What did we learn during matchweek 3 of the 2021-22 Premier League?
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Here’s a look at 10 things which stood out, as our writers Joe Prince-Wright (JPW), Nicholas Mendola (NM) and Andy Edwards (AE) share their observations from across the most recent Premier League games.
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Let’s get to it.
1. When dominance doesn’t translate to the scoreboard (Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea): For all of Liverpool’s possession (nearly 60 percent) and shots (four, to Chelsea’s zero) prior to the opening goal, it didn’t translate to even one threatening moment, let alone a goal, in the opening 20 minutes. The high press was as active and aggressive as it’s ever been, but Chelsea were largely unmoved by the increased tempo and weathered the storm in crucial moments. Their ability to remain calm and shift between proactive and reactive gears in constantly changing situations is perhaps their greatest gift and their best case for the title. (AE)
1a. When a man advantage doesn’t either: The above was written just before the penalty/red card incident, but the point itself reared its head again in the second half, when Chelsea simply kept their eyes forward, adjusted the gameplan and got on with the new (infinitely more difficult) task at hand. The mental wherewithal to face not only one more man on the field, but the 50,000 Liverpool supporters as they grew increasingly agitated and anxious — again, it’s the mark of a champion to achieve something like that. (AE)
2. Rock bottom for Arteta (Manchester City 5-0 Arsenal): Three defeats to start the season is never good but it is the manner of these losses which will hurt the most. Arsenal’s players stayed behind to applaud their fans at the end of the game and most looked in shocked and close to tears. The players care, obviously, but this just isn’t good enough. Having Ben White, Thomas Partey and Gabriel out early in the season has seen their defensive core ripped out, but there was just no backbone to this display. Granit Xhaka’s sending off summed it up and despite a good start early in the game, that evaporated very quickly and one mistake from Arsenal and one goal from City meant it was curtains early on. The lack of belief from Arteta’s Arsenal is the most concerning thing, even if they were handed some tough games, and luck, early in the season. (JPW)
3. Not how they saw it, but they’ll take it (Tottenham 1-0 Watford): Tottenham is first in the Premier League table, the division’s only 3-0 side heading into the international break. It happened while Harry Kane angled for a transfer and the club worked with seemingly their 90th managerial preference. But Heung-min Son has been brilliant, Dele Alli reinvigorated, and Tottenham largely looking greater than the sum of its parts in wins over Man City, Wolves, and Watford. (NM)
4. Varane, Wan-Bissaka step up early; De Gea late (Wolves 0-1 Manchester United): United truly needed the right side of its defense as Aaron Wan-Bisaaka and Raphael Varane each made outstanding own-third blocks, while De Gea’s late double stop on Romain Saiss and race off his line to beat Daniel Podence to a searching Wolves’ long ball were the reason the Red Devils’ sheet was clean. (NM)
5. Struggling to start, still getting results (Norwich 1-2 Leicester): The Foxes are finding it rather difficult to simply pick up the pace of where they left off (about 90 percent of the way through) last season, but Brendan Rodgers’ side has two wins from three games to start the campaign without ever playing to their potential. In one sense, it’s a bit of a worry and Leicester fans will wonder if it’s a bit of smoke and mirrors, but on the other hand it re-emphasizes the fact that there’s so much room for further growth at Leicester. (AE)
6. Benitez buy-in apparent (Everton 2-0 Brighton): “Here, Brighton, have the ball. You like the ball. Now produce some danger. What? That’s much harder?” That can often be the rub when playing a disciplined Rafa Benitez side, as Brighton had 66 percent of the ball and matched their visitors in shot attempts but produced very little actual danger for Jordan Pickford, who made three saves. Demarai Gray scored a fast-paced goal and Calvert-Lewin converted his penalty for a straight-forward win, even though Brighton looked decent (More on that below)
7. Michail Antonio is a force (West Ham 2-2 Crystal Palace): Make it 50 Premier League goals from the 31-year-old Jamaican, whose story feels like it deserves more love considering what we’ve heaped on Jamie Vardy over the years. It wasn’t as a wild a multi-club non-division ride for Antonio, who started with Tooting and Mitcham United, but he still had a circuitous route to the big stage. Antonio showed familiarity and technical ability in setting up Fornals goal before delivering a goal of his own. (NM)
8. Treat for the neutrals (Aston Villa 1-1 Brentford): Here’s an undeniable fact: If you’re new to the Premier League and looking for a club to get behind (or simply looking for a second side to follow, not necessarily to openly root for), you could do a lot worse than watching either Aston Villa or Brentford 38 times this year. Two clubs operating within their means, highly intelligently in the transfer market, with young(-ish) managers (Thomas Frank used to be Dean Smith’s assistant at Brentford) whose respective teams place a high priority on both ends of the field, equal parts defensively sensible and free-flowing on the attack. (AE)
9. Both teams probably safe from relegation scrap (Newcastle 2-2 Southampton): Newcastle’s attackers have too much on the counter and Southampton have just enough quality to cause problems for other teams. These two teams may not have a great season or push for the top 10, but you get the feeling neither will be embroiled in a serious relegation battle. (JPW)
10. Ashley Barnes is the biggest villain in the league (Burnley 1-1 Leeds): Name a player who’s been in more Premier League skirmishes in the past decade. Maybe you didn’t see Ashley Barnes, so let’s phrase the trivia. Name a player who’s been in more Premier League skirmishes in the past decade since Diego Costa left Chelsea. Yep, it’s Ashley Barnes, and the forward had no business staying in the match after an abhorrent challenge in the first half. You know when you’re playing and a player’s been in a challenge, didn’t get the call, and you just know that they are going to clobber the next person they see? We should call that an “Ashley Barnes.” (NM)