Premier League Report Card Matchday 2

While in most years we would just be looking forward to the beginning of the season in mid-August, the second round of games just concluded in the Premier League provided us with talking points akin to the middle of a league campaign. Here are my team ratings, with resilience probably the dominant theme of the weekend.

Arsenal. Another encouraging day as Gabriel Jesus was the star of the show amongst many vibrant attacking performances. It probably became a little too close for comfort, but even when Leicester pulled goals back, there was a certain resoluteness in the Gunners play, typified by all ten outfielders relentlessly pressing for 90 minutes. They remain a young squad who will almost certainly have bumps in the road, but good pressing brings patience from the fanbase, as well as the manager. (A)

Aston Villa. After the nondescript performance at Bournemouth last weekend, a complete 180 as Villa ran rampant in a game they could have sealed off by the 60th minute. Maybe Steven Gerrard should just start Buendia ahead of Coutinho more regularly. (A)

Bournemouth. Nobody does huge defeats to City like the Cherries do, but could they even be blamed when they were just so mismatched? (E)

Brentford. Of course the media focus is on their visitors, but the Bees brilliance shouldn’t be taken for granted. Not only were they physically superior to United, they strategically exposed the flaws of their opponents and the technical brilliance on display, in particular the fourth goal, was a joy to watch. An endearing team led by an inspiring manager that any neutral can easily root for. (A)

Brighton. Another good display with the ball from Potter’s men, denied a win by a combination of Nick Pope and just having no natural finishers in the side. (B)

Chelsea. Conceding an equalizer from a poorly marked set piece right at the death in a game that you have totally dominated is a gut punch like no other. That being said, the fact that Chelsea controlled a game against a team that looked so well-drilled on the opening weekend while the Blues themselves remain in a state of flux with their squad bodes well for the long-term. Raheem Sterling already looks to be developing a great understanding with Chelsea’s midfield and wingbacks. Now if they can find someone who can put those chances to bed. (B)

Crystal Palace. A point at Anfield is a great result, especially after 10 successive league losses against Liverpool. That being said, if Patrick Vieira’s style is supposed to be a departure from Roy Hodgson, why is it that they were still playing on the counter against 10 men for the best part of 40 minutes? (B)

Everton. Are the Toffees simply to take solace from being an organized outfit now? They are skirting dangerously close to the trapdoor with no semblance of an attacking strategy. (F)

Fulham. In isolation, getting a point in your first away game for a newly promoted team would be a tremendous result. But missing a late penalty that would have given them three points in the Midlands must feel disheartening in the dressing room. (C)

Leeds. The positive is that Rodrigo has started the season in scoring form, which makes up for the  negative of losing Bamford to another injury. Their youthful approach revealed some flaws in game management as a two-goal lead was quickly given away, but on the whole, it was another encouraging day for Jesse Marsch as his ideas begin to take hold. (B)

Leicester. Troubling times in the East Midlands. When Brendan Rodgers’ teams are out-pressed, there isn’t much else to hang on to, especially as the one big flaw in his managerial career has been an inability to correct defensive problems. Danny Ward’s gaffe leading to Arsenal’s third goal seemed sadly symptomatic of a Rodgers’ side going into defensive meltdown. (F)

Liverpool. I’ll get the positives quickly out of the way; the Reds played better with ten men and Luis Diaz scored a wonderful equalizer. However, in a season where injuries are already casting a pall over Anfield at this early stage, Darwin Nunez’s reckless red card has only dampened the mood further. While Jurgen Klopp may amusingly claim a witch is in the building, the German and his coaching team now have to come up with some tactical innovations to get the best of a squad with suddenly dwindling options. (C)

Manchester City. No such problems for the champions as they brushed aside Bournemouth with ease. While the forensic analysis of Erling Haaland’s involvement continues, a simple reminder that Kevin De Bruyne remains one of the greatest players to ever grace the league. Oh, while we are at it, Foden, Gundogan and a few others are pretty good too. (A)

Manchester United. Their new expensive centre-back looks all at sea, right next to their previous expensive centre-back who has looked all at sea for quite some time. They both played ahead of a centre-back who had won four Champions Leagues and a World Cup before coming to United. They added a playmaker despite their previous playmaker being player of the season in 2020-21, and then proceeded to play said playmaker as a false nine in the first game, before turning him into a defensive midfielder for the second. They got a new manager who was playing total football with a team of lesser resources for the past three years, but all he is overseeing right now is a total mess. Is this really rock bottom? It wouldn’t surprise anyone to see United conceding four a few more times this season. (F)

Newcastle. They were outplayed and Nick Pope was undoubtedly the man of the match at the Amex. But gaining difficult points away from home with resilience is an important part of the Magpies journey as they continue to progress. (B)

Nottingham Forest. Yes, it was a fortunate win and yes, for the most part they looked like the collection of strangers they currently are. But getting a win in your first Premier League home game in 23 years is priceless for the fans and that atmosphere at the City Ground was something else altogether. (A)

Southampton. And he’s done it again. Ralph Hasenhuttl retains the uncanny ability to get something out of the Saints just when the vultures are circling. At 2-0 down things were looking grim, before some smart substations changed the tide of the game. The equalizing goal in particular would surely have drawn more plaudits had any of the big clubs scored it. (B)

Tottenham. Let’s get the negative out of the way; Spurs were abysmal, technically and tactically inferior to their London rivals. That being said, getting a point in a game that they were outplayed in, speaks well of the resilience that Antonio Conte has instilled in the team. It’s also important to stress they were encouraging signs that Spurs seem to finally have a bench with genuine game-changing options in Perisic and Richarlison, both of whom contributed. Above all though, the psychological lift of taking something from a team and a venue that has caused them so much hurt over the years keeps the positive momentum and belief going for the Lilywhites. (B)

West Ham. They are unlucky defeats, and then there was the Hammers’ loss at Forest. Yes, missing a penalty is usually inexcusable, but West Ham had a goal very harshly ruled out and then found Dean Henderson in inspired form as they took control of the game. Sometimes its just not your day. (B)

Wolves. Yes, we know they have goalscoring problems, but when a goal is missed after beating a goalkeeper, it tells you that there is panic setting in about finding the back of the net. It’s on Bruno Lage to make sure his squad retains belief in their style of play and coaxing some goals from his attacking players, of which they are still quite a few good ones at Molineux. Lage will surely not have many excuses left after his employers have spent over 70 million in the last week to give him Guedes and Nunes. (D)

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