What did we learn during matchweek 4 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. Ronaldo takes his shot (after shot after shot), delivers (Manchester United 4-1 Newcastle): If the Old Trafford faithful was hoping for anything from its returning hero, it was a goal.
Freddie Woodman made sure Cristiano Ronaldo gave them two. The Portuguese man was right on the doorstep when Newcastle’s keeper failed to collect a slight deflection on a shot from 20 yards, and then raced to meet a Luke Shaw pass that was spun through Woodman’s legs. A team still waiting for Marcus Rashford to return was mostly dominant and showed what center forward play can mean to a talented team of playmakers. (NM)
2. Lukaku’s complete vision (Chelsea 3-0 Aston Villa): Romelu Lukaku first signed at Stamford Bridge at the age of 18, and he would’ve never imagined that his visions of scoring goals for Chelsea at Stamford Bridge would take 3,687 days. That’s 10 years, one month, and three days for one of the best goal scorers in Europe, who has 67 goals for Belgium, 17 for West Brom, 64 for Inter Milan, 42 for Manchester United, 87 for Everton, and 41 for Anderlecht. Now he has two in Chelsea blue, this one at their hallowed ground. (NM)
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3. Salah the machine keeps rolling (Leeds 0-3 Liverpool): Only Harry Kane, Sergio Aguero, Alan Shearer and Thierry Henry have scored 100 Premier League goals faster than Salah. That says it all. Whatever you think about the Egyptian forward, he continues to be consistently excellent and deliver the goods when Liverpool need him. He has surpassed all of the expectations anyone had for him when he arrived at Anfield and is so ruthless. What an incredible machine he is. (JPW)
4. Grealish gathering steam (Leicester 0-1 Manchester City): The England international looks like he’s played for Man City forever. He has slotted in very nicely and he is replicating his Aston Villa form, but now in a Man City shirt. This kind of display is exactly what Pep Guardiola wanted when he signed Grealish. (JPW)
5. Spurs’ defensive depth pushed to the limits (Crystal Palace 3-0 Tottenham): After losing Cristian Romero and Davinson Sanchez due to quarantine restrictions as they defied the club and went to World Cup qualifying in South America, the last thing Nuno Espirito Santo needed was more center back problems. That is what he got. Eric Dier was injured early on after being put in trouble by Hugo Lloris and Japhet Tanganga was then sent off for showing a lack of maturity as he committed two quick fouls. Spurs ended the game with Ben Davies and Joe Rodon at center back and their lack of center back options was shown up badly. (JPW)
6. Stronger push in final 30 minutes (Arsenal 1-0 Norwich): It wasn’t until just before the hour mark that Arsenal took the wind in their sails and began to poke and prod in increasingly uncomfortable ways for Norwich. Ironically, it was a positive push from the Emirates crowd which seemed to urge the players on and set the stage for more adventurous play from the Gunners. Finally, after 337 minutes, Arsenal scored their first goal of the season — truly, a goal befitting the occasion. Nicolas Pepe’s initial shot was saved onto the far post by Tim Krul, and the rebound bounced across the face of goal and back to Pepe, except Brandon Williams slid in to touch the ball away. His clearance hit the post. The ball then bounced off an upside down, tumbling player on the ground. Slowly back across the face of goal it rolled to Aubameyang a yard out. (AE)
7. Everton find a way without Calvert-Lewin (Everton 3-1 Burnley): For the first 60 minutes, Everton appeared lost in moments of transition. Without Dominic Calvert-Lewin (quadriceps) to chase and hold the ball up against two and three defenders, the Toffees couldn’t play their way out of defense. As a result, Burnley were all over them for the entire game, right up to the point that they lost total and complete control of the game by allowing Everton to waltz through the center of the field on back-to-back counter-attacks. Burnley were great, until they weren’t; Everton were exceedingly poor, until they weren’t. (AE)
8. Playing the game in front of them (Brentford 0-1 Brighton): Yes Brighton’s lost the toughest match on their schedule so far and that wasn’t super tough in the form of a good Everton still learning Rafa Benitez’s system and at the Amex. But they’ve now beaten Burnley and Brentford away in addition to a win at home to Watford. Leicester City is next and there is Man City and Liverpool back-to-back in late October, but the fixture list lines up fairly well for Potter’s men to make cup runs and sit on the periphery of the top seven. Don’t be surprised if they finish higher, even after selling Ben White. (NM)
9. A break finally goes Wolves’ way (Watford 0-2 Wolves): No one had played better with so little (as in, zero points or goals) to show for it through the first three weeks of the Premier League season. A small break here, a big break there — everything seemed to be going against Wolves. Finally, after 344 minutes, a goal — and how fitting it was. Sierralta was under no pressure inside his six-yard box, but he panicked and froze in the moment. It appears quite easy to head the ball home when the goalkeeper isn’t expecting he’ll have to make a save. (AE)
10. Broja must start (Southampton 0-0 West Ham): The Albanian youngster was a real handful when he came off the bench for Southampton, as he hit the post after a surging run from inside his own half on the counter, then had a header cleared off the line. He scored a late winner (a beauty, btw) for Albania v. Hungary in a World Cup qualifier last week and the Chelsea loanee is full of confidence. He looks a real talent and Adam Armstrong should start alongside him next week. (JPW)