What did we learn from the Premier League?

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

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Liverpool went top of the PL table, while big wins for Watford, Brighton and Bournemouth continued their fine form early in the season.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Below is a look at the key takeaways from a day littered with fine goals and displays.


Liverpool’s offense is clicking through the gears

Here we go. Here they come. After a run of five games where they scored just three goals, Liverpool’s offense is back to its best as they beat Cardiff City 4-1 on Saturday with Mohamed Salah grabbing a goal and two assists, plus Sadio Mane and Xherdan Shaqiri were on the scoresheet. Scoring eight goals in their two games over the past four days, any talk about Liverpool’s defense being their main strength this season will surely dissipate, for now. Yes, they’ve improved drastically in defense since Virgil Van Dijk arrived in January. In fact, the goal they conceded against Cardiff was the first they’ve let in during a home league game since February. But the main concern in the early months of this season was about the attacking prowess of Mane, Salah and Roberto Firmino and if they could repeat their gaudy numbers from 2017-18.

Everything points to them being able to do just that, or at least get very close, with Salah in particular looking back to his best after a slow start to the season. With Shaqiri in the mix and Daniel Sturridge now fit, Liverpool’s attack has a fresh look to it and there will be more options for rotation as the season continues. With 26 points from a possible 30 so far, things have started very well for Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp. The Reds are looking good in the UEFA Champions League once again and seem set to push Manchester City all the way. If they’re going to win one of those big competitions this season, they need Mane, Salah and Firmino on form more than they need a vastly improved defense.


Southampton drifting into another relegation scrap

Mark Hughes and Southampton are in a bad place right now. Saints have won just one of their opening 10 games this season despite not having a particularly tough schedule, and the 0-0 draw with Newcastle at home on Saturday marked the fifth-straight game where they have failed to score. With just one win at home in their last 16 PL games, the warning signs have been there for a while and the regression has been steady and true ever since Ronald Koeman left in the summer of 2016. Saints seem to be sleepwalking into a perilous situation for the second season on the trot.

With reports linking former AS Monaco boss Leonardo Jardim with Saints, it appears Hughes may already be running out of time and the good faith (and long-term contract) he received for keeping them in the PL at the end of last season has already evaporated. The fact Southampton stuck with Mauricio Pellegrino for 30 games last season before bringing in Hughes may also work against the current manager, as it is unlikely Les Reed and Ralph Krueger will wait that long this season to try and address a worrying trend. Southampton were for so long the model club as managers and players only left when they were sought after by huge clubs paying big cash. Now, Saints are stuck with a squad of players who are woefully underperforming and a manager who has resorted to making them hard to beat without solving their attacking issues.

Saints play Man City, Man United, Watford, Fulham and Tottenham in their next five games and anything other than six points from that haul will see them dragged into a severe relegation battle for the second-straight season. With the players they have, that just isn’t good enough. Negativity is rife at St Mary’s and the fact Saints have won just once at home in the last 12 months tells the whole story. Confidence is low and the goals aren’t flowing and there is only so much a manager can do in that situation. Saints are symptomatic of a team who have drifted due to managerial changes and new players not adding the quality they need.


Fulham’s defensive frailties too severe for Slavisa to sort out

Every time Fulham walk out onto the pitch it seems like they’re going to concede at least three goals. In truth, the stats say it’s just a little under that. 2.8. My apologies… Despite conceding 28 goals in their opening 10 games of the season, Slavisa Jokanovic is sticking with his philosophy and is asking his players to push up the pitch and try to pass around their opponents. Bournemouth did that much better than Fulham on Saturday, as the Cherries won 3-0 at Craven Cottage and ruthlessly exposed the Cottagers’ deficiencies.

Will Jokanovic be given the chance to turn things around in west London? He seems unlikely to change his tactics and despite Fulham’s American owner Shahid Khan giving his Serbian coach the dreaded vote of confidence earlier this week, time is not on Jokanovic’s side. Unless he changes his entire coaching philosophy, Fulham aren’t going to stay in the PL this season. They create chances galore but they’re so wasteful in attack and describing their defending as haphazard is incredibly kind.

“We made good work and tried to stop conceding so many, we weren’t very successful today but the players are fighting well. We have enough quality to score but we can’t find a way to find a clean sheet. The Premier League is tough not just for us but for many clubs. We are making expensive mistakes,” Jokanovic told the BBC. “I am not thinking about my future. I will be ready for the next challenge. I am living my present and that is today a very hard defeat. I must be brave and keep going and encourage my team.”

So, he will not change his style of play. And that style is a mishmash of being too cautious and throwing caution to the wind, while also changing goalkeepers and defenders on a weekly basis.

Bedding in so many new players was always going to be tough (Fulham brought in 12 players and spent over $130 million after gaining promotion) and quite simply this squad isn’t built to defend in a 4-5-1 formation and scrap for 1-0 wins. And therein lies the problem. Do you stick with Jokanovic at least until January when you can bring in some new players? Or do you cut him loose now and bring in a more solid, stable coach to try and give the team some much needed balance? Fulham haven’t been terrible in most of their games this season but they haven’t been ruthless enough in either box and that is what will end up costing Jokanovic his job.


Watford, Bournemouth will battle for Europe due to attacking talents

Each racking up 3-0 wins on Saturday, Watford and Bournemouth have a clinical edge to thank for their fine starts to the campaign. Promoted together in 2014, these two teams are similar in many ways and have had clear plans for progression in place. The main difference is that the Hornets have had four managers in four years but had a clear recruitment policy in place, while Bournemouth stuck with Eddie Howe throughout and he has added quality youngsters in key positions. The different ways they’ve built these teams is to be admired and both have reliable defensive units but going forward is where they’ve made the biggest improvements. Watford’s attack is about power and pace. Bournemouth is about passing and pressing. The difference for both of these teams this season after they meandered around in midtable in 2017-18 is one thing: finishing.

They both conceded big chances on Saturday as they’re always adventurous in attack, but both were clinical when they got chances themselves and punished their opponents. Roberto Pereyra, Issac Success and Gerard Deulofeu scored for Watford and Bournemouth’s goals came from Callum Wilson (two) and David Brooks with Ryan Fraser playing a pivotal role. With Troy Deeney and Josh King not available, they also have options in reserve and the pace, trickery and sheer hunger their forwards are showing are the reason they’re snapping at the heels of the top four. They have squads to sustain their top eight push and like Burnley did last season, these two teams seem focused on battling for seventh place along with Everton and Wolves. European qualification for either Watford or Bournemouth would be a huge reward for having a clear plan in place.

What we learned from a crazy PL Saturday

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Breathe. Take a walk outside. Put your arms above your head and try to drink in what you’ve actually seen today.

It is only Matchweek 2, but few Premier League days will match this.

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Saturday’s games delivered high drama with VAR outrage, howlers, stunning goals and intense battles playing out.

Below is what we learned from a wild seven games across the league.


VAR DRAMA MARS MAN CITY, SPURS CLASH

Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur played out a gripping, enthralling 2-2 draw, but it was marred by VAR at the death. Gabriel Jesus‘ late winner for City was ruled out for a handball on Aymeric Laporte, which enraged Pep Guardiola and delighted Mauricio Pochettino. Man City dominated the game and Spurs had two shots on target and scored with both of them. City will have a bitter taste in their mouth, especially after the late VAR drama against Spurs in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal second leg last season. Pochettino said he is “in love with VAR” and Guardiola said it “needs to be fixed” as it is too subjective. The VAR debate will rumble on, as the ball clearly hit Laporte on the arm but many will have a bad taste in their mouths at the way it impacts the outcomes of games.


GUARDIOLA, AGUERO FALL OUT

Man City’s all-time leading goalscorer was not happy, at all, after being subbed out in the second half of their game against Spurs. He and Guardiola went at it, with words being said, fingers pointed and both had to be separated.

With tensions bubbling under the surface for years over Aguero’s playing style in a Pep side, this looked a lot more personal.

In the coming weeks we will find out just how damaging this public spat will be for both Guardiola and Aguero, as City may be starting to feel the pressure.


LIVERPOOL SHAKE OFF RUST

Liverpool edged by Southampton 2-1 at St Mary’s on Saturday and it was a really strange game. Saints started well and given Liverpool’s 120 minutes against Chelsea for the Super Cup final in Istanbul on Wednesday, it was expected that they’d start sluggishly. But when they kicked through the gears around half time they tore Saints apart with Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino leading the charge. Adrian’s late howler gifted Saints a way back into the game and Danny Ings should have scored his and Saints’ second to snatch an unlikely draw. Liverpool held on and after the travel week they’ve had, Jurgen Klopp was a happy man at the final whistle. Two wins from two for the Reds, and they’ve been far from their best as their stars recover from busy summer tournaments.


PUKKI READY TO STAR FOR NORWICH

Teemu Pukki has four goals in his first two games as a Premier League player. Those questioning whether or not the Finnish striker could translate his form from the Championship to the PL are now having a long hard look at themselves in the mirror. Pukki scored a hat trick in Norwich’s 3-1 win against Newcastle and the first was a stunner. After his spells with Sevilla, Schalke and Celtic, Pukki has finally arrived in the big time and his clinical finishing will be a theme of the season. Norwich have been written off by plenty of teams and the way they hammered Newcastle suggests the Canaries will be well clear of the relegation scrap.


ARSENAL, CEBALLOS CLICKING THROUGH THE GEARS 

Arsenal’s attacking unit now has a deep playmaker as Dani Ceballos starred in their win over Burnley. Ceballos is the perfect replacement for Aaron Ramsey and he not only created chances but worked back defensively. He is the perfect player for Unai Emery to build his attack around. Of course, Aubameyang and Lacazette (who both scored) are stars who can finish, while Nicolas Pepe looked bright off the bench as Arsenal’s attacking options will feel their rivals with serious envy. At the back they had some issues dealing with Burnley’s direct style as David Luiz took a few unecessary risks and Bernd Leno flapped at a few crosses, but overall two wins from two is a very good start for the Gunners. Now come the real tests as they head to Liverpool and host Tottenham in their next two games. Lets see how good the Gunners really are.


Bonus: Harry Wilson and Douglas Luiz scored screamers in a 2-1 win for Bournemouth at Aston Villa. You need to see them.

Pep rages at VAR after Man City denied winner

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Pep Guardiola is absolutely furious.

Whether you think he should be is another story.

Manchester City had its last-gasp winner taken off the board against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday at the Etihad Stadium, when VAR spotted the ball glancing off Aymeric Laporte‘s arm before Gabriel Jesus scored in stoppage time.

[ RECAP: Man City 2-2 Spurs ]

The Man City boss had not cooled down after the match, referencing Fernando Llorente’s uncalled handball in the UEFA Champions League last season.

That’s a different competition, however, and a different set of rules. Maybe that’s Pep’s point. Anyway, let’s let him rage:

“I thought we left that situation in Tottenham in the Champions League last season. But it is the same. The referee and VAR disallow it. It’s the second time – it’s tough. It’s honestly tough but it’s the way it is.

“It happened last week with Wolves and we saw for Chelsea on Wednesday – the keeper wasn’t on his line – Adrian in the penalty shoot-out. They have to fix it. The whistle inside matches now isn’t quite clear. But they believe it’s hands with Llorente in the Champions League and sometimes they don’t.

“It was incredible it wasn’t a penalty in the first half [for the foul on Rodri in the box] but VAR said it wasn’t and then at the end they did. I’m pretty sure people were happy today we just need to work harder at scoring our chances.”

He’s not really on point here, is he? As a neutral I hated the moment, but it follows the letter of the law. The Rodri point is a good one, but doesn’t negate the ball skittering off Laporte’s arm (and it looked to have touched Harry Skipp’s arm, too, but after the fact!).

Pochettino: “I am in love with VAR”

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Mauricio Pochettino‘s heart belongs to a set of TV monitors and a referee sat in an office in the suburbs of London.

In others words, he loves VAR.

After Spurs pegged the reigning champions back to 2-2, there was more late VAR drama between these two teams. Gabriel Jesus‘ strike was ruled out in the 92nd minute after Aymeric Laporte was adjudged to have handle the ball in the box after a VAR review.

Pochettino spoke to our partners Sky Sports in the UK after the crazy ending to the game, and simply said: “I love VAR. I’m not so happy with our performance.”

Spurs rode their luck and had three shots to Man City’s 30 and were dominated. Tottenham scored with their two shots on goal, but Man City were left ruing a number of missed chances as more VAR heartache followed.

Pochettino is off to give his nearest TV screen a few smooches as Spurs, once again, have VAR to thank for leaving the Etihad Stadium with a smile on their face.

Bundesliga wrap: USMNT’s Steffen shines on debut; BVB stomps Augsburg

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A day after Bayern needed Robert Lewandowski heroics to rescue an Opening Day draw, more thrills were on the menu Saturday.

Werder Bremen 1-3 Fortuna Dusseldorf

Zack Steffen was under siege but only beaten once in his Bundesliga debut, as the Man City loanee from these United States helped the visitors to a massive three points on Saturday.

Steffen saw 25 attempts from the hosts, including two from American substitute Josh Sargent, as Fortuna Dusseldorf got into the win column. From Bundesliga.com/En:

“It’s a lot of new challenges for me, and I want to perform and execute my job,” said the former Columbus Crew backstop. “I’ve got a good group of guys around me, a good coaching staff to lift me up and give me confidence, and make me feel at home.”

Borussia Dortmund 5-1 Augsburg

Augsburg’s first minute goal from Florian Niederlechner had some thinking that BVB could join Bayern Munich in an opening weekend stumble, but that was simply a mirage.

Paco Alcacer scored twice, new boy Julian Brandt also scored, and Marco Reus and Jadon Sancho found the score sheet as BVB scorched the visitors at the Westfalenstadion.

Bayer Leverkusen 3-2 Paderborn

It was expected to be a cakewalk for the Champions League outfit, but Bayer had to twice overcome pesky Paderborn equalizers.

Leon Bailey and Kai Havertz had their 10th and 19th minute goals answered before Kevin Volland put it to bed in the 69th.

Elsewhere

Bayern Munich 2-2 Hertha Berlin — Friday
Freiburg 3-0 Mainz
Borussia Monchengladbach 0-0 Schalke
Wolfsburg 2-1 Koln
Eintracht Frankfurt v. Hoffenheim
— 9:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Union Berlin v. RB Leipzig
— Noon ET Sunday

STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Borussia Dortmund 1 1 0 0 5 1 4 1-0-0 0-0-0 3
 SC Freiburg 1 1 0 0 3 0 3 1-0-0 0-0-0 3
 Fortuna Düsseldorf 1 1 0 0 3 1 2 0-0-0 1-0-0 3
 Bayer Leverkusen 1 1 0 0 3 2 1 1-0-0 0-0-0 3
 VfL Wolfsburg 1 1 0 0 2 1 1 1-0-0 0-0-0 3
 Hertha BSC Berlin 1 0 1 0 2 2 0 0-0-0 0-1-0 1
 Bayern Munich 1 0 1 0 2 2 0 0-1-0 0-0-0 1
 FC Schalke 04 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0-0-0 0-1-0 1
 Mönchengladbach 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0-1-0 0-0-0 1
 1. FC Union Berlin 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0-0-0 0-0-0 0
 1899 Hoffenheim 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0-0-0 0-0-0 0
 Eintracht Frankfurt 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
 SC Paderborn 1 0 0 1 2 3 -1 0-0-0 0-0-1 0
 1. FC Köln 1 0 0 1 1 2 -1 0-0-0 0-0-1 0
 Werder Bremen 1 0 0 1 1 3 -2 0-0-1 0-0-0 0
 FSV Mainz 05 1 0 0 1 0 3 -3 0-0-0 0-0-1 0
 FC Augsburg 1 0 0 1 1 5 -4 0-0-0 0-0-1 0