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Premier League: 10 talking points from the weekend’s action | Soccer


1) Solskjær’s treatment of Van de Beek is a mystery

Donny van de Beek. Remember him? A classic No 6 or 8 of the Ajax school signed by Ole Gunnar Solskjær in summer 2020 and then, well, kind of forgotten. Not on Saturday, though, not by an Old Trafford faithful who could not believe the way Manchester City dominated. When the 24-year-old entered there was a rousing cheer – partly because he was replacing the maligned Fred, but also as this was only Van de Beek’s second league appearance and something has to change in the United XI. This 2-0 humiliation followed the same from Liverpool (5-0) in the last home match. Afterwards Solskjær complained of his players failing to find the “angles” needed to beat the City press. Then why give Van de Beek, who at Ajax and for the Netherlands has to be able to do just this, only 10 minutes? And why not give him a run in the side? Jamie Jackson

'Defeat a big step backwards': Solskjær on 2-0 loss to Man City – video
‘Defeat a big step backwards’: Solskjær on 2-0 loss to Man City – video

2) Conte has much to ponder at Tottenham

Antonio Conte saw something to build on in the heart, passion and sacrifice of his Spurs players at Goodison Park but the glaring lack of creativity in a team that has now gone 227 minutes without a shot on target in the Premier League demonstrated the extent of the work required. Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Lucas Moura put in the effort in the goalless draw – one that could have resulted in defeat had referee Chris Kavanagh not overturned his penalty award to Everton – but had scant opportunity to stretch Rafael Benítez’s defence. “If I have to see a negative aspect it is we made many, many mistakes with the final pass,” the new Spurs manager admitted. “If we made the final pass in the right way, we could have had chances to score. Instead, with the last pass we made many mistakes.” Andy Hunter

3) White rises above the doubters

More than a few eyebrows were raised when Arsenal spent £50m to sign Ben White from Brighton but, as with at least one of their other summer purchases, the critics are starting to look daft. White is on a roll, anchoring Arsenal’s most convincing defence in recent years while offering a fresh dimension with his ability to maraud upfield. It was a run from White, stepping up to join an attack in open play, that ultimately rocked Watford and gave Emile Smith Rowe the chance to score a hard-earned winner; he also made timely interventions at the back, notably from a Joshua King volley in the second half, and increasingly looks an example of money very well spent. There will be ups and downs to come but few centre-backs in the country are operating with the 24-year-old’s level of conviction. The most exciting part is that he can only get better. Nick Ames

4) Alisson shows set-piece weakness

For years many people have criticised refereeing around fouls on goalkeepers, claiming they get too much protection from officials. Alisson has been brought up on the men in black being personal bodyguards, so must have been absolutely shocked that the decision for his own goal went against him. The Brazilian anticipated Michail Antonio’s pressure and Angelo Ogbonna’s challenge would mean a free-kick purely because there was contact. It might have put the goalkeeper off but it was far from being a criminal act from the West Ham defender. Alisson may have to expect more of this treatment for the rest of the season, as once a team spots a weakness, they will try to exploit it. Many Premier League sides put great emphasis on set-pieces and it would seem that targeting Alisson could become rewarding. The Brazilian will need to adapt his game from corners to avoid punching the ball into his own net again. Will Unwin

Jürgen Klopp and Alisson after the final whistle at the London Stadium.
Jürgen Klopp and Alisson after the final whistle at the London Stadium. Photograph: Javier García/REX/Shutterstock

5) Havertz embodies Chelsea’s wastefulness

There was a sign of things to come during Chelsea’s 1-0 win over Malmö last week. They had the chances to win more comfortably but they were not ruthless enough. Kai Havertz twice missed when he was through on goal and the German was frustrating again during Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Burnley, who snatched a point thanks to Matej Vydra’s late equaliser. Havertz possesses so much quality, as he displayed when opening the scoring with a lovely header, but is still held by a lack of consistency. A poor miss in the second half gave Burnley hope and Chelsea, who also saw Ross Barkley and Callum Hudson-Odoi spurn opportunities, could not hold on. Édouard Mendy, astonishing against Brentford last month, is not going to save them every week. Thomas Tuchel needed his forwards to be more clinical in the absence of Romelu Lukaku. Jacob Steinberg

Match report: Chelsea 1-1 Burnley

6) Lightweight Lampard would be wrong for Norwich

Norwich have a very big decision to make. Daniel Farke was dismissed on Saturday evening after their first Premier League win of the season, implying the decision was made before the match. Such planning would also indicate they have someone lined up. The favourite for the role is Frank Lampard, which would at least show some long-term thinking, rather than selecting one of the old guard in a bid to beat the drop. Farke’s replacement will know the club are likely to go back down and their role will be to accept relegation with dignity before preparing for a Championship campaign. Lampard struggled to organise a talented Chelsea squad in the Premier League and failed to bring up an expensively-assembled Derby team when in the second tier, making him a big name without the CV to back it up. He would be an underwhelming choice given Norwich’s needs. Will Unwin

7) Smith pays price for Villa’s lack of depth

When Aston Villa spent the £100m they pocketed for Jack Grealish on a trio of new signings – Danny Ings, Emiliano Buendía and Leon Bailey – their chief executive, Christian Purslow, talked up the idea that three players for the price of one could parachute them towards the European places. Eleven games in and five straight defeats later, such ambition looks misplaced. Injuries to key players such as Ings have hurt them but there is a plain absence of strength in depth. It is easy to lay the blame on Dean Smith, who was relieved of his duties on Sunday, but the reality is for his final game in charge, the bench was stocked with academy graduates. He turned to Jacob Ramsey, 20, Cameron Archer, 20, and Keinan Davis, 23,in a bid to turn the tide but none are game-changers, and Smith paid the price. Ben Fisher

8) Forshaw’s fortitude a lesson to Maddison

Hats off, Adam Forshaw. After two years spent sidelined with a serious
hip injury the Leeds central midfielder is back in Marcelo Bielsa’s first
team. Forshaw unexpectedly began the 1-1 draw with Leicester and impressed
immensely on his first League start since August 2019, reminding everyone
why Gareth Southgate once seemed on the verge of calling him into the
England squad. “I really didn’t think that Adam was going to be able to do
this,” said Bielsa. “It’s a prize for perseverance and a message for all
those who seek to try to imitate his behaviour in a similar situation.”
Meanwhile Leicester’s James Maddison, once destined to be
among the first names on Southgate’s team sheets began on the
bench. When, late in the second half, Maddison finally stepped off it he
displayed decent touches but he evidently needs to do much more to
convince Brendan Rodgers to put him back in Leicester’s starting team. Perhaps he could do with some of Forshaw’s resolve? Louise Taylor

9) Vieira is improving veteran McArthur

Patrick Vieira has rightly been praised for his transformation of Crystal Palace into an exciting side. One of the key components has been the arrival of Conor Gallagher, whose dynamic work with and without the ball in central midfield has re-energised the team. The Chelsea loanee’s efforts have, however, overshadowed the work of his partner James McArthur. The metronomic midfielder turned 34 last month and one might be forgiven for thinking he would not find a place under Vieira. Instead the Frenchman named him captain and McArthur has started all 11 Premier League matches this season. His experience is allowing Gallagher the freedom he desires when Palace go forward. On Saturday, he picked a fine pass to create Wilfried Zaha’s goal. McArthur has more than 300 Premier League appearances but Vieira seems to be improving him – another indication of the manager’s fine work. Will Unwin

Match report: Crystal Palace 2-0 Wolves

10) Magpies denied by rule that feels unfair

Newcastle were let down by the law at Brighton on Saturday. Callum Wilson would surely have fired into an empty goal to claim their first win of the season if he had not been tripped by Robert Sánchez as he raced clear in stoppage time. The goalkeeper was sent off for the last couple of minutes but his villainy paid off because, instead of a simple scoring chance, all Newcastle got was a free-kick 25 yards from goal against opponents who were allowed to reorganise. It was, then, yet another case where the referee should be authorised to award a penalty even though the foul took place outside the box. Justice would be better served with such an amendment to the rulebook. Paul Doyle



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