With two matchweeks now complete, there’s a couple of things we can say for certain. Firstly, this is going to be an entertaining season with the vast majority of teams seemingly having decided to not bother defending at all. Secondly, almost every team in the league still needs to make multiple signings. And finally, there will almost certainly be a couple of managers dismissed this side of Christmas.
Liverpool and Tottenham entered the weekend with a lot of excitement as both were announcing multiple signings, and both enjoyed comfortable away wins that went a long way to removing some of the doubts about them that emerged in week one.
Aston Villa, Burnley, and both Manchester clubs all entered the fray after sitting out week one, so we have now had a look at all twenty Premier League clubs. Some have impressed, others have not. With that in mind, here’s the good, the bad and the ugly from Matchweek 2.
Leicester’s Attack Prowess
Be it Jamie Vardy’s runs in the channels, Harvey Barnes’ dribbling, Youri Tieleman’s creative passing or Dennie Praet’s stunning goal, there’s something for everyone to enjoy about Leicester’s performance at the weekend.
Brendan Rodgers, despite his flaws, is a good attacking coach who gets the most out of his players going forward, and this Leicester team is a joy to watch when things are going well for them. On Sunday, they cut through Burnley time and again and were in no way flattered by their 4-2 victory. With Ricardo Pereira to come back into this team, and new signing Cengiz Under to be added to the mix, Leicester will only improve further. From a talent point of view, another top 4 challenge should be the mandate for this squad.
There are warts to the team, specifically in defense, and they’re still a little bit thin in terms of depth, but Leicester are setting down an early marker that they’re to be taken seriously this season.
Kane & Son Ltd., Purveyors of Fine Goals
Very few clubs in world football can claim to have one world class forward, even fewer can claim two. Spurs can claim two. Harry Kane is arguably the finest out and out striker in world football not named Robert Lewandowski, and Son Heung-Min is a remarkably well rounded player capable of playing, and excelling, in all attacking roles.
Against Southampton they linked up to devastating effect, four goals for Son and four assists for Kane. It had never happened before in the history of the Premier League, but they made it look so simplistic and so natural. Kane’s hold up play and passing ability combined perfectly with Son’s exceptional movement and pace to cut through Southampton’s back four effortlessly.
This double act drove Spurs to their first Premier League victory of the season and, if Mourinho allows them to, could easily push Spurs back into the top four with a supporting cast including Steven Bergwijn, Lucas Moura and now Gareth Bale. Spurs have an embarrassment of attacking options and they should become the focal point of Tottenham’s tactical plan this season, with Kane and Son as the lynchpins.
Lamptey and His Flock of Seagulls Are So Much Fun
I’m genuinely not sure if there’s a player who’s had a more exciting start to the season, in any league, than Tariq Lamptey. He’s an unstoppable ball of energy up and down the Brighton right flank, providing an outlet and an end product. He’s looking like one of the bargains of the Premier League era already.
And it’s not just him, it’s the whole team who are fun to watch. The back three are already starting to look like a cohesive unit, with plenty of talent among the trio to continue to get better and better.
At the opposite end of the pitch the trio of Trossard, Maupay and Connolly are a handful. Full of energy and pace, with clever movement and great link play, they caused Newcastle plenty of trouble. With a couple of additions, Brighton have the talent and potential to challenge for a top half finish. Graham Potter is creating something really exciting down on the south coast.
Thiago, James and KDB – Pass Masters
For years fans of the Premier League looked longingly towards European leagues and it’s plethora of playmakers and wondered aloud what it might be like to have them in the Premier League. How would Juan Roman Riquelme fare? What would happen if Juan Carlos Valeron signed for a Premier League team? Would Kaka even have to break a sweat to be the most creative player in the league?
It’s not that there hasn’t been great playmakers, Cesc Fabregas, Robert Pires, Phil Coutinho, Mesut Ozil and others have all sparkled to different extents. But there always seemed to be more in other leagues. Now though, the Premier League is facing something of an embarrassment of riches as playmakers begin to re-write the Premier League rule book.
On Saturday, James Rodriguez ran the game for Everton against West Brom without ever breaking into a sprint. Showing that the mind moves faster than body or ball, he manipulated the game, bent the opposition to his will and dissected the torrid West Brom defense with incredible ease. His range of passing, the weight of touch on the ball, the angles he found to continually open up the Baggies’ back five were all to be admired.
On Sunday Thiago Alcantara made his Liverpool debut, and put on a clinic on how to pass the football. Having completed only one training session with his new team-mates, Thiago completed a staggering 75 passes in just 45 minutes of play, more than any other player since passing data began being collected. One and two-touch wizardry like the Spaniard displayed is football at it’s very finest. With a picture in his head of where everyone was on the pitch, he rarely even needed to look up before delivering the next pinpoint accurate pass.
And then on Monday, old reliable Kevin DeBruyne showed why he is widely regarded as the best player in the league with an outstanding display against Wolves. He created an impressive 6 chances for his team-mates and displayed the inventiveness and creative passing that have become his trademarks.
These three players will put on passing clinics all season long, and I’m here for it.
Southampton’s High Line
I’m a huge fan of Ralph Hasenhuttl and love watching his teams play, but he needs to become a bit more flexible in his approach. It’s absolutely fine to play a high line, but when a team is carving you open with simple balls over the top and in behind, you need to make a change.
All four of Son Heung-Min’s goal came from Saints sticking with that high line, and they killed Southampton. If Ralph had made an adjustment after the second goal, Southampton could have gotten a point in this one. They showed plenty of promise going forward and Danny Ings has started this season in the same form he displayed last season.
Back to back defeats is not an ideal way to start the season, but they should be fine. Ralph just needs to be a bit less dogmatic.
Newly Promoted Defenses
Leeds, West Brom and Fulham combined to concede nine goals this weekend, and while that is a slight improvement on the 10 goals conceded last weekend, it really is not good. All three teams need at least one more addition in defense if they want to maintain Premier League status. West Brom and Fulham look particularly poor, with individual errors littered between the two teams.
With three weeks left in the transfer window, the powers that be at Elland Road, Craven Cottage and The Hawthorns have a lot of work to do, though Leeds can at least rely on a great manager and more goal threat that either of the others can muster.
What was that?? WHAT. WAS. THAT?? It’s bad enough that they were outplayed at home by Crystal Palace, but to be outfought as well?
United showed no heart, no desire, no plan, no structure and Ole had no clue how to fix it. He stood on the touchline looking like a man out of his depth. It’s as bad a home performance as I can remember seeing from a Manchester United team outside of the David Moyes era. There were no defined patterns of play, the defense was all over the place, the midfield looked completely outgunned by the James Mc twins that Palace fielded.
Jadon Sancho does not fix the problem. Not even close. David Ornstein is reporting that United are not looking to sign a central defender, and there’s been no links to a defensive midfielder. If, after watching United last season and in this game, you don’t think United are desperately needing upgrades in those then you’re probably in the wrong line of work.
Ole is a big part of the problem at United. THAT performance is a reflection on the manager more than anything else. Ole inherited Paul Pogba, David DeGea, and that front three, and has spent £240million. He’s been in charge for 21 months now. For them to look as clueless as they did in this game, as unprepared and as uninspired and as lacking in desire, does not reflect well on him. They’re as far away from winning the title as they’ve ever been.
Manchester City’s Third Kit
I’d like to speak directly to the executives of Puma. I can not emphasis enough how important this is. You must, for the sake of humanity, recall every single one of those kits that you have shipped all over the world. You have to take them back. All of them. And then when you have them all, you need to burn them. In a fire that should be visible from space, you need to burn that kit and never ever let it darken the doorstep of the world again.
It’s truly hideous, and ranks second only to whatever that zebra thing Manchester United are going to inflict on their poor fans is. Ghastly.
Puma, I won’t ask so nicely again. Recall it. Burn it.