Last Saturday was one of the very few “ultimate Saturdays” that Premier League fans have enjoyed this year. When I say “ultimate Saturday” I mean a Saturday that features the Premier League’s big five – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City – in action.
Maybe the English FA is now trying to keep up with the rest of Europe by giving their Champions League/Europa League representatives earlier kick-offs. There’s been an outcry for this lately and hopefully they’ll soon start enjoying the benefits that come with Friday Night Football or an early Saturday kick-off.
That being said, last Saturday was one with mixed results. From boring draws to the goal rush and the surprising score margins, it was a Saturday to remember. As we look forward to a week of European football, I look back on the weekend and analyze how England’s big five fared in Gameweek 8 of the Premier League season.
- Arsenal: Mediocre
There’s the fierce argument among fans about that Bellerin challenge on Richarlison. Was it challenge enough to be punished with a penalty call by the referee? Was there even any challenge at all? Being the penalty that kick-started the Watford comeback, there’s been so much talk about it.
But instead of focusing on that, maybe the focus should be on Arsenal’s lack of enthusiasm going forward. They could have easily been three goals – or more – up by the time the penalty incident occurred which would have, one way or the other, downplayed its effect on the game.
That cutting edge upfront was absent. Iwobi and Lacazette and even Welbeck looked like passengers. Remember that Ozil chance that he failed to convert?
32 seconds in between Ozil's miss and Watford penalty. Shambles.
— goonerbuzz (@goonerbuzz) October 14, 2017
It almost sounds like the Gooners were robbed – especially with that strange penalty call. But then again, Arsene Wenger’s men set themselves up for the robbery. Their goal against Watford was their first away goal of the season. They will need more away goals if they’re going to contest with the other top sides for the Premier League title.
- Chelsea: Weak, Ineffective
From minute one, it looked like Crystal Palace’s game to lose. On paper, the build-up to this game was entirely different. Palace was on a poor run of form and was expected to lose to a certain Chelsea side. But Roy Hogdson’s men had other ideas.
All the early chances of the game fell to Crystal Palace who finally scored – two goals in 45 minutes – after going over 10 hours in the Premier League without a goal. Try as they could, Chelsea could not hide the obvious fact that they were missing N’golo Kante in their midfield. Yes, Bakayoko was there – he even got a goal for himself – but he could not even handle ordinary Yohan Cabaye.
Conte’s men looked out of sorts. They had no answer to all the questions Palace’s Sahko-led defense was asking. Batshuayi’s positioning was terrible. He looked far from the “batman” that earned Chelsea some vital three points in Spain some weeks back.
Conte was forced to remove him and play without a real striker, for the second time in as many games. The Morata injury is obviously doing more harm than good. Conte can’t count on Batshuayi, vice versa too. The current state of the Chelsea defense is questionable too, especially after Sakho bullied Willian and Zaha sliced through two Chelsea players for Palace’s second goal.
This is not the side that the conquered the Premier League last campaign. Conte’s men have become weak. Yes, injury to key players has taken its toll on the team. Notwithstanding, the remaining Blue soldiers need to stand up to the occasion and halt the current slide in form.
PS: Pedro looked like a breath of fresh air in the closing stages of the game, a positive one for Chelsea.
- Liverpool: Same Old, Same Old
Ask any Liverpool fan that you know and they will tell you that numbers like in the infographs above is not entirely new. They enjoy creating so many goal attempts but aren’t clinical enough to put finish them off. It was the same story against Burnely and is gradually becoming a regular feature for the Reds.
With the way Manchester United was set up on the afternoon, it seemed like Liverpool’s game to win. But as has always been, Liverpool had to settle for yet another below par outing.
Jurgen Klopp has said his side was “unlucky not to win.” And that “unlucky” tag is quickly sticking to the Reds. The world now expects them to create plenty and convert only few of those chances. This needs to change as quickly as possible.
Every Liverpool performance this season is starting to sound like a broken record. They need to step up their game and be the ruthless side they’re very capable of being. They can take a cue from Manchester City.
- Manchester United: Taking Care of Business
Thierry Henry, while analyzing the Liverpool vs. Manchester United game on SkySports, said, “They (both teams) gave us a game that we expected, not the one that we wanted to see.” I think I agree with the Arsenal legend.
There was the part of me that wanted to see a game full of goals, some crunchy tackles, – going by the history between both sides – and some more. But it turned out to be the complete opposite no thanks to Jose Mourinho playing a quite defensive formation.
Some fans didn’t like it. But Jose Mourinho was out to do the necessary: don’t lose the game.
Jamie Redknapp: "Mourinho is not bothered by the spectacle. Staying unbeaten was the only thing on his agenda. You have to ask questions of Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool, not Mourinho."
— Rahul Singh (@forevruntd) October 16, 2017
For United fans, this will easily look like 2 points lost in the race for the Premier League title. Liverpool was there for the taking and a good supply to Lukaku would have exposed the Reds.
But I think Mourinho will be looking at this game and saying to himself, “One more point earned in the title race. I’m taking care of business just fine.”
29 – Man City are the 1st top-flight team to net 29 goals in their first 8 league games of the season since Everton in 1894-95 (30). Update. https://t.co/T0KLleo0Xh
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) October 14, 2017
- Manchester City: Seventh Wonder of the Premier League
There’s no way you could have missed the news of the biggest margin during the weekend. Stoke City became the latest victim of the ruthless Pep machine as they conceded 7 goals. These kind of results has prompted several descriptions by the media, including one which subtly insinuates that Manchester City has assembled the best squad in Premier League history.
That’s quite arguable. But there’s no overlooking the obvious: Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City is bulging with so much talent. Gabriel Jesus made the Aguero absence less obvious. Sane was unplayable. Then there was Silva’s best-ever performance and also Fernandinho’s beauty of a goal.
But one name stood head and shoulder above them all.
32 – Since his Man City debut in September 2015, Kevin De Bruyne has provided 32 assists in the PL, more than any other player. Wizard. pic.twitter.com/XX749Wt48D
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) October 14, 2017
When the manager of the opposition begins to sing your praise, then you know you’ve put on quite a show. Mark Hughes was full of praises for Kevin de Bruyne after the Belgian was involved in 4 of the 7 goals scored against Stoke. He said,
“The difference was De Bruyne’s understanding of what needed to be done. The quality of his passing, the weight of his passes and his understanding of the angles in terms of releasing people. You can see the reaction of his team-mates. As soon as he gets on the ball they expect him to put the right ball in at the right moment with the right pace. That’s the influence that he has on the team.”
Yes, Manchester City has turned out to be even more of a phenomenon than they were last season. Pep has created a brilliant machine and it is gradually becoming a Premier League wonder.
I’ve just shared with you my own version of this week’s #TheDefinition. What’s your own version? How would you describe the Big Five after their performances last weekend? Share your thoughts with me by leaving a comment in the comments section below. I’d love to hear from you.
PS: If you think this has been an interesting read, kindly share it with your friends and let them enjoy it too! Cheers to an amazing week ahead. Speaking of the week ahead, here’s a parting shot:
— Official SSC Napoli (@en_sscnapoli) October 16, 2017