What did we learn from the Premier League?

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What did we learn from the eight Premier League games on Saturday?

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Week 6 gave us plenty of gifts (noticeably lopsided wins) as three big boys eased to victory, while another stumbled.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Below is a look at the key takeaways.


Mohamed Salah shaking off some rust
He scored a tap-in against Southampton on Saturday and almost scored an audacious back heel, but there are signs that Mohamed Salah is still shaking off some rust after his shoulder injury at the end of last season. The Egyptian magician looked frustrated in a more central role against Saints with Roberto Firmino switched out to the flank. Salah scored a goal when offside late on and seemed to rush a few chances where last season he was calmness personified. Salah has scored three goals in the current PL campaign but he hasn’t quite looked himself thus far with Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino stepping up and delivering.

Jurgen Klopp won’t be too concerned about giving Salah a rest in the League Cup against Chelsea this week, especially with Xherdan Shaqiri impressing in a 45 minute cameo on Saturday too. Salah isn’t at his marauding best, as we pointed out following Liverpool’s win at Tottenham last week, but the fact that is the case and Liverpool have won their opening seven games of the season (in all competitions) is testament to how solid the rest of the team have been. At times last season you could accuse Liverpool of being a one man team. Not anymore. That’s a good thing, even if Salah isn’t firing on all cylinders. Liverpool changed up their system against Saints in the first half and Klopp wasn’t too happy with the way it was working so changed things back to a 4-3-3 in the second half. The team, and Salah, looked more comfortable in that system and ahead of a huge few weeks with games against Chelsea, Man City and Napoli coming up, the Reds are on fire. Even if their star man isn’t. Yet.


Wolves the real deal

They’ve played Manchester City and Manchester United this season and drawn with both 1-1. And on both occasions after those draws with the Manchester giants Wolves have felt a little hard done by that they didn’t nab all three points with David De Gea forced to make several key saves to keep Wolves at bay. Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men have brought in plenty of top class players over the summer, including Raul Jimenez, Rui Patricio and Joao Moutinho, and it was the latter who curled home a beauty after Jimenez’s layoff to grab Wolves a deserved point at United.

There is a serious debate to be had that the runaway winners of England’s second-tier last season could be one of the best newly-promoted teams in history. Of course, nothing will beat Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest who won the top-flight in 1978, the season after they were promoted. Wolves aren’t going to win the title this season but they have shown they can easily be the best of the rest in the PL and finish in the top seven. The depth in their squad is impressive and so too is the understanding of what Santo wants them to do each week. They have a settled squad littered with quality and a solid 3-4-3 system which suits them. Name a better newly-promoted team in the PL era. I’ll wait.


Tottenham ease the pressure. For now…

It has been a rough few months for Tottenham Hotspur. After three-straight defeats, they needed a response at Brighton & Hove Albion. They got it. Harry Kane‘s first half penalty kick and a second half strike from Erik Lamela got Mauricio Pochettino‘s men back to winning ways after plenty of critics suddenly poked their heads over the fence to tell them what has been going wrong. Of course, a lot of the issues at Spurs are nothing to do with Pochettino and his players. With no money spent on new signings this summer and a long delay to their new stadium at White Hart Lane, chairman Daniel Levy has a lot to answer for.

On the pitch, Spurs showed plenty of grit to get by Brighton in the pouring rain on the South Coast with the bright lights and the TV cameras fixated on their every move and waiting for them to slip up and lose a fourth-straight game. They were in control throughout, with the only moment of worry when Anthony Knockaert didn’t make the most of a glorious opportunity in the second half. After a narrow defeat at Watford, a loss to red-hot Liverpool by one goal and a late collapse against Inter Milan at the San Siro, the narrative around Spurs seemed to shift from ‘they’ll get it right and prove their doubters wrong’ to ‘well, that is it they’re finished’ in a matter of days. Pochettino’s side reminded everyone not to write them off and even though Kane and Co. don’t seem anywhere near their best (we can save the tiredness debate for another week), they did what they had to do to silence their doubters. At least for another few days.


Legends return: Sir Alex Ferguson and Clint Dempsey
It was wonderful to see returns for two legendary figures on Saturday who have both been struggling with health issues over the past few years. Firstly, Sir Alex Ferguson seems to have made a superb recovery from a brain hemorrhage in May which required surgery and time in intensive care. The most successful manager in British history returned to Old Trafford on Saturday for the first time since April and Fergie received a warm welcome back and looked emotional to return to Theatre of Dreams.

And another legendary figure (okay, not quite on Fergie’s level, but still a hero) returned to the Premier League with Clint Dempsey heading back to Fulham for their draw against Watford. Dempsey, 35, retired late last month and Fulham’s all-time leading goalscorer in the Premier League was on hand to head back to Craven Cottage to see his former team.

Deuce looked as chilled as ever and Fulhamerica is still going strong.

Petr Cech earns win with 2 penalty saves in hockey debut

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Former Chelsea and Arsenal goalkeeper joined English fourth-division hockey team Guildford Phoenix four days ago and made his debut on Sunday.

He did not disappoint.

The 37-year-old saved two penalties in the shootout, earning Man of the Match honors.

Cech is reportedly a fan of the Guilford Flames, the first-division side who use the Phoenix as their developmental side. He was signed to be the team’s third-choice goalkeeper, just a chance for him to get in on the action before his body gives way for good, but he was given a chance to play right away. He wore number 39, a nod to famous Czech goaltender Dominik Hasek. His custom helmet was adorned with Arsenal and Chelsea colors. Regulation finished level at 2-2 before Cech’s shootout heroics.

“I wanted to win, that was the main thing, and I’m glad we did,” Cech said after the match. “I was surprised that I wasn’t more nervous. I didn’t know what to expect so it was nice how quickly my body switched into matchday mode.”

Giroud upset with reserve role at Chelsea

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Olivier Giroud does not look back on his transfer to Chelsea and wish he had done things differently, but that doesn’t mean things are all sunshine and roses for the 33-year-old.

Giroud, who moved to Chelsea from Arsenal in the winter of 2018 after six years with the Gunners, has played just 43 times in the Premier League, averaging just 35 minutes per appearance. That has him frustrated, hoping to prove his loyalty to the club and work harder than the other options up front.

“I had competitors in attack – [Alvaro] Morata, [Gonzalo] Higuain, who ended up leaving,” Giroud said. “I won at the end: I played the final of the FA Cup in 2018 and the [Europa League] final in 2019. Once again, I’m starting the year in a difficult situation. But as my brother says, I have always built myself in the face of adversity.”

Girou is trying to be smart about how he approaches the competition for time with the likes of Tammy Abraham and Michy Batshuayi, but he says it is emotionally taxing.

“You do not have to be fatalistic in certain situations,” Giroud says about keeping a level head. “I have always been respectful and humble. Even if I do not agree with the coach, I do not criticize him. But in myself, I cannot accept it because I know what I’m worth on a pitch.”

The French international has made just three league appearances this season, mostly thanks to Abraham’s scalding form. Abraham, still just 22 years old, has snatched his opportunity for first-team minutes with eight goals in eight games to start the campaign. That has left Giroud on the sidelines for each of the last five league games, missing out on a spot in the matchday squad altogether for the last three.

Despite his struggles at the club level, Giroud has maintained his place in the French national team, missing just five matches of France’s last 64 games, including 37 of the last 39.

James says he was not knocked unconscious in Wales draw

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Head injury awareness again rose to the forefront in the 1-1 draw between Wales and Croatia in Cardiff when Daniel James went down after colliding with a pair of opponents.

The Manchester United winger looked to almost sure have been knocked unconscious when Domagoj Vida’s knee appeared to tap the back of his head while challenging for a ball in the air. Vida went toppling over the back of teammate Borna Barisic who ducked out of the way, but it was James who many were concerned for as he lay motionless on his back with his eyes closed.

Yet James was allowed to come back onto the field and completed the full 90 minutes, sparking criticism from injury advocates and fans who were concerned for James’ safety on the field, at potential risk for even more serious consequences should he indeed have suffered a concussion.

After the game however, despite what fans saw as James lie on the turf, the 21-year-old insisted he was not knocked unconscious. “I’m fine,” James claimed after the match, speaking to Sky Sports. “I think he just caught me in the head but I didn’t get knocked out fortunately.”

Wales boss Ryan Giggs backed up the decision as well, calling James’ motionless display “a bit of acting.”

“The medical staff went over, he was compos mentis and we did all the checks at half-time and he was fine,” Giggs said, referring to the latin phrase for “of sound mind.”

If James was indeed faking unconsciousness, it’s natural to wonder if he should face a fine from UEFA for looking to con referees, and in the process possibly confusing the independent neurologists on site assigned to assess head injuries.

ESPN broadcaster Taylor Twellman, who has been outspoken over the past few years advocating for head injury awareness after his career was cut short by concussions, took to Twitter to criticize Wales for allowing James back into the game. Twellman, who was on the ESPN call of the broadcast with Ian Darke, said more needs to be done to prevent players from being able to force their way back onto the field, lest someone be killed by second impact syndrome.

Former Hull City player Ryan Mason, who was forced to retire after a serious skull fracture saw him fighting for his life, was also seriously concerned about the incident.

Interestingly enough, later in the match just seconds after the second half restart, young Wales midfielder Ethan Ampadu was whalloped from behind by Croatia’s Bruno Petkovic in a wild and reckless aerial challenge. Petkovic’s elbow went clattering into the back of Ampadu’s head, and the was left writhing on the ground holding his head. The Chelsea youngster was taken off the field and immediately replaced by Joe Morrell, while Petkovic was lucky to escape with just a yellow card.

Kane reflects on Tottenham, England struggles

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Harry Kane keeps finding the back of the net, but his teams keep losing.

The 26-year-old striker has bagged five Premier League goals in eight games for Spurs thus far, plus another seven goals for England in five Euro 2020 qualifiers this cycle. Yet Tottenham sits ninth in the table after three losses already this season, while England slumped to its first Euro defeat last time out, putting its seeding at the Euro finals next summer in jeopardy.

Kane is hoping to be a leader through the tough times for both club and country, wearing the armband for both as it currently stands.

“I think you need to lead by example,” Kane said ahead of England’s visit to Bulgaria on Monday. “Not getting too down when you lose a game, not getting too high when you win games. It is a long, old season for club and country ahead – a lot of games to be played so there are going to be tough periods.”

Kane has taken over the England captaincy on a permanent basis, and is filling in for the injured Hugo Lloris at Tottenham. “I am still the same person,” he said. “I still try and lead by example on and off the pitch and I will continue to do that. I have been in high pressure situations before in my career, whether that is going through goal droughts, playing in high-pressure games or not playing well as a team. It is something I will take in my stride and improve on.”

Leading by example includes finding the back of the net, while also supporting teammates both on and off the pitch. He knows even if he’s in good personal form on the stat sheet, there’s always ways to improve and help the squads through tough times.

“I am scoring goals but can I get more assists, create more chances? So yeah, I always look at little things I can get better at. Yes, the England form has been good but as ever, it can be better. We will see if I can continue scoring. It has been a good campaign but important I do not stop now.”