Premier League Playback: Manchester United show how Chelsea can be halted

1 Comment


They may not have beaten Chelsea on Sunday, but Manchester United gave the rest of the Premier League hope that the Blues can be stopped this season.

One of the main topics of discussion this campaign has been about Chelsea going the entire season unbeaten and whether or not it’s possible for them to match Arsenal’s “invincible’s” from 2003-04. They’re still unbeaten through nine games but were handed their toughest test yet at Old Trafford. Without Diego Costa, Chelsea looked less vibrant in attack, however it was the stranglehold United had on Cesc Fabregas which helped United hold Chelsea back and allowed Robin van Persie to snatch a late point, much to the delight of over 70,000 home fans at Old Trafford.

Click to enlarge – Chelsea’s average positions. Source: Opta
Click to enlarge – Man United’s average positions. Source: Opta

Fabregas was subdued throughout, as Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata pushed high and forced Chelsea’s main man to play deeper than he usually does. Daley Blind blocked the forward lanes for Fabregas to pass or run into, and in the first half United’s gameplan worked superbly. Fabregas was constantly caught in two minds as Fellaini and Mata would drop deep to support Blind, then push high to support van Persie and become unmarked. Fabregas was unsure whether to drop deep and pick up United’s midfielders, or push high on Blind who often picked up the ball unmarked in the holding role. Chelsea’s main man didn’t get a kick.

[RELATED: Watch full match replays]

Look at the average positions of Chelsea’s players, left, and United’s, right, to see how Fabregas was caught in two minds with Mata and Fellaini pushed up high intentionally by Louis van Gaal. Nemanja Matic was left marking two men and did the job admirably for Chelsea in the engine room, but nullifying Fabregas was the key for United.

Chelsea were better in the second half, but Fabregas couldn’t dictate the tempo of the match from the middle. In the 53rd minute he did deliver the corner which Didier Drogba headed home to put Chelsea 1-0 up, but the Spanish playmaker had perhaps his quietest day yet in a Chelsea shirt as van Gaal’s plan work a treat. After the game United’s boss demanded more from his charges, saying that this wasn’t their best performance and that his side should have won.

“I’ve said to the players we could have won but nevertheless we didn’t and that’s our fault,” Van Gaal said. “When you can do that against the best team in this league at this moment it is a good sign. I’m not pleased as I still have the feeling we could have won today and that we don’t take our opportunities at the moment.”

[VIDEO: Premier League highlights]

Still, it seems like United are heading in the right direction and a morale boosting point will do them the world of good ahead of the Manchester derby. Chelsea, who are still four points clear at the top despite coughing up a late equalizer, lacked that killer instinct which they’ve possessed for most of the season and failed to finish United off when they had them on the ropes for 15 minutes after going 1-0 up. That was likely due to the absence of Costa, who has scored nine goals in seven PL appearances so far.

The Spanish international has now missed Chelsea’s last two PL games with his hamstring issues flaring up and, according to our very own Neil Ashton, Costa could be having surgery very soon. See the video below for more details, as Chelsea suddenly don’t seem as “invincible” as they did earlier in the season.

Premier League Schedule – Week 9

Result Recap & Highlights
Burnley 1-3 Everton Recap and watch here
Liverpool 0-0 Hull City Recap and watch here
Manchester United 1-1 Chelsea Recap and watch here
QPR 2-0 Aston Villa Recap and watch here
Southampton 1-0 Stoke Recap and watch here
Sunderland 0-2 Arsenal Recap and watch here
Swansea City 2-0 Leicester City Recap and watch here
Tottenham 1-2 Newcastle Recap and watch here
West Brom 2-2 Crystal Palace Recap and watch here
West Ham United 2-1 Man City Recap and watch here


Heading into the final few days of October, the top four of the PL has a slightly unfamiliar look to it. Southampton are in second and West Ham are fourth after both teams kept their impressive form going with wins at the weekend.

The Saints have been the big surprise story of the season so far, as Ronald Koeman’s men have stormed to six wins from nine. With a bunch of shrewd signings adding to a strong core which remained following the summer exodus at St Mary’s, it’s safe to say relegation will not be on the agenda on the South Coast this season.

[RELATED: Latest Premier League standings]

However, not to put a dampener on things, it is worth pointing out that Southampton have lost to both Liverpool and Tottenham away from home and have beaten teams they should really handle. Anyway, a fine start regardless.

As for the Hammers, their fans are in dreamland as the attacking soccer they’ve been craving has finally arrived. Yes, they were pretty lucky against title chasing Manchester City but you make your own luck in this game as City rattled the woodwork twice and Adrian had a fine game in goal. West Ham were rewarded for going at City with Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia in fine form. The summer signing have added pace, power and purpose to the Hammers attack as the likes of Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan find themselves on the outside looking in. West Ham have now taken down Liverpool and Man City at home and Upton Park is becoming a fortress.

It is also becoming a place where actor Russell Brand frequents and he was delighted to see his Hammers down the reigning Premier League champions. So much so, he gave Hammers boss Sam Allardyce a big smooch during his postmatch press conference.

Allardyce has seen his team win four of their last five and they have remained solid at the back but more attractive in attack. A top four finish for both these teams is highly unlikely, but pushing for a top six finish would be a fantastic season. Both Saints and the Hammers have given themselves a great platform to build from. Now, can they kick on?

See the video below for highlights of all the action on Saturday.


Tottenham lost to Newcastle 2-1 at White Hart Lane on Sunday, as Spurs’ horrendous form following Europa League matches continues.

Mauricio Pochettino’s men took the lead through Emmanuel Adebayor’s header, but second half goals from Sammy Ameobi and Ayoze Perez gave the Magpies a second win on the spin and had Tottenham’s boss questioning the mental strength of his players.

Premier League Star Performers – Week 9

Player Reason
1. Alex Song (West Ham) Dominated the game from CM
2. Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal) 2 goals, oozes class
3. Wilfried Bony (Swansea) 2 goals, cool as a cucumber
4. Sadio Mane (Saints) 1 goal, constant pest out wide
5. David De Gea (Man Utd) 2 great saves, solid as a rock

“We need to speak, we need to create a different situation on the training ground and work,” Pochettino said. “We know how but, always, you need to spend time to work in this area. It is not the same as in physical or tactical situations. It is a different area.”

As you can see from the stat below, 60 percent of Spurs’ PL losses in the past two seasons have come directly after a Europa League match. That would suggest that Tottenham have a small squad and are struggling to keep everyone fit. Not so much.

Pochettino has talented players to work with but after the up and downs of last season under Andre Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood, Spurs seem to be lacking mental toughness. Pochettino has a big job on his hands to turn his team into top four contenders.


Geoff Cameron started his first Premier League game of the season on Saturday against Southampton, and the Bostonian went the full 90 minutes in central midfield for Stoke as the Potters lost 1-0 to Southampton. Although the result wasn’t positive, it is certainly encouraging to see the former Houston Dynamo standout get a chance to show what he can do in central midfield and Cameron looked composed on the ball and broke up Saints’ attack expertly in the second half as Stoke pushed for an equalizer. On Sunday Tim Howard’s Everton continue their charge back up the standings with a second win in a row over Burnley at Turf Moor. The Toffees’ resurgence continues.

As for Jozy Altidore, he came on as a sub for the final 15 minutes of Sunderland’s 2-0 defeat to Arsenal, while Brad Guzan and Aston Villa suffered a fifth-straight defeat at QPR on Monday. According to reports, Clint Dempsey could be on his way back to the Premier League for an offseason loan spell to join his countrymen.

Premier League Playback comes out every Monday as PST’s Editor and Lead Writer takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here

Aston Villa – Sheffield United: How to watch, start time, prediction, odds

Aston Villa - Sheffield United
Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Aston Villa – Sheffield United: Dean Smith’s new-look Aston Villa begins its Premier League campaign at home to Sheffield United at Villa Park on Monday (Watch live at 1 pm ET, online via Peacock).

Villa has added Bertrand Traore, Emiliano Martinez, Matty Cash, and Ollie Watkins this summer and have been linked to more talent. Of course, it’s just as critical that the club signed Jack Grealish to a new contract.


Blades lost to Wolves to start the Premier League season before falling to Burnley in penalties at midweek in League Cup action.

Getting points against Villa and Leeds the next two fixtures would be a boon to a club that then sees Arsenal, Liverpool, Man City, and Chelsea in four of five league outings.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Here is everything you need to know ahead of Aston Villa – Sheffield United this Saturday with team news, odds, stream link and more.

Team news: Aston Villa – Sheffield United (INJURY REPORT)

Tom Heaton, Wesley, and Bjorn Engels remain out for Villa, while Blades are going to be without Lys Mousset for some time following a foot operation.

What they’re saying

Bertrand Traore on returning to the Premier League with Villa: “I’m very happy to join Aston Villa. I’m happy to be here. I played with JT at Chelsea, I spoke to him. I spoke to the manager, spoke with the sporting director as well and some players I used to play with. I spoke to Nakamba, I talked to him a little bit about the club. Many things made me take the decision to come here. I’m happy.”

Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder on competition for places: “You’ve already seen a step up in training and instruction. You have to keep raising the bar and quality of your group. I think there are any shoo-ins to our team. Everybody’s got an opportunity and we talked about that the other night against Burnley. Take the opportunity and don’t waste it. I believe they didn’t.”

Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

This one’s as close as it gets, as hosts Villa are +165 to win and the visiting Blades are barely off that at +175. Even a draw nets +220. Anything could happen.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links

Aston Villa – Sheffield United prediction

There are a lot of new pieces with big expectations for Villa, who overcame a slow start to beat Burton Albion well in the League Cup at midweek. Blades haven’t looked right for a few matches now stretching into preseason. It’s tempting to call this one for Villa, 1-0, but 0-0 or 1-1 shouldn’t surprise anyone.

How to watch Aston Villa – Sheffield United stream and start time

Kickoff: 1 pm ET Monday
Online: Stream via Peacock

Wolves – Man City: How to watch, start time, team news, prediction, odds

Wolves - Man City
Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Wolves – Man City: Pep Guardiola and Manchester City hope to find their feet quickly as they kickstart their Premier League campaign with a visit to Wolves at the Molineux Stadium (Watch live at 3:15 pm ET Monday, online via Peacock).

Wolves are coming for a third-straight win in all competitions after beating Sheffield United last weekend in their Premier League opener before beating Stoke City at midweek in the League Cup.


City is ready for its first competitive match since losing 3-1 to Lyon in the UCL quarterfinal.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Here is everything you need to know ahead of Wolves – Man City this Saturday with team news, odds, stream link and more.

Team news: Wolves – Man City (INJURY REPORT)

Sergio Aguero is out for a while still, as Guardiola revealed that the Argentine is not back training yet after a summer knee injury cost him the final stage of the Champions League. Aymeric Laporte is not yet ready after a positive COVID-19 test, but Riyad Mahrez is back and ready to play. Bernardo Silva has not been seen at training after being injured on Portugal duty.

For Wolves, Jonny Otto remains out with a knee injury. The club signed Ki-Jana Hoever from Liverpool after selling Diogo Jota to the Anfield set this week.

What they’re saying

Nuno Espirito Santo on Diogo Jota being sold to Liverpool: “Jota is a player who has been with us for three seasons with such high performances.We’re not a stepping stone. Players that join us really want to play and progress with us, not looking for the next move. That is definitely not our idea, definitely not.”

Guardiola is ready for the new season: “The feeling is good as always. I see the team as always in an incredible mood. It’s a joy to work with them. We have good expectations to play good football and get the results this club deserves.”

Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Even playing a first competitive match in ages against a Wolves team which has played twice in the last week, Man City pulls -200 odds to win. Wolves are +525 to win and +340 to draw.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links

Wolves – Man City prediction

This should be a treat but perhaps absence is making us see more cracks in City’s foundation than exist in reality. City won its last five PL matches of last season by a combined 21-1 score line. Wolves are very good and have done well versus City but we’ll project 2-1 for the visitors.

How to watch Wolves – Man City stream and start time

Kickoff: 3:15 pm ET Monday
Online: Stream via Peacock

Bundesliga wrap: Dortmund, Hertha, Hoffenheim win

Bundesliga results
Photo by PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Day two of the Bundesliga season saw very little drop-off from Friday’s opening day, when champions Bayern Munich hung eight goals on Schalke.

Five of six games saw a winner score three or more goals on Saturday, with a 1-1 draw the lone “low-scoring” affair in Germany.

[ MORE: Bundesliga season preview ]

The day was headlined by two impressive and dominant showings, one headlined by a 17-year-old American.

Borussia Dortmund 3-0 Borussia Monchengladbach

The season’s first match-up of top-four contenders saw USMNT teenager Giovanni Reyna score the game’s first goal and draw the penalty that Erling Haaland converted to give BVB breathing room at home.

Reyna’s goal was assisted by English teen Jude Bellingham, and fellow UK export Jado Sancho set up Haaland’s second of the day in the 77th minute as Dortmund took advantage of their chances on a day Gladbach started with Marcus Thuram and Alassane Plea on the bench.

Reyna started at attacking midfield underneath Haaland and Sancho. He finished with 100 percent passing over 78 minutes, drawing three fouls, registering a key pass, and winning an atypical 3-of-9 duels.

Here’s Reyna, from

“It was a very good start to the season,” Reyna said. “We have a lot of young players, it’s really enjoyable. We all have so much energy, but we need to keep working, we need to improve even more. We were so happy to see that some of our fans could be there again. That’s very important for us as players.”

Here’s the one goal that didn’t feature Reyna.

Werder Bremen 1-4 Hertha Berlin

Those of us who went out on a limb and said Hertha Berlin could be a surprise team in 2020-21 were validated for a day by the visitors to the Weserstadion.

Dodi Lukebakio and Matheus Cunha both scored, Vladimir Darida had two assists, and Peter Pekarik joined Jhon Cordoba on the score sheet for the away side.

Hertha produced five big chances and conceded little to Bremen, who scored via Davie Selke in the 69th minute.

USMNT forward Josh Sargent played further back from the front line in an advanced midfield or wing role. He had a key pass, two tackles, an interception, and a clearance. He won only four of 10 duels and completed half of his passes on a 33-touch day.

Koln 2-3 Hoffeheim

Leicester City knew what it was doing when it signed Andrej Kramaric in 2015, but the spoils have all been seen in the Bundesliga.

Kramaric gave Hoffenheim 1-0, 2-1, and 3-2 leads on Saturday in Cologne, overcoming home equalizers from Sebastian Andersson and Dominic Drexler.

The 29-year-old Kramaric now has five goals in two outings this season to give him 75 goals and 30 assists in 152 appearances for Hoffenheim.

He’s good.


Bayern Munich 8-0 Schalke — Friday
Union Berlin 1-3 Augsburg
Stuttgart 2-3 Freiburg
Eintracht Frankfurt 1-1 Arminia Bielefeld
RB Leipzig v. Mainz — 9:30 am ET Sunday
Wolfsburg v Bayer Leverkusen — Noon ET Sunday


Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Bayern Munich 1 1 0 0 8 0 8 1-0-0 0-0-0 3
 Hertha BSC 1 1 0 0 4 1 3 0-0-0 1-0-0 3
 Borussia Dortmund 1 1 0 0 3 0 3 1-0-0 0-0-0 3
 Augsburg 1 1 0 0 3 1 2 0-0-0 1-0-0 3
 Freiburg 1 1 0 0 3 2 1 0-0-0 1-0-0 3
 Hoffenheim 1 1 0 0 3 2 1 0-0-0 1-0-0 3
 Arminia Bielefeld 1 0 1 0 1 1 0 0-0-0 0-1-0 1
 Eintracht Frankfurt 1 0 1 0 1 1 0 0-1-0 0-0-0 1
 Bayer Leverkusen 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0-0-0 0-0-0 0
 Mainz 05 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0-0-0 0-0-0 0
 RB Leipzig 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0-0-0 0-0-0 0
 Wolfsburg 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0-0-0 0-0-0 0
 1. FC Köln 1 0 0 1 2 3 -1 0-0-1 0-0-0 0
 Stuttgart 1 0 0 1 2 3 -1 0-0-1 0-0-0 0
 Union Berlin 1 0 0 1 1 3 -2 0-0-1 0-0-0 0
 Werder Bremen 1 0 0 1 1 4 -3 0-0-1 0-0-0 0
 Mönchengladbach 1 0 0 1 0 3 -3 0-0-0 0-0-1 0
 Schalke 04 1 0 0 1 0 8 -8 0-0-0 0-0-1 0

Special Ceballos keys Arsenal win v. West Ham

Leave a comment

Arsenal – West Ham: It takes special moments to beat dedicated, packed-in back lines, and Arsenal found a pair in a 2-1 win over improved West Ham United at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

Eddie Nketiah and Alexandre Lacazette scored goals off classy team goals, as Dani Ceballos drove the Gunners to a 2-0 start and sent West Ham to 0-2.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA

Up next for the Gunners: a trip to Liverpool.

West Ham will host Wolves next, buoyed perhaps by the improvement shown from a Week 1 loss to Newcastle.

3 things we learned from Arsenal – West Ham

1. Arteta’s magic touch springs winner: Lacazette got the start and scored but Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta was not afraid to take off the goal scorer and replace him with… a goal scorer. Nketiah ran into the heart of the box to be available for Dani Ceballos’ cutback of Bukayo Saka’s through ball and the Gunners fought through the congested 5-4-1 for a 2-1 win.

2. Steely lineup (kinda) works for Moyes: A week after leaving Sebastien Haller, Felipe Anderson, and Andriy Yarmolenko on the bench against Newcastle — and seeing Haller look strong in the League Cup — David Moyes again opted for a bit more steel and a lot more defending. Moyes’ men were set to counter in a 5-4-1 and they really limited Arsenal’s attack. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was kept from the danger areas apart from his assist, and it took a real touch of class in possession and movement for the Gunners to find their winner.

That said, Arsenal was a bit open at the back and was forced into playing Sead Kolasinac when Kieran Tierney pulled up with an injury before the game. Might Anderson and Yarmolenko have been able to produce a second goal?

Arsenal - West Ham
West Ham United’s Michail Antonio (right) and Arsenal’s Gabriel Magalhaes (Photo by Will Oliver/PA Images via Getty Images)

3. Super Ceballos: His assist came from a great run and the appropriate final ball to Nketiah, but the Real Madrid loanee was exactly what Arteta needed on a day the Gunners were treated much like Man City was when the manager helped Pep Guardiola and Co. find its way through a packed-in group of defenders.

For his stat line, see “Man of the Match” below.

Man of the Match

Ceballos had 119 touches and completed 90-of-98 passes. He won 8-of-12 duels and collected three tackles, three interceptions, three clearances, and two blocked shots. A complete performance.

Arsenal – West Ham recap

Angelo Ogbonna had the first chance of the game but Declan Rice’s headed flick didn’t have enough power for the defender to head past Bernd Leno.

The Gunners soon asserted themselves on the game and Aubameyang put it on a tee for Lacazetteto head home and provide a 1-0 lead in the 26th minute.

West Ham tied it when Antonio got in front of Rob Holding to tap Ryan Fredericks cross home after great work from Pablo Fornals and Jarrod Bowen.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Arthur Masuaku’s dangerous cross looked set to give West Ham a shock lead early in the second but Antonio couldn’t meet it cleanly and Leno cleaned up the mess.

Arsenal sprung a counter to earn a corner but a foul foiled the Gunners.

Willian was lively but was taken off in the 65th minute for Nicolas Pepe, a nice change for a manager to have in his locker.

Antonio popped a header off the bar in the 67th with West Ham in search of all three points.

Eddie Nketiah replaced Lacazette in the 77th.

The Irons were focused on stifling Arsenal and stayed well-drilled as the game reached its final 10 minutes.