Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Premier League hits and misses: Arsenal show steel in win over Everton as Nicolas Jackson struggles to fill Chelsea goals void against Bournemouth – Sky Sports


Plus: Groundhog Day builds pressure on Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag after suffering 3-1 defeat to Brighton at Old Trafford; how Luton boss Rob Edwards should take confidence from improvement – despite zero points and rock-bottom league standing
Sunday 17 September 2023 21:04, UK

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Leandro Trossard’s winning goal for Arsenal against Everton was a thing of beauty. The quick, intricate passing; the clinical, first-time finish struck onto the post and in.
But the most striking thing about this Arsenal display was their steel and resilience in claiming the points. They had not won at Goodison Park in their last five attempts. This time was different.
Mikel Arteta delighted at what he described as an “incredible” team performance afterwards but the difference lay not in their slick attacking play – they have always been capable of that – but their appetite for the fight.
“It’s how you do things and your input in every single action,” Arteta told Sky Sports when asked for the key to the victory. His side had outplayed Everton, creating more chances and dominating possession. Crucially, though, they had matched them physically too.
Declan Rice best typified their improvement in that sense. Indeed, the 24-year-old, signed to add this precise dimension, controlled the centre of the pitch, eating up the ground, winning duels and snuffing out danger against Everton’s muscular midfield three.
But this was a collective triumph above all. Everton threatened to turn the game into a dogfight after Gabriel Martinelli’s disallowed goal. But Arsenal, where they might have been bullied in the past, instead held their nerve, coming through a difficult period before the break and then going for Everton’s throats straight after it.
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The brilliantly-worked goal was their reward. But this victory was above all about grit rather than gracefulness. And that should be the biggest source of encouragement to Arteta and Arsenal’s fans.
Nick Wright
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New season, new signings but the same old scoring problems for Chelsea.
Five goals in five Premier League games represents their worst start at the top end of the pitch since 1996.
Their troubles last season – 38 in 38 matches – led to Kai Havertz’s departure but one of his replacements Nicolas Jackson is faring no better. The injury to Christopher Nkunku in pre-season has proved to be a significant blow.
The 22-year-old has netted once, missed six big chances and has had the sixth-most shots in the division.
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Jackson started to get desperate at Bournemouth, slicing one effort from inside the box so dreadfully wide that he fell over in the process. He is also now one booking away from a suspension.
The new Chelsea ownership may have spent over £1bn on transfers since taking over last year yet they have badly overlooked the need for a proven Premier League striker.
David Richardson
“Dreary” was the word used by Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville to sum up Everton’s football after their 1-0 reverse against Arsenal and it is a fitting description. A lack of creativity, coupled with a lack of cutting edge, does not make for great viewing.
The club’s worst start to a season in decades continues and, while they made Arsenal work for their win, it was more of the same in front of goal. They have now failed to score in four of their five games this season.
Their total of two goals, both scored in a single game against newly-promoted strugglers Sheffield United, is the lowest in the division along with Luton Town. In previous games, they could at least say they were profligate. In this one, though, they barely even created anything, their eight shots adding up to only 0.34 in expected goals.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s return from injury was a welcome boost, but his ineffective cameo from the bench was a reminder that there might not be a quick fix to Everton’s scoring problems. Amid the Goodison Park gloom, and with prospective new owners waiting in the wings, Sean Dyche is under increasing pressure.
Nick Wright
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Liverpool have made a habit of fighting back to win in the Premier League this season. They did it against Bournemouth, they did it against Newcastle and now they have done it against Wolves. It’s not ideal – and Jurgen Klopp will not want to see his side play like they did in the opening 45 very often – but it is a galvanising way to win.
That’s something this new-look Liverpool need. There have been plenty of changes to LFC Rebooted, as Klopp calls it, and the pieces are still coming together.
They were not helped on Saturday with key players having to come back late in the week from international duty in South America and Alexis Mac Allister’s half-time withdrawal after a poor first half summed that up. But they found a way with Dominik Szoboszlai driving them forwards, Mohamed Salah teeing up his team-mates and Luis Diaz and Darwin Nunez adding some spark from the bench.
Meanwhile, amid all the drama, Jarell Quansah was quietly having an impressive full debut. The 20-year-old academy graduate is highly-rated by Klopp and his combination of good defensive play and confidence on the ball was on show at Molineux. “In such a disorganised team like we were in the first half, being the one who looks to be doing all right is a statement,” smiled Klopp afterwards.
Quansah is likely to lose his spot with Virgil van Dijk back from suspension next week but the win over Wolves will have been an important experience for him. And for the entire Liverpool team, too.
Peter Smith
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Ange Postecoglou appears to have the Midas touch at Spurs. In just over three months, the Australian has transformed the club’s playing style into exactly the brand demanded by fans and Daniel Levy alike.
Additionally, the 58-year-old has overseen an overhaul at the club after the departure of their long-term talisman Harry Kane – and, he’s undefeated in five league games with four wins… and the club sits second in the league table.
As if that was not enough, Spurs completed the latest comeback in Premier League history on Saturday by scoring two goals after the 98th minute to claim all three points against Sheffield United after dominating the game throughout.
One more thing: Postecoglou threw Richarlison into the fold with 10 minutes of normal time remaining in the second half, with his side one goal down. Another masterstroke.
On Wednesday, the Brazil international revealed he will seek the help of a psychologist to improve his performances and break his goal drought after “a turbulent time in the last five months off the pitch”.
Going into this game, he had failed to score in the Premier League this term and netted just once in 27 league appearances last term following his £60m move from Everton.
Eight minutes into added time, Richarlison utilised his aerial power to head home Ivan Perisic’s cross for the equaliser. Two minutes later, he threaded a perfect pass for Dejan Kulusevski to send the crowd into, what Postecoglou described as, “pandemonium”.
Ange loved the fans’ rendition of Robbie Williams’ adapted version of Angels at the full-time whistle. If this trajectory of improvement and character continues, people might actually begin to believe something supernatural is happening in north London…
Adam Smith
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It was Groundhog Day for Manchester United at Old Trafford. Erik ten Hag, like all those that have followed Sir Alex Ferguson, finds the pressure building around him after a desperate start to the campaign.
There was a feeling that he had turned a corner last season, but that is quickly fading after his side made it three defeats in their first five league games. That has not happened for 34 years at United.
Ten Hag has plenty of credit in the bank, but questions are being asked after being comfortably beaten by a Brighton XI that cost around £17m, a quarter of Jadon Sancho’s transfer fee. Man Utd’s was closer to £350m, but you would npt have known it.
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Anthony Martial, who had scored twice in his last 15 games, and Hannibal Majbri, who nearly left on loan in the summer, were chosen to turn the game. Alejandro Garnacho was given just 10 minutes as Ten Hag made a wild triple substitution in the latter stages.
Brighton, who made six changes for the game, brought on Joao Pedro, Evan Ferguson and Ansu Fati as they looked to extend their lead. The gulf in class between each bench is alarming for Man Utd, given their spending of around £1.5bn in the last decade.
Ten Hag has asked his players to stick to the plan to stop the rot. Cool heads are required to ensure history does not repeat itself. Man Utd may not be in crisis, like their manager says, but they are certainly headed that way.
Zinny Boswell
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Pep Guardiola was animated on the touchline pre-match. He moaned post-match. It was reminiscent of the classic ramblings of a manager who wants to make a point about the football calendar. He only named eight substitutes at West Ham – two were goalkeepers. Five games in and the schedule, off the back of last week’s international commitments, is apparently taking its toll.
Gruelling as it is, a club as moneyed as Manchester City should be able to cope with a player or two on the sidelines.
It just so happens that City’s treatment room contains the best playmaker in the Premier League – Kevin De Bruyne – and there is no obvious replacement for his wonderfully abundant talent. Jack Grealish is unavailable too. Enter Julian Alvarez.
Not the same mould of player, nor the same established and accepted notoriety, but boy is the 23-year-old Argentina international grabbing his opportunity with two obliging hands. His close control, vision and range of passing at the London Stadium was breathtaking – outshining any other on the pitch.
Jeremy Doku was the ball carrier, and Alvarez pulled the strings from then on. In and around the box he was a menace, prompting his manager to dub him “undroppable” after the game (in between jibes at the congested schedule).
There has been clamour for Phil Foden to play more of a central role for City, in the absence of De Bruyne – no need, Alvarez finds the pockets just as well. His mischievous intent is a joy to watch.
Laura Hunter
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It was a difficult afternoon for Aston Villa. They were made to work extremely hard against a well organised and athletic Crystal Palace side.
However, in the end it was a deserved win. Unai Emery’s side dominated the game, created the better chances, and showed the character required to come back after Odsonne Edouard had give the visitors the lead straight after the half-time interval.
They never game up and, in the end, the pressure told as Emery’s substitutions made an impact. Jhon Duran grabbed an impressive equaliser before Douglas Luiz’s late penalty turned the match on its head.
Leon Baily rounded off Villa’s impressive late show as they came from behind to win their ninth consecutive Premier League home game, extending their longest such run in the competition.
Villa continue to reach new heights under their Spanish boss.
Oliver Yew
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After two goals in three substitute appearances, Callum Wilson made the most of his first starting opportunity of the season against Brentford, scoring from the penalty spot and seeing another goal harshly ruled out as Newcastle claimed a much-needed win.
It was just the latest reminder of the striker’s efficiency in front of goal. Wilson has now scored 11 consecutive penalties and is averaging a goal every 62 minutes in the Premier League this season.
It is a small sample size, yes, but run it back to the start of last season and his record remains hugely impressive, with his 21 goals from 36 appearances coming at an average of every 99 minutes.
“It’s about time I got a start,” he joked to Sky Sports afterwards. “I’ve been waiting for the last four weeks.
“All you can do is do yourself justice. It’s just about putting in a proper centre-forward’s performance and helping the team get over the line because I think that’s what we needed.”
The fact Wilson played the full 90 minutes suggests it will be Alexander Isak who starts against AC Milan in Tuesday’s Champions League opener. But if Newcastle need a goal, then this was a reminder of which player is most likely to produce it.
Nick Wright
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Rob Edwards will take confidence from Luton’s start in the Premier League even if they are rock bottom with zero points.
They have shown improvement in their last two fixtures against West Ham and Fulham in which they were on the end of potentially game-changing decisions.
At Craven Cottage they allowed the hosts to control possession, looking to hit on the counter-attack which they did with success in the first half.
Edwards delayed making changes until it was too late and Fulham had taken the lead when it had been clear they were not breaking out like they had been doing.
Their defensive approach almost worked but how bold will they be in their next three inviting games against Wolves, Everton and Burnley? It’s now time for Luton to put some points on the board.
David Richardson
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