It was a brilliant weekend of Premier League action, with great goals, red cards, late drama, and shambolic defending.
Manchester United have made early claims on the title, Manchester City scrounged out three points in a dramatic finish, while Arsenal invited immense scrutiny as they put in an insipid performance at Anfield.
Spurs’ Wembley woes continued and Chelsea proved their early doubters wrong with a dominant showing against a disappointing Everton.
Here are some talking points from the weekend’s games.
1. Manchester United look like the team to beat as Leicester’s setpiece woes continue
These were the type of games United struggled to win last campaign.
Leicester City were stubborn and well organised in defence and, while posing little threat of their own, as long as the scores were 0-0 they were always a chance. To then concede from a set piece will have disappointed Craig Shakespeare greatly.
United went on and sealed a precious three points. They remain the only club with a perfect start to the season – some will point to the fact it has been a soft start, but you can only beat what is in front of you.
2. The international break could not come sooner for Arsenal
There are a number of teams on this list but Arsenal would be top after an insipid display in their 4-0 loss to Liverpool. That they happen to Arsenal on average once a season is beside the point.
The heat will be on Arsene Wenger, but it is more important how you respond to defeats. The break could be a blessing or curse – ultimately, it will be defined by their next performance. Sometimes a game shortly after a big loss provides quick redemption, on other occasions it provides a chance to rest injured players, and work hard in training. Only time will tell…
Crystal Palace deserve a mention here, as Frank de Boer endured a difficult start to his Premier League managerial career, with three consecutive defeats. There is enough talent in this team to do better. You have to feel for them though, a top-ten finish seemed a realistic goal under Sam Allardyce, but his off-season departure has left another club in the lurch.
Hopefully Palace cope better than Sunderland did.
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3. Slaven Bilic under pressure as Hammers capitulate again
I like Slaven Bilic’s refreshing weekly columns in the London commuter paper, but his record as West Ham manager is mixed.
A mid-table finish papered over cracks last season but after spending big in the transfer window and with a relatively soft start, more would have been expected from the team.
Blame of course does not lie solely with Bilic. Defensively they are a shambles, having let in ten goals this season. Much of this comes from losing possession in dangerous areas.
The first two goals came off the back of turnovers in their deep in their own half. That said, Joe Hart made some vital interventions to keep the scoreline down.
Winston Reid is a good defender and he is sorely missed but defence is a mentality and hard work with the right system can achieve great things. Perhaps Bilic needs to peel back the attacking flair and focus on defensive solidarity and minimsing errors in the wrong areas.
4. Aussie watch: Another good week for Aaron Mooy and Mat Ryan
Aaron Mooy was excellent again, playing an energetic 90 minutes in Huddersfield’s 0-0 draw with Southampton. After a difficult start, Mat Ryan kept his first clean sheet in the EPL and in the process helped earn Brighton their first point of the season.
5. Burnley will cause headaches for a lot of teams
A late Chris Wood goal helped Burnley share the spoils against Spurs, but to say the draw was due to Tottenham’s Wembley woes does a disservice to the away side. They were well organised, guarded the edge of the box well, forced Spurs to shift it from side to side, and blocked any long range shots. Burnley broke well and caused Spurs headaches on the counter.
Spurs did dominate possession and had several good chances to seal the points, but Tom Heaton continued his brilliant form from last year.
Spurs are slow starters and last year it ended up costing them the title. The ramifications of dropping early points may be similar again.
6. Raheem Sterling’s send off was a disgrace
In a pulsating encounter at Bournemouth, Manchester City came from behind to snatch three points with a 97th minute deflected strike from Raheem Sterling. Sterling proceeded to celebrate near the away fans, which resulted in several moronic fans jumping the barrier to enter the field of play, before security intervened.
Sterling was subsequently shown a second yellow card for inciting crowd encroachment (at least that is what I believe it was for), leading to his dismissal.
It is a ridiculous rule and common sense needs to prevail. I for one cannot understand why players get yellow carded for taking their shirt off, and this is an extension. If players cannot celebrate in front of or with their fans, then what has football come to?
I am sure the security guards have a different view of this, but players want to celebrate with fans and I am yet to see an unsavoury incident as a result of this during my ten years or so following the Premier League.
From a footballing persepctive, Sterling though has become something of a revelation. Last Monday night he posed a real threat against Everton and on he Saturday scored the match winner.