What did we learn during matchweek 10 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. Ole gets his answer in Varane (Tottenham 0-3 Manchester United): Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will get plenty of credit for a 3-4-3 formation that led to a much-needed win, but don’t sleep on the pure profit that is adding Raphael Varane back into the team. The newly-healthy center back had five clearances and kept the back organized for David De Gea, and that certainly helped Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof to good games on either side of the Frenchman. (NM)
2. Injuries, early wastefulness should worry Chelsea (Chelsea 3-0 Newcastle): Mason Mount fell ill before the game and that meant Chelsea would be down four key attachers with Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner, and Christian Pulisic already out of the lineup. And the truth is that the Blues still had plenty of chances but just couldn’t make it easy on themselves by scoring and forcing Newcastle to choose a route other than packed-in. The danger going forward, even with Christian Pulisic coming back soon, is that Chelsea’s danger going forward is going to involve some very tired players in Callum Hudson-Odoi, Kai Havertz, and Ziyech. (NM)
3. Liverpool lucky to draw (Liverpool 2-2 Brighton): As quickly as Liverpool sprinted out of the starting gate, their considerable momentum came to a screeching halt just as quickly around the half-hour mark. Surely a halftime rest would do the trick, even after conceding to make it 2-1, and it would be yet another step toward reclaiming the Premier League title. By the end of full-time, it was Liverpool who were perhaps slightly fortunate to be taking a point. (AE)
4. Harry Kane is a shell of himself (Tottenham 0-3 Manchester United): A lot of players don’t look themselves when they want a transfer and don’t get it, but Tottenham striker Harry Kane looks so unlike himself that we’re considering whether there was some sort of Vincent Janssen body swap. His confidence looks low and his burst appears slow. (NM)
5. The system(s) worked (Manchester City 0-2 Crystal Palace): It says something that Patrick Vieira’s design to counter through Wilfried Zaha and Co. was plenty good, with the Eagles taking an early lead and threatening to make it 2-0 on multiple occasions. But it also says something that finish-weary Man City could go down a man for 45 minutes and look like they play that way all the time. Pep Guardiola can’t have many complaints about the red card, but knowing him he’ll think the actual football down a man was plenty good enough, albeit without that all-important finish. City had 73 percent of possession in the first half and 63 percent down a man. They just needed the finish.
6. Hammers in the top-four hunt: David Moyes’ side are somehow still flying under the radar and they sit fourth in the table, level on points with Man City in third. They are robust, clinical and have a clear philosophy. Moyes is clearly very good at explaining exactly what he wants and this West Ham squad is perfect for how he wants to play. Given that they could soon be in the Europa League knockout rounds and could rest a few players for their last few group games in that competition, the Hammers are managing this Thursday-Sunday schedule very well. With Man United, Tottenham, Leicester and Arsenal far from imperious this season, could this be West Ham’s first-ever PL top four finish? The scary thing is, Moyes and his players keep saying they can play even better than they are right now. (JPW)
7. Ramsdale key to Arsenal’s defensive improvement (Leicester 0-2 Arsenal): As dominant as Arsenal were, Aaron Ramsdale made two fantastic saves in the first half to keep them ahead. First from Iheanacho from long-range, then from Maddison’s free kick in sensational fashion. Ramsdale was the man Arsenal’s players went to at half time to thank. His distribution was also saucy and the young England goalkeeper is proving a lot of doubters wrong. Arsenal look much better defensively with Ben White, Gabriel, Tomiyasu and either Tierney or Nuno Tavares at left back, plus Partey is back to his best in holding midfield. However, Ramsdale is underlining the importance of having a fine goalkeeper in superb form. He is yet to lose a game in an Arsenal shirt and has four clean sheets in his first seven PL games for the Gunners. (JPW)
8. Simple, unforced mistakes by Brentford baffling (Burnley 3-1 Brentford): Through nine games, Brentford’s greatest strength in the Premier League had been the toughness with which they defended. That toughness was nowhere to be found on Saturday, as the Bees failed to perform the simplest of defensive duties (collecting/clearing the ball with a striker run in behind, marking dangerous aerial threats on crosses into the box — things of that nature). Just a terrible day at the office, or the start of a few struggles heading Brentford’s way? With injuries piling up for Thomas Frank’s side, it could be time for the latter, at last. (AE)
9. Leeds digging deep (Norwich 1-2 Leeds): They weren’t at their fluid best but Leeds found a way to win. Without Patrick Bamford and Luke Ayling, Leeds are missing some key men through injuries and the likes of Kalvin Phillips and Raphinha aren’t fully fit either. Leeds’ second win of the season was well-deserved and proved that even if they don’t push for Europe this season, they won’t be near the relegation scrap. (JPW)
10. Defensive improvements key for Southampton (Watford 0-1 Southampton): The big difference for Saints this season is their defensive improvement. They have conceded 12 goals in their first 10 games and they are defending all over the pitch as a unit. They’ve got younger, quicker and their high-press is working really well. This is truly Hasenhuttl’s squad of players now and we are seeing his tactics work so well. (JPW)