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

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

Wednesday, 18 September, 2019 - 05:45
Lewis Cook of Bournemouth; Roberto Firmino of Liverpool; Emi Buendia of Norwich City. Composite: Getty Images/AFP/BPI/REX/Shutterstock

1) Buendía delivers for biggest upset of the season

The way in which Norwich turned a negative into a positive was quite something. With nigh-on a full team of players out injured, the odds of stopping Manchester City looked insurmountable. Instead Daniel Farke’s men gave their best performance of the season by far, not only cutting the champions open but looking solid at the back for the first time. There was kudos for the debutants in defence, Sam Byram and Ibrahim Amadou, but also for more seasoned Norwich players. Emi Buendía and Marco Stiepermann were central to a buccaneering style in the Championship yet had struggled to bring that form to the top flight. With the gauntlet down, however, they delivered. Buendía contributed two assists and regularly sprung the City press. Stiepermann sparked several counter attacks and crucially reestablished his understanding with Teemu Pukki. Paul MacInnes

2) Sokratis the latest to show Arsenal must wise up in defence

There is a fine line between repeating an experiment until you reach perfection, and continuing it out of stubborn stupidity when the ingredients are clearly wrong. Which camp do you sit in where Arsenal, whose insistence on playing from the back was calamitous against Watford, and Unai Emery are concerned? They had flirted with danger several times before, in a near-action replay of Manchester City’s ridiculous third concession against Norwich, Sokratis Papastathopoulos’s sloppiness allowed Tom Cleverley to hand Watford a lifeline. Bernd Leno could be seen booting the ball long from a goal-kick, to cheers from the away fans, shortly afterwards but Ainsley Maitland-Niles almost let the home team in again later on as Arsenal tried to play short again. The new rule that allows players to receive a goal-kick inside the area has been grasped enthusiastically by many managers but it is not heresy to remind them you do not have to take advantage of it – particularly if your players are not up to the job. Nick Ames

3) Firmino reminiscent of Cantona

His collar is not popped like Eric Cantona and his character could not be more different from the philosophising Frenchman but Roberto Firmino reminded Steve Bruce of his former Manchester United colleague with his dismantling of Newcastle. Firmino emerged from the bench at Anfield to provide two glorious assists for Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah as Liverpool eventually broke a well‑organised Newcastle unit. “Cantona is as good a player as I’ve ever seen,” Bruce said. “I haven’t seen Firmino week in, week out but what he gives them is a perfect balance. Cantona gave us that. We had Giggs and Kanchelskis who had frightening pace and stretched sides so much like Liverpool’s two [Mané and Salah], and Cantona dropped into that hole and people couldn’t get anywhere near them. That’s what you see with Firmino.” Andy Hunter

4) Maguire deserved more from upset Leicester fans

Ole Gunnar Solskjær said Harry Maguire would not be too unsettled by the rancour he encountered from the away end at Old Trafford. And there are so many precedents – to cite just one example, the Blackburn fans’ treatment of Alan Shearer after the player had left Ewood Park – nobody should have been wholly surprised by the reception for Maguire from the section of Leicester fans. All the same, it did feel perplexing that a player could serve a club with distinction, as Maguire did for Leicester, then leave for £80m, taking care to handle a delicate situation in the right manner and earning the respect of his colleagues in the process, then become public enemy No 1 with their supporters. Maguire can reflect on a satisfying day, making it a frustrating occasion for Jamie Vardy, but he would be entitled to wonder why his first game for United against his old club took place against that kind of ill feeling. Daniel Taylor

5) Son as good with Kane as on his own

One school of thought last season was that Son Heung-min becomes a more incisive player when Harry Kane is not in the Tottenham side. Son often starred in a central role if Kane was out with an ankle injury and his performances seemed to dip whenever the team’s star striker returned, leading to talk that the South Korean forward needed to be given more freedom by Mauricio Pochettino. But the relationship between Kane and Son appeared to be in fine working order during this win. They were both excellent and their link play showed they are more than capable of flourishing in the same attack, especially when they combined brilliantly for Erik Lamela’s goal. There were also two dashing goals from Son and although Kane failed to get on the scoresheet, the England captain’s intelligent performance was a reminder of his impressive team ethic. Jacob Steinberg

6) Change forced on Wolves is making them weaker

The season began for Wolves with a lot of optimistic talk about whether they might be able to go one better than last season and break into the top six. They had shown they could beat the big sides; surely it couldn’t be that hard to maintain that but start winning against the teams in the bottom half of the table as well. But five games in, Wolves are still without a league victory. Although they improved drastically after half‑time, there was an odd passivity to them in the first half. Nuno Espírito Santo denied the Europa League was an issue, as he probably has to, but this is a recurring pattern. If nothing else, it has forced him to chop and change his team in a way that he didn’t last season. Wolves surely are too good to be seriously involved in a relegation scrap, but there needs to be an improvement soon. Jonathan Wilson

7) Cook dazzles on Bournemouth comeback

After nine months out, it was as if Lewis Cook had never been away. The Bournemouth midfielder returned to action with the kind of tenacity and grit that truly makes Eddie Howe’s side tick, not to mention the 22-year-old’s wonderful palette of passing. Cook orchestrated things before being given a well-earned breather 13 minutes from time. A standing ovation followed suit, with Howe equally enthused. “Incredible,” Howe said. “He handles the ball in any situation and you saw early in the match how he manipulated himself out of some really difficult holes.” With the summer recruits Lloyd Kelly, 20, and Arnaut Danjuma, 22, yet to make their debut for the club, there are reasons to be cheerful. “When we have more options, with some of the outstanding young players we have out injured, it’s going to be an exciting team to manage,” Howe said. Ben Fisher

8) Kean needs game time instead of Calvert-Lewin

Dominic Calvert-Lewin can certainly do a job in the Premier League, but if Everton want to move up the table it might be time for Marco Silva to consider starting Moise Kean for a run of games. Calvert-Lewin is happy to chase and battle but does not currently possess the requisite qualities to make him into a lone striker, despite his goal at Bournemouth. Kean, on the other hand, came off the bench at the Vitality Stadium and, along with fellow substitute Bernard, made Everton look more dynamic in the final third, even if they failed to provide the goals necessary to get back into the game. Kean is a young striker and has just arrived from Italy, so will need time to settle but he could adapt far quicker by being on the pitch and learning about the Premier League, rather than taking inspiration from his Everton colleagues. Will Unwin

9) Potter’s tweaks likely to bear fruit soon

Chalk came up against cheese on the south coast with a meeting of two clubs trying to consolidate their mid-table status by opposite means: Brighton through the pass‑and‑move blueprint of Graham Potter, Burnley by the no-frills ferocity of Dycheball. And as Brighton hogged possession while Burnley sent searching balls towards their strapping forwards, the game largely played out as expected. There was a certain irony, then, that the visitors’ late point came from a move of crisp one-touch passing, Matej Vydra’s flicked lay‑off slammed home superbly by Jeff Hendrick. Brighton’s eight-game winless run at the Amex Stadium may seem like cause for concern but Potter’s early tweak here – switching to a back four after a tepid opening half an hour – and the dominance it heralded suggests that his methods will serve them well in the long run. Alex Hess

10) VAR gives but Hasenhüttl knows it can take too

The officials were booed off, perhaps predictably given VAR had ruled out a Sheffield United goal for a fractional offside, failed to award a penalty when the ball hit James Ward-Prowse’s arm and not even managed to come to Billy Sharp’s aid when his studs lightly raked Stuart Armstrong’s shin. Yet though unpopular, two of the decisions were technically correct and the other endlessly debatable. “VAR is a fantastic tool, it makes the game fairer,” Ralph Hasenhüttl said. He would say that with the points in the bag, but the Southampton manager also accepted the handball interpretation will always prove subjective. “Maybe we got lucky today with the team in the replay room. Perhaps on another day a different set of officials will rule against us. We will have to accept that, because unintentional handball is always difficult for any referee.” Paul Wilson

The Guardian Sport

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