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Premier League: 10 Talking Points From the Weekend’s Action

Premier League: 10 Talking Points From the Weekend’s Action

Thursday, 16 August, 2018 - 07:45
Eddie Howe, Mattéo Guendouzi, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, José Mourinho and Naby Keïta. Composite: Getty Images, Rex/Shutterstock, EPA
London- Guardian
1) Guendouzi shows promise amid Arsenal’s failings
Wherever Arsène Wenger was watching, he would have approved of Mattéo Guendouzi’s presence at the base of Arsenal’s midfield. The 19-year-old was poached from Lorient, exactly the type of under‑the-radar Francophone deal in which the former manager delighted. Eager and energetic, his tousled locks and upright style make him stand out but, with City interchanging midfield passes at breakneck speed, Unai Emery had exposed him to a heavy workload – neither Granit Xhaka nor Aaron Ramsey showed much dedication to defensive duties. When Raheem Sterling blazed past him to score City’s opener, Guendouzi’s inexperience was exposed but so was neglectful defending from Mesut Özil and Héctor Bellerín. His passing was often chaotic but so was that of his midfield partners, particularly Xhaka. John Brewin

• Match report: Arsenal 0-2 Manchester City

2) Stability standing Bournemouth in good stead
Eddie Howe is the longest-serving manager in the division. While that fact is a damning indictment of the world of management, it is another marker of Bournemouth’s steady progress. Last weekend marked 10 years since Bournemouth were handed a 17-point deduction in the fourth tier, and Howe is determined not to stand still. He has cited the importance of building a new stadium and training ground to establish a legacy from this era. Howe’s side made light work of Cardiff City, with the new signings Jefferson Lerma and Diego Rico still to be integrated. David Brooks showcased an elegance on his debut, while Ryan Fraser is determined to be more influential this campaign. “Ryan did well for us last year and as the season got going he really came into is own,” Howe said. “He’s a real talent and he can take confidence from this game.” Ben Fisher

• Match report: Bournemouth 2-0 Cardiff City

3) Wan-Bissaka is one for Southgate to keep an eye on
This contest was billed as a first glimpse of Fulham’s new-look squad on their Premier League return, and ended with Wilfried Zaha condemning the host side to defeat. But the player who caught the eye was a Croydon‑born full‑back surely destined for elevation through the junior national set-up. Aaron Wan-Bissaka was outstanding in direct confrontation with Ryan Sessegnon. The 20-year-old, sent off on his England Under-20 debut in the spring, allied pace, power and defensive surety with an assist thrown in for good measure on his eighth top‑flight appearance. Wan-Bissaka’s first three direct opponents at this level had been Christian Eriksen, Alexis Sánchez and Eden Hazard last season. “It was almost sink or swim and he learned to swim very quickly,” Roy Hodgson said. That duel of Sessegnon versus Wan-Bissaka will have had Gareth Southgate purring. Dominic Fifield

• Match report: Fulham 0-2 Crystal Palace

4) Time for Huddersfield to drop the underdog act
Since he arrived at Huddersfield, David Wagner has pushed the idea of his team as “little dogs”, the unfancied upstarts snapping at the big boys’ heels. That was fine while gunning for their unlikely promotion and even more unlikely survival in the Premier League, but one wonders how much longer he can get away with it without creating a defeatist attitude. Wagner almost brushed off the 3-0 defeat against Chelsea on Saturday – “There is no reason to have your head down, or to overthink this result,” he told his players – but is it healthy to perpetuate the idea that they essentially have no chance against teams such as Chelsea? Particularly a Chelsea team that is in flux, getting used to a new manager and style? Sooner or later Huddersfield will have to start acting like they belong in the Premier League, rather than being plucky interlopers just grateful to be there. Nick Miller

• Match report: Huddersfield 0-3 Chelsea

5) Gerrard comparisons do Keïta a disservice
Of all the players who impressed for Liverpool, Sky’s Jamie Redknapp was particularly smitten by Naby Keïta. “The number eight really seems to suit him,” he said. “He’s not overawed by playing in the Steven Gerrard number.” No player has worn that shirt at Liverpool since Gerrard left in 2015, and although Keïta’s father was a fan who will no doubt have spoken to his son about the club’s famous occasions, the idea that a man who was 10 when Liverpool won the Champions League in Istanbul would be remotely awed by what is no more than a numerical coincidence is absurd. Gerrard will not quickly be forgotten at Liverpool but to endlessly compare him with the club’s rotating cast of central midfielders, particularly when the only apparent similarity between them is the number on their back, helps nobody. Keïta did play very well, though. Simon Burnton

• Match report: Liverpool 4-0 West Ham United

6) Right-back is Mourinho’s real area of concern
The tension created between José Mourinho and Ed Woodward this summer over the abandoned pursuit of a centre‑back seems a little unnecessary given the encouraging performances of Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelöf against Leicester. But also because the obvious defensive deficiency at Manchester United lies elsewhere, and has done for some time. Despite his desire to leave – there is interest from Serie A – and Mourinho’s apparent distrust in his ability, Matteo Darmian started at right-back and was given an uncomfortable evening by Demarai Gray and Ben Chilwell at Old Trafford. Antonio Valencia’s calf injury should soon heal but the Ecuadorian is 33 and has been a stop-gap measure for five years. Diogo Dalot is the third option but, at 19, made just eight first‑team appearances for Porto before his £24m sale. James Piercy

• Match report: Manchester United 2-1 Leicester City

7) Crosses mark the spot for Spurs
Three fine deliveries into the area prefaced three headed goals. If anyone needed reminding that good crosses can win games it was abundantly clear here as Newcastle’s failure to defend stellar balls from Christian Eriksen (a corner) and Serge Aurier (a cross) led to Jan Vertonghen and then Dele Alli scoring for a slightly fortunate Spurs. Joselu briefly levelled after connecting with Matt Ritchie’s left-foot, right-wing dispatch. Ritchie was subsequently furious at being replaced by Christian Atsu and had a mini tantrum. It reflected the mood of the crowd, some of whom had earlier in the day been among the 500 demonstrators protesting against Mike Ashley’s stewardship of the club outside a city-centre branch of his Sports Direct chain, demanding he sells up. The big problem with that is that Ashley needs to find a buyer first. Louise Taylor

• Match report: Newcastle United 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur

8) Dyche getting the best out of rejuvenated Lennon
Not signing players is the new black. Sure Spurs have the crown, but Burnley did not do too badly in the summer window, adding only three recruits (for just under £30m, not much money in today’s top flight, as ridiculous as that may seem). Tried and trusted names did the job for Burnley against Southampton, and players who have been in the shadows at Turf Moor led the way. Ashley Westwood and Jeff Hendrick allied strength with awareness and good technical play in the middle, and Stephen Ward was a reliable outlet on the left. But it was particularly great to see Aaron Lennon racing down the right flank. The former England man’s dribbling and distribution were consistently good and he might have decided the game had he put his breakaway shot past Alex McCarthy in the first half. Buying players is exciting, but coaching the best out of them must be the fun bit. Paul MacInnes

• Match report: Southampton 0-0 Burnley

9) Gray can finally shine for Watford
It is a little over a year since Watford paid a club-record fee of £18.5m to sign Andre Gray from Burnley and it is fair to say the 27-year-old has yet to justify the outlay. He scored just five times in 33 appearances last season and had Watford signed the striker most of their supporters were craving this summer it is possible he would have departed from Vicarage Road by now. But they did not and Gray remained. More than that, he is starting games, playing alongside Troy Deeney in Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Brighton having also linked up with the Watford captain during pre-season. Neither of them scored but they performed well, with Gray a lively presence. There was a sharpness to his movement that suggests a player who has been dogged by difficulties may be in the right shape, physically as well as mentally, to finally flourish for Javi Gracia’s side. Sachin Nakrani

• Match report: Watford 2-0 Brighton

10) Everton fans salivate over Richarlison
Marco Silva was at pains to say the £40m Everton shelled out for Richarlison was “not important” but the 21-year-old’s debut at Molineux suggested he may quickly prove to be worth every penny. The Brazilian won the free-kick from which he jabbed in Everton’s opener and then finished wonderfully to put their 10 men in reach of an unlikely win. It did not come to pass, but his performance suggested he will be a leading figure in Silva’s side. It is worth remembering that Richarlison – albeit a year younger and fresh from Fluminense – could not sustain his early form for Watford last season. Silva said his player needs greater protection from referees but also admitted he is “here to teach Richarlison in the right moments what he has to do, and not simulate anything”. The broader point, though, is Everton have a thrilling prospect on their hands. Nick Ames

• Match report: Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-2 Everton

(The Guardian)

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