Tottenham’s soft underbelly strikes again, Man United leave it late to get their season going, Arsenal are improving but their ‘big-six’ record is still holding them back…
Sunday 18 October 2020 21:17, UK
Eleven months on, same old, same old for Tottenham
Manuel Lanzini’s screamer seals incredible comeback for West Ham at Tottenham
When Jose Mourinho was brought in to be Tottenham manager, it was to give the trophy-shy club the winning edge they needed to start filling their trophy cabinet. Eleven months on, their soft underbelly just will not go away.
For the second home game in a row, Spurs conceded a last-minute equaliser to a team they looked like steamrollering for large periods. Had they held on against Newcastle and now West Ham, they would be just behind Everton after five games.
Against Steve Bruce’s side they could blame a ludicrous handball rule and the perils of VAR. But the only place to look after this latest capitulation was the mirror, having become the first team in Premier League history to blow a three-goal lead in the last 10 minutes of a game.
- Tottenham 3-3 West Ham – Match report and highlightsGet Sky SportsGet a NOW TV Sky Sports pass
Spurs looked like the sort of side who could challenge a Virgil van Dijk-less Liverpool to the title this season before half-time, making it 14 goals in two-and-a-half games with their 15-minute salvo of strikes in a sensational display of attacking football from the off.
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After the break, even when their pressing and intensity dropped, there was not even a hint at one of the worst Premier League capitulations in recent memory, and the collapse raises questions over just how ready Mourinho’s side are – mentally, as much as technically – to take that next step.
“My players were not strong enough to cope with it psychologically,” Mourinho said after full-time. He put on somewhat of a brave face, but behind the scenes he will be worried.
The Spurs documentary charting Mourinho’s first season in north London was dominated by his determination to turn them into a team of cold-blooded winners. “Nice guys, they never win,” was the line.
After the restart, with results picking up and an on-field scuffle between Heung-Min Son and Hugo Lloris the boss described as “beautiful”, it looked like things might be moving in the right way.
But with four points already dropped at home – all in injury-time – to teams who finished in the bottom half of last season’s league table, there is evidently still a long way to go for Mourinho to instil the ruthless mentality which has filled his own trophy cabinet so handsomely over the years.
West Ham made of sterner stuff
The West Ham of recent seasons have seen a lot of money thrown at their team in the hope of turning them into a force on the pitch – but results have spoken for themselves. What David Moyes appears to have cultivated at the London Stadium is something money cannot buy.
Yes, the Hammers have bought well this summer and are reaping the rewards of having Michail Antonio fit for an extended period. But the belief and the fight that the Hammers showed to mount a 10-minute comeback to draw 3-3 at Tottenham is something entirely different.
You have to look back almost a decade to find the last time West Ham pulled back from three goals behind in the Premier League. It is rare for any side, but the mentality of the squad, largely since their move to the London Stadium, has rarely looked that of a team ready to roll up their sleeves.
Now with seven points from consecutive trips to Wolves, Leicester and Tottenham, that may be starting to shift. The Hammers should have been dead and buried at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday, but they hung in, regrouped at half-time and were the better team after the break. That in itself is not the hardest thing at 3-0 down and little to lose. Actually turning that into a battling point would not happen without the sort of belief Moyes and his team can use to pull away from the doldrums of the relegation fights which have become all-too familiar in recent seasons.
Their personnel will go a long way towards achieving that; Jarrod Bowen has looked impressive at the start of his first full Premier League season, so too new wing-back Vladimir Coufal. The shift to a 3-4-3, with Aaron Cresswell an effective marauding centre-back, has helped too. Whether West Ham will keep this up, we will find out in 33 games. But if wins at Wolves and Leicester could be cynically described as flash in the pan, the grit required to mount Sunday’s comeback at Tottenham hints at something much deeper.
A bizarre bit of history for Crystal Palace
FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Crystal Palace’s draw with Brighton in the Premier League
If there is one game of the season in which you want to do something special, it is a derby against your fiercest rivals. Looking at it from that point of view, Crystal Palace did that, but perhaps not in the way some would hope.
Since Opta began recording shot data in the Premier League in 2003-04, Crystal Palace are the first team to have just one shot in a match in the competition and that shot be a penalty. Incredible.
- Crystal Palace 1-1 Brighton – Match report and highlights
It came courtesy of Wilfried Zaha’s thumping spot-kick, his seventh goal against Brighton, the most he has scored versus one opponent and although the ‘one-shot’ stat is certainly unique, it will be a concern for Roy Hodgson.
Brighton had a whopping 20 shots at Selhurst Park and the manager was rightly delighted with his side’s defensive performance, but, as was an issue last season, Crystal Palace need more going forward.
On paper, they have the talent. Zaha, Andros Townsend and Jeffrey Schlupp can all cause issue on their day, Michy Batshuayi won the penalty and had a goal ruled out for offside. That is before we mention summer-signing Eberechi Eze, who was an unused substitute, and Jordan Ayew, who missed out after testing positive for coronavirus.
It is a continuation of last season’s concerns and something that Crystal Palace will need to address.
Will Brighton take a more pragmatic approach?
Alexis Mac Allister scored his first Premier League goal for Brighton
It looked like being another frustrating afternoon for Brighton at Crystal Palace. The Seagulls dominated the game but could find no reply to Zaha’s 19th-minute penalty. That was until 21-year-old Argentinian Alexis Mac Allister came off the bench to thump home a 90th-minute equaliser they richly deserved.
Graham Potter was animated throughout and would have gone home scratching his head had his team not levelled after peppering Palace’s goal with 20 attempts compared to the one of the hosts. But, despite plenty of plaudits, Brighton have four points from their opening five games while Palace have seven and are four places higher in 12th spot.
- How Crystal Palace and Brighton lined up | Match stats
“I am pleased with the performance and the team,” Potter said. “If we play that game 10 times we win it quite a few times.”
Quite possibly, but playing well and not winning has become a recurring theme for the south-coast club already this term.
Potter has good defenders in Ben White, Lewis Dunk and Adam Webster, but you wonder if he will have to revert back to a more pragmatic approach moving forward to avoid more anxious afternoons such as this.
Man Utd arrive at Premier League party
Highlights from Manchester United’s win over Newcastle in the Premier League
If the late flurry of Manchester United goals at Newcastle hadn’t made you sit up and take notice, then Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s post-match comments certainly should have.
“Our season started today. We’ve come up to the speed of the game and that showed today,” the United boss told Sky Sports after the 4-1 victory at Newcastle.
- Newcastle 1-4 Man Utd – Match report and highlightsSolskjaer: Man Utd season has startedMata helps ease pressure on Solskjaer
For a Manchester United manager – or any manager for that matter – to admit it’s taken four games for his team to get off the ground just about sums up this remarkable Premier League season unfolding in front of our eyes.
After the shambolic collapse to Spurs before the international break, Solskjaer would have taken any kind of victory to ease the pressure on his increasingly beleaguered squad, but he got much more than that.
Four fine goals, stellar performances from Harry Maguire, Juan Mata and David de Gea and a rousing all-round response on Tyneside that announced Manchester United’s arrival in the 2020/21 season.
Victory and Aguero’s return provide timely boost for Man City
Sergio Aguero is substituted in the second half
It was a bold move from Pep Guardiola to include Sergio Aguero from the start against Arsenal after the striker had spent such a long time on the sidelines, but it was a timely return for City, especially with a congested fixture list and long-term doubts surrounding the fitness of Gabriel Jesus.
The Argentine hadn’t played since picking up a knee injury on June 22 but it was like he’d never been away. In the 65 minutes he was on the pitch, he played a key role in City’s winner and was a constant threat to Arsenal in what was a performance full of endeavour and quality.
And his manager was delighted to have him back out on the field. “We are so happy with Sergio Aguero, he was out for four months but is a guy who needs rhythem. I am so happy for him he is back.”
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Raheem Sterling, City’s match-winner, was also pleased to have the striker out on the pitch alongside him. “We haven’t been quite as fluent this season but in the last couple of games we have shown that fluency is coming back and it’s great to keep the momentum going,” the England international said.
“When Sergio is on the field you know there can be a goal at any moment. He is vital to help us compete on all fronts and great to have him back.”
"We are incredibly happy. It is four months so he is still short of his condition but we got 60 minutes and that is good. On Wednesday we have another game so it is important because we need his goals and his performances."
Pep Guardiola on Sergio Aguero
The games are coming thick and fast now for City with the Champions League set to resume this week, and Aguero will have to be managed very carefully as City look to get him back up to full match sharpness.
But with their all-time top goal scorer back, the defence putting in a solid display and victory over the Gunners helping to put their poor start behind them, things are starting to look up for Guardiola and his side.
Struggles at ‘big six’ continue for improved Arsenal
FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Manchester City’s win over Arsenal
The wait goes on for Arsenal.
Not only have the Gunners lost each of their last seven league games against Manchester City, they are now winless in their last 29 Premier League away games against “big six” opponents (D10 L19) since a 2-0 win at City in January 2015.
However, there are still signs of progression from Mikel Arteta’s side, who showed improvement from their 3-0 defeat at the Etihad Stadium back in June.
- How Man City and Arsenal lined up | Match stats
They were solid in defence for large parts of the game with City needing to show moments of real quality to break down the Gunners’ defence. They also had their chances to get something from the game, and but for two magnificent saves from Ederson, one to deny the impressive Bukayo Saka and the other to keep Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at bay, they may have got a result.
Micah Richards and Sol Campbell take a look at Kyle Walker’s high challenge during Manchester City’s 1-0 win over Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium, which the away team felt should have resulted in a penalty
In the end, Arteta was left disappointed on his return to the Etihad. “I’m sad not to get anything from the game,” the Spaniard said. “I felt we kept growing and growing, having more belief that we could get something. I’m proud of the way we played individually and collectively. It’s not easy to produce a performance in a stadium like that. We need everything to go our way to get a win here. The three or four chances you need to put them away.”
There is a process going on at Arsenal and there will be a few bumps along the way, but despite defeat, the Gunners showed they are still on the right path under Arteta.
Everton take battling qualities to the limit
Dominic Calvert-Lewin headed Everton level
Without local representation, there were question marks over whether Carlo Ancelotti’s rejuvenated Everton side could restore some much-needed intensity to the Merseyside derby. Their last meeting against Liverpool in June was a dreary goalless draw in which both teams each managed just three shots on target with the visitors having 70 per cent possession.
And while Everton were unable to end their decade-long winless drought against their neighbours, the manner in which they fought back twice to earn a point delighted their manager.
“We could’ve won, drawn or lost,” Ancelotti said afterwards. “The performance was good as we wanted to compete and in the end we did really well, with a good spirit. When we were down, we never lost confidence and we had opportunities to go ahead with Richarlison hitting the post. I am really satisfied.
- Premier League table | Fixtures | Live on SkyGet Sky Sports
“When you concede a goal, you always have to defend better and we have to defend better in certain situations, but against Liverpool it’s really difficult. They keep a high intensity on the pitch, but we competed well.”
A perceived mental block has been previously debated, but this is a new-look Everton who entered the derby for the first time since September 1989 top of the table. After several meek renewals, the ferocity was back here as Richarlison saw red with a wild challenge on Thiago – Everton’s record 15th against their rivals in a Premier League fixture.
It came after Virgil van Dijk had hobbled off in the first half with a knee injury inflicted by Jordan Pickford, and while Liverpool were left to count the injured, Everton will take comfort from their efforts against their city rivals. Ancelotti spoke of how the derby would test his team’s mettle, and with Dominic Calvert-Lewin adding to his early-season goal rush, they emerged from their stiffest challenge still unbeaten, providing a further indication of the progress being made under the Italian.
Signs of life from Fulham?
FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Sheffield United’s draw with Fulham in the Premier League
Fulham remain winless in the Premier League this season but there will be renewed hope within the Craven Cottage walls that survival might not be the impossible job. At Bramall Lane, they looked improved, buoyed by some new recruits. Three of them – Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Ademola Lookman and Tosin Adaraboiyo – were handed their full debuts and fitted in seamlessly as Fulham looked a side full of invention on the counter attack, especially in the second half.
- Sheffield United 1-1 Fulham – Match report and highlights
Loftus-Cheek played intelligently in a free role just off the luckless Aleksandar Mitrovic, while the busy Lookman showed his quality with a fine solo effort that almost handed them maximum points. Yet it was the performance of Adaraboiyo – an under the radar £1.5m purchase from Manchester City – at the heart of the Fulham defence that perhaps was the most noteworthy. He stepped up to the plate with a mature performance. Early days of course, but his influence could be the catalyst for Fulham to finally find some defensive cohesion.
Werner creates something out of nothing
FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Chelsea’s draw with Southampton
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The murmurs were getting louder. If Timo Werner had gone another 90 minutes without scoring in the Premier League, the questions would have come.
Is he struggling to settle? Can he keep up with the pace of the Premier League? Is he being played in the right position?
But within half an hour of Chelsea’s 3-3 draw with Southampton, Werner had put all of that to bed.
They may not have got the desired end result, but Werner’s performance on Saturday will bring Chelsea fans excitement. It’s clear the 24-year-old is a match winner.
- Chelsea 3-3 Southampton – Match report and higlightsHow Chelsea and Saints lined up | Match stats
His two goals were self-made. The first came from a quite sublime dummy to leave Jan Bednarek in quicksand, before dancing past a couple of challenges and picking the perfect time to shoot through a crowded penalty area.
The second was pure confidence. This time he got goal side of Bednarek the conventional way with intelligent running, before having the nouse to lift it over Alex McCarthy and head into an empty net.
Werner was making runs all afternoon – helped in part by Southampton’s press and higher-than-usual line – and was not stuck to one position. In fact, Chelsea’s entire front four had the freedom to roam where they felt necessary.
Aside from the goals, Werner showed a willing team ethic to his play, happy to go for a more sensible option rather than bursting with the ball into the box. He registered a team-high 91 per cent success rate with his 22 passes, one of those for Kai Havertz’s goal in the second half following another run in-behind.