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Pogba 'leg breaker' ignored, Chelsea show 'class', Spurs make history: PL Talking Points

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30th August, 2021
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Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea laid down a marker at Anfield, Tottenham maintained a perfect record, while their north London rivals Arsenal suffered further misery at Manchester City, and Man United won a scrappy encounter at Wolves. Here are the Premier League’s match week three talking points.

Tuchel’s team lost Reece James to a handball on the goalline that allowed Mo Salah to equalise Kai Havertz’s opener at Anfield, but the Blues dug deep to see out a 1-1 draw with a resolute defensive display.

While Liverpool came at the visitors with intensity after the break, the Chelsea rearguard formation of 5-3-1 gave them very few chances.

“It was excellent the way they defended,” said former England manager and midfielder Glenn Hoddle on Optus Sport.

“You look at Tuchel, it is like they’ve got the three points.

“If you’re going to go on and win the league, you’ve got to go to places like Anfield and get a point or even win. With 10 men, to come out with something from the game, they looked organised, really solid, they looked a little bit threatening as well, there was a bit of a get out ball.

“It wasn’t just backs to the wall for the 45 minutes. I thought they were excellent today. They showed a lot of class, a lot of professionalism. The experienced players really did get them through.

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“You could see that side had clarity. I said at half-time it was a big half-time for Tuchel, emotionally going down the tunnel they were all over the place, so he must’ve done his work.”

It’s early but plenty of good judges see Chelsea as major contenders, not that it should be a surprise after two years of squad building and a Champions League trophy, and Tuchel said they were playing for each other “like brothers”.

“We have a long, long season to play and in the Premier League you can only play if you are a reliable team, if you’re a strong group, if you have the spirit to overcome difficulties and obstacles,” Tuchel said.

“Experiences like this, it says that in the moment we have what it takes. We have the spirit. It says that we have to take care about it and we are in a good way — nothing more.”

Does Pep need a striker?

The transfer window closes on Wednesday (AEST) and Manchester City’s pursuit of a new striker to replace Sergio Aguero seems to be coming to nought.

But Pep Guardiola seems relaxed, and why not, after his team hit five goals past Arsenal for a second straight 5-0 home win after an opening day loss to Tottenham.

Those 10 goals in a week have come from eight different goal scorers.

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City have missed out on Harry Kane and Cristiano Ronaldo – although Guaridola claimed he wouldn’t have signed the Portuguese star who has, instead, returned to Man United after the intervention of Sir Alex Ferguson.

“We don’t need a striker because we scored five goals,” Guardiola said after dispatching the dreadful Gunners.

“You will see during the season, when we don’t score, how many people say we need to sign a striker. We didn’t buy one. We tried but it’s sometimes not possible. Ferran Torres makes movements like the best strikers in behind, like Jamie Vardy.”

There will be bigger tests to come for City and it’s hard to judge them fairly against the team Mikel Arteta put out.

Arteta, struggling with injuries, went with a back five that had four players who are back up standard at best for a top six team – Cedric Soares, Calum Chambers, Sead Kolasinac and Rob Holding.

The recruitment and retention at the club is woeful and the decision to give Granit Xhaka an updated deal looks even more daft in the wake of an 11th red card in his time with the club.

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Guardiola defended Arteta, saying “the back-five today who played, okay they are good players, but they are not the players they need with Tierney, Ben White and Gabriel and many, many players that he has. Thomas Partey is not there.

“In football, people want result, result, result. Sometimes, you have the squad – look at us, except for Phil [Foden] and Kevin [De Bruyne], all the other people are ready.

“It is easy for me.”

The latest loss was another dagger for club icon Ian Wright, who called Soares an “absolute joke” for his shocking performance.

“Not enough endeavour, fight, not enough of anything,” Wright said.

“We knew this would be a tough game coming to City, without a doubt – but I didn’t think for a minute it would be that easy for City.”

“When you go a goal down, or two goals down, there must be some plan.

“Experienced players, there to help the youngsters at this club, are getting booked for ridiculous fouls and (getting) sent off.

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“It is worrying – because … first time manager, first time technical director, first time CEO – so much inexperience.”

Did Pogba foul Neves?

Mason Greenwood scored his third goal in three games to give Man United a fortunate 1-0 win over Wolves, who were denied by some David de Gea briliance.

United, who this week announced the return of Cristiano Ronaldo, handed first starts to Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho and made history by going a 28th league game without defeat on their travels.

But there was controversy in the lead up to the goal, 10 minutes from the end, with Wolves believing Ruben Neves was fouled by Paul Pogba in the buildup.

“Everyone saw it, everyone saw my leg. We always do meetings and everything with referees about VAR. I don’t know why,” said Neves.

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He said referee Mike Dean told him both he and Pogba had contested the ball. Neves was fuming: “I said ‘yes, we both go to win the ball but I was the one who touched the ball’. It’s a foul, a clear foul.”

Sky Sports pundit Graeme Souness branded the challenge “a leg-breaker” while ex-United midfielder Paul Ince added: “I don’t think it’s a foul, I think it’s a dangerous foul. Absolutely no (grey area).

“You look at the way Pogba’s boot was, it was a bad first touch, you see so many times in the Premier League when (that happens) the instinct is to lunge for it, and look at his studs. That is a dangerous position for his boot to be.”

The decision shone further light on new intrepretations this season aimed at upping the physical intensity of the competition.

In Man City’s second goal against Arsenal, Chambers was whacked in the face but VAR allowed the goal to stand, infuriating Arteta.

Spurs historic start

Son Heung-min marked his 200th Premier League appearance with the only goal as Tottenham made club history at Watford, to go top of the table.

His first half freekick, which appeared to be intended as a cross, floated in the goal.

It is the first time in Spurs’ history they have won their opening three matches in a league campaign without conceding and manager Nuno Espirito Santos is just the second boss to win each of his first three league games in charge of Spurs in the club’s history. Arthur Rowe was the other, in 1949.

Asked about going top Nuno said: “That doesn’t mean anything at all, that doesn’t mean anything.

“I invite everybody, not only the players, but our fans to don’t pay attention to that. Don’t pay attention to that. Let’s keep on working, we still have a long way and a lot of aspects to improve on.”

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