Thursday, February 9, 2023

Premier League takeaways: Overlooked stories from a weekend dominated by Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea

Another week of the Premier League has passed and there are only two teams left with two wins in two matches. Manchester City rolled to a 4-0 victory over Bournemouth despite only getting one assist from Erling Haaland. Arsenal also continued their perfect start as Gabriel Jesus was involved in all four goals in Arsenal’s 4-2 victory over Leicester City. In a normal week, Manchester United losing 4-0 away to Brentford would’ve been the biggest story but this week was anything but normal. Add in managerial flare ups during Chelsea’s 2-2 draw with Spurs and Darwin Nunez getting sent off for a headbutt during Liverpool’s 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace and it was a match week that wasn’t short on drama in the slightest. 

While the big stories were eating up all the oxygen in the room here’s what else happened in the Premier League this weekend.

The Tricky Trees take three points for the first time this season 

Nottingham Forest secured their first win of the season in impressive fashion. They needed quite a bit of help as West Ham created better chances but facing a promoted team at home is never a straightforward affair. The City Ground saw the Hammers strike the post, and have a goal called back before Taiwo Awoniyi opened his scoring account with a dribbler past Lukasz Fabianski

Dean Henderson even picked up a penalty save on Declan Rice that could have David Moyes rethinking who his takers are this season. After almost buying an entirely new team, Steve Cooper’s side are expected to struggle to integrate everyone and while this match was an improvement after allowing Newcastle to rip off 21 shots, the Tricky Trees still have plenty of work to do as their midfield was non-existent in the match. It’s a disappointment for West Ham that they couldn’t take advantage of things but keeping that attacking style up could see them get their first Premier League points of the season sooner than later.

Michail Antonio could be benched for Gianluca Scamacca sooner than later as he wasn’t able to do enough with his limited touches while Scamacca can take pressure off of Jarrod Bowen

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Aston Villa get their first points of the season, but at what cost

On the surface, Aston Villa getting a 2-1 victory over Everton was a good result until you dig at the numbers a little more. Not only did the Toffees rip off 15 shots for an xG of 1.58, but new signing Amadou Onana was lively in forcing a Lucas Digne own goal. Onana also lost the ball leading to Emi Buendia’s goal a minute earlier but he made up for his mistake. It was an up and down day that highlighted what Everton are missing without Dominic Calvert-Lewin but gives Frank Lampard confidence that with even an average striker leading the line, his team are good enough at creating chances to win games sooner than later.

For Aston Villa, Diego Carlos suffered a major blow as he was withdrawn deep into stoppage time with an injury. The worst case scenario was confirmed and he will miss at least six months due to a ruptured Achilles tendon. Steven Gerrard wanted to upgrade his defense, which raises the question, will Aston Villa dip their toe back into the market or will he trust longtime Villa stalwart Tyrone Mings despite stripping him of the captaincy in a move that raised eyebrows in the preseason? It’s an injury that certainly puts Aston Villa into awkward territory ahead of tough clashes against Crystal Palace, West Ham, Arsenal, and Manchester City upcoming. By the end of those, Gerrard will certainly know what he has in his team but they may not be in the top half like he would prefer.

Leeds United’s defense must improve

Leeds United’s 2-2 draw against Southampton was a familiar result. The attack was both stellar and sustained an injury as Patrick Bamford was forced off but a brace from Rodrigo paced the team. The defense, however, left much to be desired, falling apart late and allowing two goals after the 70th minute to draw. While credit should go to Ralph Hasenhüttl in making changes that included giving Seku Mara his debut to get back into the match, these are certainly two points dropped for Jesse Marsch.

With so much change around the team this summer, it may take Marsch a little time to make things click but the defense is a major concern. They’ve been linked with left back Kai Wagner of the Philadephia Union as part of a plan to add defensive strength and depth. Coming string into the Premier League would be a jump for Wagner but he has been up to the challenge of leading one of the best defenses in Major League Soccer and he has also been pushing to test himself in a top European division. Pascal Struijk held his own as a makeshift left back, but he’s much more effective in the center of the pitch. Can March get the best out of Junior Firpo when he’s back or will another addition need to arrive before deadline day?

Should Aleksandar Mitrovic remain on penalties for Fulham?

Two weeks into the season, the Cottagers look like they belong in the top flight after drawing with Liverpool and Wolves but they could easily be on four points instead of two if Mitrovic was more clinical from the penalty spot. While he took his chance against Liverpool with confidence, Jose Sa got the better of him in preserving a draw for Wolves. This is an issue that Fulham dealt with during their last promotion campaign as well. In Mitrovic’s career, he has made 22 of 31 penalties. Over the last six Premier League seasons 79% of penalties have been converted in the Premier League and Mitrovic sits at 71% for his career. In a game of fine margins, is it worth Marco Silva exploring other options? Mitrovic was the team’s only taker in the Championship netting six of seven, but their last spell in the Premier League, which ended under Scott Parker, saw four different takers combine to miss three of six spot kicks. Silva won’t want to approach Parker’s penalty carousal which can serve to make the taker’s job much harder but more missed penalties could cause confidence to waiver in Mitrovic.

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