TALKING POINTS: TOP 10 TAKEAWAYS FROM THE PREM THIS SATURDAY
West Ham vs Manchester City – three talking points
A defining two minutes in the second half
Phil Foden’s introduction at half time was a game-changer for City after a poor first half from Pep Guardiola’s side, which saw Michael Antonio give West Ham the lead with a delightful acrobatic strike.
The 20-year-old instantly stamped his authority on the game when Joao Cancelo’s low driven cross was finished superbly by Foden to bring City level.
And things went from bad to worse for the Hammers, losing goal scorer Antonio to an injury, with David Moyes bring on Andriy Yarmolenko, leaving no recognised striker on the pitch.
West Ham immediately lost their outlet going forward, Antonio’s hold up play and aerial presence was going to be huge for the home side defending a one-goal lead, but in the space of two minutes they’d lost both their target man and lead.
Aguero makes his return…... to the injury table
Following a decent number of minutes against Arsenal and Porto for Sergio Aguero, it looked like the Argentine was getting his match sharpness back after some niggling injury problems, but the City striker could be back to square one.
Pep Guardiola confirmed that the decision to remove Aguero at half time was not tactical and that he has picked up another injury.
The 32-year-old was a bystander in the first half, often wanting the ball at his feet while the players around him were looking for balls over the West Ham backline.
Having Declan Rice and Thomas Soucek both sitting deep made it very difficult for Aguero to find any gaps to have an impact on the game, which is why it could have been a tactical decision to bring Foden on his place, but instead it’s much worse for Guardiola.
Joao Cancelo’s mixed afternoon
Jarrod Bowen was having a field day in the first half against Joao Cancelo, as the make-shift left-back struggled to cope with the winger’s diagonal runs in behind the City backline.
After Antonio’s opener, West Ham began to sit a bit deeper which allowed Cancelo to begin driving forward. An off day for Raheem Sterling as well as Aguero, meant that the full-back was City’s best attacking threat in the first half.
The introduction of Phil Foden at half time gave Cancelo plenty of space on the left-hand side as Vladmimir Coufal, the right wing-back, was preoccupied by the runs of Foden, which in turn led to City’s equaliser.
Pep will have definitely been impressed by the performance of Cancelo in an attacking sense but may be worried about his defensive positioning which brought a lot of joy for West Ham in the first half.
Fulham vs Crystal Palace – Two talking points
Fulham’s dominance benefited the Palace gameplan
Scott Parker’s side bossed the early stages of their London derby against Crystal Palace, pushing high up in an attempt to score the opener. But instead Fulham’s presence further up the pitch played right into the game plan Roy Hodgson had laid out for his team.
One simple ball over the top and Wilfred Zaha was in behind, initially he was denied but just ten seconds later he set up Jairo Riedewald for the opener.
Palace simply soaked up the pressure and hit the hosts on the counter, a game plan they executed perfectly at Old Trafford and that also worked wonderfully at Craven Cottage.
Aleksandr Mitrovic wasteful again
Following his dreadful performance at Brammall Lane last weekend, where he missed a penalty and then conceded one, Aleksandr Mitrovic hasn’t had the best start to life back in the Premier League and unfortunately for him it continued against Crystal Palace.
Last season’s championship top scorer has found the back of the net just twice this campaign, with both goals coming against Leeds, but he has really struggled since his brace at Elland Road.
The Serb was guilty of giving up chances courtesy of the extremely lively Ademola Lookman multiple times on Saturday afternoon, his sloppy touches and poor hold up play gave Fulham no real outlet when trying to chase the game.
Parker will be hoping Mitrovic can get back to his goal-scoring best so Fulham can truly take advantage of Lookman’s purple patch of form.
Manchester United vs Chelsea – Three talking points
30 minutes of watching paint dry
Manchester United and Chelsea have shipped a combined total of eight goals in the opening 30 minutes of their Premier League games this season, yet their opening half-hour at Old Trafford was another level of dull.
It was definitely easy to tell that both Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Frank Lampard went for the conservative approach to the start of the game, with the first actual shot on target coming in the 28th minute.
A Reece James free-kick, which seemed to actually resemble a cross, was the first action any keeper had.
Neither side clearly wanted to concede that first goal and that shone through in the opening third of the game: backwards passes, sideways passes and a few sloppy free-kicks were the highlights.
Dean Henderson shovelling a chocolate bar into his mouth was by far the most notable thing to happen in the 30-minute time-frame, luckily the game did open up a bit after that.
A day for the defences
While it will be remembered as a game with little chances, credit has to go to both defences who prevented any goals from going in at Old Trafford.
Thiago Silva and Victor Lindelof were the stars in the backlines, with both boasting over 90% pass accuracy. The Brazilian was the busier of the two, making six clearances and two important interceptions, according to whoscored.com.
Not to mention two wonderful saves for the returning Edouard Mendy, denying Rashford on two separate occasions. The first coming when the 22-year-old ran onto a Juan Mata through ball before being denied by the outstretched right leg of Mendy.
And the second in the dying minutes of the game, when the Frenchman produced a finger-tip save to ensure Chelsea left Manchester with a point.
Hide and Beek
You’d be forgiven for not remembering that Donny Van De Beek was signed for £35m in the summer, as the Dutchman has only played 59 minutes in the Premier League this season.
Despite scoring on his United debut in the 3-1 defeat to Crystal Palace, Van De Beek has barely featured under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the fact he remained on the bench when the Red Devils were dying out for some creativity, speaks volumes about what kind of signing he was.
The Jadon Sancho to United deal was dragged out over the entire transfer window, yet the signing of the Ajax midfielder was wrapped in about three days.
Many felt that the move for Van De Beek was a panic buy from United to gloss over the embarrassment of not getting the Sancho deal over the line and seeing the 23-year-old not even leave his seat in the second half of the game against Chelsea, shows that he wasn’t a signing that OGS wanted.
Liverpool vs Sheffield United
The Blades improve but remain winless
No wins from six so far this season for Sheffield United, but they earned their first point last weekend against Premier League newcomers Fulham.
Although Chris Wilder’s side left Anfield with no points thanks to goals from Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino, his first Premier League goal of the season, they pushed the Champions all the way.
Sander Berger’s early penalty put the Blades ahead and they had a lot of good opportunities to score more had it not been for the Brazilian Wall in the Liverpool goal in the form of the returning Allison.
Oliver Burke forced the returning keeper into two very solid saves in the second half, and throughout the ninety Sheffield United looked more like the cohesive unit they were last season. A performance like that against any team but the champions of England and the Blades would’ve been out of the relegation zone.
A sign of champions?
With some shaky results against Everton and of course Aston Villa, Jurgen Klopp’s reds looked as though they had lost a killer edge to grind out results, but they showed no sign of that against Sheffield United.
Going behind early on, like they did against Villa, may have had some Liverpool fans worrying about a possible repeat of the thrashing at Villa Park. But instead Liverpool responded superbly, soaking up the pressure and defending well, knowing they would get their opportunity at goal.
Firmino’s equaliser before half time and Salah’s goal just past the hour mark, had many relieved but the latter’s goal was ruled out by VAR for an offside. Yet Rather than letting this affect them, Liverpool replied immediately by scoring a legitimate goal minutes later thanks to summer signing Jota.
Not only did Liverpool show the character and togetherness to come from behind against a strong Sheffield United, but Klopp’s men showed the mental grit to not let the disallowed goal affect them, instead they fired straight back and saw the game out.
And that is the sign of a winning team.