TALKING POINTS: TEN THINGS WE LEARNED FROM SATURDAY'S PL ACTION
Updated: Nov 10, 2020
Everton 1-3 Manchester United
The Manchester United Messiah: Bruno Fernandes
Set Pieces have often been a reliant goal-scoring opportunity for Bruno Fernandes since his move in January of this year but at Goodison Park he didn’t need free-kicks or penalties to stamp his authority on the game.
A bullet header from the Portuguese playmaker cancelled out Bernard’s early grass-cutting opener and the 26-year-old wasn’t done there. Combining with Marcus Rashford just a few minutes later as his cross-shot flew past Jordan Pickford via the post.
Now that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side were ahead they needed to show character and leadership to remain in front, something they’ve been lacking in recent months, but Fernandes undoubtedly provided that for them.
The United number 18 was barking at his teammates throughout the second half to organise and inspire their push for a vital three points.
With Everton pushing for a leveller, United capitalised in the final moments of the game as Fernandes drove into the Toffees half and his clever reverse pass set up Edinson Cavani for his first goal for the Red Devils, capping off a successful goal contributing afternoon for Fernandes.
Has James Rodriguez peaked in an Everton shirt?
There were plenty of cracking additions to the Premier League in the summer transfer window but no signing had more of an immediate impact than James Rodriguez, but in recent weeks the Colombian has struggled to replicate his early season form.
The 29-year-old has had to contend with a niggling hamstring injury which saw him miss the fixture against Newcastle but his impact was non-existent against Southampton and most recently in the defeat to Manchester United.
Rodriguez was guilty of giving the ball away on many occasions against United and was convincingly beaten in his 1vs1 battle with Luke Shaw, he has also registered no goal contributions in his last two games after obtaining six in his opening five.
Carlo Ancelotti made the decision to remove Rodriguez ten minutes from time when Everton were in search of an equaliser, possibly suggesting the Italian didn’t feel as though Rodriguez had anything left to give.
A needed boost for the Reds defence
Manchester United’s defence have come under serious fire so far this season due to some real sub-par performances, with captain Harry Maguire at the brunt of it. However, against Everton the back-four put in a superbly disciplined showing.
Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof were the first to meet every cross that came into the United box. But it was Luke Shaw who was the star of the defence as his precise cross was met by Bruno Fernandes for the equaliser and he continuously threatened throughout the first half.
Not only did he contribute going forward but he also kept quiet Everton’s most creative player in James Rodriguez. The Colombian midfielder was forced to try and impact the game from a central position in the second half because he simply just couldn’t get past Shaw.
Unfortunately for United it looks as though the impressive Shaw will be unavailable for the next few games at least, as post-match Ole Gunnar Solskjaer revealed that he was subbed off in the 67th minute due to a hamstring injury.
Crystal Palace 4-1 Leeds United
A black cat has definitely passed Elland Road
Every team gets a piece of luck here and there, whether it be a dodgy decision going in their favour or a ludicrous own goal which somehow ends up in the back of the net. Ultimately, it tends to balance out by the end of the season, so expect Leeds United to get incredibly lucky in their next few games.
Patrick Bamford thought he had cancelled out Scott Dann’s looping header but his goal was controversially disallowed for an offside as his shoulder proved to be genuine millimetres beyond Palace’s last man.
Crystal Palace took advantage of the decision and doubled their lead but Bamford soon struck legally, in the eyes of the officials, to reduce the deficit.
Even with that goal nothing was going the way of Leeds, Helder Costa thought he’d got a vital block on Patrick Van Aanholt’s whipping cross but somehow the ball spun and from the tightest of angles, nestled in the beyond Illan Meslier.
Leeds were far from their best at Selhurst Park but Palace were certainly helped by the huge slices of luck that went their way.
Can Palace challenge for more than mid-table mediocrity?
At the end of every Premier League season there tends to be five or six teams who just filter out the mid-table slots and Crystal Palace will often find themselves there. However, 13 points from their opening eight games would suggest maybe they can push themselves into the European conversation.
Roy Hodgson has successfully implemented exactly how he wants Palace to play. They will sit deep with two banks of four and then counter with the electric pace they have going forward, a plan that worked superbly against both Fulham and more impressively Manchester United.
Wilfred Zaha is thriving in a strike partnership and there is finally depth in attacking positions. Eberechi Eze and Michy Batshuayi have come in and has provided Hodgson with plenty of different options off the bench.
Palace clearly weren’t afraid of the way Leeds play and on Saturday afternoon they used their own game-plan against them to a resounding success.
And in a totally unpredictable season, where a lot of big teams are dropping points, who’s to say Palace can’t go totally under the radar and sneak into a European place.
Chelsea 4-1 Sheffield United
Chelsea fans have had to be patient before they got to see Hakim Ziyech in a Chelsea shirt but his first four starting performances for the Blues have showed it was absolutely worth the wait.
He delicately chipped the ball over the Sheffield United backline for Mateo Kovacic to cross into the path of Tammy Abraham who struck the equaliser.
Just ten minutes later he whipped in a delicious cross which Ben Chilwell bundled over the line and the 25-year-old capped off his evening with a tight-angled curling free-kick which was nodded home by Thiago Silva.
Timo Werner prevented Ziyech from obtaining the assist of the season when the German missed the target after he’d been played through via an audacious 40-yard pass from Ziyech.
The Moroccan forward was a class above everyone else on the pitch at Stamford Bridge with every touch, pass and cross seeming so effortless.
Blades prove too easy to beat
Sheffield United haven’t had the easiest recent run of games, facing Liverpool and Manchester City before the trip to Stamford Bridge, and in those two previous outings they were only beaten by a single goal, but against Chelsea they were completely blown away.
Just like in the Liverpool game, Chris Wilder’s team started bright and deservedly took the lead when David McGoldrick, who else against Chelsea, instinctively flicked the ball past Edouard Mendy.
Unfortunately, they simply weren’t resolute enough defensively to stop the Blues from scoring and 20 minutes later found themselves behind.
Chris Wilder could take positives from the two losses before this comprehensive defeat, but he will have a lot to ponder on the way back to Sheffield over the collapse of his side late on in the second half.
The International break has come at the perfect time for the Blades as they sit bottom of the league and the two weeks off will hopefully give them time to turn their fortunes around this season before it’s too late.
Chilwell & James > Trent & Robertson?
It’s one hell of a bald statement but one, that on the merits of this season alone, could be starting to become true.
Reece James and Ben Chilwell have been on top form for the Blues this season and against Sheffield United the pair showed their attacking impotence wonderfully.
The latter timed his arrival at the back post to perfection, getting on the end of a dangerous Hakim Ziyech cross, and while James didn’t contribute with a goal or assist in this game, he was dangerous for the whole 90.
The English duo are quite on the level of Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold, who’ve been revolutionising the full-backs job consistently for the last two seasons, but if they can continue to deliver for Frank Lampard, there isn’t much stopping them from surpassing the champions full-back pairing.
West Ham 1-0 Fulham
Skip to the good bit (91st minute)
West Ham and Fulham definitely did not get the memo for a high-scoring entertaining game like the rest of the fixtures on Saturday did, with the three matches prior producing a combined 13 goals, but that was because they saved all the drama for injury time.
One minute into added time, Thomas Soucek continued his goal-scoring pedigree in a Claret & Blue shirt when he fired home from Said Benrahma’s pass for what would surely be the winner.
Scott Parker’s side offered little threat to Lukasz Fabianski’s goal until the 95th minute when Benrahma was at the heart of the action again, this time fouling Tom Cairney and after a VAR check a penalty was awarded.
The best player for Fulham since their promotion back to the Premier League, Ademola Lookman, stepped up and pathetically attempted a Panenka which Fabianski simply caught.
I wonder just how many people paid the ludicrous £14.95 to watch this game and how many of them turned off when it seemed a goalless draw was inevitable. Either way if you did stick around for the final knockings, you certainly got your moneys worth.
West Ham condemn bottom five
It’s very early days in the Premier League season, way too early to suggest a team is destined for relegation, but three points on Saturday night for West Ham has opened up a rather large gap at the bottom, one that may indicate which teams will be fighting for their lives come May.
Brighton currently sit in 16th on six points and while in other positions in the table just one-point separates teams adjacent to each other, Leeds United who are a place above Brighton are four points above the Seagulls.
That’s quite a large gap so early on in the season and all the teams below Graham Potter’s side have had an abysmal start.
West Brom, Burnley and Sheffield United, the three teams who occupy the relegation places, are winless while Fulham only picked up their first three points against fellow strugglers West Brom.
It is far too soon for these teams to worry about whether or not they’ll be playing Championship football next season, but there is an obvious gap in quality which will need to be addressed sooner rather than later for the teams that are 16th and below.