What did we learn during matchweek 11 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. Contrast is stark (Manchester United 0-2 Manchester City): The gulf between the comfort and understanding of Man City in possession and Manchester United’s appearance in doing just about anything was Grand Canyon-sized. The first half stats were appalling if you’re a home supporter. Possession was 68% to Man City, with a 10-3 edge in shot attempts, more than double the amount of completed passes, and — stunningly — more interceptions than United despite that disparity in possession. (NM)
2. West Ham as London’s Atleti? (West Ham 3-2 Liverpool) Going down 1-0 to West Ham is a terrible idea. Their defenders are strong, their midfield plays angry, and every attacker on the team is thrilled to be in open space, picking their routes to attack. It’s not quite as defensive as Diego Simeone to start, but once the lead is in David Moyes hands, the impetus goes to the opposite attack and making it even more miserable for them. West Ham’s discipline absolutely deserves these three points. (NM)
3. Chelsea’s forwards need the international break (Chelsea 1-1 Burnley): Callum Hudson-Odoi, Kai Havertz, and Hakim Ziyech have shouldered the burden of injuries to Timo Werner, Romelu Lukaku, Christian Pulisic and even Mason Mount, and boy did the first two names on this list looking to be digging deep to get through this one. Hudson-Odoi had five key passes and Havertz scored the goal. It’s no surprise that Hudson-Odoi turned down an England U-21 call when not named to the senior team: More than half of his season haul for minutes have come across five matches since Oct. 20. (NM)
4. Conte’s Spurs sluggish (Everton 0-0 Tottenham): The Italian coach only had one day to prepare his new Spurs side for this game, but this looked like an Antonio Conte team. At least defensively. They were solid enough and the wing backs and three center backs were heavily involved. Conte won’t be happy with the way Spurs failed to keep the ball but he will be happier with this defensive display compared to the wacky 3-2 win against Vitesse Arnhem in the Europa Conference League in midweek. Spurs were sluggish, which suggests their players are still getting over an emotionally draining time with Nuno out, Conte in and lots of new ideas being thrown around. After the international break Conte will need his new-look Spurs to understand his attacking ideas better, as they have now gone two-straight PL games without having a shot on target. (JPW)
5. Vieira’s Eagles dominating games (Crystal Palace 2-0 Wolves): They still have their counter-attacking threat, but Palace are so much more than that under Vieira. They controlled the tempo of this game, just like they have done in most games this season, and the draw specialists have now found a cutting edge. Palace can stun the big boys on the counter like they did at Man City last week and they can now dominate the ball against teams around them like they did against Wolves. This is a very exciting Palace side and Vieira is proving a lot of people wrong. (JPW)
6. Smith-Rowe keeps burnishing credentials to give Arteta good headache (Arsenal 1-0 Watford): Arsenal fans were aggrieved on behalf of 21-year-old Emile Smith-Rowe (and Ben White) when the youngster wasn’t called into the England squad and his terrific low finish to finally make it 1-0 in the second half was his fifth goal to go with two assists in just under 1,000 minutes across all competitions. Finding the right mix with Bukayo Saka, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Nicolas Pepe, Martin Odegaard, and Smith-Rowe without European competition is a headache especially when the three most expensive names on the list are among the weaker shouts of the bunch.
7. Bielsa will rue lack of finish — again (Leeds 1-1 Leicester): This isn’t a game 30-plus weeks into the season where a discussion can be had about Marcelo Bielsa’s demands weighing on a team. Bielsa’s Leeds just let him down, as Jack Harrison was among those shaking their heads as moments that could and probably should be goals for the hosts. Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel is pretty darn good, but this match should’ve absolutely been a win for a Leeds side that completed almost as any passes (324) as the visitors attempted at Elland Road (353). (NM)
8. Southampton defense a base to build on (Southampton 1-0 Aston Villa): No one has accused Ralph Hasenhuttl of being too expansive or defensively naive in the three years he’s been on the south coast of England, so it’s no surprise that Saints are enjoying a strong run of results (3W-1D-0L) on the back of the defense which has now conceded just two goals in its last four games. Alex McCarthy only had to make three saves to keep the clean sheet on Friday, and only one of them posed any real threat. (AE)
9. Brighton a finishing forward away from genuine European potential (Brighton 1-1 Newcastle): Graham Potter’s Seagulls had two-thirds of the ball and all of the first-half danger but only a cringeworthy penalty to show for it. Unfortunately, that’s down to personnel and you wonder if even Glenn Murray would be enough to deliver a 15-goal season. Neal Maupay and Leandro Trossard are good, if not excellent second- and third-choice scorers, but the Seagulls having a center forward finisher like Odsonne Edouard, Danny Ings, or Teemu Pukki has this done-and-dusted by halftime. Instead, they finished with Lewis Dunk in goal against a winless team. (NM)
10. Norwich slightly improved in first win of season (Brentford 1-2 Norwich): For
60 45 30 minutes, Norwich look fully competent as a Premier League side, or perhaps Brentford were unbelievably poor and the Canaries couldn’t help but enjoy their best stretch of play all season (and their first lead in 15 Premier League fixtures, dating back to their previous stint in the top flight), because by full-time they looked like the same scared side that scored all of three goals and won two points from their first 10 games. (AE)