EPL 10 talking points from the weekend’s action

EPL 10 talking points from the weekend’s action

August 30, 2021 0 By Oha

Talking points from last weekend English premier league third match of the season.

1) Wolves need to keep main man

Wolves felt undermined by the officials following a third straight league defeat but another electric performance should raise few questions about their direction of travel under Bruno Lage. Unsurprisingly, Adama Traoré was at the centre of their front-foot display, repeatedly making a mockery of the price tags attached to the Manchester United defence and setting up a couple of golden openings. Wolves are in the relegation zone after three matches but it is hard to see them staying there. Traoré, Trincão and Raúl Jiménez caused no end of problems, before Daniel Podence arrived off the bench to provide further ammunition. Traoré is wanted by Tottenham before Tuesday’s transfer deadline but Lage was bullish when asked whether the winger would be staying put. “Adama’s future is not a question for me,” said the Wolves manager. “I see a player every day happy and working hard. I’m very happy with him.” Ben Fisher

2) Chelsea have squad and spirit to push for title

It may still be very early stages in Chelsea’s quest for their first Premier League title since 2017 but there is no doubt Thomas Tuchel has assembled a squad capable of going all the way this season. Their impressive rearguard at Anfield after Reece James’s dismissal, which turned the game on its head on Saturday, was testament to the positive environment the German manager has created among his players since he was appointed in January. “You can only play in the Premier League if you are a strong group and if you have the spirit to overcome difficulties and obstacles,” said Tuchel. “We still have stuff to improve absolutely but the key factor in the last half of the year was the atmosphere and the spirit. It was that we played like brothers and we could rely on each other. That was the case in the first three matches and this was the proof.” Ed Aarons

Chelsea showed plenty of team spirit on Saturday at Anfield.
Chelsea showed plenty of team spirit on Saturday at Anfield. Photograph: Javier García/Shutterstock

3) Guardiola leads defence of under-fire Arteta

After Arsenal put in rather too little resistance at the Etihad, the most staunch defence of Mikel Arteta came not from the their board or players, but from the manager who had inflicted the biggest defeat of his brief coaching career. “He is beyond a good manager,” said Pep Guardiola, though Arsenal could do with Arteta simply being a good manager. Guardiola found mitigating factors: a tough fixture list and an injury list that gave Arteta more absentees, even if the two Manchester City were missing were Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden. He cited Arteta’s success as his assistant. “My opinion of Mikel is beyond what people can imagine,” Guardiola said. “That’s why he’s so strong. I’m pretty sure he will be back on track.” Arsenal must hope so. Arteta must hope he is given the chance to vindicate Guardiola. Richard Jolly

4) Sissoko makes swift return to Spurs

Moussa Sissoko only cleared his locker at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Friday. Forty-eight hours later he was back, sporting Watford colours. It was a solid if not spectacular start, particularly as the Frenchman will have trained once at most with his new teammates. “The good players don’t need time to adapt,” said his manager, Xisco Muñoz, afterwards. Watford need good players, having lost Will Hughes to Crystal Palace and with Nathaniel Chalobah unlikely to sign a new deal. The electric pace that saw Sissoko burn Ashley Cole en route to a match-winning double on his Newcastle United home debut back in February 2013 may have gone but his power and willingness to run in midfield could prove crucial. Sam Dalling

5) Ragged defeat is missed chance for Norwich

To say the fixture computer was not kind to Norwich embraces understatement but losing to Leicester after facing Liverpool and then Manchester City must count as an opportunity squandered. Leicester lost Ricardo Pereira, limping off after his assist for Jamie Vardy’s opener, to add to five other injured defenders. Pereira looked troubled by the same right knee that kept him out for 310 days last season. This was not a chaotic, frantic match blessed with a quality of defending that Franco Baresi, for one, would disapprove of. Brandon Williams, loaned from Manchester United, had a difficult debut for Norwich at full-back while Çaglar Soyuncu made his customary lunge in presenting Norwich with their first goal of the season, a VAR-assisted penalty scored by Teemu Pukki. The Finn was then guilty of the offside that VAR ruled on to deny what would have been a late equaliser for Kenny McLean. Norwich stay on nil points, with only Arsenal below them. John Brewin

Brandon Williams is caught by Marc Albrighton. EPL talking points from weekend match
Brandon Williams had a tough Norwich debut. Photograph: Paul Marriott/Shutterstock

6) Gallagher offers welcome spark for Palace

Crystal Palace were stodgy in the first half against West Ham, offering little as an attacking force. Wilfried Zaha looked uninspired, Christian Benteke was isolated and there were times when Patrick Vieira’s hopes of creating a fluid passing side looked doomed. At full time, however, the mood was different. Palace were a different side after the break, pushing higher up the pitch, and much of that was down to a stirring performance from Conor Gallagher, whose energy and hunger for goals gave Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek plenty of problems. West Ham found it hard to stop Gallagher’s late runs into the box and the midfielder, who is on a season-long loan from Chelsea, punished them with two clever goals. The second was particularly impressive, Craig Dawson tied in knots before Lukasz Fabianski was beaten with a sharp finish, and the hope for Palace is that the 21-year-old will push on after a fine display. Jacob Steinberg

7) Bees’ Toney looks at home in top flight

“I like the comparison, I definitely see it,” said Thomas Frank when asked whether Ivan Toney is similar to Jamie Vardy. It’s not a question of a style, rather it is about the route the strikers took to the top. On Saturday at Aston Villa, Toney scored his first Premier League goal at the age of 25, while playing for his eighth club. It was an emphatic first-time finish, just like 30 of the 33 goals he scored in the Championship last season. He is such an obviously efficient marksman that one is mystified as to why it took him so long to reach this level and, in particular, how Rafa Benítez never gave him a chance at Newcastle. In addition to scoring, Toney works hard and smart for his team, linking up play, occupying defenders and winning headers in both boxes. “He gives us oxygen,” said Sergi Canós of his teammate’s ability to hold the ball up. “With him we can breathe and go again.” Toney is sure to score double figures in this campaign so long as he stays fit, as he, and Brentford, look at home in the Premier League. Paul Doyle

8) Gray proving to be bargain buy

The of sum £1.7m, pre-pandemic at least, is one top-tier clubs might have spent on a 15-year-old tearing up academy leagues. Rarely does it fetch you a Premier League starter, nor an English attacker coming into his prime. Yet in Demarai Gray, Everton have both. Still only 25, Gray has been a player of considerable promise for a while. Before his Merseyside arrival, Gray had started in a shade under 50% of his first-team appearances (104 from 210). Almost half of those came as a teenage prodigy for Birmingham City in the Championship. Rafa Benítez has trusted Gray from the off and has been rewarded by a pair of strikes; Saturday’s opener at Brighton followed on from last week’s Elland Road effort. Sometimes a player just needs a little TLC. Sam Dalling

Demarai Gray scores for Everton at Brighton
Demarai Gray is in fine form. Photograph: David Horton – CameraSport/CameraSport/Getty Images

9) Managers left with plenty to mull during break

There was food for thought for both Burnley and Leeds heading into the international break after Sunday’s fiery Roses clash between the sides. But for all the pizzazz and flair Marcelo Bielsa’s side have shown since returning to the Premier League, they needed to showcase a very different trait at Turf Moor. After being hustled and bustled in a physical encounter against Sean Dyche’s side, the reaction Leeds showed to salvage a point after falling behind to Chris Wood’s goal proves they are able to dig in and grind out a result if they need to. Bielsa will almost certainly be looking to rediscover Leeds’ creative touch in time for their return from the international break, though – as it has deserted them so far this season. Aaron Bower

10) Saints take point to pile pressure on Bruce

The last thing Steve Bruce needs is a date with Manchester United on the day Old Trafford celebrates Cristiano Ronaldo’s second coming. But that is the Newcastle manager’s fate on Saturday week, when he must somehow aim to end his team’s winless start to the season. Against Southampton, Newcastle were awful in the first half – provoking the first “Bruce out” chants of the campaign – but infinitely better after the break. Even so, their bad habit of switching off after taking the lead returned to haunt them twice, most notably when James Ward-Prowse secured Southampton a point courtesy of a 96th-minute penalty at a time when Bruce’s players evidently believed Allan Saint-Maximin’s 90th-minute goal had secured victory. Given the early chances missed by Moussa Djenepo, a win would have camouflaged the defensive vulnerabilities, particularly at wing-back, of a team overly reliant on Saint-Maximin and Callum Wilson. Louise Taylor