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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, 5 September, 2019 - 06:30
Fabinho shone for Liverpool, Manchester City’s Aymeric Laporte suffered a worrying knee injury and Fabian Delph stood out in Everton’s win over Wolves. Composite: Getty/Offside/Reuters/PA

1) David Luiz typifies Arsenal defensive issues

You have to wonder what was going through the minds of the Arsenal hierarchy over the summer when they belatedly decided that David Luiz was the answer to their defensive issues. There is no doubting the positives of the Brazilian’s play; David Luiz can change games with his passing and prowess in the opposition box but his propensity for switching off is there for all to see. Unai Emery played three defensive midfielders at home against Tottenham, and one suspects he has limited faith in his defence, as proved by the counterattack for the opener, which saw David Luiz wander off and an unmarked Christian Eriksen tap into an empty net after a goalkeeping error. At least January is not too far away and Arsenal can plan once more to solve their problems, preferably not with a deadline-day signing. Will Unwin

2) Fabinho’s influence growing for Liverpool

There is a view among observers that Liverpool’s current team contains world-class talent in goal, defence and attack, but that their midfield is made up of carthorses who basically run around a lot. It’s often said and always wrong, and anyone in doubt of that should watch Fabinho’s display in the victory against Burnley. The Brazilian was outstanding in a defensive midfield role, combining tactical maturity with natural athleticism. He completed 82.3% of his passes, won 66.7% of his tackles, made five recoveries and even found the time to earn a free‑kick. The 25‑year‑old has become a fundamental figure for the European champions and deserves to be recognised as one of the best players in his position right now. Sachin Nakrani

3) Azpilicueta has lost his reliability

Chelsea’s inexperience is one reason why they are dropping points but Frank Lampard also has concerns over one of his most seasoned players. César Azpilicueta has gone off the boil in recent months and the right-back had another poor game in the 2-2 draw with Sheffield United. The 30-year-old’s lack of confidence was evident when Enda Stevens zigzagged past him to tee up Callum Robinson just after half‑time, and he was unable to block the cross that led to Kurt Zouma’s own goal handing United a point in the 89th minute. Those slips will surely not have escaped Lampard’s attention and although Azpilicueta has mostly been a reliable performer since joining in 2012, he could benefit from a spell out of the side. The case grows every week for Reece James, another of Chelsea’s aspiring academy products, to be given a chance when he has recovered from an ankle injury. Jacob Steinberg

4) Palace flying high while lacking firepower

Roy Hodgson left his post-match media duties on Saturday night to walk straight into a meeting with one of Crystal Palace’s major shareholders, the American Josh Harris. So it was perhaps indicative of what the manager had on his mind that he had volunteered a reminder to the press that the club’s summer pursuit of forward reinforcements had been frustrated. Those issues would not be masked by the team’s best start in four years. “We’re not a bad football team, we looked dangerous and, although we didn’t get the centre‑forward we were hoping to get in the transfer window, we still have good firepower up front,” said Hodgson. “And we still have our powder dry and maybe a player will come up in January.” Harris and his compatriot David Blitzer are open to selling their stakes but, if that is has not been achieved by January, they will be clearly pressed to sanction further investment in this team. Dominic Fifield

5) Delph impresses on home Everton debut

Marco Silva made a bee-line for Richarlison after his match-winning display against Wolves, and rightly so. This would have felt like two points dropped for Everton, despite their vast improvement on the corresponding fixture last season, without the Brazilian’s decisive contribution. Less heralded but no less important in the victory was Fabian Delph, making his first appearance at Goodison Park since his summer transfer from Manchester City and showing precisely why Everton wanted his bite and maturity in central midfield with a commanding display. His value has increased to Silva in the absence of the injured Jean-Philippe Gbamin and he ensured Rúben Neves was unable to dictate Wolves’s play as he would like. “It was a very good performance and Fabian is not in his best physical condition yet,” said Silva. “He will improve even more. For Fabian and Alex [Iwobi] it is easier than some of the other new signings because they know the Premier League. Nothing is new for them only that they are now playing in our blue shirt.” Andy Hunter

6) Howe’s Bournemouth too open for comfort

Given the praise lavished on Harry Wilson in recent weeks, it is only fair to observe that he did nothing at Leicester on Saturday. That can happen with young players. More concerning was that Bournemouth suffered from an old problem. The team who conceded as many away goals last season as relegated Fulham and Huddersfield left themselves daftly open at the King Power Stadium. Partly that could be attributed to absences enforced by injury. But it was also down to an approach that played into Leicester’s hands. Eddie Howe’s attacking instincts are great but he needs to find a better balance when his teams go on the road, especially against sides who thrive on counterattacking. He also needs better defenders. Whatever happened to that Tyrone Mings guy that Bournemouth had but seldom used? Oh. Paul Doyle

7) Laporte lay-off would leave City short

If Aymeric Laporte is, as Pep Guardiola fears, ruled out for the long term with the knee injury he sustained against Brighton, Manchester City have a defensive headache. Although John Stones should return soon it will still leave the champions with two senior center-backs, the loss of Laporte and the departure of Vincent Kompany cutting a swathe from their resources. Fernandinho can fill in and Guardiola suggested Kyle Walker might too but there is a risk they may regret not replacing Kompany – something Guardiola claimed they could not do. “Sometimes we cannot afford it like other teams,” he said. “The club tell me: ‘You have a limit, you cannot go forward, maybe in the future but not now’ … so we are going with what we have.” He made a point of mentioning City’s academy and name-checked two teenage defenders, Eric Garcia and Taylor Harwood-Bellis. Perhaps that was more of a message to City’s powers that be before January; it would be a stretch for them to complete a season looking this thin. Nick Ames

• Match report: Manchester City 4-0 Brighton

8) Apathy reigns as Newcastle fans stay away

A crowd of 44,157 remains beyond the dreams of several Premier League clubs but, at Newcastle, it spells apathy and disillusionment. This was the lowest league attendance for a top-tier game at St James’ Park since December 2012. It was no surprise to Joe Halliday, a spokesman for the pressure group “Empty for Ashley”, which encourages fans to boycott games in a bid to force Newcastle’s unloved owner to sell up. “We’re becoming a zombie club,” Halliday said. “Thousands of fans didn’t renew their season tickets and are unwilling to continue filling Mike Ashley’s pockets. The lack of ambition shown by the current ownership is leading to fans turning their backs on a club they once loved – it’s heartbreaking.” If an underwhelming draw did not help Steve Bruce to confound his critics, Watford’s first point of the season almost certainly saved Javi Gracia’s job – at least for now . Louise Taylor

9) Saints forwards’ endeavors going unrewarded

Southampton did not exactly blow the Manchester United house down but, despite their equaliser coming via 6ft 6in defender Jannik Vestergaard, there were a few green shoots in terms of Ralph Hasenhüttl’s attacking ammunition. Danny Ings and Che Adams may have contributed only a single goal between them in five matches but were unrelenting in their work-rate without having anything to show for it at St Mary’s. “I would have more problems with them if they did not even have a chance to score,” Hasenhüttl said. “They had chances so I am confident. Don’t forget they work so hard against the ball.” Coupled with Sofiane Boufal – who has shown glimpses of talent since being reintegrated into the first team – Moussa Djenepo, Nathan Redmond and Shane Long, there are no shortage of options in Saints’ forward ranks. Ben Fisher

10) West Ham attack has huge potential

It was only one game and Norwich were particularly obliging opponents, but West Ham gave a glimpse of exciting possibilities. Their front four started together for the second time and recorded a second win in the process. Sébastien Haller, Andriy Yarmolenko, Manuel Lanzini and pick of the bunch, Felipe Anderson, all bring different skills to the table and each blended harmoniously against the Canaries. Anderson’s runs with the ball, Yarmalenko’s runs without, Lanzini’s passing and Haller’s hold-up play all made a difference. More than that, they worked hard and to Manuel Pellegrini’s tactical plan. Constantly interchanging possessions, they befuddled Norwich’s defence. They doubled up on the flanks, not only nullifying the Canaries’ expansive full-backs but robbing them of the ball. The quartet showed an understanding that belied the short time they have been together and, as Pellegrini suggested, delivered the kind of display he hopes his side can deliver on a regular basis this season. Paul MacInnes

(The Guardian)

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