After three rounds of the renewed Premier League season, we’ve hit the first international-break period. Interestingly, this can often have a positive effect for teams doing poorly, but a negative effect for teams entering a vein of form. This week’s fixtures didn’t throw up too many surprises, but the table has begun to take shape and some of the prospective top four competitors will be concerned by their results. Let’s have a look at the five most significant fixtures from this past weekend.
Bournemouth v Manchester City: 1 – 2
In what should have been a comfortable match for Guardiola’s City, Bournemouth ended up rediscovering some fighting spirit. Although the visitors managed to ease into a steady rhythm that applied constant pressure to the Bournemouth defence, Bournemouth emphatically opened the scoring. Full-back Charlie Daniel picked-up possession after a poor clearance by City and pulled off a looping drive from an almost-impossible angle. The lead wouldn’t last long as Gabriel Jesus expertly equalised, but the drama was saved for 7 minutes into stoppage-time in the second-half when Raheem Sterling’s scuffed shot floated over the Bournemouth keeper to give the Citizens all three points. This was a vital victory for City and showed they’re able to grind out results even when opponents dig their heels in.
Newcastle United v West Ham: 3 – 0
With two successive losses, Rafa Benitez and Newcastle’s return to the Premier League has started off rather badly, but they seem to have found some cohesion in their team. Their previous performances seemed jarring and as though none of the players were on the same wavelength, with many wayward passes and poorly synchronised attacking movements. This match was the exact opposite, with all the players reading off the same script and opening the West Ham defence in the 36th minute. Joselu scored after a great through-ball which allowed Atsu behind the defenders to provide a close range square pass. Their second goal came from a Matt Ritchie cross and was buried by Clark, followed by the final goal 86 minutes in, when another well-executed through-ball allowed Mitrovic to round the keeper and pass into an empty net. This victory is vital for Newcastle’s confidence right before the international break and should leave Rafa Benitez feeling better about his team’s potential.
Manchester United v Leicester City: 2 – 0
It was expected that Leicester would put up a more concerted fight than United’s previous opponents, and that assumption was proven correct. Leicester showed resilient determination to plug away at United’s defence and hurry their players when in possession, creating a lot of frustration for the Red Devils goalless. After a disallowed goal for an offside ruling and a missed penalty from Lukaku, it looked like last season’s woes were creeping back, but Mourinho’s astute substitutions managed to avoid that outcome. The dead-lock was broken when super-sub Marcus Rashford flashed onto a ball from a corner and side-footed a snapshot into the roof of the net. With increased confidence, United kept bearing down on Leicester’s goal and eventually added a second through Marouane Fellaini when Jesse Lingard’s poor shot ricocheted off the big Belgian and into the goal. While it wasn’t as confident a display as United’s previous fixtures, they’re sitting on three wins out of three, with three clean sheets and 10 goals scored — all stats that indicate they’ll likely be vying for the title this season.
Chelsea Vs. Everton: 2 – 0
After their opening-day scare, Chelsea got back on course and kept their positive run of form going well against Everton. New signing Morata was on hand for both goals, and started the scoring off with a clever flicked assist for Fabregas, who casually slid the ball into the far corner across the keeper. Morata turned from provider into scorer thirteen minutes later when he got on the end of a well-placed cross from Azpilicueta, and ghosted through defenders into open space to head the Blues to 2-0. Chelsea subsequently threatened the Everton goal, but never managed to capitalise on good chances. However, they were able to keep Everton’s somewhat lacklustre attack at bay to record another important victory.
Liverpool Vs. Arsenal: 4 – 0
The match that everyone expected would be the main attraction indeed became worthy of that title, but unfortunately for Arsenal, they sustained a beating that has become all too common under Arsene Wenger’s management. Liverpool started brightly and their pace across the front three threatened Arsenal’s indifferent defence from the outset, which was breached in the 17th minute. Firmino got onto a good Joe Gomez cross and headed past Cech. Arsenal’s resolve crumbled as the game went on and they conceded another after Mane shimmied his way into the box and curled an effort past Cech. Insult was added to injury when Bellerin lost possession to Salah after an Arsenal set piece and Salah ran all of 70 metres to coolly slide a shot past Cech for 3-0. The final goal came in the 77th and it was a different scorer this time again, through a good header during Daniel Sturridg ‘s cameo appearance. This match showcased all of Liverpool’s attacking talent while also exposing the myriad of problems plaguing Arsenal, who appear to be in for a very long season.
We’re heading into a short international break that will be seen by United, Liverpool, and Chelsea as an inconvenient interruption to their good momentum, but provides a chance at reprieve for clubs like Arsenal who need to regroup and get their heads right. Fixtures return on the weekend of 9 September and will offer Manchester City hosting Liverpool as the main highlight. Can Jurgen Klopp’s side see off another uncertain defence?
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