lucky Leicester were so wasteful in the big moments of the match, with Maddison missing a golden chance to take all three points late on.
Chelsea were clearly second best in the second half but, like their 4-0 opening defeat to Manchester United and Super Cup defeat to Liverpool, they created enough opportunities to put the game to bed early on. Mason Mount shone in the No. 10 role and really should have scored a hat trick while Christian Pulisic and Pedro were tidy enough but didn’t offer a goalscoring threat. Without Eden Hazard or a guaranteed goalscorer, expect Chelsea to be involved in a lot of close games this season.
Southampton 1-2 Liverpool
Liverpool are up for the grind again this season
With just two rest days in between their Super Cup triumph against Chelsea in Istanbul and their Saturday showing against Southampton, Liverpool would have snapped your hand off for a simple three points at St Mary’s. Jurgen Klopp’s side came away with just that, and although they were far from their best in the first half and were made to sweat after Adrian’s late howler threw Southampton a lifeline, they did just enough to get over the line.
Liverpool have grown rather good at winning when not playing well under Klopp and it’s something they will need to get used to again this season due to their hectic schedule. They have midweek Champions League fixtures to come plus their participation in the Club World Cup in December. There will be times, like at Southampton, where Liverpool may rely on an excellent 30-minute spell to win them the game, rather than a complete performance. But as Adrian’s error threatened to show, there can be no margin for error as they attempt to push Manchester City to the title.
Arsenal 2-1 Burnley
Ceballos shines at home, but will he be trusted on the road?
Optimism is high at the Emirates after Arsenal opened their Premier League season with back-to-back wins for the first time since 2009. But it was the performance Dani Ceballos that stole the show. The Real Madrid loanee was excellent in the centre of midfield and will do extremely well in England based on Saturday’s showing. The Spaniard’s touch and feet were exquisite, but Ceballos was also combative and looked to be the hardest working player on the pitch.
The big test for Ceballos will be performing like that away from home. Unai Emery didn’t start Ceballos at Newcastle last weekend and it will be interesting to see if he is trusted to start at Liverpool on Saturday. Arsenal’s away record was abject last season and Emery has shown through his treatment of Mesut Ozil that he won’t hesitate to drop his creative midfielders for away games. With one of Granit Xhaka and Lucas Torrera certain to come back into the side, has Ceballos done enough to keep his place?
Sheffield United 1-0 Crystal Palace
Palace’s reliance on Zaha will be an issue this season
Chris Wilder’s overlapping centre-backs got all the attention as Sheffield United returned to Bramall Lane and were featured live on TV for the first time since returning to the Premier League. United were excellent and far superior than an abject Palace team. They doubled up on Wilfried Zaha and the winger struggled throughout the game, with Palace having no alternate out-ball.
It is ridiculous that Palace didn’t sign a striker or another wide forward during the summer, despite receiving £50 million for Aaron Wan-Bissaka. The atmosphere at Bramall Lane was also excellent and United will have the beating of several Premier League sides who come visiting this season.
Norwich 3-1 Newcastle
Is Teemu Pukki the real deal?
Would it be fair to say that for a striker of a promoted side in the Premier League, 10 or more league goals would constitute a successful season? Well Teemu Pukki already has four in two games, following his hattrick against Newcastle on Saturday. It’s rare to see a striker from the Championship playing with such confidence in the Premier League — just look at the way Pukki took on the first-time volley for his opening goal — but after scoring 29 league goals last campaign the Finland international seems to have carried his form into the new season. Norwich will have a fun year if Pukki can continue this form over the next few months.
Everton 1-0 Watford
Silva on the way up, Watford on the way down?
Marco Silva’s decision to leave Watford for Everton last summer seems to be vindicated. Only four points separated the sides last season, but Watford arguably had a far better campaign than Everton after reaching the FA Cup final. The question at the time was whether Silva was worth all the fuss and although the jury is still out on this Everton team, you can now see why he made the switch to Merseyside.
Everton are a team on the up and will be encouraged by their run of clean sheets and the early performances of new signing Moise Kean. Watford, meanwhile, need to find their spark after slipping to their second consecutive defeat.
Brighton 1-1 West Ham
Despite offseason optimism, West Ham look no better than last season
Although Brighton will have no complaints with four points from two, Graham Potter’s side will be disappointed they didn’t finish off West Ham on Saturday. Brighton were the better team and created enough clear chances to win the game. West Ham looked ordinary without the injured pair of Felipe Anderson and new signing Sebastian Haller, but even with Manuel Lanzini and Pablo Fornals starting you would expect them to create more than 0.61 XG — the second lowest in the league this weekend behind Spurs. West Ham’s trip to Watford next weekend already looks significant and both teams will be desperate to secure a first win of the season.
Aston Villa 1-2 Bournemouth
Villa’s positive midfield can’t do it all
Bournemouth got off to the perfect start at Villa Park and found themselves 2-0 up in a blink of an eye, but the home side’s positive response will give them encouragement ahead of the new season. The concern for Villa is that their goalscoring threat seems to be predominantly coming from central midfield through the excellent John McGinn and Jack Grealish, while holding midfielder Douglas Luiz’s long range strike was their only goal of the day. More is required from the front three of Wesley, Trezeguet and Anwar El Ghazi, starting with their Friday night clash against Everton — which already looks like a cracker.