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Premier League: 10 Talking Points From the Weekend’s Action

Premier League: 10 Talking Points From the Weekend’s Action

Thursday, 22 August, 2019 - 06:30
Bournemouth’s Harry Wilson; Newcastle’s Joelinton; Arsenal coach Freddie Ljungberg. Composite: Getty/Shutterstock
London - The Guardian Sport

1) Ljungberg’s promotion reaping instant rewards for Arsenal

The inclusion of Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson against Burnley a week after they became the first pair of teenagers to start a Premier League game for Arsenal since Paolo Vernazza and Matthew Upson in 1998, was more evidence of Unai Emery beginning to trust his young players. That may have something to do with the promotion of the former under-23s coach Freddie Ljungberg to become the Spaniard’s assistant, with Willock particularly impressive alongside Matteo Guendouzi in midfield. The 19-year-old played in a more advanced role in the opening day win over Newcastle and shows how Emery is tapping into the former Sweden midfielder’s knowledge bank since he stepped up in the summer. “[Ljungberg] worked last year with the under-23s and we were very close, speaking about the young players,” he said. “It’s perfect and he helps me a lot. He has an advantage with the young players because he knows them very well.” Ed Aarons

2) Wilson steps up to suggest he can make it at Liverpool

Bournemouth moved quickly to sign Harry Wilson on loan from Liverpool when another exciting 22-year-old Welsh winger, David Brooks, suffered an ankle injury this summer. He made a fine first appearance for Eddie Howe’s side during Saturday’s win at Aston Villa. Beyond getting lucky when his long-range shot deflected into the net for what proved the winning goal, Wilson was fast and inventive in possession. Playing for Bournemouth is a step up after doing well on loan at Derby last season. If he continues performing like this he will be ready to make another step up when he goes back to Liverpool next season. “We’re very grateful that [Liverpool] trusted us with Harry for the next stage of his learning and development to try to play in the Premier League,” said Howe. “He’s got unique qualities that will serve him well.” Paul Doyle

3) Trossard key to Potter’s bid for freedom

During Brighton’s first two seasons of Premier League football, their solidity came at the cost of invention. The players Chris Hughton hoped could provide a spark from the wing, Anthony Knockaert and José Izquierdo, never did on a consistent basis, the former now loaned to Fulham and the Colombian missing the start of the season after a knee operation. Graham Potter’s overhauling of the team’s style offers greater freedom and involvement for forward players. The signs from Leandro Trossard – the debutant playing off the left of an attacking trident against West Ham – were more than promising. Before his volleyed equaliser, executed sublimely, he had a goal chalked off when VAR ruled Dan Burn offside. Comparisons with his Belgian compatriot Eden Hazard have already been floated in East Sussex. John Brewin

4) Kante’s role remains a conundrum even after Sarri’s exit

Frank Lampard is still seeking the right blend of solidity and creativity in his midfield and his first week of competitive action has exposed his options. Chelsea may have dazzled through the opening periods of the draw with Leicester but their best display arguably came in Istanbul when the 4-2-3-1 Lampard had hoped to implement was tweaked for something more akin to a 4-3-3 with Jorginho as its central anchor. N’Golo Kanté had operated to the right in a role similar to that inflicted on him by Maurizio Sarri, but still thrived. At times against Leicester, who were dominant after the interval, Chelsea yearned for proper control, with Jorginho and Kanté labouring after the exertions in midweek and Mateo Kovacic still lacking dynamism. Manchester United and Leicester have now found it too easy to exert a grip in central areas. Perhaps a three is the way to go, even with its implications for the Frenchman’s positioning. Dominic Fifield

5) Rodgers switch leaves ‘young Frank’ floundering again

Brendan Rodgers frantically scribbled in his notebook at Stamford Bridge before half-time. There was plenty to discuss after a first 45 minutes in which his Leicester team failed to impose themselves. Chelsea under “young Frank”, as Rodgers referred to his opposite number in a pre-match radio interview, had started dangerously against both Manchester United and Liverpool only to struggle once the opposition adapted. Just as Ole Gunnar Solskjær and Jürgen Klopp threw Lampard’s Chelsea off their flow, so did a Rodgers switch. Heavy pressing and fast transitions might have stolen the match late on had James Maddison or Youri Tielemans finished less hastily. Leicester aim to be best of the rest and while also reasserting the new Chelsea’s teething problems, their revival was promising. John Brewin

6) Mina marshalling the Premier League’s meanest defence

When Gabriel Jesus headed in Manchester City’s second goal at Goodison Park on 6 February it was the fifth time Everton had conceded on home soil in five days. They have not let in another at Goodison since and only the Premier League champions have kept more clean sheets in 2019 than Marco Silva’s team. Saturday’s hard-fought win over Watford came with a sixth consecutive home clean sheet, Everton’s 10th in the last 13 games in total. After losing to City in February, Everton were beaten 1-0 at Watford, but have been unrecognisable since the 17-day break that followed defeat at Vicarage Road. Marco Silva credits the turnaround with an increased work ethic throughout the team, starting with relentless pressing from the front, but key individuals have also improved as Saturday underlined. Jordan Pickford was calm and commanding when called upon while his central defenders, Michael Keane and Yerry Mina, excelled. Andy Hunter

7) Dignity defines Guardiola’s quest for greatness at City

Pep Guardiola came out with a neat take on how he believes Manchester City are gracing football: “I think we dignify this sport, we dignify the people who pay to watch us and see how honest we are – to play for the people,” he said. “And, more than anything, I would like – when I finish my period here – to leave that. The first season [2016-17], but especially the last two seasons, we were an incredible team.” This offers a clue as to what continues to drive a manager who has overseen a historic domestic treble and consecutive titles at the club: the challenge of creating an era that will be defining not only for City but the wider sport. The draw with Spurs came after Gabriel Jesus’s late strike was ruled out via VAR due to handball and Guardiola was also dignified regarding that decision. “I know against which team we played today,” he said. “That’s why I said to the players, it’s emotional, it’s frustrating to lose two points in that way but football is like this.” Jamie Jackson

8) Joelinton’s wastefulness undermines Bruce’s basic approach

Just how much trouble are Newcastle in? They were well beaten by a classy Norwich side who set about the Magpies just as they did so many Championship teams last year. Steve Bruce bemoaned his team’s lack of work off the ball and called them in for training on Sunday to stop it happening again. But there is a view that says his team could not actually have done much better. Their tactics were simply to contain the promoted side and rob the ball at moments of maximum vulnerability. This basic approach created two good opportunities at 0-0 only for first Emil Krafth then Joelinton to fluff their lines. At the same time the strategy hardly screamed of confidence in the players at Bruce’s disposal. Krafth and Joelinton have just arrived on Tyneside. The £40m forward, in particular, will have to improve if Newcastle are to keep clear of trouble. Paul MacInnes

9) Innovative Wilder showing appearances can be deceptive

Newly promoted teams are invariably adrenaline high in August, often clocking up their best run of results during the weeks before the clocks go back and winter’s grim realities begin to bite. Over-hyping can be a danger but there should also be a recognition that Sheffield United’s Chris Wilder is not a manager to be patronised. Instead Wilder serves as a warning that assumptions are dangerous and appearances can be deceptive. True, he sounds and looks a little rough around the edges but in recent seasons he has arguably been the most innovative coach in England. Imagine the excitement if Pep Guardiola or Jürgen Klopp had been credited with inventing overlapping centre-halves. Wilder may not be smooth enough for some, may seem too parochial for others but snobbery should be suspended. Louise Taylor

10) Valery and Hasenhüttl give Southampton reasons for cheer

Another game, another defeat for Southampton but all associated with the team should take encouragement from how they performed against Liverpool. The hosts more than matched their opponents during the first half and, while somewhat overwhelmed after the interval, they stayed in the contest and ultimately came within a firmer Danny Ings touch of snatching a draw. What generally impressed about Southampton’s display was their balance and organisation within a 3-5-2 formation. Everybody looked comfortable in their respective positions and there is a definite gameplan: stay compact, press at the right times and stretch the play whenever possible. In that regard Yan Valery looks as if he could be a particularly potent weapon for Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side. The 20-year-old was a consistently threatening presence on the right wing and it was from his excellent cross that Southampton could have, and should have, equalised. Sachin Nakrani

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