Teemu can do
The preseason odds of 2/1 on Newcastle to go down look very generous now. The Toon Army’s main hope this season was that there’d just be too many bad teams in the league and they’d survive their first post-Rafa season by default.
And then Teemu Pukki showed up.
Sadly lacking a Jari Litmanen-style mullet, the free-scoring Finn made up for this barnet deficiency by cutting the Geordie defence to pieces on Saturday, taking his season tally to four in two games after his 30-goal Championship campaign lifted the Canaries back to the big time. It may be that the East Anglian side are a stronger side than many expected – a 4-1 defeat at Anfield in the opening round of games suggested they could be cannon fodder this season – but this thrashing at the hands of likely fellow strugglers does not bode well for the Magpies.
At least there’s 36 games to put things right, eh Steve?
No substitute for Sergio
With Pep Guardiola the top dog in management for the last decade or so, and Sergio Aguero one of the most lethal scoring forces ever to hit the Premier League, it was always likely that these two alpha dogs would clash when they were paired together at Man City.
The latest tetchy episode in their sparring-filled relationship came in the VAR-blighted 2-2 draw on Saturday evening versus Spurs. Deja vu struck all over again when Gabriel Jesus’ 92nd-minute strike was ruled out, according to a Premier League statement, “just coz..” It reminded everyone of the Champions League quarter-final last season when the Etihad got excited for once, only to have that win cruelly ripped away by a late offside call.
The denied goalscorer Jesus was on the pitch as a sub, and had seemingly validated the manager’s decision to withdraw Aguero with the cancelled goal. The manager’s decision prodded the temper of the replaced 31-year-old and led to bickering between the two on the sideline.
It was all was patched up later though with a friendly grip of the neck and intense talking-to up in the grill of Kun by the City gaffer. Nothing to see here, move along.
Adrian’s rocky run
The Spanish stand-in keeper was a hero on Wednesday night after the shootout having looked the villain in extra-time when he gave away a needless penalty. He was then a doubt for the Southampton game because of a fan-inflicted knock during the Super Cup celebrations, but togged out at St Mary’s, meaning Liverpool didn’t have to go looking for Loris Karius’ phone number at short notice. Relief all round there.
And then, with his team 2-0 up, he made the mistake of thinking Dany Ings was a Liverpool player – Brendan Rodgers made the same error a few years back – and passed the ball to the Saints forward, who tapped it in to set up a nervy finish.
Unfortunately for Southampton, Ings also had a nervy finish of his own ready to go, as he slashed at a dangerous ball that ought to have been slotted away in the dying moments meaning Liverpool collected all three points despite their defensive shakiness and goalkeeping conundrum.
While their more trophy-laden nieghbours have earned defensive plaudits due to the bruising grace of their Dutch centre-half, Everton have quietly made the other half of Merseyside just as mean under Marco Silva. Watford’s Saturday blank meant they were the sixth consecutive visitor to Goodison to go home without a goal for their efforts and that the Blues have kept clean sheets in 10 of their last 13 Premier League games.
Their defence is tighter than the supply of essential medical supplies when no-deal goes down #topical.
The highlight of Saturday’s 1-0 win came from their defence too, as left-back Lucas Digne showed the class that was enough to get him to Barcelona – if not enough to help him stay there – as he played a raking through-ball for winger Bernard from just outside his own box. At first, it looks just like a hoof to escape the pressing of the Watford forwards, but as the Brazillian chases it down, controls it, turns inside and finishes by way of deflection, it’s clear the Frenchman spotted the run and played the perfect ball. Pure class.
Luiz highlights talent
The turnover in players at Villa might have a few fans thinking of Fulham last year and their season being torpedoed before a ball was kicked by their Football Manager-like transfer farrago. The shocking start the Birmingham side endured on Saturday was clearly down to the unfamiliarity of the players with one another as well as Tom Heaton’s confused clumsiness in conceding a penalty.
But they may have found a talent in the Man City youth system via Girona in Douglas Luiz based on the strike he unleashed to drag the Villans back into the game. Of course, if you’re going to have a mop that makes you look like the love-child of Abel Xavier and the Predator you better have a bit about you.
It wasn’t enough to turn the game around, but Villa did create chances in front of a fired-up home crowd who, starved of the Premier League for the past few years, made it an occasion despite the result and will have justified hopes of staying up based on the performance.
Chelsea start well only to splutter again
Becoming a bit of a pattern, isn’t it? Lamps hasn’t enjoyed the best first week proper despite some encouraging performances, with his side unable to make the most of their dominant starts against United, Liverpool and now Leicester.
In truth, the Foxes were unlucky not to come away with all three points, spurning second-half opportunities that would’ve had Brendan’s grin even more dazzling than usual at full-time. Maddison, Vardy and Tielemens all threatened to net a winner after Wilfrid Ndidi answered in the affirmative when offered the chance to head home an equaliser by a very accommodating Chelsea backline. Youngster Mason Mount had given the hosts a seventh-minute lead, a scenario that Chelsea sides under Mourinho or Conte would not have allowed slip towards a draw.
The three results so far all serve to support the idea that this may have all come a bit too soon for Frank after just one season at Derby, with his side failing to cope when opponents change their approach. It’s Norwich away next Saturday, which now looks like a testing fixture for this stuttering side.