Jack Hallows looks back at the second game week of the Premier League and analyses five of the key talking points from the competition.
The Premier League as ever served up some real belters over the weekend.
There was the 3-2 thriller between Arsenal and Chelsea that showcased both the very best and very worst of Maurizio Sarri and Unai Emery’s teams, Brighton surprised everyone by bettering Manchester United by the same scoreline and Harry Kane grabbed his first ever August league goal.
There was definitely plenty to talk about over the weekend of action, so without further ado, let’s get right on into it!
Misfiring Arsenal and an incredibly open Chelsea
The headline fixture for the weekend was unarguably Arsenal’s trip to Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
It was not only the single ‘top six expectant’ clash of the weekend but was a real chance to get a proper look at the individual philosophies that Maurizio Sarri and Unai Emery are trying to employ at their respective new clubs.
The scoreline reflects that Sarri-ball came out on top but watching the game back, it could’ve been a very different story!
Sarri has done away with the 3-4-2-1 that previous Chelsea manager Antonio Conte often favoured, implementing the 4-3-3 that brought him so much success at Napoli but while the system is a familiar one for many of the players and the manager himself, there appear to be a few design faults.
Firstly, the role of N’Golo Kanté has been changed severely and while giving the Frenchman license to get forward, breaking his shackles somewhat if you will, it’s also meant that Chelsea look far more vulnerable defensively.
Jorginho is the man currently tasked with playing in the ‘6’ of Sarri’s system and it’s here that lies the key weakness. The Italian is a sublime ball-playing midfielder with a passing range of immense proportions but off the ball he’s incredibly immobile.
Where in Serie A this worked due to the slower pace of the league, the Premier League is at times a much more frantic, fast-paced proposition for players and if Sarri isn’t careful, tasking much of the defensive responsibility in midfield to Jorginho will surely back-fire.
Chelsea may have walked away victors on the weekend but really, they shouldn’t have done.
The combination of a lack of defensive cover from Jorginho and some fairly poor positioning from Marcos Alonso – who is still learning how to be a conventional left fullback – meant that Arsenal carved them apart down their right hand side time and again.
If it wasn’t for some absolutely horrendous finishing by Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan, the former Dortmund pairing both skying glorious cut-back opportunities from the wings, Arsenal could easily have won this game 5-3.
It’ll be interesting to see how Sarri changes his line-up over the coming weeks and I fully expect that the re-instating of Eden Hazard to the starting XI will see them go up yet another gear in attack but perhaps it’s the defence they should be focussing on.
Third season syndrome for Mourinho?
The shock result at the weekend came courtesy of Chris Hutton’s Brighton side this time around.
The south coast team hosted Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United and despite a mixed bag showing on the opening day from the Red Devils, you can never count them out against any opposition and they began this match as firm favourites.
A sublime little finish from Glen Murray put Brighton ahead and Manchester United never really looked like recovering fully.
Shane Duffy made it 2-0 after a penalty box scramble following a set piece and while Romelu Lukaku opened his Premier League account for the season to make it 2-1, Brighton were handed a boost just before half time after a brain-dead challenge by Eric Bailly gifted them a penalty and subsequently, a third goal.
Paul Pogba halved the deficit with seconds remaining in the match from the penalty spot but in truth, the result never really looked in doubt for Brighton.
Struggles when going forward are nothing new for this Manchester United team who, despite boasting some incredible attacking talent like Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial are often stifled by their manager’s tactics. However, it was the seeming ineptitude of their defence that surely has United fans worried.
The back four were all over the shop for the first two goals and the failure of any midfield players to even try and close down Brighton’s playmakers throughout was bizarre while Eric Bailly’s challenge for the penalty was eyebrow-raising.
In typical fashion, Mourinho looked to deflect the blame in his post-match press conference to anywhere that he potentially could but it already looks as if patience is wearing thin in all corners at Manchester United.
We even had some subtle overtures from Pogba who while talking about his own attitude seemed to call into question the preparations for the fixture, sparking a war of words between Paul Scholes and Pogba’s agent Mino Raiola.
Could we be in for another familiar showing of third season syndrome from Mourinho?
Richarlison x Marco Silva = match made in heaven?
Those who follow general Premier League football closely – especially those who partake in Fantasy Premier League – will know about the talent that is brimming within Everton new-boy Richarlison.
The 21-year old Brazilian forward was superb during the first half of last season for his former side Watford, popping up with a number of important goals and assists.
He finished the season with a reputation as being fairly wasteful but it’s only fair to highlight that during Marco Silva’s time at the club, he was almost unplayable for a number of sides.
His first 17 games of the Premier League season saw him score five and assist five including a period of eight games where he registered just as many direct goal contributions.
However, once Silva left the club after his position became untenable in January, everything went downhill for the forward and he failed to register a single goal or assist for the rest of the campaign.
It’s only fitting then that now, reunited with the man who brought so much out of him at Watford, he’s grabbed three goals in two games for his new club and looks completely revitalised.
An opening day double against Wolves was only enough to secure the Toffees a point but another goal against Southampton on the weekend helped Everton to their first win of the season and it’s looking as if Richarlison could be a huge addition for Silva’s men going forward.
He’s got a lot to do to live up to his £50m price tag of course but if he continues scoring goals and manages to extend his good form over the course of an entire season rather than tailing off halfway, his transfer could well be looked at as a good piece of business come season’s end.
Harry Kane breaks his August curse!
It had almost become a recurring joke amongst Premier League fans that one of the best strikers in the league had managed that many full campaigns without a single goal in the month of August.
The Spurs no.10 had previously accumulated an incredible 898 goal-less minutes over 13 Premier League August fixtures, attempting 44 shots – 10 of those on target.
When you consider that Kane has played 152 games in the Premier League total for Spurs, that means in 139 games outside of August, he’s managed 109 goals. That’s a phenomenal record and that in itself, makes the August drought just as incredible.
Step up Premier League new-boys Fulham on Saturday however as Kane was finally able to break his bizarre duck.
Spurs had looked laboured in their 2-1 win over Newcastle on the opening day and while they’d walked away from St James Park with 3 points, they arguably shouldn’t have. The hosts had played a blinder of a second half, rattling the crossbar and missing a glorious one-on-one chance when Kenedy was played through on goal.
How was Harry Kane in that match? Anonymous.
It’s perhaps only fitting then that given Kane looked far more up for it at Wembley on Saturday, Spurs as a whole looked far better – especially going forward.
The 25-year old in truth probably could’ve scored two or three but he’ll be content with the one that he managed 15 minutes from full time, slotting a crisp finish inside the far post to all but confirm the three points for Pochettino’s men.
Will Harry Kane start banging them in every August now? Who knows.
For now, though, that’s one monkey he’ll be very glad to have off his back and Spurs will be hoping it’s a good omen for the rest of their Premier League season to come.
Benjamin Mendy makes City even better
I didn’t think that Manchester City could actually get much better given how good they were last campaign but largely thanks to Benjamin Mendy, they’ve managed it.
The Frenchman was in stellar form on the opening day of the season, causing Arsenal all manner of problems with his surging runs up and down the left hand side, overlapping and underlapping at will and occasionally, even stepping inside to operate as almost a 10.
He ended up registering assists for both goals that City scored that day.
Against Huddersfield, he was given even more license to bomb forward as Guardiola opted to shelve the 4-3-3 for a 3-5-2 formation.
It’s been much debated as to whether the Catalonian would look to bring the formation back this season given he’d tinkered with it on occasion last campaign but due to Mendy’s injury, he hadn’t been able to successfully implement it.
Guess we have our answer.
Mendy was once again superb in City’s 6-1 victory over Huddersfield Town and his willingness to motor up and down the left flank meant that the reigning champions could happily load the box with Aguero, Gabriel Jesus and David Silva in particular wreaking havoc as the big Frenchman sent low cross after low cross in towards their feet.
The former Monaco wing-back finished the game having had 112 touches of the ball, completing six dribbles, sending in 12 crosses that resulted in three key passes and a further assist and registering 93 total completed passes – 74 of them in Huddersfield’s half.
If Mendy stays fit this campaign it’s fair to say that Guardiola truly does have another string to add to his bow and the Frenchman’s creativity, physicality and incredible crossing ability are going to go a long way towards helping City break down deeper lying defences – something Guardiola has complained about on numerous occasions.
There were, of course, numerous other positives from the fixture for the reigning champions.
Sergio Aguero continued his Guardiola renaissance with yet another hat-trick, Gabriel Jesus was back on the field and back on the scoresheet and the Citizens proved that they can cope without Kevin de Bruyne while also boasting at least a plan A and a plan B without any dips in quality across the two.
They’re going to be incredibly hard to beat this season and for anyone to finish ahead of them in the league, it’s going to take something truly special.
This is a rare non-Liverpool based article from our team here at Rousing the Kop, drawing the focus onto other teams in the Premier League. For an in-depth Liverpool-only version of weekend talking points, click here.