A star player benched, a new goal-scoring landmark, and yet more VAR controversy. It’s the biggest talking points from gameweek eight!
There was plenty to discuss following another scintillating weekend of Premier League football. Shock results were back on the agenda, and as one superstar’s stock skyrockets, another’s continues to fall.
From tactical conundrums and ludicrous decisions, to wincing tackles and embarrassing penalties, here are 10 Premier League topics of debate for you and your mates to dissect this coming week.
No Ings, no problem
Southampton fans must have feared the worst when Danny Ings fell to the floor in a crumpled heap in gameweek seven. The striker had shaken off his injury woes last season to become a pivotal part of Saints’ attack, netting 22 times in the 2019-20 campaign. But a fresh injury against Aston Villa once again threw his season into jeopardy. Fortunately, early scans have revealed Ings’ knee injury isn’t as serious as first feared.
In his absence, Saints proved that they’re far from a one-man show, dispatching Newcastle to go top of the league on Friday night. Goals from Ings’ strike partner Che Adams and midfielder Stuart Armstrong sealed the 2-0 win, as Ralph Hasenhüttl once again showed his tactical qualities.
Pickford creates further controversy
Carlo Ancelotti took Jordan Pickford out of the firing line last weekend by benching his first-choice keeper, but England’s number one returned between the sticks on Saturday with his manager’s full support. Pickford had been dropped after a run of poor form and that controversial tackle on Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk.
This weekend, Pickford struggled again. He conceded three times, meaning he’s still only kept one clean sheet this season, and was again at the centre of debate after he swung a wild leg out which caught the knee of Harry Maguire. Despite Ancelotti and Gareth Southgate’s clear backing, big questions remain as to whether the keeper should still be the number one for both club and country.
Fred-McTominay partnership leaves Pogba’s future in the balance
Ole Gunnar Solskjær spent his post-match interview on Saturday berating the powers that be over Manchester United’s fixture scheduling. The Red Devils were booked for the early kick-off at Goodison Park after playing away in Turkey on Wednesday night. Despite the manager’s rant about a lack of recovery time, club-record signing Paul Pogba failed to start either game.
Pogba’s form has undoubtedly dipped in recent weeks, and the sterling performances of both Fred and Scott McTominay against Everton will have done little to convince Solskjær that he needs to reintroduce the Frenchman into the starting XI. Should Pogba fail to regain his spot, all signs surely point towards the Old Trafford exit door.
Bielsa must find a solution to counteract low blocks
For the second consecutive match, Leeds United succumbed to a 4-1 defeat. On both occasions their opponents, Leicester City and Crystal Palace, sat deep and looked to hit on the counterattack. It’s long been established that manager Marcelo Bielsa likes his teams to dominate the ball and play on the front foot, but low blocks appear to be his kryptonite.
Not only do Leeds struggle to break down teams who set up this way, they also look incredibly vulnerable in defence when the opposition transition at pace. You’d be hard pressed to find a coach who analyses games more meticulously than Bielsa, so it’ll be interesting to see how he responds, with more sides inevitably preparing to sit deep when travelling to Elland Road.
Bamford involved in VAR offside madness
We saw Roberto Firmino become the first player to be ruled offside by an armpit last season, and now Patrick Bamford has joined the Brazilian on that exclusive list. Leeds’ frontman was penalised for pointing to where we wanted a pass, leading to numerous outbursts of anger from fans on social media.
The offside law states that any part of your body that you can score with can’t be beyond the last defender. Well, as Jürgen Klopp remarked, we too are “yet to see anyone score with their armpit.” A very odd rule indeed.
Ziyech can make Chelsea title contenders
Attacking midfielder Hakim Ziyech has been a revelation for Chelsea in recent weeks. The summer signing shook off an injury which hampered his start to the season and has since truly exemplified his quality. Ziyech plays like a prize conductor, orchestrating Chelsea’s attack, providing assists aplenty.
The Moroccan was awarded Man of the Match for his display in the Blues’ 4-1 win over Sheffield United on Saturday, laying on two assists and generally playing at his elusive best. With Chelsea’s defence ostensibly now settled, Ziyech could well be the man to take Frank Lampard’s side to the next level, where they can really rival the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City for Premier League glory.
Lookman takes contender for worst penalty of the season
1-0 down, away from home, 98th minute. Fulham are awarded a penalty at the London Stadium to snatch a draw against West Ham. Up steps Ademola Lookman. Well, the less said about his spot kick the better.
Lookman opted for an ambitious panenka effort which was so weak, Łukasz Fabiański had time to dive to his right before picking himself up again to comfortably save the striker’s tame dink. The penalty had shades of Yann Kermorgant for Leicester in the 2010 Play-off semi final versus Cardiff, but Lookman’s was arguably even worse. Better luck next time, Ademola.
Kane hits yet another goal-scoring landmark
On Thursday night striker Harry Kane reached 200 goals for the Lilywhites with a header in Spurs’ Europa League clash. He then rounded off his landmark week by hitting his 150th Premier League goal to give Tottenham a vital three points over West Brom.
Kane has now broken into the top ten all-time Premier League goal scorers, sitting level with Michael Owen in ninth. It remains to be seen whether he can challenge the great Alan Shearer’s record of 260, but either way, Kane has cemented himself as one of the finest marksmen in the Premier League era.
Does anyone know what a handball is anymore?
First Max Kilman and then Joe Gomez. For fans, it’s becoming harder and harder to know what does and doesn’t constitute a handball in the penalty area these days. Kilman was penalised on Sunday as the ball struck his hand from point blank range, and few would argue that his arm was in an ‘unnatural’ position, given he was sprinting back towards goal.
Gomez gave away a spot kick just a couple of hours later for a similar incident, but while Jamie Vardy took full advantage of Kilman’s supposed error to send Leicester top of the league, Kevin De Bruyne missed Manchester City’s spot kick as the Citizens had to settle for a point.
Aston Villa turn the heat up on Arteta
The biggest shock of the weekend came at the Emirates Stadium, where Aston Villa — who are making a habit of causing upsets — brushed aside Arsenal in what was, in truth, a relatively routine 3-0 win. Indeed, captain and talisman Jack Grealish terrorised Héctor Bellerín down the left flank all evening, while Ollie Watkins’ brace showed why his £33m signature may be shrewd business after all.
Arsenal now sit 11th in the table, having lost back-to-back home league matches to Leicester and Villa. The Gunners failed to find the back of the net on either occasion, with head coach Mikel Arteta now coming under mounting pressure to sort out his team’s blunt attack.
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