What a distinction a season makes. Laborious up on the again and barely in a position to title the identical defensive partnership twice final season, Liverpool might afford to go away a match Joel Matip and Joe Gomez out of their 3-0 win over Crystal Palace, and hand a debut to Ibrahima Konate on the coronary heart of their backline.
With out knocking January signings Ozan Kobak and Ben Davies, Konate is in a special dialog – as his £36m price-tag confirmed. He loved some shiny moments on his Anfield bow, and a few others the place he might want to enhance, however most significantly regarded snug with the tempo and physicality required in his first style of the Premier League.
Apart from his efficiency on debut, his inclusion highlighted how issues have modified for Jurgen Klopp since final season. Konate is his solely main summer season signing however, with out the horrific harm issues which dogged 2020/21, he was in a position to omit three of his first-choice again 4, primarily utilizing the sport as a welcome likelihood to rotate, and nonetheless oversee a victory which took the Reds three factors clear on the prime.
“Some video games you bear in mind as being enjoyable, some you bear in mind as being essential. This is a crucial one,” he mused after full-time, understandably relieved Liverpool had lastly shaken off Palace’s risk with two objectives within the ultimate 12 minutes.
It was not a glittering efficiency, however to make use of the supervisor’s apt selection of phrases, actually “hard-fought”. You aren’t getting the sensation Liverpool might have made sweeping defensive adjustments final season and are available away with this scoreline, deserved or not. And that’s the reason transferring prime of the desk this early within the season feels extra sustainable than it proved this time final season.
It was all arrange completely for an additional Arsenal stumble. Bodily Burnley, hungry for a primary victory of the season at Turf Moor, may have licked their lips as Mikel Arteta named an XI which solely had Ben White and Gabriel Magalhaes as real bodily presences.
The stage was there for Burnley to devour Arsenal’s mushy underbelly, to take them to locations they seldom go, to use their all-too-familiar defensive flaws, however the Gunners had different concepts.
After outplaying Burnley on the ball within the first half and coming in a purpose to the nice because of Martin Odegaard’s good free-kick, we noticed a brand new facet to Arteta’s Arsenal, one which has the starvation and focus wanted to beat the duty positioned in entrance of them.
White and Gabriel stifled the specter of Chris Wooden and Ashley Barnes, and their replacements Maxwel Cornet and Jay Rodriguez, in an assured and gritty defensive show.
When the again 4 have been bypassed, Aaron Ramsdale proved an impressed final line of defence within the Arsenal purpose, as he stretched his run with out conceding to 5 video games with an imperious efficiency.
And, crucially, fortune favoured them as referee Anthony Taylor reversed his choice to award Burnley a second-half penalty.
Arsenal made issues onerous for themselves by shedding their first three video games, however the nook has effectively and really been turned. Again-to-back victories have lifted the temper and, with Tottenham on the horizon, issues might get even higher.
Bailey pronounces himself to the Premier League
Aston Villa’s emphatic ending of Everton’s unbeaten begin to the Premier League season didn’t look doubtless till Dean Smith summoned Leon Bailey from the substitutes’ bench.
The sport was meandering in the direction of a stalemate by the hour mark, however Smith was in a position to name upon superior reinforcements that have been spearheaded by the membership’s £25m summer season recruit from Bayer Leverkusen.
He could not have performed a task in Matty Money’s opener, however, as Everton buckled, it was Bailey who took the sport away from them.
Having seen his devilish nook flicked into his personal web by Lucas Digne, the Jamaica ahead pilfered a purpose of his personal, and a primary in entrance of the jubilant Holte Finish.
Bailey instructed Sky Sports activities: “To have my household there watching it, to have the followers chanting my title once I was happening, it is such an amazing feeling. I really feel I’ve welcomed myself right here as a Villa participant.”
His cameo efficiency was curtailed by a thigh harm quickly after, however it’s a signal of his significance that Smith was so keen to forestall additional aggravation.
Following a blended set of outcomes that had not been reflective of Villa’s performances within the opening month of the season, they’re now within the prime half. You sense it’s the place they’ll keep.
The early indications are that Villa have re-invested effectively on the £100m obtained for Jack Grealish. In Bailey, there’s a new darling of Villa Park.
If my reminiscence serves me effectively, there was a interval in every of Burnley’s Premier League campaigns the place their top-flight standing has not solely been questioned however has been given a stern evaluation. 5 video games into the present season, that second appears to be right here already.
Defeat to Arsenal confirmed a fourth Premier League loss for Sean Dyche’s winless Clarets, who sit second backside within the desk, only one level above pointless Norwich.
It took Burnley eight video games to get their first victory on the board final season and a equally gradual begin is with out query a trigger for concern at Turf Moor. And but, whereas different golf equipment in the same place can be getting into disaster mode and doubtlessly making rash choices, Burnley calmly go about their enterprise protected virtually within the information that they’ll get out.
Distinction that sense of safety and religion to ideas circling round Carrow Highway in the meanwhile, and also you get a reminder – when you wanted it – of simply how essential Dyche is to this Burnley challenge.
Sure, Burnley are winless and haven’t scored a purpose from open play in 5 video games this season, however with Dyche on the helm, now isn’t the time for worry.
A complete of 52,698 have been in attendance on the Etihad Stadium however the majority of them in the end left upset on Saturday as Manchester Metropolis recorded simply the one shot on course of their goalless draw with Southampton.
“I really feel a bit responsible as a result of we did not play good,” Pep Guardiola admitted in a match the place VAR drama denied Southampton a penalty after which Metropolis a late winner.
It was an emphatic halt to a run of three 5-0 wins at residence for Metropolis within the Premier League, whereas the flash factors took the eye away from Guardiola’s pre-match comments when he referred to as for a greater attendance following the Champions League turnout in midweek.
Metropolis followers current on the Etihad on Saturday chanted Guardiola’s title simply earlier than and after kick-off, and with the attendance greater than it was towards Norwich (51,437) and Arsenal (52,276), Guardiola will hope this matter is now put to mattress.
It was an undesirable distraction for Metropolis within the build-up, and Guardiola will likely be reluctant to debate it additional given Metropolis’s upcoming run of video games.
After a Carabao Cup match at residence to Wycombe, Metropolis face journeys to Chelsea, PSG after which Liverpool – three video games which might have a serious say in how their season finally performs out.
Ivan Toney’s confidence was by no means in query going into his first correct Premier League season. “I can not wait to close folks up,” he mentioned after Brentford’s play-off ultimate win in Could. Requested about Brentford’s targets this 12 months he told Sky Sports in August: “Successful the league.”
The latter could also be a attain, however he’s reaching the previous already. A purpose and an help in Brentford’s 2-0 win at Wolves means he has scored 33 because the begin of final season, greater than another participant within the prime 4 tiers of English soccer.
And people doubters who questioned whether or not he might reduce it within the Premier League are awfully quiet – Toney is a Premier League striker with layers to his sport.
He has picked up Sky Sports activities’ man-of-the-match award 3 times in Brentford’s 5 Premier League video games and his participant rankings learn 8/10, 7/10, 7/10, 7/10 and eight/10, although Thomas Frank described his Molineux efficiency as 10/10. Even when Brentford haven’t gained, he has been efficient.
Toney isn’t the kind of striker who touches the ball a handful of occasions and has to take his likelihood; he touched the ball 45 occasions towards Wolves, the fourth-highest in Brentford’s staff, a rarity for a striker, helped by successful most of his 25 duels.
He comes quick as Bryan Mbeumo runs off him, prompting Frank to match the duo to Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke. Excessive reward certainly.
However Toney’s work isn’t restricted to the ultimate third; successful a match-high 4 fouls towards Wolves, he contributed to Brentford’s administration of the sport – his numbers have been the identical towards Arsenal on opening evening – slowing it down, even with Wolves’ numerical benefit.
Brentford have each likelihood of surviving comfortably with Toney and Mbeumo in tow.
In opposition to Watford, Norwich boss Daniel Farke opted for a extra attacking line-up than the one he put out towards Arsenal the earlier weekend with Josh Sargent and Milot Rashica lining up alongside Teemu Pukki in a entrance three. It didn’t work.
Norwich’s lacklustre efficiency towards Watford was typical of how the Canaries have performed this season. Very blissful to push ahead in numbers, however seemingly equally blissful to go away gaps in behind, which performed straight into Watford’s arms. Pacey wingers Emmanuel Dennis and Ismaila Sarr unsurprisingly thrived within the open house they have been afforded.
Farke mentioned post-match he’s absolutely conscious his facet want to enhance defensively, however maybe throwing Ozan Kabak straight into the beginning XI for his Norwich debut was not one of the best thought when there’s a League Cup fixture towards Liverpool on Tuesday which regarded a extra appropriate time to ease him in.
There isn’t a doubting Norwich have proficient attacking gamers and have good depth alongside the ahead line, however Farke have to be way more pragmatic if his facet are to face any likelihood of survival this season.