Premiership Round-Up - Saturday, September 15
Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool impress, whilst Huddersfield and Newcastle look certain to be relegation favourites.
Tottenham Hotspur 1-2 Liverpool
Liverpool's impressive start to the season continues with a fine win over Spurs. It's not been a fantastic week for the North London club, with captain Hugo Lloris convicted of drink driving and sentenced to a 20 month drinking ban and a £50,000 fine. Shortly after his conviction, he picked up a thigh injury which ruled him out of this weekend's fixture. In steps Michel Vorm, whose errors contributed to Liverpool's victory. Spurs were sloppy in possession, often giving the ball away. Lucas Moura missed a decent chance to put Spurs ahead before Wijnaldum and Firmino gave Liverpool a two-goal lead. Lamela pulled one back with a fine strike in injury time, but it was Jurgen Klopp's men who returned to Merseyside with all three points. Liverpool were touted pre-season as the most realistic challenger to Manchester City's dominance, and on the basis of this performance, it's not too hard to see why.
Chelsea 4-1 Cardiff
Chelsea ran rampant against Cardiff in a game which will surely see fantasy football aficionados racing to transfer in Eden Hazard. The Belgian put away a hat-trick before Willian finished off the rout with a fine strike. Azpilicueta in particular impressed, getting forward often and providing crosses for Giroud, who appears to have taken on the role of battering ram for Chelsea. Pedro also impressed with his tireless work rate. In contrast, Sol Bamba had one of the strangest games of his career, starting off by giving Cardiff a shock lead after a strong opening 10 minutes for Cardiff, finishing by giving away a needless penalty for Hazard's hat trick. Chelsea fans must be praying for their board to tie down Hazard after this performance—his quality really shone through in this game.
Bournemouth 4-2 Leicester City
Bournemouth rose to fifth place following this win against Leicester City, going 4-0 up before a late rally from Leicester. Ryan Fraser in particular impressed, grabbing a brace and proving a real handful for the Leicester defence. King added a third before half time, before Smith added the 4th in the 81st minute. Maddison pulled one back from the penalty spot in the 88th minute, with Albrighton adding a second a minute later, but despite this Bournemouth ran out comfortable winners. Callum Wilson and Fraser were a constant threat to Leicester, who were already well on the ropes before Wes Morgan was harshly sent off for a second yellow. The silver lining for Leicester was the performance of James Maddison, who continues to impress this season. With complaints of England needing a decent creative player in the squad, could Maddison be the answer? His performances warrant further scrutiny.
Watford 1-2 Manchester United
Manchester United miraculously regained their attacking edge in a fine victory against a Watford side billed as the next Leicester City. De Gea was solid in goal following criticism of his performances this season, pulling off a string of fine saves. Sanchez was a constant creative threat, and Romelu Lukaku showed the kind of performance which sets him up as a rival to Harry Kane for all time Premiership goalscorer. He opened the scoring after 35 minutes, with Chris Smalling finding his scoring boots shortly after to give United a 2-0 lead going into the second half. Andre Gray pulled one back in the second half with a superb strike, but despite this (and a Matic red card for a second yellow) United held on for a vital three points. This was a win which saw Manchester United settle into eighth place, and provide some breathing room for under fire manager Jose Mourinho.
Manchester City 3-0 Fulham
Manchester City leapfrog Watford into third place following a dominant display against a Fulham team still trying to gel following a very busy summer recruitment campaign. Fernandinho was sharp, further cementing his reputation as one of the most under-rated players in the City squad. Sterling's pace proved a constant threat, and Bernardo Silva showed incredible strength on the ball. In fact, the only blot of Silva's performance was a late miss following some sloppy finishing. Sane opened the scoring after just two minutes, with the timeless David Silva adding a second on the 21st minute. Sterling added a third shortly after the restart. Fulham can't have expected anything different from today's game, and they can take heart in the fact that Andre Schurrle looked pretty decent. If he can turn it on against some of the lower ranked teams, then Fulham can have a decent shot at staying up.
Newcastle 1-2 Arsenal
Arsenal look to be still adjusting to the massive upheaval following Arsene Wenger's departure with a stuttering 2-1 win over Newcastle. Arsenal for the most part looked marginally the stronger side, but had a first half to forget with Mustafi making a mistake in defence (which Sokratis made up for) and Aaron Ramsay scuffing a golden opportunity. In the second half Arsenal seemed to get a second wind, with Xhaka opening the scoring in the 49th minute (Xhaka looked quite impressive throughout this game). Ozil added a second to give Arsenal some breathing space, but Newcastle assured a nervy ending after a superb cross found it's way to Clark, who scored in injury time. Arsenal have the most goals conceded in the top half of the Premiership, and need to work hard to shore up their back line.
Huddersfield 0-1 Crystal Palace
For teams hanging around the lower ten of the Premiership, these types of games are real six-pointers. Crystal Palace have a real chance of making a top 10 finish, perhaps solely down to the efforts of Wilfrid Zaha, who must be one of the best players outside of a top six team. His solitary strike in the 38th minute gave Palace all three points in a game which must have frustrated Huddersfield supporters. Aaron Mooy impressed for Huddersfield, but the West Yorkshire team remain one of five teams yet to register a win this season.
After only five weeks it's all too soon to start speculating about title winners, European qualifiers and relegation, but form is starting to emerge. Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool look very impressive at the moment, with Chelsea and Liverpool maintaining 100 percent records. Liverpool have the best defence in the Premiership at the time of writing, only conceding two goals. Given that defence was the Achilles heel of Liverpool last season, could the January signing of Van Dijk be the missing piece of the puzzle? Joe Gomez also looked impressive, making a vital block in the win against Spurs. Watford and Bournemouth remain in the top five, and their fixture on October 6th could be very interesting indeed between the two surprise packages. Watford face Arsenal in a couple of weeks, whereas Bournemouth have a winnable few matches ahead.
At the bottom end of the table, Cardiff, Huddersfield and Newcastle remain winless. Misfiring in front of goal and weak in defence, these teams need to shape up before spiralling even further into a relegation battle. Newcastle in particular look worrying—a total lack of investment in the squad looks to be backfiring on the Tyneside team. Fans must be frustrated, especially since owner Mike Ashley forked out £90 million to bail out retail chain House of Fraser. With half of that money, Newcastle could have forked out on a decent striker, and a safe pair of hands in goal.
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