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James Hadland

Following on from some shock results, James Hadland returns to provide conclusions from the second Premier League gameweek, with football well and truly back underway.

Nottingham Forest 2-1 Sheffield United

Nottingham Forest’s strong end to last season seems to have continued into the first two fixtures, unlucky to have come away with nothing against title contenders Arsenal last week and a win against Sheffield United on Friday. Matching Forest’s strong form is Taiwo Awoniyi, scoring in sixth consecutive Premier League appearances for the club. With so much change last year, Steve Cooper will be glad to have a core of players that seem to play at the required level. Serge Aurier had a fantastic match, providing two excellent crosses for the goals.

Although they lost key man Iliman Ndiaye to Marseille, Hamer showed promising glimpses to suggest he may be up to the task

As for Sheffield United, a real concern for Paul Heckingbottom is the space allowed to Aurier’s assists on the right flank. Although both sides played with formations consisting of a back three, the Blades struggled to exploit the wings and suffered from Aurier and Neco Williams’ energy on the flanks. One promising element however is Gustavo Hamer’s excellent Premier League debut, marked with an incredible strike. Although they lost key man Iliman Ndiaye to Marseille, Hamer showed promising glimpses to suggest he may be up to the task. It took a while to get going, but enjoyed control for a majority of the second half.

Fulham 0-3 Brentford

Fulham’s defensive errors eventually led to an easy Brentford win, with centre back Issa Diop gifting Yoane Wissa a one on one while his partner Tim Ream conceded a penalty and was consequently sent off – a dubious decision. It is easy to understand Marco Silva’s post-match frustration, in Brentford receiving a one man advantage from the 64th minute in addition to the given penalty. Raul Jiménez is still goalless for the club and added weight is now on his shoulders with star striker Aleksandar Mitrovic finally getting his move to Saudi Arabian side Al Hilal – linking up with Neymar, Ruben Neves and Kalidou Koulibaly, to name a few. It is interesting to wonder whether this side now have a better core of players than some of the Premier Leagues current XIs…

Thomas Frank will point to Brentford’s accumulated xG of 3.7 in the match to any complaints of Ream’s red card deciding the match. Once again, Bryan Mbeumo and Yoane Wissa filled the Toney-less hole which many wagered would be a certain problem for Brentford’s attack. But the duo seem to flourish with the increased responsibility – Wissa has score more goals in his last five PL games (four) than he did in his previous 29. New signing Kevin Schade received his first start and has the potential to be another strong asset to the Bees’ attack, who have also been rumoured to sign Fiorentina’s Nicolás González. If their reputation of making shrewd buys continues, Frank could move his side from being the ‘best of the rest’ to fighting for a European spot.

Liverpool 3-1 Bournemouth

Liverpool’s afternoon couldn’t have got off to a worse start, with Antoine Semenyo capitalising on the Reds’ mistakes while playing out from the back. Trent Alexander Arnold is an excellent footballer, and undoubtedly one of the best fullbacks in the league. However, Gary Neville’s commentary on the Tottenham vs United game included his point that people play at fullback because they are incapable of making a half turn when receiving the ball in midfield. Bournemouth’s early goal might indicate this is the case with Alexander-Arnold, who has a lot of added responsibility in Jurgen Klopp’s box midfield. However, Anfield soon bounced with all three of the forward line getting on the scoresheet, and were in control even with 10 men.

Although Andoni Iraola is yet to win a game with new club Bournemouth, he will be proud of his team’s performance in one of the toughest fixtures of the season – a match that produced a 9-0 loss the year before. Although Liverpool went down to 10 men under soft circumstances, Iraola will be equally frustrated with the penalty against the Cherries, with Dominik Szoboszlai going down a little easily from Joe Rothwell’s light contact.

Wolves 1-4 Brighton

Defensive and attacking improvements are needed if they are to start picking up points

I praised Wolves’ performance against Manchester United last week despite a defeat, and this 4-1 home loss has a similar drawback. The score line looks heavy, but it was once more a case of the opposition overpowering them with star quality and a more clinical attack. The expected goals of the two teams was nearly even, 2.1 for Wolves against Brighton’s 2.22. Gary O’Neil’s side capitulated as the second half kicked off, conceding three inside 10 minutes, and the game was then over. We have seen so many decent footballing sides fall at the hurdle of their inability to put the ball in the net, reminiscent of Graham Potter’s old Brighton side. When all is said and done, O’Neil’s job is going to be marked by results, and underlying stats can be promising, but defensive and attacking improvements are needed if they are to start picking up points.

As previously mentioned, Potter’s Brighton side were renowned for playing great football but failing to put away the chances they created. Roberto De Zerbi’s side does not have that problem, with two consecutive 4-1 victories to begin the season at the top of the table. A perfect way to bypass Wolves’ man-to-man marking system is by giving confidence to his forwards to play with freedom, and Kaoru Mitoma seems to be doing just that. Dribbling past various Wolves players and finishing in the bottom corner, the Japanese winger seems certain to explode after his breakout season last year. Things can only get better for the Seagulls, although Julio Enciso’s injury will be a grave concern – following a trend of injuries for those who had their preseason on artificial turf while on tour in America.

Tottenham 2-0 Manchester United

Ange Postecoglou’s home managerial debut was filled with anxiety and excitement for Spurs fans, who had never won in their new stadium against the Red Devils. After a shaky first 30 minutes, understandable given their youth and inexperience playing together, the Lilywhites’ strong final 15 of the first half continued in the second, with Pape Matar Sarr scoring a typical Postecoglou goal. Drifting into the box from a by-line cutback from Dejan Kulusevski, the Australian coach will have enjoyed one of his advanced 8s grabbing their first goal for the club. Early indications suggest that goals are going to be spread out amongst his team, in stark contrast to last season which saw only Son Heung-min and Harry Kane scoring above double figures.

As for Manchester United, fear is brewing that Erik Ten Hag’s summer signings are yet to improve his team, and Casemiro is becoming increasingly overwhelmed to do most of the midfield’s dirty work. Although the away side were relatively close in the first hour, they finished the game relatively uninspired – epitomised by Martinez’s own goal trickling into the net. It seems that Rasmus Højlund’s injury might delay the bright start that United fans expected for the season ahead.

Manchester City 1-0 Newcastle

Manchester City only proved their strength by neutralising a Newcastle side which had scored 5 goals against a strong Aston Villa side the week before. Although Pep Guardiola’s side have let go of Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Gündogan this summer, who contributed highly to the Sky Blues’ goal output, it seems Phil Foden and Julian Àlvarez are ready to step up to the plate. Guardiola is known for his side’s attacking output, but last season showed how well he can coach a defence and nullify the opposition’s attack.

Howe will have to improve his side’s performances away from home if they are to progress in their first Champions League campaign in 20 years

As for Eddie Howe’s Newcastle, their poor away form continues, having failed to record a victory away from home against any of last season’s top seven. They failed to get a shot on target until the 70th minute, recording the joint-fewest since Howe became manager. Howe will have to improve his side’s performances away from home if they are to progress in their first Champions League campaign in 20 years.

Aston Villa 4-0 Everton

Unai Emery got the reaction he wanted from an Aston Villa side that was blown out the water against Newcastle the week prior. Villa scored within 18 minutes and put Everton to the sword from there. Leon Bailey’s poor half against Newcastle summarised the change in level in this game, with a goal and assist to boot. With Ollie Watkins yet to get on the scoresheet this season in the Premier League, the Villains will only be hoping to improve going forward.

Ashley Young’s throw in to assist Jhon Duran’s first goal for Villa was perhaps ironic given it was his first return to Villa Park as a Toffee

Everton were unlucky to be facing Aston Villa’s reaction after a 5-1 loss, and although they deserved far more from their first game, they deserved nothing from this one. Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s injury was sad to see after months of injury struggles, and things only got worse from there on in. Ashley Young’s throw in to assist Jhon Duran’s first goal for Villa was perhaps ironic given it was his first return to Villa Park as a Toffee, following his summer switch. Sean Dyche won’t find it funny however, with experienced PL players Pickford, Keane and Young all making mistakes, despite being the players he will rely upon the most this season.

West Ham 3-1 Chelsea

In the Hammers’ first competitive home game since their European Conference League victory in May, a London derby against Chelsea was always going to be an action-packed game. Much has changed since that Conference League win, with captain Declan Rice leaving, new signing James Ward-Prowse in and a goalkeeping change. Ward-Prowse proved he was worth the £30 million plus fee with two assists, while Alphonse Areola saved a penalty at 1-1. Even Lucas Paquetá’s transfer links were not enough to stop a great West Ham performance, sealing the victory with a 95th minute penalty.

Although Chelsea may have beaten Liverpool in signing both Moisés Caicedo and Romeo Lavia, Mauricio Pochettino is yet to enjoy a Premier League win with the Blues. They had the lion’s share of possession (76%) and created numerous chances, but suffered against the Hammers’ low block. Carney Chukwuemenka equalised with an excellent goal, and Raheem Sterling was a real threat, but they couldn’t take their chances even when Nayef Aguerd was sent off in the 67th minute. Enzo Fernàndez missed a penalty at a crucial time, suggesting they lack the cutting edge up front even from the spot. Caicedo’s cameo left little to be desired also, giving away the last minute penalty. Questions will begin to be asked if they can’t produce a good result against Luton at home.

Crystal Palace 0-1 Arsenal

Selhurst Park is never an easy place to go to, and again they gave Arsenal a very tough game. The Eagles may feel like they could easily have got a goal after Takehiro Tomiyasu’s red card, sustaining a barrage of attacks against Aaron Ramsdale’s goal until the final whistle. Eberechi Eze continued to be the chief creative outlet for Palace, with four shots, one key pass and nearly winning a penalty for his troubles. You can’t help but think that without Michael Olise’s absence and Zaha’s transfer, they might have done better.

Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal are currently enjoying the kind of form that many title-winning sides display – winning games without necessarily playing at their best. Declan Rice was excellent in controlling the game, and the game might have been concluded much easier without the unfair red card given to Tomiyasu.

James Hadland

Featured image courtesy of Jonny Dios via Unsplash. Image use license found here. No changes were made to this image.

In article image 1 courtesy of @brentfordfc via Instagram. No changes were made to this image. 

In article image 2 courtesy of @spursofficial via Instagram. No changes were made to this image. 

In article image 3 courtesy of @westham via Instagram. No changes were made to this image.

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