Are any of England’s Big Six clubs playing particularly well right now? It’s hard to remember a Premier League season that’s had this much uncertainty as we get towards the changing of the clock. Let’s get into this week’s top storylines.
Firmino, Mane Save Liverpool
A week after Virgil van Dijk’s tragic torn ACL in the Merseyside Derby, Liverpool is still adjusting to his loss. As of right now, Jurgen Klopp’s answer on defense is to use midfielder Fabinho in the back four with Joel Matip on the mend. That plan was successful midweek in the Champions League win at Ajax, but started a bit slowly at home against anemic Sheffield United even with Alisson back from an injury in goal.
But just about 10 minutes in, Fabinho fouled Blades No. 9 Oliver McBurnie on the edge of the box, which was upgraded to a penalty after VAR looked at it. Sander Berge converted to give Sheffield its first lead of the season.
The Reds would equalize in the 41st minute after Jordan Henderson’s wonderful ball into the box right to the head of Sadio Mane was saved by Aaron Ramsdale but the rebound went straight to Roberto Firmino, who scored his first goal of the season.
But then Liverpool would save itself and all three points in the 64th, when Mane’s picture perfect cross into the box was headed home by Wolves transfer Diogo Jota for a badly-needed winner.
Was it pretty? Not particularly, but nobody’s doing so well at the top of the table for it to really matter right now. And as Liverpool buys time to sort itself out, that’ll do just fine for the champs.
Manchester United, Chelsea Struggle To Scoreless Draw
I was expecting a lot of goals and offensive fireworks on Saturday as Chelsea visited Old Trafford for a battle between two teams with plenty of young attacking stars.
United was looking to continue its momentum from a huge Champions League away win at Paris Saint Germain while Chelsea was looking to right the ship after disappointing home draws against Sevilla in the CL and Southampton domestically.
Possession was fairly even, but Man United had more shots and shots on target, getting the better of Chelsea in the second half. Blues goalkeeper Edouard Mendy was tested on a few occasions, most notably by Marcus Rashford but also heralded veteran newcomer Edinson Cavani. He had to be every bit of fantastic to deny the home side all three points, and there really shouldn’t be any doubt that Mendy should start over Kepa at this point in net.
United will be disappointed it didn’t come away with the win, and has yet to win a game at Old Trafford this season in three matches, a stunning statistic.
And in a year where Chelsea was supposed to contend with Liverpool for the title, it’s been a complete failure to launch thus far after six matches.
Aguero’s Injury Amplifies City’s Slow Start
Manchester City is off to its worst Premier League start in six years after a 1-1 road draw at West Ham, which has impressively beaten Leicester and Wolves soundly before draws against City and Spurs in its last four matches.
Despite nearly 70% of possession and seven shots on target, the Hammers struck first. Vladimiar Coufal struck a cross high in the air into the box, where City defenders were everywhere. With young transfer acquisition Ruden Dias draped all over him, Michail Antonio was able to overpower Dias and whip a gorgeous, devastating overhead kick past Ederson in the 18th minute.
That came a week after Manuel Lanzini’s stoppage time wonder goal earned that Spurs draw. But Sergio Aguero was taken out of the City lineup at halftime, and Pep Guardiola said after the match that it was due to a hamstring injury.
Aguero had just returned from a knee injury in last week’s 1-0 win against Arsenal, and City doesn’t really have striker depth with Gabriel Jesus still a week or two away from returning from a thigh injury. Aguero’s replacement Phil Foden scored the equalizer in the 51st minute, salvaging a point for a City side that should be doing a lot more.
City’s depth is even more glaring considering how arduous its schedule is. A Champions League match on Tuesday against Olympique Marseille isn’t as important after an opening week win against Porto. But next week’s Saturday road match at Sheffield United is almost a must win before fixtures against Liverpool, Olympiacos and at Spurs begin November.
-At that top of the table, Everton and Aston Villa both lost this weekend in convincing fashion. Normally a top goal scorer, Southampton’s Danny Ings had two assists and Lucas Digne got shown a 72nd minute red card in Everton’s 2-0 loss at St. Mary’s Stadium. And Patrick Bamford had a road hat trick in Leeds’ 3-0 shocking win at Villa. It doesn’t seem like anyone wants to lead this table currently.
-When Leeds is playing up-tempo, loose and free, they’re really fun to watch. It helped enable a hat trick from the 27-year-old Bamford, the first Premier League hat trick for the team since Mark Viduka on April 5, 2003 against Charlton Athletic.
-Wilfried Zaha continued his torrid start to the season with a goal and an assist in Crystal Palace’s 2-1 London Derby win at winless Fulham. Zaha now has five goals in six Premier League matches thus far, the best start of the 27-year-old’s career.
-And last but not lease, to tie in the theme of struggling Big Six clubs, we’ve got Arsenal. A week after falling 1-0 to City, the Gunners had the better of Leicester at the Emirates but gave up a late Jamie Vardy goal to fall 1-0 again. At the conclusion of Sunday’s action, Arsenal sits a limp 10th in the table with Spurs looking to jump them Monday at Burnley.