Premier League Report Card Matchday 5

The momentum of the new campaign was maintained as the first midweek round of the Premier League provided lots of entertainment. Time to rate and slate the 20 teams.

Arsenal. They should have won more comfortably against Villa, dominating and creating chances at will. After failing to extend their lead, they could have let heads drop after conceding a freak equalizer, instead they scored the winner right away. It’s still early days, but the case is growing that this version of Arsenal has more substance compared to previous years. (A)

Aston Villa. You’ve been dominated the whole game and yet you’re somehow only one goal down. You then score a goal direct from a corner to equalize. That sort of luck should liberate a side in crisis and give you the confidence to unsettle your opponents. Instead Villa being Villa, they concede the lead in the very next move of the game. The problems seem to be only increasing, with the hitherto excellent Emiliano Martinez now seeing errors creeping into his game as well. (F)

Bournemouth. Extremely lucky to get a point at home. But I guess in a week of upheaval, somehow keeping a clean sheet after conceding nine in your previous game counts as a positive. (C)

Brentford. Outplayed for vast amounts of the game at Selhurst Park, but almost came back to win it at the death, hitting the woodwork in stoppage time, an act which is becoming a bit of a trademark of the Bees. It’s also pertinent to note that for all their dependence on Ivan Toney, Thomas Frank’s side have a more varied goal threat than many give them credit for. (B)

Brighton. Started truly imposing themselves only after going two goals down and left to regret what could have been, had they played their game from the start. (D)

Chelsea. I try my best to not resort to tropes about mentality, but when Thomas Tuchel himself talks about his side being easy to play against after another damning away loss, its hard not to read into some issues within the Chelsea camp. It was only a year ago when the Blues were masters at shutting up shop, but now it seems like a concession of a goal is a guarantee of another one to follow. In a summer where they have signed both Kalidou Koulibaly and Wesley Fofana for significant fees, Chelsea’s defensive frailty has to be sorted out soon, especially in lieu of their attack still needing time to gel. (F)

Crystal Palace. They really should have won against Brentford, with our first look at Zaha, Eze and Olise playing together this season. It was exhilarating to watch and should have been celebrated, but for last season’s infuriating habit of conceding late goals spoiling the party. (B)

Everton. I have damned the Toffees with faint praise for getting points in their last two games, but the draw at Elland Road was merited. It wasn’t just resilience, but also a coherent strategy. Anthony Gordon scored from a wonderful team move, before almost assisting a winner with another well-orchestrated setup. They nullified Leeds’ attacking threat even as the home crowd got louder, in large part thanks to the excellent defending of James Tarkowski and Connor Coady, both of whom are excellent signings for all the negativity surrounding Everton’s summer business. (B)

Fulham. Another exceptional performance backed up by the result at an increasingly confident Craven Cottage. Aleksandar Mitrovic has never looked so good in the Premier League, for which a lot of credit has to go to Marco Silva, who has got the Cottagers playing in a synchronized way not seen since the days of Chris Coleman and Roy Hodgson. (A)

Leeds. Luis Sinisterra got his first league goal with the equalizer, which was probably the only positive for the Leeds faithful on a frustrating evening. They lost Rodrigo to injury during the game, and as much as they huffed and puffed, they didn’t really trouble Jordan Pickford in the last quarter of the game. (C)

Leicester. A pedestrian performance in an underwhelming loss. In a matchup that the Foxes have relished in the past few years, it was sad to see them missing their creative spark along with their ability to create chaos against the Red Devil’s defence. Now that this unsettling transfer window is over, Brendan Rodgers will hope to get his players buy-in to get their campaign going. (E)

Liverpool. Yes, last minute winners are liberating and the performances of their young tyros — Harvey Elliott and Fabio Carvalho, were very encouraging. But on the whole, Liverpool never truly had control over Newcastle, with Anfield easily silenced as the Reds again struggled for fluency. At least its two wins a row for the first time this season, but there remains a lot to solve for Jurgen Klopp. (B)

Manchester City. I don’t want this to always be about Erling Haaland, but the Norwegian is just the perfect mix of science and art. It might get tediously repetitive, but such excellence can’t be anything but appreciated. Oh, and by the way, the other new guy, Julian Alvarez, his two goals were pretty special too. (A)

Manchester United. A third consecutive win, another sharp display by Jadon Sancho and Bruno Fernandes and more encouragement for Erik ten Hag. In truth United were barely troubled by Leicester, but after all the nonsense about Lisandro Martinez’s height being an issue in defence, his partnership with Raphael Varane has resulted in two successive clean sheets. While we all would love to see Manchester United playing total football already, the Dutch manager has to establish a base first, which is what some solid wins can help do. (A)

Newcastle. Heartbreaking defeat for Eddie Howe’s Magpies, who deserved a point for their performance at Anfield. Most encouragingly for the Toon faithful, this was actually a depleted first 11 completely at ease against Liverpool. Alexander Isak looked great on his debut, the midfield easily managed their Red counterparts and Nick Pope didn’t have a lot to do other than the two goals conceded. Their only flaw on the night — not playing to the final whistle. (B)

Nottingham Forest. I am happy that the transfer window is finally done because for all the amount of work done in procuring more than 20 players, there has been very little objective analysis of how Forest have done on the pitch. A defeat at the Etihad is of course forgivable, even a 6-0 when you see the quality of the goals, but the true work starts now for Steve Cooper and his squad. The honeymoon is over. (E)

Southampton. Not only did the Saints equalize quickly after Chelsea scored, they took the lead before half time and never looked in danger of relinquishing it. I have praised Ralph Hassenhuttl a lot in this column, so time to shower the praise on some of the risky but exciting young players Southampton signed this summer. In no particular order, all of Gavin Bazunu, Mohammed Salisu, Armel Bella-Kotchap, Romeo Lavia and Ibrahima Diablo were excellent. Despite the pre-season skepticism, the Saints prospects look bright. (A)

Tottenham. The kind of performance and result that can only be described as infuriating. Spurs were setup perfectly to play to their strengths, thanks to another penetrative contribution from Dejan Kulasevski helping them to a lead at the London Stadium. Instead, Spurs ceded the initiative, allowed West Ham to take control, and left having barely survived. The only consolation was that unlike the last two seasons, they at least got a point from this tricky fixture. (C)

West Ham. Slowly and surely getting back into their groove with some key players returning from injury and impetus added to the squad courtesy of some late transfer business. Michail Antonio was at his unplayable best on the night, topping it off with an early contender for assist of the season. (B)

Wolves. Did Wolves play well? Yes. Did they dominate? Yes. Did they create chances? Yes. Did they miss some gilt-edged chances? Yes. Did they score? No. Did they win? No. (D)

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