Premier League Report Card Matchday 9

The derby weekend in the Premier League saw plenty of drama with brilliant performances from Arsenal and City, while the questions increase for Liverpool and Forest.

Arsenal. Answered the questions about their big game management with an outstanding performance and a deserved victory. Every single component of the Gunners’ machine delivered in the North London derby. Other than a brief period in which they were tested by Spurs’ front three, the defence held firm and confidently brought the ball forward, while the midfield controlled the game comfortably, secure in the knowledge that the outstanding Thomas Partey was at its base screening the back four. The attack, as has been the case throughout the season, didn’t let the opposition defence breath for too long. Mikel Arteta and his men now have a great chance to really make a mark against Liverpool next week. (A)

Aston Villa. In its own right a point at Elland Road is a decent gain, but Villa were playing against 10 men for virtually all of the second half and never really looked like scoring. (D)

Bournemouth. The Gary O’Neil unbeaten run continues, but the Cherries were quiet uninspiring in the kind of game promoted sides usually target getting three points from. (C)

Brentford. Just as uninspiring as their hosts at the Vitality. A point gained, but that’s two consecutive games where the Bees have looked devoid of their usual creativity. (C)

Brighton. A brilliant debut for Roberto De Zerbi as his Seagulls tore into Liverpool at Anfield. Leandro Trossard grabs the headlines for a brilliant hat trick, but this was a complete team performance. They could have been four up inside the first twenty minutes and that they didn’t win was simply down to the fact that they neither have forwards like Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah, nor a goalkeeper as good as Alisson. (A)

Chelsea. An important win for Graham Potter on his league debut as Chelsea boss, but for long periods the Blues were second best at Selhurst Park. Two outstanding finishes and a borderline refereeing decision made the difference, but Potter still has a lot of work to do to get his side back to their fluent best. (B)

Crystal Palace. That the winner came courtesy of Conor Gallagher simply added to the sense of injustice after a performance from the Eagles that merited at least a point. Putting the heartbreak to one side, Patrick Vieira bravely played Zaha, Eze, Oliseh and Ayew together, with the quartet causing Chelsea all sorts of problems throughout the game. If Vieira sticks with them against lesser opponents, Palace are likely to climb the table quickly. (B)

Everton. A second consecutive win, undefeated in six and now with the best defence in the league. I have remarked a few times this season that Coady and Tarkowski are a great pair for a relegation fight. There is however an increasing solidity to Everton’s spine that maybe, just maybe, hints at more than just a battle to avoid the drop. (A)

Fulham. The Cottagers were always going to miss the suspended Joao Palhinha who has been one of the signings of the season so far. That they would realize his absence within 10 minutes thanks to Nathaniel Chalaboah’s reckless tackle is something they couldn’t legislate for. To compound their woes, Aleksandar Mitrovic got injured during the game to leave Marco Silva praying for a quick recovery. Fulham’s good start allows for a defeat like this, but Silva has to ensure it’s a one-off. (E)

Leeds. They actually created the better chances with ten men towards the end of the game against Villa, but Luis Sinisterra’s silly red card leaves Leeds with a creative void they could have done without. (C)

Leicester. Even as they won comfortably, there were quite a few occasions on which the Foxes defensive vulnerabilities could have been exposed. But a first win of the season does bring relief and Leicester are exactly the kind of side who can override their flaws when they are playing confidently. It’s now on Brendan Rodgers to ensure his men sustain the momentum from this win. (A)

Liverpool. A lucky escape for the Reds. Brighton have now left Anfield without defeat for the third successive season and amongst the myriad of different problems that Jurgen Klopp has to contend with right now, he has to wonder how is it that his preferred midfield trio of Thiago, Fabinho and Henderson were so easily bypassed in midfield by the Seagulls. The Reds can be excused a season of transition, but with competition in the league only increasing, Klopp has to inspire a higher level of performance from several of his key players for the season to not turn into a slog for Champions League qualification. (E)

Manchester City. That’s three consecutive hat tricks in home games for Erling Haaland. He also assisted two goals for Phil Foden, who grabbed a hat trick himself. Meanwhile Kevin De Bruyne was his usual sumptuous self. Manuel Akanji was an opportunist signing at the end of the window, who actually looks like the perfect centre back for Pep. Is the only serious opponent to City this season going to be City themselves? (A)

Manchester United. Don’t be fooled by the scoreline adding a veneer of respectability. City simply declared with 15 minutes left in the game. This was a chastening afternoon for United as the champions didn’t show the naivety or lack of willingness to fight that recent opponents had shown in the Red Devils’ mini resurgence. Christian Eriksen and Bruno Fernandes are a fantasy midfield duo and will most likely thrill us on other occasions this season, but against a relentless pressing machine they were always bound to fail with only Scott McTominay as their buffer. Erik ten Hag has to go back to the drawing board to avoid such catastrophe before their next big six game. (F)

Newcastle. All the frustration of recent dropped points was taken out on Fulham with an overdue thrashing. The Magpies have deserved more in recent games and finally just rewards were delivered. On a side note, Miguel Almiron’s first goal is surely a contender for volley of the season already. (A)

Nottingham Forest. Two home defeats to fellow promoted sides followed up with an abject performance in a basement battle. Worryingly, Leicester didn’t even need to be good to thrash Forest. How exactly they come out on top of this battle is hard to see, especially as Steve Cooper is no closer to finding his best eleven. (F)

Southampton. That’s three consecutive defeats for Ralph Hassenhuttl’s men. Saints had their moments against the Toffees, but that’s the thing with hedging your bets on having one of the youngest sides ever in the Premier League — there’s no guarantee of consistency. At least it maintains an air of mystery for the streakiest side in the division. (D)

Tottenham. The unbeaten start to the league campaign came to an end at the last place Spurs would have wanted to. Just like their first defeat in Europe against Sporting, many felt this result was coming for Antonio Conte’s men. Dejan Kulusevksi was sorely missed, but my biggest gripe against Conte in this particular fixture was that against Arsenal’s midfield three he persisted with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Rodrigo Bentancur, when surely a third midfielder would have given Spurs an extra dimension of control. While I agree with Conte that Spurs didn’t end up humiliating themselves, this really was an opportunity missed to make a big statement. (D)

West Ham. An overdue win along with a first league goal for Gianluca Scamacca. The Hammers faithful will hope that the team and their new striker push on from here. (A)

Wolves. Another inevitable blank followed by the sadly inevitable sacking of their manager. (F)

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