By Rory Morrow – Deputy & Sports Editor
Crystal Palace 3- Tottenham Hostpur-0: Do not be fooled by the late timing of Palace’s scores. Following a dour first half, they dominated Spurs, a restless blur of energy and wit cultivating in Japhet Tanganga’s 5-minute brain-fud red card. If Wilfried Zaha’s role in his first booking was contentious, the winger was nonetheless electrifying all game, tormenting debut right back Emerson Royal. Ben Davies rustiness gifted Zaha his deserved goal from the penalty spot and as Odsonne Edouard’s brilliantly deft flick trickled despairingly beyond Hugo Lloris, the game was up. Conor Gallagher’s relentless thrust allowed Edouard to add a third and seal emphatic victory for Vieria.
Arsenal-1 Norwich City-0: Pre-match this was not anything resemblant of David-Goliath yet I was aghast at Norwich’s lack of forward will. This Arsenal team has never been flakier at the back especially with (another) cobbled together defence. Although gladly resilient, typified by Brandon Williams clearance, we saw none of Todd Cantwell’s creativity or Teemu Pukki potence as Arsenal attacked feverishly and for large parts, fruitlessly. The Canaries’ stubbornness is encouraging but ultimately useless without goals. Having scored only via a penalty, how they could do with a few tap ins landing their way.
Brentford-0 Brighton and Hove Albion-1: The Seagulls are soaring high and this hard-fought scrappy win was rooted in Chris Hughton (despite struggles at Nottingham Forest) hallmarks. The Duffy-Dunk reunion continued its pragmatic romance whilst Bryan Mbeumo could learn from Leandro Trossard in how to take chances.
Leicester City-0 Manchester City-1: To think a club so chaotically clumsy as Arsenal were linked with such a silky operator as Bernardo Silva over the summer. Silva controlled the midfield battle with grace and Leicester relied on rapidly effective counter attacks to threaten. Kyle Walker’s pace and Ederson’s one-on-one reliability were pivotal to closing out a clean sheet.
Manchester United-4 Newcastle United-1: Ronaldo, check. Fernandes, check. Javi Manquillo… who? Jesse Lingard, oh welcome back lost prodigy. Lingard’s tremendous turn and slaloming score was rather diminished by another prodigal return. Most noteworthy though was the sheer noise of belief belting through Old Trafford following Ronaldo’s goals. Scruffily scintillating but encompassing Ronaldo’s will to win, the loud approval emanating could have been forgiven for a Champions League final atmosphere. With Ronaldo, unlikely as that sounds, don’t quite rule it out.
Southampton-0 West Ham United-0: Armando Broja’s cameo should have been as a scoring substitution but was prevented by the woodwork and Declan Rice’s heroic last-gasp goal line clearance. With West Ham in Europe, Michail Antonio’s unnecessary late red may enforce the need to have back-up for the rampaging ruthless forward. Good grit, though. Southampton could also do with a scoring striker themselves.
Watford-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers-2: After three without scoring, there were two ironies I drew from this encounter. That Wolves’ long-awaited goal drought was ended by an own goal and also that Watford, on the same weekend as Troy Deeney’s Birmingham debut, may well be beginning an even longer goalless run given their absence of any attacking here.
Chelsea-3 Aston Villa-0: Despite the Villa midfield arguably consuming a Kante-less midfield, it was another Chelsea midfielder who stepped up. Mateo Kovacic was doggedly high-class throughout, grittily marshalling John McGinn and snapping into tackles. When in possession, the Croat showcased why he was a World Cup finalist. A tremendously agile pirouette swept him beyond
staggering Villains and his arced pass bisected the Villa defence. Romelu Lukaku sent Axel Tuanzebe sliding back to Manchester before finishing composedly. Tyrone Mings then had a half to forget, firstly selling a short pass straight to Kovacic who greedily devoured the opportunity. That it was only his second goal for Chelsea epitomises an underwhelming vibe. Perhaps not this year. Mings was then sold by Cesar Azpilicueta’s barnstorming advance and Lukaku rifled a rocket-shot home. Ronaldo’s was not the only successful homecoming.
Leeds United-0 Liverpool-3: Harvey Elliott’s horror injury was distressing but his team comprehensively manoeuvred around Leeds, as though they were a traffic cone obstruction. Thiago’s quietly excellent midfield control was key and Joel Matip’s wonderful enterprise for the first goal was a reminder that Virgil van Dijk was not the only Liverpool defender whose absence was painfully felt last season.
Everton-3 Burnley-1: Rafa Benitez’s unbeaten start continued and Toffee supporters will be glad to see their side victorious, free-flowing and clinical without the injured Dominic Cavert-Lewin. Andros Townsend and Demarai Gray were mesmerising. The second half blitz shredded Burnley as did Benitez’s tactical astuteness to bolster midfield with Andre Gomes introduction. From there, Everton control was grasped and Burnley’s relinquished. Arsenal at Turf Moor on Saturday, another six-pointer?
Match week 5 Short Previews:
Newcastle vs Leeds (Friday 8pm ko): Bruce vs Bielsa. Bamford against Wilson. Fluid transitions against rigidly set shapes. Despite all these factors and starkly contrasting moods among the fanbases, there are similarities too between the clubs. Both are yet to win and are reeling after three goals stuffing’s last weekend. They also each posses a doe-eyed English striker apiece and in Raphinha and Allan Saint-Maximin are owners of two of the Premier League’s most thrilling entertainers. Expect bums off seats courtesy of them.
Wolves vs Brentford (Saturday 12:30 ko): These two sides meet perhaps on different trajectories. Bruno Lage will hope that victory (and scoring) at Watford will commence Wolves season into a consistent gear of results. Thomas Frank’s Bees have been impressive but were naïve in last-gasp defeat to Brighton. Conor Coady will look to assert himself against Ivan Toney’s pace, cunning and all-round predatory gameplay.
Burnley vs Arsenal (Saturday 3pm ko): Its not exactly the venue that would have been on Mikel Arteta’s wishlist yet Arsenal have had more recovery time and victory here in any way would at least demonstrate that this is still some grit to grind within what so far, looks a mentally brittle squad. Burnley are brittle in their numbers but will make life hard for Arsenal. Backed by a boisterous crowd, Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes will be focused on pestering, harassing and flustering a fragile Gunners defence into dropping points. Which for Arteta’s sake, he can scantly afford to.
Liverpool vs Crystal Palace (Saturday 3pm ko): Had Liverpool not been so unflustered and calm in last week’s potential banana skin game at Elland Road, they wouldn’t still be in the four talked about as title contenders. Fresh from walloping Spurs, Patrick Viera’s conundrum is how best to utilise the asset of Odsonne Edouard. A late unsettling presence to accompany Wilf Zaha or a relentless pressing game from the get-go? The latter is a very Viera strategy but like Leeds will often end in spectacularly glorious failure. Provided Sadio Mane has rediscovered his shooting boots.
Manchester City vs Southampton (Saturday 3pm ko): This will be difficult for the Saints who have started respectably but are undoubtedly lacking Danny Ings’ penetration. Adam Armstrong and Armando Broja are though forwards who will relish the challenge of unsettling a resilient City. Since ceding to Son on the opening day, it has been three clean sheets in a throw and attackers running amok. Demonstrate more of that cutting edge steel and their favourites status for the title will only increase.
Norwich vs Watford (Saturday 3pm ko): Too early for a six pointer, I hear you cry outragedly? Never too early. Between them these two promoted teams have a meagre four goals and three points. Bit ominous. Norwich have had misfortune and high-class opponents, if they showcase their invention and one of their various forward players deigns to practise shooting, then backed by Carrow Road, they will feel this is a must-win already.
Aston Villa vs Everton (Saturday 5:30pm ko): Hardly Sky Sports most adventurous teatime offering but Dean Smith will be reeling by the misleading 3-0 trouncing at Chelsea. Villa have been enterprising but undone by individual errors. To win here, these must be cut out against a meaty Everton who have started the Rafa-lution strongly and in Demarai Gray possess an in-form, invaluable asset.
Brighton vs Leicester (Sunday 2pm ko): Awkward game for the Foxes, especially after Europa League exertions. James Maddison needs to relocate his mojo. Graham Potter will be quietly confident. At Brentford it wasn’t pretty but Brighton were gritty and clinical, two absent traits that threatened to engulf them last season.
West Ham vs Manchester United (Sunday 2pm ko): Ah, the Moyes reunion. Already, what a treat. Moyes will need to show all his improved adaptability to suffice without the suspended Michail Antonio. He must look on in envy at the factory of forwards Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can avail of. Cristiano Ronaldo will undoubtedly fancy another “SIU” moment whilst loanee Hammer hero Jesse Lingard will be keen to build on a scoring return last week.
Spurs vs Chelsea (Sunday 4:30pm ko): This is a gambit for Nuno. It will be a major boost should Son be passed fit. Chelsea’s squad superiority may be enough but battles all over the field will be where this game is won and lost. Harry Kane must find a way beyond a resoloute and confident Chelsea backline superbly marshalled of late by Rudiger, Mendy and Azpilicueta. For that he will need more than the meek surrender offered up by his colleagues last week. Lukaku will seek to add to the four goals he has already netted. Pre the North London Derby, another Tottenham capitulation would be disastrous. Expect fieriness, flair and silliness. Or a nil-nil stalemate. Can’t have it all.