Five talking points from the weekend’s Premier League
25 September, 2018, 3:15 pm
MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – Liverpool made it six wins out of six and with Chelsea held to a draw at West Ham United, moved two points clear at the top. Manchester City, who romped to a 5-0 win at Cardiff, are level with Chelsea on 16 points. Manchester United were held to a 1-1 draw by promoted Wolves at Old Trafford.
Here are talking points from the weekend’s Premier League action:
Who is to blame for United’s attitude?
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho laid the blame for the draw with Wolves on his players’ attitude, (LINK: https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-soccer-england-mun-wlv-mourinho/mourinho-scathing-over-uniteds-attitude-after-wolves-draw-idUKKCN1M20SU suggesting that his side were only playing at 30 percent of their potential. Midfielder Paul Pogba agreed and said the team needed to attack more when at home.
If United’s attitude isn’t right then fans will rightly ask the question, why? Surely, it is the job of the manager to have the players in the right frame of mind for a match? Doesn’t Pogba, as a key player in the side, also have a role in making sure his team mates approach the game in the right way?
Perhaps United’s problem isn’t, however, a lack of desire. There was no obvious lack of effort against Wolves but what was missing was an effective shape and clear tactical structure. As soon as Wolves scored, United appeared to panic with players charging around the field in desperate a attempt to get back in front.
Playing Marouane Fellaini as a shield in the deep midfield role has certainly helped to protect the fragile central defence but at the other end of the field things aren’t working as well. Alexis Sanchez was again ineffective on the left, Jesse Lingard’s role was unclear and Romelu Lukaku didn’t get enough support.
There is talent in this United squad and the desire to perform is there — what is missing is a system of play that allows them to impose themselves on opponents in the way that Liverpool and Manchester City do.
Wolves hardly look like a promoted side
Slightly lost in the inevitable focus on United dropping more points at home — and slipping to eight points behind Liverpool — was the outstanding performance of Nuno Espirito Santo’s Wolverhampton Wanderers.
They played with such confidence and composure on the ball and with evident intelligence and togetherness that it was easy to forget they are a promoted team. They looked more like the kind of opponents United might face in the Champions League group stage.
That is hardly surprising when you look at the team-sheet which features experienced international quality such as Portugal’s Joao Moutinho and Mexico’s Raul Jimenez as well as younger talent such as the Portuguese pair Ruben Neves and Diogo Jota.
With nine points from six games, Wolves have made a solid start to the campaign, particularly when you consider those early games include draws against both Manchester clubs. It would be no surprise to see them finish comfortably in the top ten.
Pellegrini’s method starts to become clear
West Ham and their new manager Manuel Pellegrini invested heavily during the close-season but promptly lost their opening four games, raising questions about the Chilean.
But after last week’s impressive win at Everton, where the Hammers attacked with precision and clinical effectiveness, they showed another side of their game with a solid, well-organised defensive display against Chelsea in Sunday’s goalless draw.
Indeed, had Ukrainian Andriy Yarmolenko been as sharp in front of goal as he was at Goodison Park, West Ham might have taken all three points off Maurizio Sarri’s side.
The early season fixture list has not been kind to the Londoners – they have had away trips to Arsenal and Liverpool and their next two home games are against Manchester United and Tottenham.
But even if the points tally will still be modest in October at least Hammers fans will feel their team is taking shape and that Pellegrini has a plan for all the new faces.
VAR surely a matter of time
Everton manager Marco Silva couldn’t resist making a call for VAR to be introduced for the Premier League after a clearly offside goal from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang put Arsenal 2-0 up.
Video replays showed Aubameyang was in an obvious offside position but with no VAR system in place in the competition there was nothing that could be done.
Trials of the system are continuing this season with a view to a possible introduction of VAR in next season’s campaign. After the technology was largely a success at the World Cup it is hard to see how it is not brought in to all the top leagues and the Champions League.
Wingers help Burnley show signs of life
After finishing seventh last season, Burnley’s poor start to the season, with one point from the opening five games, was unexpected but the 4-0 thrashing of Bournemouth on Saturday was even more surprising.
The scoreline was the best Burnley have produced in the Premier League era and a large part of the credit must go to the team’s two wingers.
Former Spurs and Everton wide-man Aaron Lennon has struggled for form in recent weeks but his pace was allied with quality delivery as he ripped open Eddie Howe’s defence.
On the other flank, Iceland international Johann Berg Gudmundsson was the perfect compliment with his left-foot deliveries.
Belgian midfielder Steven Defour and Ireland winger Robbie Brady are both close to returns from long-term injuries and they should offer much-needed creativity but it is still hard to see the Clarets replicating last season’s form.