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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Guardian sport

Premier League: 10 talking points from the weekend’s action

Awoniyi, Nunez, Bissouma.
Good weekends for Taiwo Awoniyi, Darwin Nuñez and Yves Bissouma. Composite: Guardian Picture Desk

Howe must think big enough

It’s a while since Newcastle began a game against Liverpool as favourites, but that was their status pre-match, a situation they attacked with typical intensity. But with the visitors threatening an equaliser, Eddie Howe had a decision to make: close the game down, or seek a clinching goal? In the event, he did a bit of both, making like-for-like or defensive changes, but without ordering his players to stop pressing. Darwin Nuñez twice found space in behind his back four, and though it required a little good fortune and two fantastic finishes for his team to have the game snatched from them, with more emphatic instructions, the hosts might have seen out the win. Howe may have only got the Newcastle job because better-qualified candidates were busy, but he has done a superb job since. Given the nature of both football and his bosses, in order to keep it he should change his mentality to that of a big-club manager – and fast. Daniel Harris

Match report: Newcastle 1-2 Liverpool

Rice windfall spent wisely

When Declan Rice was cashed in for £105m, the fear was that West Ham might blow the dough. Bad memories stretch to Rio Ferdinand being shipped to Leeds for £18m and the likes of Rigobert Song and Titi Camara turning up instead. Selling good players is no guarantee their replacements will be of much use, as Roberto De Zerbi pointed out after Brighton’s defeat. Having lost Moisés Caicedo, Alexis Mac Allister and last season’s loanee Levi Colwill, he also highlighted the Hammers’ strong summer business. With the Rice money, West Ham got their influential opening goalscorer, James Ward-Prowse, while Edson Álvarez screened the defence and earned rave reviews from Emerson Palmieri. “He is an animal, he works a lot and works hard … without the ball he is unbelievable.” David Moyes, having also been able to keep hold of Lucas Paquetá for the time being, has a fine squad to work with, and afterwards acknowledged that such quality demands better football than Saturday’s pragmatic – if well-executed – coup. John Brewin

Match report: Brighton 1-3 West Ham

Grealish should take more chances

Does it ever wind you up the way Jack Grealish seems to pass square or backwards so often from his position wide on the left for Manchester City? Fair enough, when he does go on the outside, as he did for the cross that allowed Erling Haaland to head the Premier League champions into the lead at Sheffield United, he can come up with the goods, almost as if he has surprised everyone. But so often he seems to threaten to take on his full-back only to play it safe; being primarily right-footed, it seems to slow the play. Perhaps this is why he can be so devastating late in games, when he has to take greater risks. Peter Lansley

Match report: Sheffield United 1-2 Manchester City

Jack Grealish takes on Sheffield United’s George Baldock at Bramall Lane.
Jack Grealish takes on George Baldock at Bramall Lane. Photograph: Rui Vieira/AP

Is Awoniyi who Ten Hag needed?

In Taiwo Awoniyi Nottingham Forest have a central striker in the mould that Manchester United could use. The Nigeria international is fast, direct, and knows how to score in the Premier League: the opening goal at Old Trafford was his seventh in seven games. At 26 he is also hitting his peak while United chose to pay £72m for Rasmus Højlund, a 20-year-old Dane who is unproven in the division. Might the young Denmark international have wished to share the goal burden with Awoniyi? The latter would have cost in the region of £35m, cash that could have been found by not buying Mason Mount who, as a wide attacker or No 8, was not so desperately needed by the manager, Erik ten Hag. Instead, Højlund is yet to make his debut for United due to a back injury, and the club’s confused transfer policy continues. Jamie Jackson

Match report: Manchester United 3-2 Nottingham Forest

Bissouma bouncing back

In recent weeks there has been forensic analysis of Moisés Caicedo’s record-breaking £115m move to Chelsea. But long before Brighton earned a huge profit on Caicedo and benefited handsomely from the sales of Marc Cucurella and Alexis Mac Allister, they sanctioned the departure of another central midfielder who was the lungs of their much-envied operation. Yves Bissouma was Antonio Conte’s first signing at Spurs last summer but made just three forgettable league starts after Christmas. James Maddison took the headlines in victory at Bournemouth but Bissouma, who has started all three games under Ange Postecoglou this campaign, was again excellent. The Bournemouth manager, Andoni Iraola, picked out the Mali international’s renewed form before the game and his dynamism was evident throughout. The all-action midfielder, for whom Tottenham paid an initial £25m, is among those reinvigorated by the summer reset at Spurs. Ben Fisher

Match report: Bournemouth 0-2 Tottenham

Kalajdzic boosts Wolves

Sasa Kalajdzic is still working his way back to full fitness after the cruciate ligament injury sustained on his Wolves debut last September and so, as their manager Gary O’Neil suggested at Goodison Park, the striker may not be a permanent fixture in the team just yet. In scoring his first goal for the club at Everton, however, and delivering Wolves’ first points of the season in the process, the Austria international provided a focal point that O’Neil’s side needed following the summer departure of Raúl Jiménez, and was sorely lacking before his late introduction. The quality of deliveries from Pedro Neto and Hugo Bueno look tailor-made for a forward of Kalajdzic’s stature. The 6ft 7in striker also deserves a change of luck after his first season in the Premier League was wrecked by injury. “It was really fitting that Sasa got to have a really big moment after going through a tough spell and fighting his way back,” said O’Neil. “But it’s more about the group and nice to get the win to let them know we are on the right track.” Andy Hunter

Match report: Everton 0-1 Wolves

Sasa Kalajdzic celebrates his late winner at Goodison Park.
Sasa Kalajdzic celebrates his late winner at Goodison Park. Photograph: Jack Thomas/Wolves/Getty Images

Fernández starting to fire

All eyes were on Caicedo, Chelsea’s British-record £115m acquisition, on Friday night. Yet Raheem Sterling stole the spotlight, while Nicolas Jackson opened his Chelsea account. And so, Enzo Fernández passed largely under the radar. That won’t last. Whereas last season Fernández largely found gainful deployment as either a lone “six” or as part of a double pivot, a station higher up the pitch suits the World Cup winner. Fortunately, the arrivals of Caicedo and, once he is up to speed, Roméo Lavia, will afford Fernández that. Twice in the efficient dismantling of Luton, Fernández grazed the woodwork. But it was his touch and volleyed pass to set Sterling racing down the right for Chelsea’s third that truly demonstrated his class. Perfectly weighted; intricately placed. Sam Dalling

Match report: Chelsea 3-0 Luton

Havertz needs nurturing

He is making all the right runs – just not necessarily in the right order. There was something a little Eric Morecambe about Mikel Arteta’s defence of Kai Havertz’s flaccid performance against Fulham, the idea floated that Havertz was always in the right spot, just not receiving the right pass. But Arteta has to defend his player in public. And whatever the substance of his Arsenal career to date, during which Havertz has looked baffled and meek, not so much commanding the inside left channel as clearing his throat and hoping it notices him, making him work should be a priority because Havertz has so much to give, a player of rare talent who is still remembered in the Bundesliga as a wonderfully effective ball-carrier. There is a self-induced lack of lairy about Arsenal right now. This may or may not resolve itself on the hoof. But making the most of Havertz’s talent should be a key marker of success in this season’s project. What he needs is time, patience and, for the first time in a long time, some coherent coaching. Barney Ronay

Match report: Arsenal 2-2 Fulham

Kai Havertz, Arsenal v Fulham
Kai Havertz (centre), has made an indifferent start to his Arsenal career. Photograph: Frank Augstein/AP

Schade is another shrewd signing

Most Premier League teams have a formation to which they stickwhereas Brentford are able to flick between 5-3-2, 3-4-3 and 4-3-3 depending on the opposition. This testifies to the coaching of Thomas Frank, whose ability to simplify the game means his players know exactly what is expected of them, but underpinning any tactical work are principles of passion, attitude, unity and effort – also key when determining new signings. If Saturday’s game is anything to go by, he and his team have done it again. Having been handed his first start of the campaign, Kevin Schade leapt on the opportunity by scoring a beautifully enterprising goal that suggested there’s plenty more to come. Meanwhile, though Mark Flekken was – perhaps – partially culpable for Palace’s equaliser, he has been solid otherwise. Frank’s men look set for another excellent season. Daniel Harris

Match report: Brentford 1-1 Crystal Palace

Diaby adds new dimension

There are a few early contenders for signing of the season and Aston Villa’s Moussa Diaby has put his name in that conversation. The £51.9m arrival from Bayer Leverkusen has added another dimension to Villa’s attack and he was sensational on Sunday as Unai Emery’s side swept past promoted Burnley. The 24-year-old scored one and had a hand in Villa’s other two as their eye-catching start to the season continued. Too often last season, it seemed Villa were reliant on the goals of Ollie Watkins. Now, Emery has a genuine partner in attack for Watkins and another focal point to shape his side around. He and Watkins have all the hallmarks of a front pairing that could yield serious rewards for Villa this season, in the league and in Europe. Aaron Bower

Match report: Burnley 1-3 Aston Villa

Pos Team P GD Pts
1 Man City 3 5 9
2 West Ham 3 4 7
3 Tottenham Hotspur 3 4 7
4 Liverpool 3 3 7
5 Arsenal 3 2 7
6 Brighton 3 4 6
7 Aston Villa 3 2 6
8 Man Utd 3 0 6
9 Brentford 3 3 5
10 Chelsea 3 1 4
11 Crystal Palace 3 0 4
12 Fulham 3 -2 4
13 Newcastle 3 2 3
14 Nottm Forest 3 -1 3
15 Wolverhampton 3 -3 3
16 AFC Bournemouth 3 -4 1
17 Sheff Utd 3 -3 0
18 Burnley 2 -5 0
19 Luton 2 -6 0
20 Everton 3 -6 0
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