Friday, December 9, 2022

Premier League takeaways: Harry Kane double lifts Spurs to win at Nottingham Forest; West Ham get first win

Goals were hard to come by Sunday in the Premier League as between three matches, the ball only hit the back of the net five times to round out Matchday 3. A Harry Kane brace saw Tottenham see off Nottingham Forest despite a Dean Henderson penalty save, Newcastle drew their third match of the season against Wolverhampton, and West Ham finally got a goal and a victory.

Saturday’s Premier League matches had something for everyone as there were goals galore. Manchester United broke a seven-game away losing streak with a victory at Southampton before Liverpool hung nine goals on newly promoted Bournemouth. Everton and Brentford played to the only draw of the day while Arsenal and Manchester City picked up comeback victories. City were down 2-0 at the break but got a second-half hat trick from Erling Haaland to win it. Let’s check in on what went on around the league.

Scores

Sunday

Wolves 1, Newcastle 1

West Ham 1, Aston Villa 0

Tottenham 2, Nottingham Forest 0

Saturday

Arsenal 2, Fulham 1

Everton 1, Brentford 1

Liverpool 9, Bournemouth 0

Man City 4, Crystal Palace 0

Brighton 1, Leeds 0

Chelsea 2, Leicester City 1

Man United 1, Southampton 0

Harry Kane is in top form for Spurs

Kane could’ve had a hat trick if not for Henderson’s heroics at the City Ground. It was an impressive performance for Nottingham Forest as they gave Spurs trouble at times,but Antonio Conte’s side has almost become more confident without the ball than they are with it. Spurs struck first as Dejan Kulusevski found Kane for the opener only five minutes into the match. After allowing the goal, the Tricky Trees found their footing as Brennan Johnson and Neco Williams created chances, but the Spurs’ defense held strong.

Kane was handed a chance from the spot by Steve Cook, whose outstretched arm saw him, Kane, and Henderson all tumble into the net before Kane’s penalty chance. But Henderson did his homework, reading the penalty the whole way for his second penalty save of the season. Tipping his cap to the crowd, he worked City Ground into a fervor, almost pushing Forest to an equalizer via Williams.

Henderson would then come up big with a save on Heung-Min Son, who still chases his first goal of the season, but the introduction of Richarlison changed the tide. He assisted Kane’s second of the game, which put the match out of sight in the 81st minute. It’s a win that shows that Spurs don’t need possession to win as Forest were only able to muster one shot on target from 17 attempts despite having more of the ball. Steve Cooper will need to figure out his best 11, but when the team signs a new player every two to three days, that’s easier said than done. Renan Lodi is the latest recruit to the City Ground and if he can hit the ground running, there will be too much quality in the Forest team to be relegated, but with almost an entirely new squad entering this summer, their ambitions may be higher than only surviving.

Spurs have risen into third as they’re among five teams who haven’t lost a match yet this season. Next up are West Ham United and Fulham before Champions League play begins, and Conte would certainly want to start this season with a perfect record before facing Manchester City on Sept. 10. After achieving a top-four finish last season despite a bad start under Nuno Espirito Santo, things feel different with a full season of Conte underway.

Newcastle miss their attackers but hold firm

Eddie Howe was dealt a tough hand with Callum Wilson and Bruno Guimares missing their 1-1 draw with Wolverhampton due to injuries, but a bit of magic was all it took to secure a result on the road. With the return of Nelson Semedo and Raul Jimenez, Bruno Lage was able to return to a back four that saw the team trouble Newcastle going forward. Ruben Neves hit a stunner from outside the box but it wouldn’t be the best goal of the match as Allan Saint-Maximin one-upped him in a big way. Capitalizing on a fluffed clearance, Jose Sa didn’t know what was coming when the volley ended up passing him.

Howe will hope that new signing Alexander Isak’s visa issues are sorted by Newcastle’s midweek clash with Liverpool as Saint-Maximin needs help in the attack. Guimares will likely miss that match as well but with Liverpool’s defensive issues, it would be a good time to introduce a new striker into the mix.

West Ham nab their first victory; Villa failing to impress

It took over 350 minutes, but a Pablo Fornals goal saw West Ham United score their first of the season while also capturing a win to move off of the bottom of the Premier League table. It was a match where chances were hard to come by as Gianluca Scamacca got his first league start in place of Michail Antonio but was limited to only one shot during the match.  There were only five shots on target between both teams as they didn’t even combine for an xG of one. West Ham went back to basics shifting to a 5-3-2 as Emerson also made his first team debut after signing from Chelsea.

While the Hammers ceded possession during the match, playing five at the back did help limit chances but chance creation remains an issue. Luckily the impending arrival of Lucas Paqueta should help with that moving forward. For Aston Villa, manager Steven Gerrard has a few worries building. Not only did the team lose for the third time in four games but they also couldn’t get Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings into good positions as finding the right attacking balance has been something that Gerrard has struggled to do. Leon Bailey and Emiliano Buendia began the match on the bench after being among Villa’s brighter sparks this season, not coming on until after the 60th minute. 

With the backing that he has had so far this season and more incomings likely on the way after Diego Carlos’ injury, Gerrard needs to win now. If he’s not able to get the team flowing, Villa could move in another direction sooner than later as the team is more talented than their results would suggest. Arsenal and Manchester City are up next so it could get worse before it gets better, but reaching the international break without signs of things turning around would give the Villa board a good time for a clean break.

Arsenal show resiliency

It wasn’t easy for the Gunners as Fulham pushed them to their limits but Arsenal are still perfect after a 2-1 home victory over Fulham. Aleksandar Mitrovic opened the scoring in an unlikely way by picking off Gabriel Magalhaes.  Gabriel was put under pressure after receiving a cross but tried to play out of the back instead of kicking it long.

The goal was against the run of play as Arsenal were attacking well, but Bernd Leno was having a good day protecting the Fulham net, holding up under constant pressure. Arsenal finally got their goal in the 64th minute via Martin Odegaard who scored his third goal in the last two matches for Arsenal. Marco Silva tried to close out the match by subbing on Issa Diop to protect the tie but Leno’s good day was dented following a corner. 

Leno fell down in a tangle with William Saliba before Gabriel made up for his mistake by scoring the winner to keep Arsenal’s run as the only perfect team in the Premier League alive. 

While it’s hard to judge how good Arsenal are this early in the season, these are the type of games where they might have dropped points in the past. Fulham will feel hard done by the result, but under Silva they look like a team that can avoid the drop in the Premier League this season. With midweek matches starting soon, we’ll begin to see what these teams are made of as the rigors of the season increase.

Roberto Firmino has himself a day

Liverpool rolled to a record-tying 9-0 victory over newly promoted Bournemouth behind two goals and three assists from Robert Firmino. Like Liverpool, the Brazillian forward has had a rough start to the season. With no goal contributions in Liverpool’s opening day draw to Fulham, it seemed like Firmino’s days leading the line would be numbered with Darwin Nunez waiting in the wings. But a red card for Nunez gave Firmino another chance that he would take advantage of. With Nunez still suspended for Liverpool’s midweek tie against Newcastle United, Firmino will have another chance to show what he can bring an attacking threat to the match.

Pascal Gross raises the heat for Brighton

It was a day where it seemed like Brighton’s lack of threat leading the line would come back to bite them. But eventuallyl a familiar duo of Leandro Trossard and Pascal Gross got the job done against Leeds United. Gross has had an electric start to the Premier League season scoring three goals, assisting one, and creating nine chances across Brighton’s four games so far. He floated into space to be picked out by Trossard before driving a shot past Illan Meslier. It was a good team goal from Brighton, but one that they could score more often by improving at forward.

Leeds will have wanted to do better with their chances only testing the keeper twice from their ten attempts. New signing Luis Sinisterra, in particular, had a great shot from point blank range which he somehow managed to pull wide. He’ll need consistent minutes to prevent snatching at chances.  Graham Potter has quite a professional setup in his Brighton team and they’re pushing at the top of the Premier League table for a reason. With Marc Cucurella gone to Chelsea, Pervis Estupinan made his debut and was fine defensively but will want to improve his wayward passing as he gets more time moving forward.

Chelsea struggle but persevere for all three points

It seemed like Chelsea were on their way to another disappointing result when Conor Gallagher was dismissed in the 28th minute for picking up two yellow cards. Ruben Loftus-Cheek drew a penalty for the Blues, but Kai Havertz continued his disappointing start to the season by being ruled offside two overturn the penalty chance and it looked like it was just going to be one of those days for the Blues. 

But, in the second half, Chelsea pushed Marc Cucurella and Reece James into more natural wing back positions and reaped the rewards via a Raheem Sterling brace. Those were the first goals scored from open play by a Chelsea attacker this season which highlights their struggles. Mason Mount was withdrawn at the half continuing his disaapointing start to the season while Kai Havertz was also largely absent, though perhaps understandably given the team was down a goal. But Sterling delivered and it’s quickly seeming that this attack is only going to go as far as Sterling takes them.

As for Leicester, as Wesley Fofana closes in on heading to Chelsea, things are beginning to spiral for the Foxes. They haven’t made any signings yet and are in 19th place only four matches into the season. Allowing ten goals after losing keeper Kasper Schmeichel, the defense needs improvements and fast. The attack has been fine, scoring six goals, but the shine from their run at a Champions League place in the 2020-21 season is gone after an eighth place finish last season and more regression happening now.

Manchester United takes a step in the right direction

Erik ten Hag’s Manchester United end a seven match losing streak away from home with a 1-0 victory over Southampton at Saint Mary’s Stadium on Saturday. The only goal of the match was a well built team goal that ended in Diogo Dalot finding Bruno Fernandes in a pocket of space for a great finish. The result from United is a welcome one, but it’s a day during which things could’ve gone differently had United let frustration from Southampton’s stiff defense and timely blocks in the box set in.

During the losing streak, which stretches back to March, Manchester United only scored two goals while allowing 21 into their own net. So the fact that they keept a clean sheet is hugely important, especially after United averaged three goals per game over their losing streak away from Old Trafford. 

It was always destined to end this way. In the first half, it felt like more of the same could happen as despite Manchester United’s best efforts the Saints defense, led by Armel Bella-Kotchap, held strong. United took eight shots in the first period for an xG of 1.88 but only four tested Gavin Bazunu due to Kyle Walker-Peters and Bella-Kotchap blocking two shots each to keep things level heading into the half. Though much of United’s production came from a single run of play where they fired on net four times from point blank range without managing to break through. 

Sustained pressure would cause the wall of Saints to break in the 55th minute. The United attack of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Elanga had the Southampton defense sitting deep which allowed Dalot to cut the ball back to Fernandes who scored his first goal of the season in style.

The goal upped United’s belief in the match as they pushed for another but were unable to find a breakthrough. Casemiro made his debut from the bench in the 80th minute but United had to withstand an onslaught from Southampton to end the match. While the team has the work rate to make it through the first 60 minutes or so, closing games out isn’t their strong suit yet. It took a clearance off the line from Dalot deep into stoppage time from a Kyle Walker-Peters shot to preserve the clean sheet, but an ugly win is still a win and given United’s struggles to start the season and their long road losing streak, even ugly wins have been hard to come by, especially away from home.

But the room for improvement is clear for Te Hag’s men. Southampton outshot Manchester United nine to zero after the 60th minute but United escaped as they only put two shots on target. Some was by design as ten Hag’s team was able to sit deep while the Saints forced the issue but with a one goal lead Manchester United need an attacking threat on the counterattack to close out games. Cristiano Ronaldo was introduced into the game in the 68th minute but he didn’t provide that, not taking a single shot while he was on the pitch. Anthony Martial might be a preferred option going forward but he is once again nursing an injury, as he has for so much of his career. 

Ultimately, i’s a good result to end the losing streak, but United will need to improve in big ways before they can be declared anything close to back.

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