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Premier League

Key thoughts and analysis from Saturday's Premier League action

theScore examines the most important developments and biggest talking points from Saturday’s slate of action in England’s top flight.

Foden can fill De Bruyne’s shoes

It’s time to let Phil Foden cook.

With superstar midfielder Kevin De Bruyne sidelined long term after a relapse of the hamstring injury he suffered in last season’s Champions League final, Pep Guardiola turned to the young Englishman to assume the mantle as Manchester City’s central creator – both literally and figuratively – on Saturday against Newcastle United.

Foden didn’t disappoint.

The 23-year-old playmaker was the focal point of City’s progressive play at the Etihad Stadium, consistently finding dangerous pockets of space and breaking free from the shackles of Bruno Guimaraes and Sandro Tonali to create chances for his teammates. He popped up everywhere and crafted City’s winning goal by identifying a hole, bursting into the Newcastle penalty area with his quickness and cutting the ball back for Julian Alvarez, who picked out the top corner with a wicked strike.

Foden is a very different player to the Belgian superstar he’s currently replacing. De Bruyne is a more domineering physical presence who powers forward with the ball at his feet before picking out killer passes. Foden, meanwhile, glides across the pitch, using silky dribbling and his cerebral understanding of space to carve up the opposition. He’s constantly scanning the field, seeking out areas between the lines, and has the technical ability to twist and turn and create passing lanes that otherwise wouldn’t exist.

Losing De Bruyne is obviously a huge blow. But in Foden, City, now sitting on a club-record 17 consecutive home wins in all competitions, have someone with all the tools necessary to keep things ticking in his absence.

Big issues for Ten Hag to solve

Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag was afforded a certain amount of leeway by supporters and pundits alike last season – and with good reason. The Dutchman, in his first campaign at the helm of the storied club, took an unbalanced team with glaring weaknesses and began to instill a clear identity, winning a trophy and creating newfound hope and excitement at Old Trafford in the process.

Now comes the hard part.

Ten Hag, following another summer of significant transfer expenditure, is expected to take the Red Devils up another gear. It’s a difficult task considering the level of competition within the Premier League, but a lateral season won’t be considered a success. Two games into the young campaign, there’s plenty of work to be done.

Rob Newell – CameraSport / CameraSport / Getty

It’s important to reserve full judgment until we see how his team functions with marquee addition Rasmus Hojlund in the lineup, but regardless of the young Danish striker’s impact, Ten Hag needs to sort out the midfield. Bruno Fernandes, Mason Mount, and the increasingly creaky Casemiro were overrun for the second consecutive match in Saturday’s 2-0 loss to Tottenham Hotspur. The Brazilian, in particular, looks like he’s aged 20 years in the offseason, and as a whole, the trio looks extremely wobbly when out of possession. Mount, meanwhile, is having very little impact for someone who cost £60 million.

United were lucky not to be punished by Wolverhampton Wanderers in their season opener – Wolves somehow wasted multiple opportunities after breaking free of the Red Devils’ press – but Spurs weren’t as generous.

There have been some positives early in the season – Andre Onana has completely transformed the team’s buildup play from the back – but if Ten Hag and his staff can’t get the middle of the pitch functioning and firing, United will take a step backward this season.

Liverpool seek balance in midfield

Speaking of midfield shake-ups …

Jurgen Klopp opted for the same ad hoc midfield trio in Saturday’s 3-1 comeback win over Bournemouth that started the season opener against Chelsea. In theory, deploying a forward (Cody Gakpo) along with attack-minded summer signings Dominik Szoboszlai and Alexis Mac Allister – with Trent Alexander-Arnold tucking inside while in possession and adding his outstanding array of passing – should be nearly impossible to handle for the opposition. Szoboszlai, who won a penalty at Anfield on Saturday with some nifty footwork just inside the area, was the best player on the pitch versus the Cherries and seems to have settled very quickly. The Hungarian looks like a blossoming superstar.

Concerns remain about the functionality of the trio, though.

Mac Allister is more than willing to do some dirty work and cover large amounts of ground in defensive transition, but that’s not the best part of his game. Meanwhile, the setup doesn’t maximize Gakpo’s attacking attributes; the Dutchman had fewer touches than any Liverpool starter, and his only two touches inside the Bournemouth penalty area came on the same sequence early in the second half.

Klopp is likely going to get an extended look at new signing Wataru Endo in the coming weeks after Mac Allister was shown a contentious red card on his home debut for a challenge that, while not malicious, was high and a fraction late. Even if there’s a reprieve upon appeal – Klopp suggested the club will make an effort to have the Argentine’s ban overturned – introducing Endo and shifting the World Cup winner further forward could ultimately be in Liverpool’s best interest. Could Klopp reinvent the wheel and tailor a system to a team without a prototypical holding midfielder? Sure. The German tactician is certainly innovative enough. Should he, though? Probably not.

Endo, who looked tidy after coming off the bench in the second half following Mac Allister’s dismissal, would provide more balance to the Reds’ midfield, especially against better opposition, and in turn allow Gakpo to move into the front three – either from the start or off the bench – where he’s clearly far more comfortable playing. If the electrifying Luis Diaz can stay fit, then he must start opposite Mohamed Salah, leaving just the central attacking role up for grabs between Diogo Jota, Gakpo, and Darwin Nunez. A good conundrum for Klopp to have, but a conundrum nonetheless.

Quick free-kicks

Reality check for Newcastle

Newcastle’s return to the upper echelons of English football has been rapid since the club hired Eddie Howe and started flexing its Saudi-backed financial muscle. But Saturday’s defeat to standard-bearers Manchester City, the ultimate measuring stick in world football, was a reminder that there’s still plenty of room for growth if the Magpies are going to become an elite side. City, despite contesting the UEFA Super Cup final on Wednesday in the baking Greek heat and returning to England the following day, looked comfortable for the bulk of their 1-0 win. They held Newcastle to just a single shot on target – and even that was a 69th-minute effort from well outside the box that Ederson handled with ease. There’s no shame in losing an away match against the reigning treble winners, but, considering the circumstances, you’d have expected a little more from Howe’s team. On limited rest, missing De Bruyne and John Stones, and with a subpar outing from Erling Haaland, City were still in complete control.

Stars in the making for Spurs

Chloe Knott – Danehouse / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Tottenham may have struck gold with Pape Matar Sarr. The Senegalese midfielder, signed in 2021 from Metz, took center stage in Saturday’s win over Manchester United, scoring his first goal for the club in just his third league start. The 20-year-old has all the tools of a dominant all-around midfielder. He’s neat on the ball, picks the right passes, has outstanding athleticism to cover lots of ground and contribute defensively, and attacks the penalty area with precision and pizzazz, as evidenced by his opportunistic goal that put Spurs on course for their victory Saturday. Paired with Yves Bissouma, Sarr looks like an ideal player for Ange Postecoglou’s high-octane style of play. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when Rodrigo Bentancur returns to the fold. Young Italian left-back Destiny Udogie stood out, too. Spurs have cycled through so many calamitous full-backs in recent years, but the energetic 20-year-old looks like the real deal.

Fernandes needs to be careful

With referees instructed to be more aggressive in their efforts to root out dissent this season, players will need to recalibrate very quickly after years of remonstrating with officials without consequence. The learning curve has been steep in the opening weeks of the season. Fernandes, more than most, will need to exercise restraint to avoid racking up yellow cards. The Portuguese midfielder is one of the most vocal players in the league when it comes to arguing even the most innocuous calls. It was no surprise, then, when he picked up a caution Saturday for protesting a yellow card that was shown to teammate Antony for a tackle from behind. Even without the captain’s armband, Fernandes always seemed to be first on the scene when a contentious decision was made. With it, he’ll have more power to discuss on-pitch matters with referees. That seems like a bad recipe.

Trouble ahead for Fulham

Opening the season with a road win only masked the problems for Fulham. The team that won at Everton last week showed its true colors Saturday, treating Craven Cottage to a dreadful display en route to a lopsided defeat against Brentford. It was the definition of a disheartening loss, as the Bees scored twice after Tim Ream was sent off. But things may only get worse for the Cottagers. Where the goals come from now that Aleksandar Mitrovic finally got his desired move to Saudi Arabia is the biggest issue facing Marco Silva – who might be starting to regret his decision to reject his own big-money move to the Middle East nation. If Fulham don’t move fast before the window closes, there’s no way this team can come close to replicating last season’s impressive 10th-place finish.

Stat of the day

Brighton & Hove Albion, despite losing Alexis Mac Allister and Moises Caicedo this summer, keep hitting new heights under Roberto De Zerbi. Their perfect start to the season continued with a breathtaking 4-1 obliteration of Wolves on Saturday. Is there a better team to watch in England right now?

Tweet of the day

It’s a brave new world for Tottenham.

Copyright © 2023 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

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Premier League

Thoughts and analysis from goal-heavy weekend of Premier League action

theScore examines the most important developments and biggest talking points from another entertaining weekend of Premier League football.

Pep needs a rethink

Something’s amiss at Manchester City.

As a creator, Erling Haaland made telling contributions during Sunday’s pulsating 3-3 draw with Tottenham Hotspur. He showed great awareness to cut the ball across for Grealish, who put City back ahead in the 81st minute, and, as the match edged toward its conclusion, set up Grealish on a one-on-one opportunity that could’ve earned all three points. However, referee Simon Hooper, who initially allowed play to continue, stopped the breakaway to give City a free-kick. It was yet another perplexing decision in a wretched campaign for Premier League officials.

But Haaland was also wasteful. In the first half, he steered the ball wide from 10 yards out with the goal at his mercy and somehow lifted another inviting chance high into the stands. There were some unlucky elements to City’s outing – Jeremy Doku and Julian Alvarez hit the woodwork in the opening stanza – but ultimately, City failed to kill Tottenham off. It was the same scenario in their previous Premier League matches against Liverpool and Chelsea.

Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The attack must be more clinical and can lose intensity once they’re ahead, the latter of which could hint at complacency but is likelier the result of missing Ilkay Gundogan (now at Barcelona) and Kevin De Bruyne (injured). However, that’s still not the biggest issue.

The defense is unraveling.

Josko Gvardiol is taking longer than his fellow summer arrivals to acclimate to Pep Guardiola’s game plan and the pace of English football. He can be exposed at left-back; jostling, jinking wingers can outmaneuver him and right-back Kyle Walker is too far away to bail him out with his pace. Guardiola was right to substitute Gvardiol given the freedom Dejan Kulusevski was enjoying down the flank, but his replacement, Nathan Ake, summed up City’s defensive problems with Tottenham’s third goal. Ake lacked sharpness and aggression when Brennan Johnson’s cross sailed over, letting Kulusevski leap above him and head past Ederson.

Sharpness and aggression were also missing for two of Chelsea’s four goals, both of RB Leipzig attacker Lois Openda’s strikes on Tuesday, and the lethargic passing that preceded Giovani Lo Celso’s finish at the Etihad Stadium. Statistically, Manchester City’s current defense is only slightly better than the backline deployed during the opening months of Guardiola’s tenure, when Aleksandar Kolarov sometimes filled in at center-back and other full-backs, like Pablo Zabaleta and Bacary Sagna, were well past their best.

Last season, playing four center-backs brought more solidity to Guardiola’s team. It was the solution that led to City winning the treble. This term, the center-back department – whether it’s three or four center-backs fielded – is what must be fixed. Guardiola needs to get creative once again to strengthen his side’s charge for trophies.

Liverpool are mentality monsters again

Who expected Liverpool to concede as many goals to Fulham as they had allowed in their previous 10 home matches combined? But when the defending is “awful,” as Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp made clear, the improbable gains a few percentage points.

Defending was optional at various points of Sunday’s chaotic match at Anfield, which ended 4-3 in favor of Liverpool following a two-goal outburst at the end of regular time. Trailing 3-2, Liverpool turned the result on its head when substitute Wataru Endo and Trent Alexander-Arnold rifled unstoppable shots in the 87th and 88th minutes.

That it required such heroics may alarm Klopp, whose side had striven so hard to restore the mystique around Anfield after last season’s breaches. But the late comeback proved something more important in that Liverpool have reacquired the mental strength that delivered many of their most famous results during Klopp’s eight-year reign.

“At 3-3, everyone could see the boys wanted more,” Klopp told reporters, including The Guardian’s Will Unwin.

Peter Byrne – PA Images / PA Images / Getty

Klopp referred to his players as “mentality monsters” when they were regularly fighting for trophies. After spending a season in the wilderness, the term could apply again. His next-man-up philosophy is back in full force, with Endo showing incredible calm off the bench and Cody Gakpo injecting energy. There is no selfishness in this team or time for the players to get down on themselves. Darwin Nunez had missed enough chances for any striker to throw a tantrum, but he kept his head and kept going, channelling his frustration by urging the crowd to make more noise. Though he couldn’t get on the scoresheet, Nunez celebrated hardest of all his teammates when Endo and Alexander-Arnold fired back. That’s what Klopp has always demanded: full buy-in from each one of his players in good times and bad.

That sense of self-belief vanished during the 2022-23 campaign, when the Reds dropped points to the likes of Nottingham Forest, Leeds United, Wolverhampton, and Bournemouth. Every setback threatened to derail their season.

Now you get the sense that Liverpool welcome the challenge.

It’s not that they just fought back Sunday. They scored some ridiculous goals in the process. All four of Liverpool’s goals came from distance, including Alexis Mac Allister’s spectacular half-volley. Mac Allister hadn’t scored for Liverpool before Sunday’s contest, going 16 fixtures without hitting the net. But something had changed.

“Before the game you could see Macca’s foot is right today,” Klopp said. “He was really into shooting. I thought, ‘Wow, you better try it.’ And he obviously thought the same.”

Shorthanded Newcastle pass another test

It’s no secret that Manchester United and Newcastle United aren’t on the same level.

The gulf between the two clubs appeared long before Saturday, and recent results and run of form offered a clue as to what may transpire, but the evidence from over 100 minutes of action at St James’ Park revealed a Grand Canyon-sized abyss.

The mere suggestion that Saturday’s narrow 1-0 result was flattering for Manchester United would be the understatement of the year. Despite missing 13 players through injury, the Magpies still managed to overwhelm in the same fashion by which Tottenham were embarrassed last season in a 6-1 thrashing at the unforgiving stadium on Tyneside in April.

Clive Brunskill / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Manchester United were repeatedly under pressure, enduring wave after wave of attack from a Newcastle side that was able to generate countless opportunities without much resistance. In Manchester United’s attack, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial were rendered useless due to the team’s inability to get out of its own half. Rashford tossed his gloves away in anger after being subbed off, while Andre Onana was a fan favorite for all of the wrong reasons. The Cameroonian was relentlessly targeted after his costly blunders against Galatasaray on Wednesday in the Champions League.

But, overall, it was a lack of discipline, leadership, and a disjointed squad that doomed Manchester United and allowed Newcastle to put on a show with their fluid attack.

Newcastle would’ve obviously liked to have secured three points with a more clinical display after outshooting the Red Devils 22-8, but they won’t complain considering they’re dealing with an injury crisis that deepened when goalkeeper Nick Pope suffered what appeared to be a dislocated shoulder in Saturday’s game. His expected absence will likely pose another obstacle for a Newcastle team that’s exceeded expectations without a host of head coach Eddie Howe’s first-team regulars, such as Dan Burn, Callum Wilson, and suspended Sandro Tonali.

Quick free-kicks

Arsenal living on the edge

GLYN KIRK / AFP / Getty

A win’s a win. But the way Arsenal ended Saturday’s 2-1 victory dulled the shine of what should’ve been a celebratory outcome against a difficult Wolverhampton Wanderers side. In a match in which the Gunners played well enough for 85 minutes to win comfortably, Arsenal’s failure to kill the game off resulted in an unexpectedly intense end to the contest. Instead of putting the finishing touches on a game where they led by two goals after 13 minutes, Arsenal had fans on the edge of their seats after Wolves cut their deficit in half in the 86th minute. It ended up serving as a wake-up call for the hosts, who had seemingly switched off in the second half after dominating the opening 45 minutes. But Mikel Arteta’s men eventually saw the game out, with Arsenal registering their fifth victory by a single goal to pad their lead atop the Premier League summit. While it seems silly to suggest that a team coming off a 6-0 rout in the Champions League needs to be more clinical, Arsenal will need to convert their chances in front of goal more consistently if they have any hope of staying in front of the pack.

Yarmoliuk taking his chance

It took a spate of injuries for Yehor Yarmoliuk to be given opportunities to start for Brentford, but the Ukrainian teenager is quickly endearing himself to the club’s fans. He’s an energetic presence in the Bees’ midfield, keenly hassling opponents and sometimes snapping into challenges. The home crowd gave him a warm reception when he left Saturday’s 3-1 win over Luton Town in the 69th minute after attempting three tackles, completing over 93% of his passes, and producing three key passes. His promising performance followed his fearless full Premier League debut against Arsenal the previous weekend. Yarmoliuk is quickly dispelling any fears that his torn hamstring toward the end of last season with Brentford’s B team harmed his development.

Can Burnley kick on from here?

Matt McNulty / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Before thrashing Sheffield United 5-0 on Saturday, Burnley had lost seven straight home matches by a combined score of 19-5. Vincent Kompany’s side, which won the Championship at a canter, had suddenly become relegation fodder. They couldn’t beat Chelsea, West Ham United, or Crystal Palace – all mid-table fare – so they had to prove they could at least beat the teams around them. That has now happened. The Clarets buried Sheffield United long before Ollie McBurnie was sent off in first-half stoppage time. They genuinely looked good. There were signs of Sean Dyche’s old Burnley – Jay Rodriguez’s goal after just 15 seconds came from a hopeful cross into the penalty area – and signs of the swashbuckling side that ran the second tier ragged under Kompany. With upcoming matches against Wolverhampton, Everton, and Fulham – all winnable – the Clarets have an opportunity to kick on and pull themselves out of relegation trouble.

West Ham should be more watchable

David Moyes repaired his reputation after returning to West Ham United at the end of 2019. He revived a team that had lost its way under Manuel Pellegrini with astute signings and simple yet effective game plans, with his crowning moment coming courtesy of June’s Europa Conference League success. Still, plenty of West Ham fans wouldn’t mind a change at the helm. Despite boasting the likes of Jarrod Bowen and Mohammed Kudus in their ranks, the Irons are often hindered by Moyes’ caution. James Ward-Prowse eventually hit a succession of balls toward Tomas Soucek and Bowen as they sought a late winner in Sunday’s 1-1 home draw with Crystal Palace, but for much of the match, West Ham seemed to fear losing more than they wanted to win. Moyes was given a generous transfer budget last season and has some talented attack-minded players at his disposal, so West Ham supporters have every right to expect more entertainment from their team. The club needs to raise its ambitions.

Stat of the weekend

Son Heung-Min joined an exclusive, though not entirely desirable, club with his performance at the Etihad Stadium.

Tweet of the weekend

Guardiola’s reaction says it all after Kulusevski scored a late equalizer for Tottenham in Sunday’s 3-3 draw at City.

Copyright © 2023 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

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Premier League

Thoughts and analysis from compelling weekend of Premier League action

theScore examines the most important developments and biggest talking points from another entertaining weekend of Premier League football.

Chelsea are broken again? Of course they are

Chelsea are smack-dab in the middle of the Premier League table, and that’s probably about right. Some days they look like legitimate contenders, others like cannon fodder. They win when they’re expected to lose and lose when they’re expected – or at least in position – to win.

Saturday was one of those days. You’d think they could take an undermanned and wounded Newcastle United, even without direct assistance from manager Mauricio Pochettino, who had to sit in the stands as penance for a few too many referee lashings. With 11 senior players out injured, Newcastle needed three goalkeepers just to fill out their bench.

But you wouldn’t know it watching the 4-1 shellacking at St. James’ Park. Chelsea were second best all over the pitch. Newcastle hounded them and bullied them off the ball. Even Chelsea’s wisest old head, 39-year-old defender Thiago Silva, made a fatal error, coughing up possession under the breath of the tireless Joelinton.

Darren Walsh / Chelsea FC / Getty

How could such a brutal and heavy defeat follow encouraging performances against Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City? The truth is that Chelsea have been a work in progress for 18 months, and they’ll continue to resemble a construction site for as long as they carry this loosely assembled roster of 30 players. Very little links the players Pochettino has at his disposal, and too many of them have considerable kinks in their games. Benoit Badiashile is very much not ready to start games – how can he be when he’s missed so much time? – and Mykhailo Mudryk goes nowhere in a hurry. Marc Cucurella is a full-back, but is he really? Conor Gallagher can’t seem to get the ball to settle between his feet, Nicolas Jackson is reverting to the mean, and Enzo Fernandez’s performances have barely been worth half of the £107 million that Chelsea paid to sign him.

Raheem Sterling is the only player who’s taken any responsibility. While he’s never been the greatest decision-maker and often runs himself into dead ends, he’s at least shown the appetite to take the game to his opponents.

As battered and bruised as Newcastle are, they’re a team in the truest sense of the word, with a clear style of play that Chelsea can only envy. Even as players struggle to meet the demands of Eddie Howe’s high-octane system, others can step up and produce. Chelsea have a bunch of passengers who expect someone else to take the wheel. – Anthony Lopopolo

Did international rigors ruin the league’s main event?

Jurgen Klopp has complained about Liverpool playing in the early Saturday slot after international breaks in the past, and his side’s 1-1 draw at Manchester City certainly lacked the pace and chaos that have defined the teams’ meetings in recent years. The Premier League’s top match of the weekend – and easily one of its biggest fixtures of the campaign – failed to live up to its billing.

Mohamed Salah, who played two full matches on either side of the African continent for Egypt, assisted Trent Alexander-Arnold’s equalizer but failed to register a shot while he was easily subdued by Nathan Ake. Julian Alvarez, usually a bustling attacking presence in Manchester City’s midfield, wastefully skied an effort over the bar and generally labored through 90-plus minutes after representing Argentina in two matches. Dominik Szoboszlai scored twice and totaled 220 touches over two appearances for Hungary; at the Etihad Stadium, he seemed to lose energy toward the end of the first half and was eventually substituted in the 72nd minute.

Michael Regan / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Alisson appeared the most jet-lagged of all. The Liverpool goalkeeper played every minute as Brazil continued its World Cup qualification campaign with two worrying defeats, and his commitments in Rio de Janeiro and Barranquilla, Colombia, clearly took their toll. His sliced clearance in the first half was punished when Ake sauntered through three Liverpool players and set up Erling Haaland for a clinical finish, but the day could’ve been much worse for Alisson.

His kicking was poor. One attempt to move the ball away from danger went straight to Phil Foden on the edge of the box; the City attacker, perhaps slightly discombobulated after being gifted possession by the league’s best goalkeeper, shot tamely at Alisson. The shot-stopper also dallied on the ball for too long and was almost caught out by a lunging Haaland.

Alisson’s fortune continued into the second half when Ruben Dias tapped in at the far post. The goal was ruled out when Manuel Akanji was adjudged to have fouled Liverpool’s No. 1 while trying to head the ball. In truth, the biggest factor in Alisson’s failure to catch the cross was his poor handling. It was a soft decision that went in Liverpool’s favor.

His luck ran out when he played through the final minutes with an apparent leg injury.

There seemed to be more tired players in Liverpool’s ranks, which hints at how Klopp’s side fared. Manchester City missed a huge opportunity to beat their title rivals. However, for the neutral viewer, the game was a little disappointing when compared to previous clashes between the northwest rivals. The Premier League could’ve scheduled the fixture for later in the weekend to try to get the teams’ stars in better condition but, most of all, this was yet another example of players toiling to meet the demands of modern football’s grueling calendar. – Daniel Rouse

Youngsters thrive in febrile Goodison atmosphere

It wasn’t a setting where players could meditatively drift into positions and calmly nudge the ball around. Goodison Park was a din. Protests against Everton’s 10-point deduction and vociferous receptions for Manchester United players created an angry atmosphere inside the ground that would make some footballers cower and cringe.

Some footballers, but not Kobbie Mainoo and Alejandro Garnacho.

Garnacho’s performance in Sunday’s 3-0 win at Everton will live longer in the memory than Mainoo’s due to one moment. The rest of his outing was fairly forgettable as he habitually lost possession (his passing accuracy was a derisory 56.3%) and only completed one dribble, but he etched his name in Premier League folklore with one of the finest goals in the competition’s history.

Shaun Botterill / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Diogo Dalot’s cross was poor. Garnacho and Anthony Martial were nearing the 6-yard box but the delivery floated around 6 yards behind them, forcing the former to retreat and then spring himself into the air to have any chance of connecting with the ball. Garnacho’s movement and athleticism for the strike were perfect; the ball sailed out of Jordan Pickford’s reach and into the far corner. The winger’s goal was comfortably better than Wayne Rooney’s iconic overhead kick against Manchester City in 2011.

Mainoo’s display lacked the explosiveness of Garnacho’s goal but, in his first start for the club, he was the best player on the pitch. The 18-year-old’s technical ability and consistency through Manchester United’s youth teams have impressed his coaches. His maturity belies his years, and his tactical intelligence has been nurtured through playing a variety of midfield roles in the academy.

Nevertheless, the ease with which he slotted into the midfield alongside Scott McTominay must’ve defied all expectations.

The Everton supporters’ fury intensified as the game slipped away and refereeing decisions went against them, but Mainoo was unflappable in the middle. He made himself available for passes at every opportunity. He was even willing to collect the ball off goalkeeper Andre Onana and then immediately progress play with a smart pass or intelligent turn into space.

Simon Stacpoole/Offside / Offside / Getty

Mainoo was also crucial off the ball. He prevented both Idrissa Gana Gueye and Dwight McNeil from scoring during a prolonged spell of Everton pressure while United led 1-0.

Mainoo was a standout player during United’s preseason program but suffered an injury in July that he only recently returned from. If he had stayed fit, one wonders how his team would’ve fared. Erik ten Hag has wanted more mobility in the No. 6 role for some time, and the local teenager appears tailor-made for that duty. – Rouse

Quick free-kicks

Ramsdale survives rough cameo

Aaron Ramsdale was always going to play against Brentford on Saturday. The terms of David Raya’s loan deal prevented Arsenal from playing the goalkeeper against his parent club, leaving Ramsdale as the obvious candidate to fill the void. So he played, not because Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta wanted to see a reaction from the goalkeeper he recently relegated to backup, but because he had no choice. That left Ramsdale as a sort of sitting duck, and he started the game with understandable nerves, nearly gift-wrapping Brentford a goal when he dithered on the ball in the penalty area. Though he eventually collected a clean sheet in the 1-0 win, Ramsdale needed two goal-line clearances to preserve it. Credit must go to his teammates, who seemed legitimately invested in his success, however short term. They embraced him at the end of the match, lapping up an important win as much as the fact that he had escaped another potential setback in a season full of them. Now, he has to bide his time until he gets a chance to leave in January. Allowing him to depart is the humane thing to do. – Lopopolo

Edwards and Luton are the perfect fit

Richard Heathcote / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Everything is mapped out at Luton Town. Their decade-long rise from the fifth tier was built on prudent planning rather than short-term fixes, and their restrained summer transfer window demonstrated that. The club’s present shouldn’t come at the cost of its future; lavish recruitment followed by relegation would’ve undone years of careful work at Kenilworth Road. The on-pitch expectations are similarly pragmatic. Before the season started, Rob Edwards ensured his squad was equipped to deal with setbacks – a club promoted on a third-tier budget would, of course, encounter them – and that preparation has paid off. Luton have overcome a rough start to climb into 17th place following Saturday’s 2-1 win over Crystal Palace. The Hatters are an anomaly in an era where fans crave big-money signings and demand instant results, but their considered approach is their biggest strength. Edwards is the personification of Luton’s philosophy. – Rouse

First sacking of the season must be close

At this stage of last season, Scott Parker, Thomas Tuchel, Bruno Lage, Steven Gerrard, and Ralph Hasenhuttl had already been dismissed. There’s yet to be a managerial change this term, with Julen Lopetegui’s mutual departure from Wolverhampton Wanderers coming a week before the campaign began. That’ll change soon. Vincent Kompany’s refusal to tweak Burnley’s approach has resulted in a naive and error-strewn outfit that, somehow, sits bottom of the table below Everton, who are saddled with a 10-point deduction. Paul Heckingbottom, meanwhile, is a victim of elements outside of his control. He didn’t deliberately weaken his squad over the summer – buying and selling are rarely the responsibilities of modern managers. However, there’s been little evidence to suggest he has the ability to pull the Blades out of the relegation mire. Both Kompany and Heckingbottom are on borrowed time. – Rouse

Game of the season so far?

John Walton – PA Images / PA Images / Getty

Don’t let the modest scoreline fool you. Aston Villa’s 2-1 comeback win over an ailing Tottenham on Sunday was arguably the most entertaining contest of the season thus far. The end-to-end action began almost immediately. The two teams, battling for a spot in the top four and playing with aggressive high lines, each had a pair of glorious chances within the opening five minutes of the match. Spurs took the lead through an unlikely source in Giovani Lo Celso, who was making his first Premier League start for the club since Nuno Espirito Santo’s reign. Villa answered 60 seconds later, only for Ollie Watkins’ goal to be ruled offside by VAR. Pau Torres’ equalizer on the stroke of halftime stood, though, and Villa, buoyed by Unai Emery’s tactical changes at the interval, went on to claim all three points thanks to a slick winner by Watkins, who wouldn’t be denied. Son Heung-min, buzzing all match, wasn’t so lucky; he had a hat-trick of tallies chalked off after agonizing reviews. This game had everything and could’ve legitimately finished level at five apiece on another day. These two sides lock horns in the reverse fixture in early March. Don’t miss it. – Gianluca Nesci

Stat of the weekend

Can Ange Postecoglou restore the good vibes at injury-hit Tottenham?

Tweet of the weekend

Liverpool need to sign Alexis Mac Allister’s brother, Kevin, just for the memes.

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Premier League

Thoughts and analysis from dramatic weekend of Premier League action

theScore examines the most important developments and biggest talking points from another entertaining weekend of Premier League football.

Pochettino gives Chelsea courage

Go back a few weeks, and heads would’ve dropped. Manchester City going ahead would’ve presented a treacherous mountain to climb. Belief would drain from a group of Chelsea players who scored one goal in September. Composure would fray, Nicolas Jackson would hack shots into the stands, and Raheem Sterling would run down dead ends.

But on Sunday, Erling Haaland gave City the lead twice, and Rodri did it once. Chelsea fought back on each occasion.

Mauricio Pochettino is gradually getting a grip on the discordant squad he inherited. Chelsea’s press was magnificent in the barmy 4-4 draw at Stamford Bridge, ruining Manchester City’s usually precise and pacey buildup play. The ambition among Pochettino’s ranks was abundantly clear when, soon after going ahead 2-1, they hounded Rodri in his own defensive third.

Ryan Pierse / Getty Images Sport / Getty

It might be tempting to step off when Rodri has the ball in that area. He can resist pressing with his strength and awareness and quickly flip defense to attack once he works into space. But Marc Cucurella was on his tail. The persistence of Cucurella, clearly not dwelling on conceding the earlier penalty, forced Rodri backward into his own box and toward the corner flag. The City midfielder then jabbed the ball up the line before Chelsea collected the loose ball and attacked again.

Conceding four goals can happen against Manchester City – and that’s before you consider the soft penalty given to Haaland and the fortune needed for Rodri’s strike to deflect beyond Robert Sanchez. Chelsea could’ve won this. Ruben Dias was rash with and without the ball while struggling with the home side’s relentlessness. Bernardo Silva did well but was stretched when trying to aid the buildup play and support the attacks. The chaos didn’t suit City, and Chelsea knew it.

“We feel a bit exhausted, to be honest, after a game with that rhythm,” Rodri said after the match. “It wasn’t our best performance, and individually, we can look at ourselves because conceding four goals is not normal for us.”

Pep Guardiola’s side allowed four goals in a match for the first time since a 5-2 defeat to Leicester City in September 2020. It’s hard to think of a clearer sign that things are improving for Chelsea under Pochettino.

A very ‘Spursy’ result

Responding to adversity is one of the hallmarks of title-winning teams.

On the back of their chaotic, incident-filled loss to Chelsea – their first of the season – and missing a handful of critical starters, Saturday’s match against Wolverhampton Wanderers was always going to provide excellent insight into Tottenham Hotspur’s ability to sustain their outstanding start to the campaign.

Their response, sadly, left a lot to be desired. Tottenham went limp after Brennan Johnson’s first goal for the club in the third minute at Molineux. The manner in which Wolves stormed back to claim a 2-1 win was certainly dramatic – two goals in stoppage time – but it was hardly undeserved.

Catherine Ivill / Getty Images Sport / Getty

“We probably ran out of a little bit of legs there, which is understandable. A lot of those guys haven’t played, and they scored a couple of good goals,” Ange Postecoglou said afterward.

How Tottenham would cope without injured playmaker-in-chief James Maddison has, understandably, hoovered up a lot of attention. But Saturday’s defeat made it clear that defensive absentees will have a greater impact on the club’s fortunes. Micky van de Ven, Cristian Romero, and Destiny Udogie missed Saturday’s match through a combination of injury and suspension, forcing Postecoglou to start Eric Dier and Ben Davies in central defense against Wolves. The drop off was stark.

Under no real pressure, Dier carelessly hoofed the ball out of play, giving away possession right before Pablo Sarabia’s slick equalizer in the 91st minute – Davies couldn’t come across quickly enough to cover for him and block the shot on the play. The entire backline then fell asleep on Mario Lemina’s winning tally six minutes later. Tottenham fouled Lemina inside his own half, and the 30-year-old picked himself up, dusted himself off, and calmly jogged straight into the penalty area, totally undetected, to receive a pass and send the home crowd into a frenzy. Two lapses in concentration. Two goals against.

Tottenham’s depth will be tested in the coming weeks, especially during the jam-packed holiday slate of matches. The backups failed their first exam.

Magpies down to bare bones

Bournemouth poured forward again and again.

Newcastle United are so ravaged by injuries and worn by their demanding schedule that Emil Krafth, a largely forgotten defender who played one Premier League minute over the previous 18 months, was called off the bench at Dean Court on Saturday. Matt Ritchie hasn’t started a top-flight match since December 2021 but played for over an hour. Lewis Miley, 17, was handed his full league debut. Even Kieran Trippier, one of Newcastle’s most reliable players, has been uncharacteristically sloppy lately.

Eddie Keogh / Getty Images Sport / Getty

A better team than Bournemouth would’ve scored five, six, maybe more against the Magpies. Their 2-0 win didn’t adequately reflect their dominance over opponents limping and wheezing their way into the international break.

Trippier told media following the match that the club can’t use the full treatment room as an excuse. Still, he referred to that exact issue when disagreeing with a Newcastle fan immediately after the final whistle. He repeated: “How many injuries have we got? How many injuries have we got?”

The answer is 10, plus two suspensions.

Absentees

Player Reason Expected return
Miguel Almiron Injury Unknown
Javi Manquillo Injury Unknown
Callum Wilson Injury Unknown
Bruno Guimaraes Suspended Nov. 25
Alexander Isak Injury Late November
Sven Botman Injury December
Elliot Anderson Injury Late December
Dan Burn Injury January 2024
Jacob Murphy Injury January 2024
Harvey Barnes Injury January 2024
Matt Targett Injury February 2024
Sandro Tonali Suspended August 2024

At least the international break has come at a good time for Newcastle. Their next match against Chelsea on Nov. 25 will signal the return of Bruno Guimaraes – Newcastle have failed to win all seven league matches the Brazilian has missed since his debut – and could feature Alexander Isak, who has eight goals over 14 appearances in all competitions. Miguel Almiron and Callum Wilson could also be called back sooner than expected.

And besides, this is what Newcastle wanted: the club is competing on three fronts in the Premier League, Champions League, and the League Cup, and will enter the FA Cup in January. Newcastle’s transformation since the Saudi Arabian takeover two years ago has been quick and undeniably impressive. They’re comfortably ahead of where Manchester City were at the same stage of the Abu Dhabi era.

There are still plenty of reasons to be positive on Tyneside.

“We need to dust ourselves down and come back in strong,” manager Eddie Howe said.

Quick free-kicks

Should Kulusevski play centrally?

With an ankle injury expected to sideline primary creator Maddison until January, Tottenham need to get creative to compensate for the extended absence of the team’s leader in assists. Shifting Dejan Kulusevski into a more central role is a possible solution. The Swede, who views himself as more of a No. 10 than a winger, thrived operating in that area during his breakout season with Parma. Kulusevski drives the play forward differently than Maddison – the Englishman is second in the Premier League in progressive passes, while Kulusevski sits second in progressive dribbles – but has the necessary creativity to unlock opposing defenses. However, making that switch could create more personnel problems than it solves considering Tottenham’s lack of depth on the wing. It’s worth at least having the discussion.

No relief for Rashford

OLI SCARFF / AFP / Getty

Erik ten Hag’s prediction that Marcus Rashford would soon return to form didn’t come to pass in the 1-0 win over Luton Town. For the second match in a row, Rashford operated on the right flank, making room for Alejandro Garnacho on the left. He tested Luton with some decent crosses but otherwise labored through a 12th straight outing without a goal. Ten Hag gives the impression that he wants to play Rashford into form. But that may only be due to his lack of trust in who could replace the 26-year-old academy graduate: Antony, Anthony Martial, and Facundo Pellistri.

Everton starting to click

After years of poor recruitment and a conveyor belt of managers with clashing playing philosophies, Sean Dyche is somehow extracting some reasonable performances out of Everton. Three victories, a draw, and one defeat since the start of October have taken the Toffees from being just a single point above the relegation zone to forming a considerable eight-point cushion. Saturday’s entertaining 3-2 win at Crystal Palace featured some classic sleeves-up Dycheian defending and promising performances from Vitaliy Mykolenko, Jack Harrison, and super-sub Idrissa Gueye. James Tarkowski was at fault for Palace’s second goal but otherwise impressed with five tackles and eight clearances.

VVD is all the way back

Virgil van Dijk has put his 2020 knee injury behind him for good. The Liverpool defender was at his graceful best in the Reds’ 3-0 win over Brentford on Sunday, anchoring the defense with the assured, composed performance that was so common prior to his ACL tear. The Dutchman’s positional sense always made him a good candidate to make a successful return from one of the sport’s most debilitating injuries. Crucially, Van Dijk has also recaptured the physical powers that, combined with his football IQ, made him a colossus at the back during his peak. He’s returned to that elite level this season, and Liverpool are much better off for it.

Elanga impressing at Forest

Manchester United were far too hasty in allowing Anthony Elanga to depart. The 21-year-old Swedish winger is taking full advantage of his increased opportunities following his €17.5-million move to Nottingham Forest. He’s already played more league minutes for Steve Cooper than he accumulated all of last season with the Red Devils and has turned that into a team-leading three assists. Elanga scored his first goal of the campaign in Sunday’s 3-2 defeat to West Ham United, too. Had United exhibited a little more patience with a young player who was showing promise in the early stage of his career, they could have reaped the rewards of Elanga’s development. Instead, they’re left with minimal options on the wing behind Alejandro Garnacho, who’s still growing.

JWP filling the void

West Ham United FC / Getty Images Sport / Getty

West Ham lost their best player and captain when Declan Rice got his big move to Arsenal this past summer. Replacing him was always going to be an enormous task. James Ward-Prowse is giving it a proper go, though. The set-piece wizard signed for a relatively paltry £30-million fee in August and is a low-maintenance player who provides leadership on the pitch for David Moyes to go along with his unrivaled delivery from dead-ball situations. Ward-Prowse’s two assists, both prototypical deliveries from corner kicks, turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 victory over Forest on Sunday. He now has nine helpers across all competitions for West Ham on the campaign. His 17 dead-ball assists in the Premier League since 2020-21 are by far the most in England’s top flight. What a weapon to have in your arsenal.

Stat of the weekend

An important reminder to never switch off a Tottenham match before the final whistle blows. There’s always the potential for drama.

Tweet of the weekend

“We ain’t got no history.”

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