Another Premier League gameweek has passed and the table is starting to take shape. There’s plenty to discuss so let’s dive right in.
Liverpool are back on top of the table as an element of normality surfaced in the Premier League during gameweek seven. There weren't any shock results but nonetheless the fixtures did throw up plenty to discuss.
From the way the media treats certain players differently to whether Manchester United should drop their club-record signing, here are the biggest debates from the latest round of Premier League action.
Defensively-Minded teams continue to struggle
Following Crystal Palace’s 2-0 loss, the Eagles now sit in 13th place with many fans growing increasingly frustrated at both manager Roy Hodgson’s rigid formation and the lack of game time summer signing Eberechi Eze has received. Palace have always been defensively sound under Hodgson, but with clean sheets hard to come by this season, they clearly need to offer more going forward.
Similarly, another two defence-first teams find themselves in the relegation zone in Sheffield United and Burnley. After a combined 13 games, the pair have no wins and just two draws between them, which begs the question: will either club change tactics, or even managers, to bolster their side’s attacking output?
Aït-Nouri and Kilman shine for Wolves
Plenty of eyebrows were raised when Romain Saïss was omitted from Wolves’ starting lineup on Friday night. But while fantasy football managers desperately logged on to check who was first on their bench, debutant Rayan Aït-Nouri put in a fantastic display from left wing-back, scoring the opening goal.
The 19-year-old, who arrived at Molineux in the summer on loan from Angers, was arguably man of the match, and had license to bomb forward time and again thanks to the defensive solidity of another youngster in Max Kilman. Kilman has displaced Saïss as Wolves’ left centre-back in recent weeks and was again good value for it, with another impressive display in gameweek seven.
Mahrez’s poor form draws criticism
It was an important victory for Pep Guardiola and Manchester City at the weekend, but their 1-0 win away at Sheffield United did little to stem the flow of criticism levelled at Riyad Mahrez. The winger has been off the boil for City so far this season, having registered just one goal and one assist across nine appearances in all competitions.
Of course, Mahrez and City are still trying to get up to full speed after a prolonged end to last season’s Champions League campaign disrupted their pre-season. Nevertheless, fans have been vocal about Mahrez on social media and clearly expect much more from their £65m winger.
Ziyech and Mendy show why they’re the missing pieces in Chelsea’s puzzle
Chelsea’s early-season struggles have been evident through their defensive woes. Similar to last season, clean sheets have proved a rarity in their opening few matches, but the emergence of Edouard Mendy between the sticks has seen Lampard’s side shut their opponents out in four consecutive matches now.
At the other end of the pitch, attacking midfielder Hakim Ziyech spent the weekend demonstrating just what an asset he is. The summer signing opened the scoring against Burnley, wrong-footing Nick Pope, before setting up Chelsea’s third with a lovely layoff to fellow new boy Timo Werner.
Should Firmino be dropped for Jota?
It was close, but Liverpool eventually got the better of West Ham on Saturday, edging out the Hammers 2-1 courtesy of an 85th-minute winner from substitute Diogo Jota. The Portuguese international’s recent displays have sparked a debate amongst fans as to whether he should replace Roberto Firmino in the Reds’ strongest starting lineup.
It’s certainly a tough decision. While Firmino doesn’t contribute much by way of goals, his movement and link-up play is integral to Liverpool’s system, and allows both Mo Salah and Sadio Mané to operate at their devastating best. It’ll be hard for Klopp to overlook Jota, though, who’s now provided three goals in his last three appearances for the club.
Ward-Prowse is really, really good at set pieces
Southampton continued their fine run of form on Sunday, seeing off Aston Villa in a 4-3 thriller. That result marked four wins for the Saints in their last five games, and they had their captain and birthday boy James Ward-Prowse to thank for these latest three points.
Ward-Prowse's set-pieces were lethal throughout the match, with his early corner leading to a disallowed goal before one of his free-kicks found the head of Jannik Vestergaard for the opener. The midfielder followed that up with a thunderbolt of a free-kick that flew past the helpless Emi Martínez to double Saints lead. A case of déjà vu then hit Villa Park as Ward-Prowse produced another sublime free-kick to score from a similar position. Is there a better set-piece taker in the league?
What to do with a problem like Pogba?
Manchester United fans could be forgiven for thinking they were watching two completely different sides after the Red Devils’ games against RB Leipzig and Arsenal. United followed up their emphatic 5-0 victory in midweek with a sluggish, lifeless performance at the weekend, which ultimately ended in a 1-0 defeat.
Following the loss, club-record signing Paul Pogba found himself at the centre of debate. Many fans feel the French midfielder hasn’t done nearly enough to warrant his starting spot in recent weeks, and are growing increasingly frustrated that summer recruit Donny van de Beek continues to warm the bench as a consequence.
Salah and Kane comparisons highlight English bias
A lot has been made of the language used to describe different players in recent days, and many pointed to the media’s English bias following the penalties awarded for ‘fouls’ on Liverpool’s Mo Salah and Spurs’ Harry Kane. While the former was heavily criticised for going to ground easily, the latter came out relatively unscathed considering he too somewhat bought the penalty.
Salah has been held up by many in the media as a cheat since he returned to the Premier League back in 2017, but most fail to point out that there’s a fair few English players who also hit the deck at the first sight of an outstretched leg. Jamie Vardy, Jack Grealish and Harry Kane, yes, we’re looking at you.
Brighton’s Lamptey for England?
While Gareth Bale’s first goal on his return to Tottenham may have stolen the headlines, another scorer put in another fine display and continued to stake a claim for his inclusion in the latest England squad.
Indeed, Tariq Lamptey’s performances at right wing-back this season have been sensational. The right side of defence is easily England’s most competitive position, but with calls for Trent Alexander-Arnold to play in midfield and Kyle Walker comfortable in a back three, Lamptey is surely making Gareth Southgate seriously consider him for the upcoming set of international fixtures.
Leicester throw it back to 2016 for away days
Since Brendan Rodgers took charge of Leicester City, the Foxes have become a possession-based team who love to play on the front foot and dominate the ball. This season, however, we’ve seen Rodgers adopt a different approach when playing away from home against high-quality opposition.
Leicester have lined up in a 3-4-3 formation, sat deep, and looked to play on the counter — and it’s worked a treat. Their victory over Leeds was the club’s fourth straight away win of the season and moved them up to second in the table. It’s a style of play that undoubtedly reminds fans of the iconic 2016 title-winning side. Could we be on for another miracle?
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