PL Playback: Who is the most complete striker?

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STYLISH STRIKERS

Tall ones. Small ones. Fast ones. Strong ones. Everywhere you look in the Premier League there are different types of strikers ripping it up.

Romelu Lukaku has six goals in six games. So does Alvaro Morata for Chelsea and Sergio Aguero for Manchester City. Harry Kane has six goals in his last four games for Tottenham in all competitions. All four are battling it out for the golden boot, something Kane has won two seasons on the spin.

The sheer variety of world-class strikers now on show week in, week out in the Premier League is sumptuous. It’s as diverse a finishing school as you’ll ever see.

Morata took most of the headlines in Week 6 and rightly so as he scored a hat trick at Stoke City in Chelsea’s 4-0 win. The Spaniard, 24, has taken a little while to adapt to life in England but he is showing that with elegance and quickness of thought he can be just as destructive as Diego Costa who finally departed for Atletico Madrid last week.

Yet it is Harry Kane who oozes class in everything he does.

In Tottenham’s derby win at West Ham on Saturday he scored twice in the first half, linked play up and hit both posts in the second half. That performance left Kane’s manager, Mauricio Pochettino, professing his love for Kane at the London Stadium.

“For me Harry Kane is one of the best strikers in the world. It is too hard to find the word to describe him. In the last three seasons I am telling you how he is. I am in love, like the fans are in love, like the teammates are in love, not only because he scores goals,” Pochettino explained. “He is professional, humble and he is a very good example in football today that is a big business. He keeps all the values that managers like me appreciate a lot. That is why I say to you I am in love with him for many different reasons.”

Yes, the “I’m in love” part of Poch’s response will get the biggest play but the second part, for me, is the most important. Kane does everything well. He holds the ball up, he battles for every ball, he finds others with crisp passes and he leads from the front with his incessant work rate.

Morata is majestic, a finely tuned ballerina who can turn and accelerate in the blink of an eye before dinking a whirling-dervish of a finish home just like he did for his second goal on Saturday. Lukaku can power past defenders and his persistence saw him grab the winner, at the second attempt, in a gritty United display at Southampton on Saturday. And Aguero is always on hand to snap up the final ball of a flowing City move with his darting, speedy runs.

But Kane, well, Kane has all of that and more. He is the most complete striker in a Premier League which has a vast array of world-class strikers who all score goals in different ways. We haven’t even mentioned Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Alexis Sanchez, Javier Hernandez or Sadio Mane in terms of their goal-getting ability.

Kane was announced as a nominee for the FIFPro World 11 (only Lukaku of the three aforementioned strikers joined him) last week and the Englishman once again proved why he is considered not only one of the best strikers in the Premier League, but also one of the best on the planet.


LIVERPOOL WILL NOT CHANGE UNDER KLOPP

Life is never dull under Jurgen Klopp. Ever.

Since he took charge of Liverpool in October 2015, no PL club has been involved in more games which have seen five or more goals scored. On 17 occasions Liverpool fans have seen five goals scored in games involving their team and, most worryingly, all too often they’ve been against them.

[ MORE: Joel Matip speaks to Pro Soccer Talk ]

Liverpool’s 3-2 win at Leicester City on Saturday summed up everything which should concern the Reds.

They led 2-0 early on and looked to be on their way to a routine win. Then, right on half time, came a mistake from goalkeeper Simon Mignolet to make it 2-1. At 3-2 he then gave away a penalty kick but saved it as the maddening world of watching Liverpool was encapsulated in a nutshell.

Last week I sat down with Liverpool’s center back Joel Matip who told me why he believes the Reds should not change the way they play.

“Both parts only work together. I cannot stand at the back and our attackers go forward and there is so much big space. We all have to fit together. It is not always easy but this is our way of play but I think that is a good way of playing,” Matip said. “Everything has its positive and negative sides but I have no doubt about our way of playing.”

Plenty of Liverpool’s fans, pundits and neutrals doubt their defensive solidity and even though it is fun to watch Liverpool rip open opposition defenses with Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho, their inability to defend simple set pieces situations will cost them any chance of challenging for major trophies.

Klopp’s style of play is only one part of this. Simply put: he has to invest in better defenders and goalkeepers if his time at Liverpool is to be considered a success.

If he doesn’t do that the German coach will soon come under pressure from some fans even though his team entertains and delivers plenty of drama. Liverpool had enough drama under Brendan Rodgers. The majority of the fanbase want silverware and Klopp’s current defensive unit will cost them that.


RELEGATION DARK HORSES

Crystal Palace is in a dark, dark place heading into Week 7 with no points and no goals to their name so far this season. Roy Hodgson knows he has a big task to turn the Eagles around but perhaps he feels like it is doable as plenty of perennial midtable teams look like they will struggle this season.

Newly-promoted teams Newcastle United, Brighton and Huddersfield have had very good starts and all three have won at least twice in their opening six games but that bubble could burst soon and its very rare that the three new boys all survive or at least push away from the drop zone in their debut campaign in the PL.

Add to that the likes of Bournemouth, Stoke City, Swansea City and West Ham United all looking a bit of a mess right now and there are plenty of early-season contenders for those three relegation spots.

Bournemouth have lost five of their opening six games and the worrying thing for Eddie Howe‘s side is that they don’t seem to be learning from their mistakes. They led against Manchester City but lost 2-1. They led against Everton but lost 2-1. With more experienced campaigners on board this season you’d expected less naivety from the Cherries. Their next four games are against Leicester City, Tottenham Stoke and Chelsea. All of a sudden the man with seemingly the safest job in the PL could be under serious pressure.

Stoke have been hit, very hard, by injuries, especially in defense as Geoff Cameron, Ryan Shawcross and Kevin Wimmer were all out for the 4-0 hammering to Chelsea at the weekend and then Bruno Martins Indi was injured late on. Mark Hughes‘ men have one win from their first six games and even though they are usually slow starters, recent displays have been worrying.

Swansea are struggling to put away chances as Paul Clement‘s men have lost all three games at home so far and Watford won late at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday after the Swans dragged themselves back into the game. Like Stoke it is perhaps a little too early to worry but Clement will be far from impressed with the start.

West Ham United are in a real mess and their creaky defense looks like shipping goals galore. Slaven Bilic‘s situation is unsettling the entire club with the Croatian only contracted until the end of the current season and his players appear to have plenty of fight and spirit to drag themselves back into games late on, yet whether or not they’re fighting for themselves or Bilic remains to be seen. With four points from their opening six games the Hammers are in trouble.

With the PL’s top six, plus Everton, spending big and seeming to be head and shoulders above the rest, the scramble to stay out of the bottom three may be the best (or most nerve-wracking, depending on who you support) in recent memory. If Crystal Palace can somehow recover from the worst start in league history they will drag a heck of a lot of teams into the relegation mire.


CHICHARITO MISUSED?

After West Ham’s spirited, yet deeply flawed, 3-2 defeat against Tottenham in a big London derby on Saturday, I asked Hammers boss Slaven Bilic if getting the best out of Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez in the right areas was a big challenge.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned from Spurs v West Ham ]

His answers was just as confusing as why Chicharito isn’t been played in his natural position.

“I spoke to him after West Brom game and today he started as a center forward and then he had to change the position because we wanted to stay in the same system as it was working well. Even then, he was in good areas so you can’t say he was out wide,” Bilic explained. “Against top teams everyone has to defend and he was in a position where he would have been if we were playing two strikers. When we were attacking he was not playing on the wing, he was a striker. It’s not very easy to play with him, Andy, Antonio and Arnautovic and play with three center backs.”

Hernandez headed home to make it 3-1 with 25 minutes to go and had another chance to make it 3-2 which was well saved by Hugo Lloris but he was unable to impact the game from wide positions as Mexico’s all-time leading goalscorer cut a frustrated figure at the final whistle.

He was involved in a large scuffle near the end of the game and he carried on his spat with Fernando Llorente after the final whistle too. Bilic has to find a way of playing Chicharito in his best position, which is through the middle, because early on it was working very well for the Hammers.

It is easy to see why Hernandez is frustrated. After three goals in six games he is still being shunted out wide by Bilic and when Michail Antonio was injured early in the loss to Spurs, Andy Carroll came off the bench to take his central role and Hernandez was told to play out on the right.

With Andre Ayew on the bench, did it not make more sense to put him out wide and leave Hernandez up top to stick to the same game plan which had actually caused Spurs plenty of problems?

That’s what Hernandez will be asking himself and it would be legitimate for Hammers fans to ask themselves exactly why they signed the former Manchester United striker if he’s going to be played out wide.


USMNT UPDATE

DeAndre Yedlin was at the center of controversy in Newcastle United’s 1-0 defeat at Brighton on Sunday.

The right back was involved in a coming together with Tomer Hemed and the big Israeli striker, who scored the winner for Brighton, appeared to stamp on Yedlin’s calf as the former Seattle Sounders star led on the ground. The FA is said to be reviewing the images and could hand Hemed a ban for his stamp. It certainly looked deliberate as Yedlin had a tough afternoon trying to lock down Solly March on Brighton’s left flank.

In other USMNT news both Geoff Cameron and Danny Williams are out injured. Cameron remains missing with a hamstring injury he suffered against Manchester United two weeks ago, while Williams has suffered an injury to his foot.

Pro Soccer Talk understand Williams has not broken a small bone in his foot, as his manager David Wagner first feared, but he is still expected to be out for two to three weeks. That is incredibly frustrating as the German-American had just worked his way into the starting lineup and played well in the Terriers’ 1-1 draw against Leicester City and many were calling for him to be recalled for the USMNT for the key 2018 World Cup qualifiers next month.

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

Alonso gets Chelsea past Arsenal in thriller

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  • Pedro, Morata put hosts up 2-0
  • Mkhitaryan, Iwobi level by half
  • Winner comes from Alson

Marcos Alonso buried Eden Hazard‘s 81st minute pass to lead Chelsea past Arsenal 3-2 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Alvaro Morata and Pedro helped the Blues build a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes, but Unai Emery’s Gunners recovered to make it 2-2 at halftime.

Arsenal next hosts West Ham United, while Chelsea is off to Newcastle United.

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live ]

The hosts were up thanks to a left-sided barnstorming, with Willian starting the play with a with a lay-off inside his own half. The next move saw Marcos Alonso racing toward the edge of the 18 to pass across for Pedro to finish with calm.

Ross Barkley came close to doubling the advantage in the 13th minute.

It should’ve been level when Matteo Guendouzi fired Hector Bellerin through the right of the Chelsea back line, but the offside and uncalled Spaniard’s pull back was aired over the goal by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Moments later, it was 2-0 Chelsea through Morata. The Spanish striker ran from midfield and held off a Shkrodan Mustafi challenge before cutting to fire past Cech.

Arsenal blew a second well-worked chance over the frame, this time with Henrikh Mkhitaryan sending a point-blank offering into the stands. Woof.

Mkhitaryan redeemed himself with a powerful shot from outside the box. The Armenian captain was in good position after Alex Iwobi found him with Nacho Monreal‘s inspired interception.

That was not the end of the first half scoring.

It was close to a mirror image of an earlier missed chance by Aubameyang, as Iwobi ran into the 18 to belt  a shot home for 2-2.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

The chances did not dry up as the second half began in London, and a N'Golo Kante shot was blocked to the cries of handball from Chelsea’s players.

Jorginho‘s deflected 64th minute rip was collected by Cech after Chelsea introduced Eden Hazard off the bench.

Momentum swung Arsenal’s way as the match reached is final quarter-hour, as Kepa Arrizabalaga made a save and took a beating in the 77th minute.

Kante popped a header over the goal in the 79th minute after running in front of Sokratis.

Scoring defender extraordinaire Alonso put Chelsea back on top in the 81st, slapping Eden Hazard’s hopeful pullback beyond Cech.

Three things learned: Chelsea v. Arsenal

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LONDON — The London derby delivered. Big time.

Chelsea and Arsenal played out a thrilling encounter in England’s capital as both Maruizio Sarri and Unai Emery will have seen plenty of things they liked, and plenty they didn’t.

The Blues raced into a 2-0 lead through Pedro and Alvaro Morata, but Arsenal fought back as they squandered several chances but eventually scored twice through Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Alex Iwobi to make it 2-2 at half time.

Marcos Alonso scored a late winner for Chelsea as Sarri made it two wins from two, while it’s two defeats on the spin for Emery to open up his time in charge of Arsenal.

Here’s what we learned from a lively encounter in West London as two new managers in the Premier League saw their teams entertain.


ARSENAL EXCITE BUT SAME ISSUES REMAIN

Arsenal have never had problems creating chances and that will continue post-Wenger. On numerous occasions they carved open Chelsea’s defense as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang should have scored and went close, Henrikh Mkhitaryan was also guilty of a shocking miss before he scored and Mesut Ozil went close too. Alex Iwobi scored and missed a sitter. That was all in the first half. And it all came from clever build-up play out wide as Arsenal’s gameplan was clear: isolate Chelsea’s full backs and get players arriving into the box late.

Eventually Chelsea figured this out but Arsenal showed enough to suggest they can go toe-to-toe with the best attacking teams in the Premier League.

The problem, as it has been for quite some time, has been defensively. Both Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis looked exposed when Chelsea got the ball wide early and Hector Bellerin was particularly culpable for Chelsea’s first goal as two long balls caught out Arsenal’s entire defensive unit. That simply cannot happen.

It is still too early to judge Unai Emery based on these defeats against Manchester City and Chelsea to open the season. Arsenal’s defensive issues have been magnified by two Premier League heavyweights early in the campaign but it seems their attacking prowess remains intact. The exciting thing is that it may even be better under Emery than it was under Wenger.


CHELSEA CENTERED AROUND Jorginho

Sarri-ball needed a general and Jorginho is just that. The deep-lying playmaker Chelsea paid $72 million to Napoli for this summer is Sarri’s main man and he made them tick against Arsenal. You can point to his lack of physicality but like Cesc Fabregas, who he will likely replace in Chelsea’s midfield, he plays the game at his own pace. The way he found Marcos Alonso for Chelsea’s first goal was a thing of beauty as he curled the ball into his path from 50 yards away.

Jorginho is Chelsea’s quarterback and he is capable of doing wonderful things offensively. Like this.

But it wasn’t all perfect for Jorginho and Chelsea. Far from it. Sarri scratched his head as Arsenal got in down the flanks on seven occasions in the first half and scored with two of their attempt as Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang were both guilty of horrible misses. Not having Kante in the central defensive role left it down to Jorginho to plug the gaps and time and time again Arsenal’s attacking midfielders had so much space.

Willian and Pedro didn’t give Marcos Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta much support defensively and that will concern Sarri, but eventually they tweaked the system with Kante dropping more centrally in the second half.

With Jorginho pulling the strings, N'Golo Kante plugging the gaps and Ross Barkley putting in another strong display, midfield is where Sarri’s vision is taking shape as Mateo Kovacic and Eden Hazard delivered impressive cameos. Defensively there is plenty of work to do for Chelsea and playing four at the back may not be how they set up for much longer.


NEW REGIMES PROMISE PLENTY

Aside from the defensive deficiencies of both teams, it is clear that both Sarri and Emery will aim to entertain and attack in their maiden seasons in the Premier League.

That’s a good thing for both clubs as they aim to get back into the top four by playing different ways, almost polar opposites, to last season.

Arsenal look more incisive and better equipped to break down stubborn defenses than they did in the past. There is a Plan A, to get the ball wide and time runs to perfection. Plan B is about fluid passing and dictating the tempo of the game just like it was under Wenger.

For Chelsea, it’s the opposite. Under Antonio Conte they looked to launch counters and get behind opponents as quickly as they could. Now they possess the ball, get Jorginho on it and have the likes of Eden Hazard, Pedro and Willian dropping deeper to open up gaps.

It will be intriguing to see how these players adapt to these new philosophies over the coming weeks and months. Saturday proved it will be nerve-wracking for their fans but quite a lot of fun for neutrals.

Pellegrini: Players, fans, “everyone must forget about last season”

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Manuel Pellegrini is already asking for patience from West Ham United’s beleaguered supporters.

The Irons tossed away an early lead at home on Saturday, losing 2-1 to Bournemouth after last week’s season-opening 4-0 loss to Liverpool.

[ RECAP: West Ham 1-2 Bournemouth ]

The manager saw some ghosts of seasons’ past in the defeat.

“The squad, everyone must forget about last season, trust what we are doing and look to the future,” he said. “I feel the squad is without trust, many have to adapt to the Premier League. We knew we had a difficult start with fixtures but at home we must win.”

And Pellegrini thought his team fought to the death with a belief alien to the crowd at the London Stadium. From the BBC:

“The fans must also trust again this season. The stadium was empty with 10 minutes to go, we can still score in that time. They need to believe but if you don’t have results it is more difficult for them.”

One way to restore trust is to get an expected result, if not an impressive one. After dropping their first two matches, Pellegrini’s men travel to Arsenal before a home League Cup date with AFC Wimbledon.

VIDEO: All 4 goals from a 2-2 half between Chelsea, Arsenal

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The schedule makers didn’t do Unai Emery any favors, and his players began Matchday 2 making life at Arsenal an on-field nightmare for their new boss

The Gunners lost 2-0 against Manchester City on opening weekend, and went down 2-0 at Chelsea a week later.

Exhale, though, Arsenal fan: It’s now 2-2 at Stamford Bridge after 45 minutes on Saturday.

[ MORE: Spurs down Fulham ]

Miserable defending hit Arsenal twice in the first 20 minutes at Stamford Bridge, as Chelsea found the back of the net through Pedro and then Alvaro Morata.

Pedro’s goal came on a lightning counter attack, with the ball beginning with Willian in the Chelsea half and finding the back of the net after a Marcos Alonso marauding run and cross.

The Gunners were carved up a second time through ice-cold striker Morata a dozen minutes later.

The play came just after a big missed chance from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and the fine margins cut like paper when Morata won a 1v1 battle with Shkrodan Mustafi, cut once, and slotted past Petr Cech.

Arsenal struck when Henrik Mkhitaryan redeemed himself for a bad miss moments earlier with a powerful shot from outside the box.

The Armenian captain was in good position after Alex Iwobi found him with Nacho Monreal‘s inspired interception.

That was not the end of the first half scoring.

It was close to a mirror image of an earlier missed chance by Aubameyang, as Iwobi ran into the 18 to belt  a shot home for 2-2.