Premier League Report Card Matchday 6

On a weekend where many of the top sides struggled to find fluency, two of the most pleasing sides in the division scored five each. Time to assess the teams after another round of absorbing games.

Arsenal. It’s not the result that will necessary annoy Mikel Arteta, but the carelessness shown in the goals conceded. The Gunners were in control of the game both times United took the lead, with sloppy coordination in their defensive ranks costing them dearly. There were positives in the chances they created, but the naivety on display at Old Trafford has to be eradicated for Arsenal to truly achieve their aims for the season. (D)

Aston Villa. They were barely in the game against the champions, but somehow found an equalizer with a beautifully constructed goal. Villa were always going to need a bit of luck against City, and they can’t be chastised for hanging in there when many were predicting a rout. Steven Gerrard now has to ensure that this acts as a springboard to launch their season. (A)

Bournemouth. Nobody saw that coming. A week after a 9-0 shellacking, it would have been understandable for the Cherries to mail it in after being 2-0 down at half time at the City Ground. Instead Gary O’Neil probably delivered the best dressing room talk of his career as his team secured an incredible comeback win. Bournemouth now have two wins this season, which is two more than some of the more established sides in the league. Are they really relegation favourites? (A)

Brentford. Enough of hitting the woodwork, here come the goals. An absolute exhibition of finishing from the Bees, led by the brilliance of Ivan Toney. If his free kick wasn’t good enough already, his dinked finish over the Leeds defence to complete his hat-trick was composure personified. To top off an excellent day for the Bees, their secondary goalscoring options — Bryan Mbuemo and Yoane Wisa, also got on the scoresheet. (A)

Brighton. So that’s what happens when the Seagulls actually finish their chances. It shouldn’t surprise us that Brighton scored five, simply because on most days Graham Potter’s men create more than enough chances to score that many. Their thrashing of Leicester was all of their creativity finally paying off, with their midfield three of Moises Caicedo, Alexis Mac Allister and Pascal Gross combining beautifully with inverted wingbacks Leandro Trossard and Solly March. The performance levels of these five right now have Brighton in a state of pure nirvana.  (A)

Chelsea. Beneficiaries of some terrible refereeing on the day. Thomas Tuchel’s side were plodding for most of the game against West Ham, turning around the result mainly thanks to Ben Chilwell’s outstanding cameo. The left-back’s equalizer was an example of excellent anticipation and quickness of thought, while his cutback for the game-winner was so perfect that even Kai Havertz got a confidence boosting goal. The Blues still have a lot of work ahead to reach the level many expect them at after spending a quarter of a billion pounds in the summer. (B)

Crystal Palace. Like Wilfried Zaha, I don’t really understand why Palace have to sit back so much with the talent they have. Patrick Vieira has seen the benefits of unleashing his mix of tricky wingers and attacking midfielders, yet he chooses some bizarre occasions to go ultra defensive. At least they got a point at St. James Park, which is no mean feat. (C)

Everton. Their best performance of the season on their most important occasion. As hinted in my last report card, such a display was on the cards, and while they still aren’t the most complete team, against Liverpool there were encouraging signs that all the players they signed in the summer may well form a much-needed new spine of the team. Now to get their first win of the season. (A)

Fulham. Even though they were outplayed by Spurs, they never caved in, ultimately giving their hosts a fright thanks to the incredible Aleksander Mitrovic. Most Fulham fans will accept narrow 2-1 defeats from away days in North London. (C)

Leeds. Luis Sinisterra was amazing again, suggesting the Colombian is going to be Leeds’ most crucial attacking weapon this season. The defending however wasn’t the greatest, with some flashbacks of last season when Marcelo Bielsa’s side would simply cave in after conceding two goals. It’s on Jesse Marsch to now prove that this was an aberration rather than the beginning of a defensive slide. (E)

Leicester. I tried to be optimistic about Brendan Rodgers in the last report card thanks to the transfer window closing down. While it is true that the Foxes didn’t strengthen this summer, it’s not a good look when a team with lesser resources who sold two of their best players not only outplays you, but also scores five. It’s hard not to believe something’s coming to an end soon. (F)

Liverpool. Spared their blushes thanks to the narrowest of offsides. Still to get their first away win of the season and Jurgen Klopp has to take some of the blame. If midfield is a problem area right now, why not minimize the impact of that area of the pitch by playing a 4-2-3-1? It was no coincidence that Liverpool played some of their best football in the first 20 minutes of the second half when Roberto Firmino came on and played closer to the front three. Instead of shoehorning players into a midfield three, Klopp has to bite the bullet on his preferred formation to avoid letting their league campaign drift away. (D)

Manchester City. Pep Guardiola will be furious at his players for not making the most of their dominance against Villa. But I for one am thankful that even with Haaland, football does remain a sport of randomness. (C)

Manchester United. They had to dig in for long stages of the game, which is no slight considering the form that the Gunners were in. When you have the brilliance of passing that Bruno Fernandes and Christian Eriksen possess, there are always going to be possibilities. Most encouragingly for Erik ten Haag, that midfield duo are creating chances with United still mainly playing counter-attacking football. It’s an enticing thought to think how much better the Red Devils will be with those two purring when their manager’s style has completely taken hold. (A)

Newcastle. They really should have won with the chances they had against Palace. It was still a good performance, but it must be deflating that for all the justified plaudits this season, they have only win to show for it. (C)

Nottingham Forest. If the thrashing at City wasn’t the end of the honeymoon, then this definitely was. There has been a bit too much giddiness about signing a bit too many players and there has been too much nostalgia overshadowing what’s actually happening on the pitch at Forest. Surely losing to a fellow promoted team at home after blowing a two-goal lead has to finally lead to some serious analysis of how Forest are actually going to approach this challenging season. (F)

Southampton. They had the chances to at least get a draw at Molineux, with Che Adams inexplicably heading onto his hand in front of an open goal. It was nevertheless, another encouraging performance from Ralph Hassenhuttl’s exciting young side. (C)

Tottenham. A match they largely controlled, but were still made to sweat at the end, which doesn’t detract from the quality of the performance as Fulham are proving dogged opponents for everyone this season. Richarlison was a handful on his first full start, only reinforcing the fact that for the first time in ages, Spurs genuinely have the depth to contend. (A)

West Ham. Deserved something out of a measured performance at Stamford Bridge, only to be let down by some seriously sub-standard refereeing. (B)

Wolves. Easily their least coordinated performance of the season, but they got their first win of the campaign. That’s just how football works sometimes. Over to you now, Diego Costa. (A)

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