Jack Hallows looks back at the third game week of the Premier League and analyses five of the key talking points from the competition.
Another week of Premier League football, another bout of excitement, surprises and entertainment in abundance.
There was an incredible result for Premier League new-boys Wolves, Fulham found the back of the net more times in 45 minutes than they had in their first two games combined, Watford’s excellent start rolled on and Tottenham Hotspur compounded Mourinho’s misery.
I can’t wait to get stuck into this one!
Fearless Wolves and a headache for Guardiola
Be honest, nobody saw that coming – not least because Guardiola’s men had just come off the back of a 6-1 victory over Huddersfield the weekend prior.
The result of the week certainly goes to Wolverhampton Wanderers who, despite having all the odds stacked against them, became the first team of the 2018/19 campaign to take points from Manchester City.
There were definitely elements of fortune in the Premier League new-boys’ result with Willy Boly’s goal provided courtesy very much of his hand rather than his head while Aguero and Sterling both rattled the woodwork.
However, as much as talent will get you places in football, it’s hard graft and being able to ride your luck when you get it that can make all the difference in this game.
Where this game was particularly interesting, was the fact that while Wolves lined up in a 5-4-1 formation that resembled a potential bus parking, it was actually anything but!
Where this version of a 5-4-1 differed from what we saw from Huddersfield on game week two, was that Nuno Espírito Santo’s men didn’t just sit and defend deep, they actually looked to keep City in the midfield as much as possible.
Even the very best in football are going to struggle to dictate the midfield battle against Guardiola’s men but with Kevin de Bruyne not available, there was evidently a feeling that you’ll be far more likely to have success when you try and disrupt their rhythm in the middle of the park and keep them away from your goal.
While this tactic didn’t stop City creating chances as such – the ‘Cityzens’ had 18 shots throughout – it did somewhat reduce the quality as only a third of their shots found the target.
It also evidently allowed Wolves to create chances of their own on the counterattack – Diogo Jota, in particular, having a glorious chance to win it late in the second half – and the newly promoted side had 11 shots of their own, making the most of the space left by Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy.
Have Wolves provided a blueprint for the rest of the teams in the lower regions of the Premier League table when playing City? Probably not.
Not many sides below the top six boast a midfield of the quality that Wolves do with Ruben Neves, in particular, excellent once again.
Either way, it was a brilliant tactical showing from Nuno Espírito Santo and whether it helps other sides in the league or not, it’s certainly something for the manager and his players to feel proud of.
Fulham fill their boots in six goal thriller!
You don’t see too many six goal thrillers involving Sean Dyche’s Burnley side!
The Clarets were, however, involved in the match of the weekend but unfortunately for Dyche and his men, they were on completely the wrong end of it.
Given their Europa League finish last season, Burnley would’ve gone into the fixture at Craven Cottage with a lot of confidence but it took just minutes for Jean Michaël Seri to show that this Fulham team are no push-overs.
The former Nice midfielder wound up a strike from outside the box and rocketed it into the top corner to make it 1-0.
Burnley capitalised on some poor defending to make it 1-1 but two instances of poor defending of their own allowed the London side to take a 3-1 lead.
Burnley pulled another one back before the break – yes, before the break – to make it 3-2 but Fulham simply took the sting out of the game in the second period before an Andre Schurrle goal secured the result.
Questions were asked over Fulham’s Premier League prospects during the opening weekend when they had chances to take a lead over visitors Crystal Palace, only for their finishing to let them down.
They certainly showed their propensity to learn from those mistakes against Burnley!
Red mist descends on Bournemouth VS Everton
It was looking good for our City neighbours on their trip to Bournemouth.. for a short while anyway.
Despite new-boy Richarlison seeing Red for being provoked into giving Adam Smith a “head-butt” just before half time – and I use the term lightly – Theo Walcott put the Toffees ahead in the 56th minute before Adam Smith ironically saw red himself.
Michael Keane’s header then trickled over the line shortly after, wrapping up an eventful 15 minutes for Everton to make it 2-0.
Quite incredibly, Bournemouth’s reputation as always being up for a comeback in the face of adversity continued, with Josh King’s penalty giving the Cherries a lifeline 15 minutes from time before defender Nathan Ake popped up to grab an equaliser – something the defender seems to have found a knack for doing!
The major talking point from the fixture though has to be Michael Keane’s late injury.
The Everton and England centre back was carried off the field after what looked a concerning head injury and it has since been confirmed that the defender has a fracture to his skull.
The scenes brought back horrific memories of the Ryan Mason injury sustained in 2017 during a clash of heads with Gary Cahill that subsequently forced the midfielder to retire from football for his own safety.
All of us here at ‘RTK’ wish Keane a speedy recovery and we hope that the defender will be able to take to the pitch again once fully healed. Sometimes things are simply more important than football.
Watford’s winning ways
Over to Watford now as their impressive start to the 2018/19 season continues.
Javi Gracia’s Hornets made it three out of three with a 2-1 home victory over Crystal Palace on the weekend and despite a late Wilfried Zaha goal opening the contest up, they refused to falter.
Roberto Pereyra in midfield has been a revelation for Gracia’s side, the former Juventus player scoring three goals over as many games while the defence has looked far more assured than at times during the campaign just gone.
Of course, Watford did start the last Premier League campaign brightly too.
An opening day draw against Liverpool was followed by only two losses in their opening nine games – away to Chelsea and at home to Manchester City – before they trailed off horrendously during the latter part of the season.
That said, much of their drop off was down to the distraction over Marco Silva’s situation at the time and with Gracia having had six months to bed in last season and now a summer window under his belt, the Hornets will be hoping to avoid a repeat.
The early signs are certainly good, they just have to ensure they continue in the same vein.
For Palace, however, it’s been a real mixed bag to start their campaign.
They started the season well, taking advantage of some poor finishing from Fulham on the opening day to prevail in the first ‘London derby’ of the season before putting in a good showing against Liverpool despite the 2-0 loss.
In truth, they probably should’ve left Vicarage Road with at least one if not all three points but a mixture of good keeping from Ben Foster and some wasteful finishing meant that Wilfried Zaha’s late strike was their only goal of the fixture.
Creating chances doesn’t seem to be as much of an issue as at the start of last campaign when the Eagles went on a record barren run under Frank de Boer.
However, if Roy Hodgson and his men are going to truly realise their potential – and to be fair to them they do possess the foundations to have a lot of it – this season, they really do need to be scoring more chances than they miss.
Spurs compound Mourinho Manchester misery
The weekend was rounded out with the headline fixture of the round: Manchester United VS Tottenham Hotspur.
In truth, it was a really strange game.
WhoScored have Manchester United as lining up in a 3-5-1-1 with Ander Hererra at centre back while Sky before the game reported it as a 4-3-2-1 with Pogba joining Lingard in support of Lukaku.
In truth, whatever the formation was, it was chaotic and almost impossible to quite figure out when watching.
Unsurprisingly, the Red Devils style of play was not too dissimilar.
They did in fairness create a number of good chances that they failed to take advantage of – Romelu Lukaku’s open net miss springing to mind immediately – but the number of hopeful long balls and punts into space brought little inspiration.
It also perhaps didn’t help that between them, United’s midfield players Fred, Lingard, Pogba and Matic conceded possession 21 times while Spurs midfield operators on the night Dier, Demebele, Alli and Eriksen gave the ball up just nine times.
3-0 probably did flatter Tottenham in the end with the Londoners simply just making more of their big chances than United but it’s clear that Mourinho’s men are missing any form of an identity.
For United, the game was yet another case of waiting for opposition mistakes and looking to flashes of individual brilliance to carry them over the line, rather than a tactical masterclass.
I still find it befuddling that it’s come to this considering how Mourinho’s entire reputation was built around tactics and the mental side of the game but then again, it is his dreaded third season.
To leave the Spurs discussion at “3-0 probably did flatter Tottenham” would be doing them a disservice somewhat.
They had their hairy moments – Danny Rose, in particular, was poor throughout and was lucky to escape with one horrendous back pass – but overall this Tottenham side once again look a force to be reckoned with.
As ever though with Pochettino’s men, the starting XI is never a problem and with Lucas Moura, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen all available to back up Harry Kane, the Londoners are never going to struggle to pick up points.
The bench and reserves, however, are a very different story.
Fernando Llorente can have his moments but is far from a world beater, while Ben Davies, Harry Winks, Victor Wanyama and Serge Aurier don’t add massive amounts if their attack is having an off-day.
Their best option is probably Korean forward Heung Min-Son who currently is off competing in the Asian games and after having been at the World Cup over the summer, is likely to be exhausted upon his return.
Unlike a lot of Liverpool fans who watch the Premier League, I actually quite like this Tottenham side.
They play good football, have a likeable manager and they possess all the tools in their starting XI to really challenge the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea for the top spots in the Premier League this season.
However, if they’re ever going to successfully do more than ‘put the pressure on’ while balancing cup competitions and European football, they simply have to start spending some more money on their squad.
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 the weekend talking points, click here.